Bah, Humbug: How to Cope with Holidays Abroad

This is the part they don’t talk about. Quit your job, travel the world, you will have the best adventures, change your life and find yourself. But what about the hard stuff? Moving across the world can’t always be easy… Missing weddings, holidays, birthdays, and all of the silly days in between is not easy. Sure, you are the one who chose to leave but that doesn’t mean you don’t miss the people who you left behind. It doesn’t mean that half the stories out of your mouth aren’t about your family, this one time in college or the adorable photos you just got of your niece in the Nutcracker. The travel blogs and instagrams you idolize may not show photos of them tearing up in the middle of the street because they just want to go home. Or the feeling when all of your family is together and you are sick in bed. As usual, I am committed to being raw and sharing all parts of my adventures with you, so here is the truth behind never being home for the holidays.

Moving abroad to Thailand and Australia and being able to teach and adventure in both places have been the most rewarding experiences of my life but that is not to say they haven’t had their fair share of lonely moments as well. Yes, you will feel homesick. Yes, you will get sick of being the face on the Facetime screen, so close and yet so far from being involved in all the memories happening at home without you. The holidays make it especially difficult so I wanted to send some encouragement to my fellow expats, travelers, or anyone who can’t make it where they consider “home” this holiday season. This is the most wonderful time of the year, but like all good things, that puts a hell of a lot of pressure on you to feel merry and bright. Here is how I survive the holidays:

Bring traditions with you– If you are far away from home, find a way to decorate and spread a little Christmas or Hanukkah cheer. Watch your favorite Christmas movies, bake your Grandma’s famous recipe and make sure to share it with the people you’ve met or love abroad. Sharing our traditions with others makes them special for a whole new set of people. Luckily, I am a teacher so I always get free reign to teach my students all about American culture and holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.

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Set out time for Facetime– With timezones, work schedules, social lives, and that precious thing called sleep, setting up a Facetime with a ridiculous time difference is not always easy. But it’s always worth it. Sure, you might get FOMO. But being connected in a real way is what this technology is for. Today I sat down and “ate dinner”(on Google hangout) with my brother and his family. It was awesome. Of course, it’s not the same as being there but it’s definitely better than nothing.

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Embrace your situation– Sure, holidays have a lot of “traditions” but sometimes the most fun way to celebrate is doing something FUN and different. I will never forget our 20+ person Thanksgiving dinner(with all Thai food and LOTS of wine) in Thailand, or my first Thanksgiving dinner I cooked in Australia for 15 people in a tiny 2 bedroom apartment with 6 roommates from all over the world. Christmas was a boozy dinner and beach day on Bondi Beach last year. No, it’s definitely not chestnuts roasting on an open fire, but you gotta work with what you GOT. The point of holidays are to bring people together and make them appreciate life & celebrate it. That comes in all shapes and sizes.

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Practice gratitude– Nothing makes you more grateful for your aunties and mother over the years than trying to throw a big holiday event on your own. DAMN ladies, I get why you were so stressed and the kid cousins were so annoying. Maybe you can’t make it home this year, but if you have a home and you have people who miss and love you- YOU HAVE A LOT MORE THAN A LOT OF PEOPLE. “Missing out” should just remind you how much you truly have to miss and make you appreciate it even more the next time you do get to go home and participate. If you are at home, appreciate every single second, remember there are people who would kill to help their mother clean the house for the relatives, listen to Grandma tell the same story 10 times or get into a silly argument over who ate the last Christmas cookie. Soak it up and focus on quality time instead of what is under the tree.

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Don’t Sulk– Ultimately, it’s turned into a holiday season but really it’s only a few days. Don’t waste your time feeling sorry for yourself. Rally up the troops, find your fellow expats and stragglers and get a plan sorted. If there isn’t a plan, take the leadership role and make one. Laying in bed or isolating yourself and scrolling social media of everyone from home enjoying the traditions you can’t partake in is not going to make you feel better. Explore, make new memories and appreciate whatever weird dysfunctional family you have formed on your adventures. If you are on a solo adventure, reach out in local travel or expat Facebook groups or find a social hostel to stay at. When you travel alone you don’t have to feel lonely, there are so many people in the same situation who will welcome you with open arms and most likely alcoholic beverages. Take advantage of the chance to have a little community even if it’s just for a few days!

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Ultimately, spending the holidays abroad does a great job of reminding you what the holidays are really about. I guarantee you’re not lying in bed missing all your presents. Personally, I have such a deeper appreciation for my family and our special traditions. I hold the memories of holidays in the past so close to my heart and I embrace the fact that although this year it’s too hard and far to make it home, there are many holidays to come. I am grateful for the awesome humans who have helped me celebrate holidays abroad in the past and for all of the humans who will help me celebrate the upcoming holidays. Wherever you are, and however you celebrate, remember to make this holiday season about love, celebration and admiration for life and the many blessings you have been given. It’s not wrong to miss what you’ve left behind, but don’t let it stop you from experiencing what is right in front of you. Because, let’s be honest, Grinch green ain’t a good look for anyone. Happy Holidays people, may your days be merry and bright and your hardest decision be red or white. Cheers ❤ xxx

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