Christmas is a major holiday for many people around the world, and spending it abroad during your gap year or backpacking adventure can be tough, but it doesn’t have to be. Here’s how you can deal with backpacking or taking a gap year over Christmas.
I love Christmas. Decorations everywhere, Christmas songs, Die Hard and Indiana Jones on the big screen on Boxing Day, and yes, even the presents! I love it, and as I take the rest of the year off and prepare to spend it at home surrounded by family, loved ones and way too many mince pies, I am reminded of the Christmas’ I haven’t been at home and all those backpackers who are missing Christmas at home this year as they are off on their round the world adventures.
It can be one of the most testing parts of travelling, and it can be very easy to fall into the trap of wishing you were back home, imagining what you are missing out on and becoming homesick. These feelings can easily bring back those nagging tendrils of culture shock too, and it can be particularly hard if you are battling with depression, anxiety or other mental health issues.
But it doesn’t have to be.
Even if you have spent a relative amount of time in your new surroundings, even if you feel comfortable in the beach hut that has been your home for a month or so, even if you are surrounded by awesome travellers who will party with you, it isn’t the same, is it? Those steps out of your dorm room aren’t the stairs into your mum and dads living room filled with presents, that bowl of Pad Thai, as awesome as it is, just isn’t your mum’s roast dinner. Even the weather is different, the tropical climate just doesn’t feel right at Christmas.
Whatever your family traditions are, whatever you used to do, there is something missing at Christmas? Your new life just isn’t what Christmas should be, right?
I get it.
But here is where you have to concentrate on the positives. Yes this Christmas may not be what you used to have, but look at what you are getting instead!
Focus on where you are, not where you are not.
In many years time when you are enjoying your Christmas at home again you will genuinely look back on your Christmas’ abroad and love the fact that you spent Christmas day lounging in the fairy light festooned beach hut in Thailand, discovering local traditions in India or spending it with a hasty, cheap meal with good friends in Paris. You will be proud of the fact that you actually spent Christmas in its spiritual home of Bethlehem in Israel, or gazing at the Pyramids of Egypt.
And I get that family is one of the biggest parts of Christmas too, so set up some time to speak to them on and around the big day. Technology has advanced so much now that if you can’t be with them, you can at least be with them virtually.
It may not be the same, but it is something, and it is often enough to give you that boost you needed to remember to enjoy yourself in your new surroundings.
The American’s may actually have it right with their pre Christmas Thanksgiving holiday. Who would have thought it? It is not something I have ever celebrated myself as an Englishman, but I can really appreciate the sentiment here.
Be thankful that you are on this amazing round the world adventure, be thankful that you are experiencing something new and unique that you can bore your family senseless with for decades to come, and be thankful that you have that family back home and those old, familiar, comfortable traditions that you will get back to next year, or maybe the year after that. And maybe when you do get back home for Christmas next time, your time away will give you a bit of perspective to enjoy it and appreciate it even more.
For now, you have the best of both worlds. Enjoy it.
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