That’s the Hollywood Christmas and one that I’ve long imagined everyone else experiences every December. But as a native Floridian, that’s not life as we know it. By late December, some years the weather still cranks out breezes in the mid 80.
And so it wasn’t so strange for me to spend Christmas in the Land Down Under, where the balmy breeze reminded me of the only Christmases I have ever known. I ended my round the world trip just last month, but the memories of that year will never leave me. This time a year ago I was fresh-faced optimistic about my trip, and I was happy to sun myself on a boat in the middle of the ocean, all in the name of a good time.
That said, it is a bit weird to leave your home culture during the holidays. Christmas traditions in Australia are less commercialized than Christmas back home. On the one hand, that’s lovely. On the other hand, without the decorations and Christmas carols blaring from the radio, it felt more like a casual summer festivity than the huge tradition we’ve embraced in the U.S.
In the lead up to Christmas, I realized that I would like company during the holidays. When I planned my round the world trip, I considered that I would face the holiday solo. At first, one of my best friends had planned to fly over and join me for a month of diving and holidays and birthday (my birthday!) fun. She bailed on me the first week of December, however.
I’d be lying if I wasn’t heartbroken.
But, I regrouped. Holidays and special occasions are a rough time to be alone out there in the world. This proves true for anyone who travels, but also those people who might have just moved to a new city and don’t yet have friends. Or those without family nearby.
In my case, my birthday falls three days after Christmas. Then New Year’s Eve arrives. I knew the dangers of spending all of that time alone. Solo travel can already be lonely at times, and so I took stock of the situation. Australia is the land of many backpackers, and I decided to book myself on a group sailboat trip on the Whitsunday Islands.
And I learned an important lesson about the holidays, which echoes so much of traveling. Instead of focusing on how Christmas was different from those of years past, I learned and experienced traditions from dozens of other cultures. Unlike the many Christmases of my childhood that all blend together, my memories from my Australian backpacker Christmas are unique to that year alone.Instead of waking up at dawn to cook a feast with my grandma, I woke at sunrise and pulled on a stinger suit so I could snorkel in the first light of day. My boat turned out to have a party vibe (not sure there’s anything else possible in Australia as the backpackers love to party), and I spent the holiday with a dozen backpackers from all over this planet of ours.
It’s a tradition here make sand snowmen in your swimsuit. Sadly, the pure silica on the beaches in the Whitsundays didn’t lend itself to sandmen decked out in wide-brimmed sunhats and sunglasses. If it was possible, I totally would have joined with the Aussie tradition and made up an epic sandman. I suppose, however, that I shouldn’t boo-hoo about the purest, whitest sand in the world, it wasn’t that much of a hardship! :-)
When I left, I wasn’t sure what it feel like to be half a world away from my family. Christmas day was nearly over for me by the time they were sitting down to family dinner. And so, I learned that I like to be home for the holidays. I also like all the weird and wacky travel gifts my family comes up with over the years. It was delightful to experience Christmas on the water with other backpackers, but it there is something to be said for embracing your traditions and showing up. My family missed me last year. My nieces and nephews had grown so big. This year, as I reflect back from the comfort of my childhood home, I am happy to be home for the holidays.
If you’re on the road and facing a holiday alone — Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving — here are a handful of ideas for forming new holiday memories that help beat the loneliness of being alone while your family back home is gathering.
This post was last modified on November 9, 2017, 9:34 am