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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Kicking off 2016: Dry January

My last post was Christmas Eve, so hello again friends. I hate to sound like a broken record because every time I realize how overdue I am for a blog post I start writing and apologize for my inconsistent nature. I have a personal goal to write SOMETHING every single day but that doesn’t always translate to blog material. Sometimes it is simply thoughts & musings in my planner, rants in the notepad on my iPhone or scribbles on my lesson plans. As I’ve said before I am someone who is very self-aware, both of my strengths and of my weaknesses. Suffering from ADHD gives me an incredible energy and ability to take on loads of projects but it also leads me to bite off more than I can chew. I want to do it all which makes it very hard to do it all well, consistently. This is something I cut myself slack for but when it comes down to it, I know that my behavior and my habits are in my control. My creative mind seeks space to grow, breathe, wonder and wander but my Type A side needs routine, control, and stability. I am an open book when it comes to my shortcomings and I refuse to “accept” things that are within my control as the “way it is”.

This is where the fitness aspect of my life is crucial. After a month of my 60 day exercise challenge and 5am wake up calls for workouts I am feeling motivated, determined, focused, dedicated, empowered, committed, and excited (clearly we have been working on forming adjectives in my ESL classroom this week). Having physical fitness goals and a program to follow gives me the discipline I need in my life. I am very skilled at doing whatever the hell I please. But, I am wise enough to want more. I know I can push myself to be more than average, ordinary, or satisfactory. Fitness reminds me you have to work HARD for what you want. You have to put in the effort on days you feel like it and especially on days you don’t. You have to commit and stay consistent in that commitment to see results. When you are wishy washy in your commitment your results are wishy washy and ordinary. With the start of 2016 I naturally reflected upon my journey through 2015 and how many ups and downs I had. When I bite off more than I can chew I manage to swallow anyway but it is a personal goal of mine to channel my energy into fewer projects this year with MORE mindful focus and intentionality placed on the chosen ones. 2015 has been a year of monumental growth from the inside out. The funny thing about figuring yourself out is you continue to change while doing so and hence, have more to figure out! You must believe you CAN do anything but accept you can’t successfully do everything(I know, I know…but you still wanna try). I know that my anything begins with using my words & sharing my constant journey to a balanced, healthy lifestyle full of adventure & genuine happiness.

I had two incredibly different teaching jobs in 2015, one that was so stressful, emotionally draining and exhausting and one that is currently uplifting, flexible, and my classroom once again feels like a place where I feel my creativity is celebrated. I feel like I am positively influencing my student’s lives every day.  I am happy to go to work every morning. I have also slowly but surely dove into building my own business as a health and fitness coach. This is something I never in a million years imagined I would do but as I progress as an individual I realize that most people don’t turn out to be or do what thought they were going to be. That’s the fun part about life. We don’t know what the future holds but we are surely in control of building ourselves up into the best possible versions of ourselves. Jim Rohn said, “Work harder on yourself than you do on your job.” As I mature, I realize that when I make myself better I in-turn become better at whatever job or life obstacle is in front of me. The more I encourage others to take risks, take action and live the life of their dreams the more I continue to do it myself.

Accepting that my path is incredibly different than an average American 20-something has given me the power to listen closely my heart and actually TRY different things to find what makes me genuinely happy. The hard part is this process is never ending and at times can feel daunting but I have some truly hysterical people in my life who remind me not to take anything too seriously. It is amazing to me what different people teach you and as a traveler, teacher and coach I am constantly influenced by so many interesting and dynamic individuals.  It is a fascinating world and my favorite way to experience it is through the stories of strangers and new memories with friends.

Between all these goals, plans and dreams for the future I refuse to forget the invaluable moments that are happening right now.

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I’m dreaming of a Thai Christmas

Thinking of the holidays brought about melancholy feelings. Paired with the loss of a good friend from college, I have been battling some serious sadness the past week or so. I honestly feel guilty when I feel sad in Thailand because I am so appreciative of my life here. I love my job, I love my students, I love my new friends who already feel like family, but I can’t help but think of my family and friends back at home especially during Christmas time. I think of those who have lost their loved ones, like my friend Steve’s family and all of our WVU friends and my friend Corey, her parents and our whole Bishop Ludden community. I feel blessed to be healthy and happy, even if I am on the other side of the world. I am happy to be alive, young, and too naïve or too wise to be jaded. I am also happy because I love Christmas. I love the decorations, the food, the cheer, the giving, the family time, the music, etc. I could keep going. I’m basically Buddy the Elf Junior!

Two years ago, I couldn’t imagine not sharing such a special day in the “traditional” way. But last year I got some practice in spending Christmas in a “non-traditional” way. I spent Christmas in Hawaii with my boyfriend and his family. It definitely was not traditional but it was still incredible. I will remember Christmas night at the Royal Hawaiian for the rest of my life. I sat with Yale, Izaak, Zach and Krista all dressed up and in awe of my surroundings. The scenery was breathtaking with palm trees and warmly lit lanterns everywhere. We went around sharing what we were thankful for this Christmas. Yale went first and I was blown away by his comments. He isn’t exactly the mushy, sentimental type but his words were so honest and heart felt he set the bar high. We each took a turn sharing and I realized in that moment that Christmas isn’t about where you are or how you celebrate. Christmas is different for every family. Some Christmas’ are fancy and over the top, some are spent working, some are spent overseas in the war, and sadly, some are spent alone. Christmas in the end is just one day. The real message and meaning behind Christmas is one that we should carry with us and remember all throughout the year.

 Not only should we be grateful for what we have, but also we must remember that giving is truly the best manifestation of humanity that we possess. In the words of my good friend Dave Matthews,  “When you give, you begin to live, you get the world, you get the world…” And giving doesn’t have to mean material objects and gifts. Giving your heart, your love, your laughter, your time, or your understanding is more meaningful than anything you can buy or wrap or make.  As cheesy and cliché as it is, “the best things in life are free”, couldn’t be more true.

This year was probably the best Christmas of my life and oddly enough I was absolutely dreading it. I woke up at about 5:30am and opened three packages from my parents, my boyfriend and his family. I began to cry when I read my boyfriend’s Christmas card. I loved every single gift but the card was by far my favorite. He captured the meaning of our love and Christmas so well and I felt so proud because he does not enjoy expressing his emotions through words. He says that’s my job! Once I opened everything I went on a Facetime rampage talking to my parents, Yale & his family, and my brother & niece. I was so happy to talk to them and it made me feel like they were right there in my room with me. Since I know you are reading this right now, I love you all to the moon and back. Thanks for making me feel so loved.

When I got to school I was happy to see a huge Christmas assembly being set up! All the teachers from the Foreign language department were decked out in head to toe Christmas outfits from Santa Clause to reindeers, elves and everything in between. We belted out “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” even if it was terribly off key. Jackie and I spread Christmas cheer through our office and to our students by passing out Christmas cookies, candy and pencils! Then our friends who teach on the other side of our school (non-english program) invited us to come see the Christmas festivities they were putting on.

We jumped on the opportunity and stepped out of Thailand and straight into Santa’s workshop! There were decorations everywhere and even a whole classroom transformed into a pseudo photo booth with costumes and festive backgrounds to take pictures. Jackie & I spent a good thirty minutes in there with all the students taking hilarious pictures. As if the day couldn’t get any better we got to watch part of the talent show/Christmas singing competition put on by the students. It was so cute to see the Thai students singing and dancing to our traditional Christmas tunes. I initially was upset that we had to come to work on Christmas but I truly wouldn’t have had half as wonderful a day if it wasn’t for my school! After school we decided to keep up with our Insanity regime and burn off a few of those Christmas cookies we had for breakfast. Finally we ended our Christmas day by going out to dinner with our American crew of teachers. We had a little Chinese gift exchange, a bottle of wine (each haha) and tons of Thai food. It was delicious and hilarious and even though I was thousands of miles of miles away from my family, my home, and snow, I felt so merry, bright and Christmasy. We definitely celebrated in a non-traditional manner, but it reminded me that Christmas is a lot like life. You can’t try to confine and define it, you must accept it as it is and be grateful for what you have. Comparing your life or Christmas to a status quo is poisonous to their true meaning.  

I can honestly say, I had one, if not THE best Christmas of my life even if it was 85 degrees, I had to work, I wasn’t with my family and I was in a predominately Buddhist country 14,000 miles from home. Thanks to technology I even got to see and speak to the most important people in my life. As much as our society depends and relies on technology and as much as I bitch and complain about technology taking over, today I am truly indebted to technology. I am so happy and blessed to have seen the smiling faces of my loved ones on Christmas. I am so happy to see their facial expressions, their Christmas trees, their eggnog, and their furry friends. I am so happy to hear them say “I love you”, hear their laughs and look into their eyes. If I could write a love letter to whoever created video communication I totally would. Thank you for making my Christmas complete!!

After a pep talk from one my best friends Krohl, I feel very inspired to write. His enthusiasm about reading my blog made my heart smile. I love to hear that you enjoy sharing my experience because it connects us even if we are worlds away. I hope that every one enjoyed their Christmas as much as I did. I hope you remember how lucky you are. I hope I never forget how happy I feel in this moment. Tomorrow I am leaving for a 3 week backpacking trip all over Thailand and I couldn’t ask for a better Christmas present to myself. I am going to write in good ol’ fashion journal for the extent of the trip and then update my blog when I return! Don’t forget about me while I take a break from the digital world 😉 I promise to have tons of adventure tales when I return! I hope we all carry the Christmas spirit with us today and always and remember giving, laughing and loving is the best medicine in the universe! Merry Christmas & Happy New Year! Cheers! ❤ xoxo

 

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