How to Survive the Holidays Abroad and Away From Loved Ones

Flash back to 2018. (Ahhh those were the days, right?) I was living abroad, in Thailand, and I would be spending the holiday season there. I was traveling solo, and while it wasn’t my first year spending the holidays abroad, I was asked by many people if I was nervous or sad to be spending Christmas and New Year’s in another country, away from my family and friends, and the traditions of home.

I’d be lying to say that there wasn’t a part of me that was a bit sad to be away from home and family during a time that I would normally be spending quality time and taking part in fun traditions! But, an even bigger part of me (the travel + adventure loving part) was so excited to be celebrating and experiencing new things!

Speed ahead 2 years, and I find myself –and the world– to be in a similar position. Everything this season is new. We have endured a strange, chaotic, and quite difficult year. It has left many of us unable to be with our loved ones or partake in the normal traditions we are accustomed to for this time of year. 

While I believe it is 1000000% acceptable to be upset, let down, or even angry at the current state of the world, don’t let those feelings linger too long. I urge you to use this season to look on the bright side and embrace the newness. What are some new traditions you can make with your family? How can you make the most of the current situation?

Back in 2018, I wrote down some ideas to help those who were living and celebrating the holidays abroad. But, I think the things I wrote back then can easily apply to us all this season. So, whether you find yourself in another country or just a town over from your family and friends this season, here are some tips for surviving (and thriving) this holiday.

Go somewhere or do something that is the opposite from what you’re used to during the holidays.

Why not just completely embrace the weirdness of this year? Try something that is totally out of the norm. Make an entirely new tradition! Do you normally do a Christmas dinner? Switch it to a Christmas breakfast this year. Do you normally have a huge party? Cuddle up in your pajamas and binge movies all day. By doing something totally different, you can trick your mind into thinking you’re not even missing anything!

For example, the first Christmas I spent away from home, I was in Thailand. It was HOT and for me, Christmas is always associated with cold. I’m from Minnesota, which means not only is it cold, but there’s usually snow. So, this was the first time that Christmas had ever been warm for me. Because of that huge difference, I had a hard time even feeling like it was Christmas. 

Try not to be gone for too long + try to plan something as soon as it’s safe.

Whenever I travel, I try not to miss too many holidays in a row, and I especially try not to miss the same holiday more than 2 years in a row. So, if you find yourself spending the holidays abroad this year, you can try to be home for next year! You can also try to plan travels around your favorite holidays to make sure you are there for at least every other one.

If you’re unable to partake in your family traditions on the actual date of the holiday this year, maybe you can plan a gathering when it’s safe to do so. Christmas in July anyone? The holidays are about the people and traditions, not the day on the calendar. So, you can celebrate that whenever.

Keep yourself busy.

Keeping yourself busy is key in helping to keep your mind right. It will help to stop you from feeling sad or disappointed that things are different or that you’re away. Do a puzzle, bake a new recipe, watch your favorite movie or TV show, read a book, get outside or do a workout, explore a new place. Just do something. If you’re sitting around doing nothing, you’re going to think about what you’re missing.

Surround yourself with people (and pets) you love.

Surround yourself with a small group of people that you love. Especially if you can’t be with your entire extended family or friend group this year. Even just one other person can make all the difference. (even if it’s a furry friend!) 

If you’re abroad for a longer period of time, you are sure to create some sort of friend circle or even a sort of family abroad. Take advantage of having that group on the holidays. When I was in Thailand, for Christmas, I went to visit the people that made me call Thailand home, and I was so happy I did. It made spending the holidays abroad much easier.

Call or video chat your loved ones.

Last but definitely not least, give your people a call! It’s amazing how close technology can make you feel now. Just seeing their face and talking to them can make any sadness go away so quickly. This is true whether you’re down the street or living across the globe!

This year might be totally different than what you’re used to for the holidays, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. I truly think that we can embrace this strange year and make it into something great. You never know what new traditions and fun memories could come of it. Either way, I hope that you have a happy and healthy holiday!

If you’re looking for a few more resources on celebrating the holidays safely during the pandemic, be sure to check out this post by My Move. It has tons of useful information and Tips on Celebrating the Holidays While Social Distancing. If you’re traveling this holiday season, be sure to read about our experience flying during the pandemic.

Sam Timmerman

Sam Timmerman