This is the first year I am spending Christmas without any member of my family (even that year I spent it in Brasil, my brother came to visit for two weeks) and I have to admit it is a weird feeling. While on one hand it is completely out of convenience—they are all going to be in the States this year and I just didn’t want to make the trek for two short weeks—it doesn’t make it feel any ‘normaler’ to spend the holidays away from home (especially since I consider home to be where my family is). However, I have a couple of tricks up my sleeve to make me forget that this holiday period is anything other than wonderfully extended vacation time.
I am going to visit a friend for Christmas
Like Dani talked about last year, when you cannot be with your family for the holidays, it is nice to spend it with people you care about. When I first decided to spend the holidays in Europe I talked to several friends about what their plans were to get an idea of who I could, potentially, spend a few days with over Christmas (when everything feels just a little bit more like family time to me). This can be a complicated situation as many families have their own traditions and you want to be aware of how you are going to be involved in their personal time together. Make sure you have honest conversations with your friends and are open to hearing what they have to say—even if this isn’t always easy to do.
For example, I had the honest conversation about the situation with one friend who adamantly insisted that I was welcome with his family for Christmas… until we talked about what the holidays meant to him and his family and realized that it wasn’t going to be the ideal situation for either of us. There were no hard feelings as I have other options and this way he gets to spend the holidays without worrying that I am fitting in, he is spending enough time with his family, etc.
After talking to several people and deciding what feels most right to me, this year I am going back to a place I fell in love with this summer (read our short introduction to Tuscany here) and spending Christmas with a good friend of mine and his lovely family. While it is not a totally conventional holiday plan, I am so thankful that my friend opened his arms—and that his family opened their home—to welcome me in during the most family time of the year.
Pro-tip: If you are going to be spending the holidays with a family that is not yours make sure you keep in mind things like small presents/thank you gestures to show how much you appreciate the family caring for you.
I am planning on making several road trips and staycation time
Around my Christmas holiday plans, I am also going to take a couple of trips to visit friends that live in different parts of Spain and Italy during my time off work. I am taking advantage of the two weeks of vacation time that I have to connect with people I care about but that I don’t always get to see. This is a great time to spend time with friends (even if it is not on specific holidays) because most people have at least a couple of days off.
At the same time, I am not going to go crazy with all my plans and will take some time for myself, at home, to rest up and prepare for the new year. In fact one of the reasons I didn’t want to go to the States is because it would end up being a really draining journey (especially in comparison to short trips around Europe) and I wanted to find time to spend with myself. By finding ways to take care of both my friendships with others and my relationship with myself, I hope to enter into 2019 recharged emotionally and full of positive energy to share with people and projects in my life.
I am organizing different trips with my family before and after the holidays
All of my holiday planning without my family doesn’t mean that I am not making special plans to spend with them—in fact, it’s just the opposite! Because we are spending this time apart, we are already thinking about how each of us will spend some one-on-one time together. For example, my mother and I are going to hang out for a long weekend before she heads to the States and my brother and I are thinking about taking a short trip together in the new year. By carving out time for the special people in my life, I am not worried about losing the traditional holiday time together.
Pro-tip: Talk to your family about this situation ahead of time and make sure they are happy with the idea that you are going to make up the holiday time in another moment.
Keep in mind that the importance that we give to the holiday season is both cultural and personal—other people might not understand why something is or is not important to you unless you explain it to them. This includes your own family! Make sure you take the time to sit down with the people you care about and make a plan that makes sense for everyone.
What are your holiday plans? Let us know in the comments!