How To Get Through The Holidays Abroad

Written by  January 12, 2014

Creating festive feelings, half a world away from home.

As you get older Christmas doesn't seem like as big of a deal. You wake up later, you practically know exactly what you’re getting under the tree and the excitement slowly dwindles. Although I am in my 20’s, I still have an advent calendar each year and struggle not to eat all the chocolates at once.

This past December 25th was my first Christmas spent away from home and I had mixed feelings going into it. All the traditions that I had growing up were put on hold. There was no waking up at 6 a.m. to open my stocking with my younger sister then going back to bed. No rum and eggnog, no cozy fireplace to sit beside while opening presents with my Mum and sisters, and no Christmas tree or decorations.  

Although these are all things I missed during the holiday season, my roommates and I made our own traditions instead. We got a small Christmas tree and decorated it with empty beer cans. We played Secret Santa and bought gifts that cost $10 Euros, and we made gingerbread cookies and decorated them.  

Spending the holidays abroad doesn't mean you will miss out on all the things you have back home, but it means you will create new traditions with everyone your surrounded by. Here are some of the things my roommates and I did on Christmas that helped us get through the festive season without our loved ones: 

1. Decorated our makeshift Christmas tree with funny ornaments that made us look like the true backpacker bums that we are.  

2. Bought presents for each other that consisted of only alcohol, because it is the best icebreaker and you can never go wrong.  

3. Tried our best at cooking a turkey dinner and failed miserably. (Chances are that you don't have a proper kitchen when you are backpacking, or the right utensils to cook a big bird, but do it anyways—that's what makes it more fun) 

4. Played a three-hour long Christmas melody that we found on YouTube. Everyone was over the joyfulness after 20 minutes but we didn’t let anyone change the music.  

5. Baked and decorate Christmas cookies. Not everywhere in the world sells the gingerbread houses that North Americans are used to buying at the grocery store, where you ice the walls and decorate the house yourself. It's more fun making everything from scratch. (Just hope you have a Suzy Homemaker amongst you.) 

6. Celebrated with as many different nationalities as we could. You'd be surprised at all the different traditions you'll find around the world. (I spent my holidays with two Australians, four Swedes, one Irish, an American and another Canadian.) 

7. Downloaded all the Christmas movie classics like The Grinch, Elf, Love Actually and Polar Express and had a movie marathon to get ourselves in the Christmas spirit. 

8. Did a beer bong on Christmas morning. (When are you ever going to spend Christmas without family again? Have some fun.) 

9. Went out to the bar and celebrated with all the other orphans in town. You’re never alone. 

10. And lastly, we all Skyped our family. You may not be with them, and the time difference may be brutal, but chances are they miss you more than you miss them and you wouldn't want to upset them on Christmas morning.  

Hope you all survived the holidays wherever in the world you were. I was so thankful to have the seven other orphans from around the world that I can call my family here in Austria and that we made the most of the holidays abroad.

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Published in Work Abroad Blogs
Natalie Segovia

Natalie Segovia, 23, is originally from Vancouver, BC. You can find her on the mountain or at a hostel somewhere in the world. She's currently residing in Mayrhofen, Austria, teaching snowboarding. Follow Natalie’s ventures!

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