I’m lucky that I’m headed home for Christmas this year, but that hasn’t always been the case. One year, I was working in Lucca, Italy and far away from my family and friends in Montana. I remember sitting in my beautiful apartment all alone, sadly staring at the minuscule Christmas tree to keep myself company. I remember feeling so empty the day before Christmas and like I had made a mistake moving abroad. What the hell was I doing thousands of miles away from the people I loved the most?
So what did I do?
I took a trip. Between Christmas and New Year’s Day, I traveled to Prague and Vienna, meeting new people and reconnecting with a few friends. It served as the perfect way to distract myself when I was abroad. Every time I began to feel that twinge of loneliness, I would make sure to go out and see a new sight or try a new food. It served as the perfect distraction and helped me to feel as though I wasn’t sitting around moping—that I was abroad for a purpose.
I also kept some of my favorite holiday traditions, like making hot chocolate and putting on Christmas music. I met with the new friends I had made in Italy for a Christmas cocktail and wandered the shops. Exploring the Christmas markets in Prague and really allowing myself to enjoy the season definitely helped me feel less like I was not participating.
What did I do most of all? I told my family I loved them.
My mother and father were not thrilled that I was gone, but we cured some of the painfulness of distances with Skype calls, texts, and shared photographs. I let them know about every leg of my journey and how I was doing. These little check-ins meant the world to me and allowed me to feel as though they were there, too. I’d laugh at my brother and sister’s antics as we FaceTimed and I even got to Skype with the family dog once or twice.
The holidays are known for either being the best part of the year or the worst. That holiday reminded me that family comes in all forms—either through video, new friends, or through the traditions that you’ve shared with others. Since then, I’ve had all of my holidays with someone I’ve loved, but I’ll always remember the Christmas I spent abroad, alone, and strangely content with it.
Have you ever spent a holiday traveling?