Holidays Abroad: 4 Tips for Celebrating Far from Home

December 22, 2014
Holidays Abroad: 4 Tips for Celebrating Far from Home

Mary Ellen Chase said, “Christmas is not a date. It is a state of mind.” As a traveler, these words especially ring true. When you find yourself celebrating the holidays abroad, you may feel homesick, but try to keep in mind that it can be an opportunity for growth, reflection, and gratitude. Here are four tips for enjoying the holidays far from home:

Holidays Abroad: 4 Tips for Celebrating Far from Home

1. Break tradition

Living abroad during the holidays may force you to create a new tradition, spice up an old one, or break free from tradition all together!

In 2012, while spending nine months traveling abroad, I received my PADI scuba diving license in Thailand on Christmas Day. While everyone else was posting pictures from holiday parties (including the very hated, but somehow still popular “ugly sweater soirees”), my Facebook status read, “Scuba Diving the Andaman Sea today!” I loved that I was doing something so unique! Not only did I not partake in typical holiday sameness, but I also created a very special memory on that day.

Now, I don’t just associate Christmas with family feasts and drunken holiday parties, but it’s also the day that I became a certified diver! So, find something to do while traveling abroad that you could never do at home during the holidays, and create a new memory on that special date.

2. Create deep bonds with new friends

I’m picturing that scene in Eat, Pray, Love when Julia Roberts is trying to prepare a big old-fashioned American Thanksgiving for her new Italian friends in Rome. If you haven’t seen it, they end up forgetting to cook the turkey, and eating it for breakfast the next morning. The opportunity to share your experiences (and cooking skills) with new friends is an exercise in gratitude and learning.

During the time I spent in Thailand, there were so many other travelers and expats trying to find a way to bring holiday familiarity to the peaceful island of Koh Lanta. Not only was I exposed to different people’s holiday traditions, but I was also given a chance to share my own traditions with others who were feeling nostalgic for home. It was a great opportunity to share and connect with fellow travelers on a deeper level.

3. Join in on new traditions

The second time I spent the holidays abroad, I ended up at a casino in Palm Springs, California. I’m from Canada so I commonly associate Christmas with snow, pine trees, big sweaters, and fireplaces. In California, I found myself in a tank top and shades, looking for a place with A/C, and surrounded by palm trees. Christmas day that year entailed a poolside breakfast of pastries under the hot sun, and a giant buffet lunch at a casino, followed by Black Jack and Slots.

While it seemed unusual to spend Christmas Day at a casino, it was actually a longstanding family tradition for my friends. The opportunity to be part of my friends’ holiday customs felt warm and inviting even if they seemed a bit unusual at first. So, if you’re far from home, embrace your friends’ traditions–you might end up loving them!

4. Develop a sense of gratitude

At the end of the day, home is home, and living abroad during the holidays may truly make you appreciate your loved ones and your home country. You will meet amazing people when you travel, of course, but in my experience the more time I spent celebrating the holidays abroad, the more I realized how much everyone back home meant to me. Let it be a lesson in gratitude and appreciation.

Holidays Abroad: 4 Tips for Celebrating Far from Home
The holidays make you appreciate both new experiences and your home country.

About Nelish Lalany

After graduating from the University of Toronto with an Honours BA in English Literature and Urban Studies, Nelish Lalany decided that it was time to explore life outside of Canada. She’s visited various locales in Europe, North America, the Caribbean, Latin America, South America, Southeast Asia, India, and Nepal with plans to continue adding to the list. After spending some time working at a not-for-profit radio station in Los Angeles, California, she decided to return to school (but not at home, of course!). Currently, she lives in the UK and studies an MSc in International Applied Communication at the University of Central Lancashire. When she’s not studying or contributing to her blog ReverseTheFormula, she’s looking under the sofa for change to throw in the travel savings jar.

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