Following the popularity of Christmas Abroad: Part 1, another 7 travellers write about their most memorable Christmas Abroad. This year, I’ll be spending Christmas at home, with the family in the South of England, hoping for some snow, walking the dog and stopping by the local pub! Where will you be? Please feel free to tell us in the comments section below…
Walt Disney World, Orlando
[dropcap]B[/dropcap]eing the Disney fans that we are, a couple years ago we decided to spend Christmas at Disney World! We’ve been to Disney World more times than we could possibly count. But the holidays are a very special time at Disney. The two of us drove 7 hours from Atlanta to Orlando, and some of Liz’s family members flew over from Idaho to join us.
What is the best thing about spending Christmas abroad? Although it feels a little strange to be away from home at Christmas, you really can’t beat the ambiance of Disney at the holidays. The Christmas light displays in the parks are impressive, the shows and parades are far better than what you would ever see back at home, and the fireworks are incredible. A visit to Disney over Christmas really brings out the kid in all of us!!
What did you miss the most about home? One thing that Liz misses since moving away from her home-town in Idaho is having a white Christmas. While we sometimes get snow in Atlanta, it is very rare. However, at Disney World they make its now! So even though we were far from home, we were able to stand on main street drinking hot chocolate, listening to holiday music, and surrounded by twinkling lights and falling snow. Top it all off with a ride on Space Mountain,and it’s the perfect holiday!!
What is your next dream Christmas destination? As far as our next dream Christmas destination, we would have to say Germany, especially some of the quintessential villages. It would be great to walk around the Christmas markets to buy gifts, and enjoy traditional food and drink while admiring the storybook architecture!
[dropcap]L[/dropcap]ast Christmas, I spent the holidays on a tiny island in Belize with two of my closest girlfriends. We travelled to the country a few days prior to Christmas, with flights leaving at 2AM to help offset the cost of our trip (we all know travel during the holiday’s can be quite expensive)! At the time, I lived in New York City, and the island we travelled to in Belize, Ambergris Caye, was just about 2,000 miles away from home.
What is the best thing about spending Christmas abroad? Our time in Belize was no ordinary Christmas. We spent our days snorkelling in the barrier reef with nurse sharks and sting rays (2nd largest in the world), going zip-lining and cave-tubing in the Belizean jungle, and drinking Belikans and Lighthouse Lagers on towels on the beach. We even treated ourselves and got massages on the beach, with the ability to see the tiny fish through the wooden planks where the massage tables were located.
What did you miss the most about home? Although the trip was like no other holiday I’ve spent in the states, I missed my family and the traditions – and of course all the scrumptious food served at family gatherings!
What is your next dream Christmas destination? In the future, I’d love to explore another region of Central America – I have my eye set on Costa Rica! It doesn’t get much better than spending the holiday’s lounging on the beach! Maybe next Christmas?!
[dropcap]I[/dropcap] have spent most of my Christmases with family back home in Finland. I am lucky to enjoy the holidays with those who I love, and to eat delicious dinner in my family’s warm house on the countryside of this cold country.
I travel a lot and have now promised to my mother, that no matter where I’ll go or what I do, I’ll be home for Christmas. I try to keep my promises from now on, but on Christmas 2011 I did fly to India to volunteer in an orphanage with two friends of mine.
What is the best thing about spending Christmas abroad? To me it was about seeing things from a new perspective. We got to spend the day with all the kids and teachers and to share cake and sing together. Christmas was not about glorious food or superb presents – it was about getting together to appreciate what we had. Though at first I felt sorry for these kids, in the end they showed me what a merry Christmas should really be all about. They might have missed their mothers, but so did I, but they lived in that moment to enjoy this special day with people who cared about them.
What did you miss the most about home? I of course missed my family, as Christmas has always been the most important time of the year for us to be together. I also missed eating all the great foods, such a green beans (not a typical Christmas food, I know).
What is your next dream Christmas destination? My next Christmas destination is home. There is no place like it.
[dropcap]A[/dropcap]n eager, naive solo traveller with little money, I was in South America for the first time. The news that we would then spend Christmas Day in the dreary, ghost town of Potosi did not really fill any of us with excitement. An old mining city in the southern mountains of Bolivia, Potosi is one of the highest industrial areas in the world and a UNESCO heritage site. It wasn’t exactly going to be party central though! I was annoyed and disappointed that we wouldn’t get a ‘proper’ Christmas.
We were then told about what Christmas Day consisted of for the miners and their families. These men spent every hour of daylight underground including Christmas and were very poor. They could be mining for 12 hours without a break and there would be no feast at the end of the long day. They just about managed to feed and clothe their families.
Our group decided to buy gifts and small food items to take for the miners and their families. Christmas day we headed up to where the entrance of the mines was, dressed in Santa hats and tinsel. Still not really able to comprehend how the people really lived. We met incredibly grateful and hard working men. Their children were brought up to accept our gifts and could hardly reach out to take them. It was more than they had seen on a Christmas day before.
What a humbling experience. The one thing that struck us was the strong bond in this community and the love and dedication of the miners for their families and country. It stays in my mind 8 years later as my ‘proper’ Christmas experience. The time I was shown the real meaning of Christmas.
What is the best thing about spending Christmas abroad? The best thing about Christmas away is meeting other people and having very different experiences. It’s generally a happy time and people are good to each other on the road.
What did you miss the most about home? Without a doubt, I miss my lovely family and being at home in cold England!
What is your next dream Christmas destination? The dream destination for Christmas is somewhere very snowy like Iceland or Norway. Northern Lights are on the list too so that would be an amazing Christmas
Koh Tao, Thailand
[dropcap]C[/dropcap]hristmas away from family is a rather strange concept. especially when you’re in a country that doesn’t really celebrate Christmas! Shaun and I spent Christmas 2013 on the little island of Koh Tao in Thailand. From home in New Zealand, Koh Tao is a 12 hour flight away plus an overnight train, a couple of hour bus ride, and 2 hours on a ferry.
What is the best thing about spending Christmas away? We spent the day on the beach and our Christmas meal was delicious Thai food – very unconventional! We love spending the day with family when we’re at home but who wouldn’t want to hang out at the beach?!
What did you miss the most about home? Last Christmas was really special for us – we got engaged! So it was an amazing Christmas but it was hard not being with family to celebrate and having to share the news over Skype rather than in person. We also missed the amazing BBQ that usually happens on Christmas Day with our families!
What is your next dream Christmas destination? We’ve never had a white Christmas, and this year we are lucky to be celebrating Christmas at the ski resort of Whistler, Canada! We can’t wait to make a Santa snowman and go skiing on Christmas day – it’ll be very unusual for us Southern Hemisphere-ites!
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n 2009/10 I went to live in Venezuela for a year with two lovely families. It was just me and them. It was a wonderful experience and I loved to see the different aspects of our cultures. Venezuela is quite far from my home Austria and unfortunately I haven’t made it back since. The second time I spend Christmas abroad was when I studies abroad in Spain and my boyfriend came over and we celebrated together. It was special, our first Christmas together, we were really excited and I also got us a fake Christmas tree that I decorated with all my love.
What is the best thing about spending Christmas away? The best thing about spending Christmas somewhere else than home is the sensation of really dipping into another culture. For many people on our planet Christmas is their highest holiday and there are lots of different customs involved ready to explore. Ideally you have friends or family abroad so you can really really get it. It is the difference that makes the difference! I have spent Christmas abroad two times already, one time in Venezuela with a great host family another time in Spain with my boyfriend. Both times had their impacts on me, both very different but I wouldn’t want to miss either of them!
What did you miss the most about home? The company of my family and my dog. The cookies, the hot tea, the Christmas tree, the lovely decorated house, family dinner, going skiing with my Dad and sister, playing in the snow, feeling the cold air on my cheeks, .. There is lots that I missed on those two Christmases I spent away, but those special Christmases abroad were so special as well.
What is your next dream Christmas destination? I’m leaving on Dec 21st for Mexico – the beach, warm and pleasant weather and the ocean are calling me this time. I will be in Playa del Carmen for about 2,5 weeks to dive, dive, dive and again dive! It is bull shark season right now and I cannot wait to dive with my buddies again – plus I’ll be guiding too! That’s a new chapter in my life then! Come and dive with me if you are around!
[dropcap]M[/dropcap]oscow, Russia. I went there for Christmas Day in 2013 and it was actually part of a layover on my way to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Unbeknownst at the time, I booked the flight on Christmas Day (not sure how I didn’t realize this). I had a 20 hour layover and decided to apply for a transit visa so I wasn’t stuck in Sheremetyevo Airport on Christmas. I was initially by myself, but ended up meeting a Muscovite named Vasya almost immediately. She offered to show me around and accompany me all day so I did not have to spend Christmas alone (it was not yet Christmas in Moscow).
What is the best thing about spending Christmas away? The best thing about spending Christmas away is learning new traditions. Or, in my case, seeing how the city of Moscow operates on a normal day. They don’t celebrate Christmas on the same day that I do, but rather a few weeks later, so despite decorations being up around the city, it was technically not Christmas there yet. I had a Russian buffet for lunch at El ki Palki and made a new friend. I felt as though I had the best of both worlds that day.
What did you miss the most about home? My family and American football. But I was on my way to Kyrgyzstan, so my mind was already in another place and I didn’t have the chance to think about it too much.
What is your next dream Christmas destination? I am currently based in Germany and before that in Norway… so anywhere but western Europe where everything shuts down for several days. This year I am heading to England. Who knows where the holiday will take me next year!
Have you spent Christmas away from home? How was it? Can you recommend somewhere, perhaps your hometown, which has a great Christmas vibe? If so, we’d love to hear about it in the comments below…