Christmas travel pros and cons: Wanderlust vs feeling far from home
You know, I’ve spent Christmas in a foreign country twice in my life and it’s proven to be an experience that connected me with what was really important to me regarding the holiday. So here are a few upsides and downsides to spending Christmas far from home:
Positive: Time to yourself and the people you want to be with
If Christmas is a huge family event with cousins and other extended family coming to visit, then you may welcome the idea of spending Crimbo by yourself. This gives you the chance to spend the holiday alone or with some other people of your choice. Travelling with friends over the Christmas period can be akin to a long, fun, Christmas-themed sleepover and I’ve known many friends who’ve have a wonderful time spending the holiday together. That said, I’ve heard more than one story of “Christmas” quickly becoming the 22nd or the 23rd when presents are eagerly opened early.
Taking the Christmas period to be alone or with your friends can help you grow and learn what you really value about this time of year.
Negative: Long distances and a feeling of disconnect
The 25th of December is all about family and, even if your siblings and parents drive you up the wall, you may be surprised by how much you’ll miss them on the big day. This can be a problem if you’ve travelled to the other side of the globe, to the point where getting in touch at all is a real challenge. With travel time differences you could experiencing Christmas day hours and hours ahead of (or behind) anyone else, perhaps waiting until the late evening before you can even consider getting in touch with people. For me, having to wait so long to thank my family members for their gifts made me incredibly homesick and I was grateful that I could call them easily over all those miles with a Skype call. Skype is a great tool for international phone calls and it’s much cheaper than most phone cards/ mobile phone rates. We are incredibly lucky to live at a time where technology allows us to connect over vast distances so make sure you have the options open if you happen to want a chat with your family on Christmas day.
Positive: Discovering which traditions really matter to you
Staying in Melbourne during the Christmas period, I was completely in love with the way the decorations lit up the night. It’s fairly sappy but I love decorating a home at any time of the year and Christmas is the ultimate tinsel-fest! In a strange turn of events, I also found myself missing the wet and windy winters of England when I was abroad. Every year I’m home, I enjoy that cool and frosty smell of a fresh winter morning in Britain, probably more so now that I’ve spent a winter away from home.
During university we had a student from the US who happened to have long blond hair and a beard. His nickname quickly became Jesus and when Christmas rolled around he was quite shocked at how casually blasphemous all us Brits were. We happily joked about it being his birthday and even encouraged him to wear a tinsel crown. This didn’t offend him but it made me realise how little religion seems to be in our modern celebrations. Spending time together and feasting like vikings is of far more importance to me and I adore gift giving far more than receiving, which was all the more clear when I couldn’t be there to see the faces of people I’d sent gifts to. In this way, you might find that elements of Christmas which aren’t particularly important to your family actually do have a deeper meaning for you.
Negative: Discovering how redundant some traditions are
You might be aware that Christmas is celebrated in mid-summer in Australia. With the temperatures climbing to the point where you shouldn’t go outside without your head covered, it seems implausible that Oz has happily adopted most of our British traditions. Including all that stuff about a “white Christmas”. There are grottos with fake snow and Euro-style cards or images of snowy wood cabins and pine trees come from all directions. When you’re standing in sandals and shorts it seems like the most bizarre thing in the world. I actually struggled to find a card for my family that resembled the kind of Christmas I was actually having.
You also get a chance to see how commercialised the culture of Christmas is, which is all the clearer when you’re looking at another country. Japan during Christmas is a culture that can really fling themselves with enthusiasm at marketing, even though only a small percentage of their inhabitants are Christian. This is, in part, because Christmas eve is seen as a very romantic day and gift giving is promoted for couples. This means that a Japanese Christmas is more like Valentine’s Day, with people being encouraged to buy expensive gifts to show their love. It’s strange to see but also might make you think twice about showering your SO and family in endless gifts. The rise of “novelty” gifts also confuses me. Could we properly explain to someone from the past (such as Victorian times) that we use materials to make gifts that we know won’t be used more than once by the recipient?
Positive: Christmas travel can be done on the cheap
I spent one Christmas in Majorca and was amazed at what I could afford, thanks to the difference in seasonal prices. During midwinter, demand is low and you can get yourself an impressive bargain – not just in accommodation costs but also plane tickets. I managed to stay in a swanky Majorca villa for a fraction of the usual price and this can be seen across the board. There are some locations where you won’t see a large price drop (such as popular winter locations like Norway and Finland) but places that are popular summer destinations will have much cheaper prices and often feature far nicer weather than we get here in Blighty. So, if you’re hungering for some travel but aren’t sure how you could budget it, Christmas travel might be the way to go.
Negative: The Off-Season Can Be Very Quiet
Obviously, this depends entirely on where you want to travel. Locations like Disneyland Paris are currently working very hard to promote the idea of a winter celebration taking place in their park (bolstered by their last runaway success: Frozen). Other locations can tell a very different story. Ibiza is a massive party during the summer but during the winter most bars and clubs are closed for renovations, to be presented in the next summer season. This is true of many summer retreats, where the winter season brings restaurants that close early and reduced activities because there is simply less money to be made. Going self-catering can be a great way to offset this problem, giving you the chance to cook your own Christmas meal (resulting in a hilarious anecdote if nothing else when it’s over).
Christmas is a strange holiday and I can see why some people turn from its in-your-face advertisement. Taking a step away from the traditions of your home might help you find some meaning to the day. Perhaps to you it will just be a great excuse to go travelling but that’s still a great reason to go!