Spending Christmas Abroad – What it’s Really Like

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Spending Christmas abroad must be awful right? My short answer: not necessarily. See, as I’ve grown up, the holidays have started to wear thin. So many presents to buy for so many people, heaps of events & so on. Needless to say, the commercialization got to me. So when I had to leave Australia at the end of 2018 (after living there on a working holiday visa for the year), my first thought was to travel solo instead of flying home for Christmas. Here’s why and read on for the pros and cons of being abroad for the holidays!

My first time spending Christmas abroad was a disaster …

Christmas has always been a relatively big deal in my family. We always go to church and open presents on the night of the 24th. Then we have a huge family gathering with anywhere from 25-40 people from my mom’s side on the 25th. This included aunts, uncles, cousins, significant others, friends etc. It’s always a really fun tradition but as everyone’s gotten older, the numbers are constantly dwindling. People are starting families of their own or are living outside of the country/province. 

Christmas of 2017 wasn’t all that memorable so when it came to deciding whether I should go home for Christmas in 2018, this was how my thought process looked … Should I go home to 4 months of the cold snowy weather Canada has to offer, or spend it in a much nicer climate in New Zealand? Canada didn’t stand a chance. 

Now it’s not to say I had the best Christmas ever travelling solo in New Zealand … I definitely encountered a few bumps along the way.

Where it all went wrong:

I had just left behind amazing friends, a boyfriend (at the time) and overall amazing life in Australia. So it was safe to say I wasn’t exactly in the Christmas spirit. While travelling through New Zealand, I opted to get a pass for a hop-on, hop-off bus with the company, Kiwi Experience (you can read all about that here).

After making some new friends on the bus, I rearranged my travel plans a bit so that I would be with them for Christmas and New Years. We ended up spending Christmas Eve at River Valley – a very secluded spot with no service whatsoever. It was nice having that night to really get to know some people on the bus and have a Christmas dinner, so I was feeling a little better about my plans …

That was until we started our journey to Wellington on Christmas Day and the bus wouldn’t start! With no service and it being Christmas, it took a while to get everything going and we ended up waiting for it to be repaired for many hours in a small town in the middle of nowhere.

We eventually made it to Wellington around 7 pm, which put a little bit of a damper on things. On top of it all, I couldn’t help but miss my family and close friends from home and Australia.

Lesson learned:

If there’s one thing I learned from spending Christmas abroad, it’s to take the time to be grateful. This definitely didn’t happen immediately for me. It took a little bit for me to look at the bright side and realize I was surrounded by new friends and was luckily enough to travel through New Zealand (which many people can’t do!).

It also helped me realize that while I was already independent, I don’t need to be with family over the holidays every single year – I will in fact survive. Sure, it wasn’t the best Christmas I had but I most definitely won’t forget it anytime soon.

How to make the most of it:

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If you’re spending Christmas abroad, try not to focus on what you’re missing out on but instead look at all of the opportunities that stand before you

  • Try something new – No matter what country you’re in, there’s sue to be a few things you haven’t tried before. Make a point of doing something that takes you out of your comfort zone! I did New Zealand’s highest bungee jump alone but you can easily find something a little less dangerous/terrifying.
  • Start a new tradition – If something as insane as bungee jumping isn’t quite your cup of tea, let’s think small scale. Start a new tradition by yourself or with a new friend for the holidays! It can be something as simple as making Christmas cards for the new people you’ve met or collecting something unique that you wouldn’t be able to find at home.
  • Make new friends – If you’re someone who gets homesick easily, this may be tough. Just stick it out and you’ll end up meeting some pretty amazing people! Read my best tips to making friends while living or travelling abroad here.
  • Focus on doing good – Think about ways that you can give instead of what you can get this Christmas. Go help out at a food drive, buy a new friend coffee, pick up plastic on the beach etc. You can also give something small to a new friend if you feel like it. You’ll start to realize how many things you can be doing for others the second you start looking!

Final Verdict

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If you’re someone who’s not overly excited by Christmas anymore, do it. Spend Christmas abroad and don’t worry about missing it at home because you’ll most likely have another 365927 times to do so!

While spending Christmas abroad can have it’s ups and downs, it will help you realize what’s truly important in your life. You may miss your family and really appreciate being with them the next year, OR you may enjoy having a whole new experience!

Let me know if you’ve ever spent Christmas away from family and how it went. Hit me up on Instagram or find my other contact info here!

Cheers & Merry Christmas,


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