Ever wonder how travelers, digital nomads or expats handle the holiday season far from home? This is our fourth Christmas in Spain and we really love it. Hard not to like an area so beautiful with ideal warm winter weather where we are ten minutes from the Mediterranean sea and an hour's drive from snow skiing.
This is the Christmas view out our window that I took just took while decorating our tree!
Still, some people do get lonely while traveling no matter where they are. Recently I was surprised to read this post at Gadling ( but enjoyed this rebuttal). I was even more surprised to read "It’s been really lonely on the road so far" by cyber friend Baker at ManvsDebt in his recent post about traveling as a family.
I did get very lonely at times when I was in my twenties and lived in Italy for a year modeling for Ford but none of us have gotten homesick or lonely on our journey, thus far. I think that is probably easier as a family or couple, but there are plenty of singles ( like cyber friend Brian) of every age who also master it while doing extended travel. So what are the secrets that can help?
1) BRING "HOME MOVIES" & LOTS OF FAMILY PHOTOS!
This is particularly true for families. One of the smartest things we did before leaving on our open ended world tour as a family in 2006, was create a "family home movie" dvd and scan tons of priceless family photos from tons of albums onto a digital format.
Didn't you love family nights as a kid watching "home movies"? I did and Mozart does too plus it has added value when you're doing extended travel as it helps a child stay connected to his/her home culture, past and relatives in addition to rituals at a distance.
This is a gift to our family, friends and readers who want a peek into our life before travel. This video was taken the last Christmas in our home when our daughter had just turned 4. Some of the pictures are from earlier xmas holiday seasons. We knew it would be our last Christmas there and wanted her to remember the special times and traditions that we had in that beloved home where she lived from birth.
This is partly how we bring our home with us as we travel the world and help our child remember her roots. We have film of holiday dinners with family, newborn. family reunions , weddings, her first birthday party, friends and every day moments. We even have video of DaVinci's mother's last birthday which was just a few short months before her death and my younger brother who died at forty, so they live on for her even though they passed away before she was born.
When we watched them all again a few days ago, I wanted to find a way to share it with you. Not an easy task, but after many trials and a call to the company at home that helped us make our personal dvd, we found a way. It's a bit like inviting you over to cuddle on the couch with us! Grin.
Our ritual at home was to go to a tree farm and cut down a tree, then go have Chinese food at our favorite restaurant. This is the last tree that we cut down and at four, Mozart had become an expert and already knew the rituals.
She also loved the ritual of putting on Christmas music, unwrapping all the decorations and putting them on the tree. I so loved the special Christmas ornaments when I was a kid, that I collected special ornaments and angels for over twenty years. (The frugal way of course, by buying them after xmas). We still have the best ones tucked away in storage and have added a few unique ones from this trip, which Mozart will inherit if she wants.
Sorry about the quality ( it was taken with our old video camera and then transferred) but we hope you enjoy it!
2) EMBRACE THE NEW
Chocolate advent calendar? Yum! Not something we had at home, but definitely a European tradition that Mozart adapted to immediately. Part of the joy of extended travel and deep immersion is to experience another culture in a profound way, so learning new traditions and participating in festivals is part of the charm.
Yesterday Mozart sang a little solo at her local school in the annual Christmas concert that they put on every year on the last day of school before Xmas break. Remember our videos from the first winter in 2006 where she sang in her tradition outfit and did flamenco? Time flies when you are having fun. She was 6 and in first grade that first year, now she is in fourth grade and turned 9 this fall!
They partied all day at the school and did a "secret Santa". Not so different than at home except totally in Spanish and with a Spanish flair. By coming back to this village every year we have a "home away from home" that helps us connect to the holiday customs that are similar and not so similar. We keep or modify ours and add theirs. I wholeheartedly agree with my friend Maya Frost who recently wrote about the importance of flexibility in lifestyle design.
On that note, let us demo the art of a Christmas tree in Spain, which you can see is a totally different process than how we use to cut down our trees at home that you see on the video. The good news for frugal types is it is very cheap, just 6 or 7 euros at the local hypermarket compared to 60 to 80 dollars at the tree farm.
First you buy the tree that comes with dry root ball, pot and potting soil.
Unwrap tree and add a little soil to the bottom of the pot.
Put the tree in and squish down the root ball and potting mix.
This year we used a hammer to move things around before watering, but usually not needed.
Then you decorate! We have very minimal decorations that we store here with a few things like extra books in a couple boxes while we travel. We have bought a few from our travels and brought one Christmas stocking from home.Little things like the same stocking every year of her life, no matter where we are, help maintain roots and consistency to a kid on the go .
Yes, those are organic seed packages that arrived with our Christmas gifts from home, that we added to the tree. When we take our tree down after the big 3 Kings celebrations here on January 6th, we will plant our winter garden using this pot & others on our balcony. Even travelers can be gardeners!
3) USE WEBCAM CALLS & INTERNET TO CONNECT WITH FAMILY & FRIENDS
Even this post lets our family, friends and readers connect to our lives. I probably call my mom more now than when I was at home and she has said that she knows more details about our lives than when we were at home due to our blog, Twitter, and Facebook etc.
It is hard for me to understand how anyone can get lonely today while traveling. Looking at my Mom's, other relatives or friends faces on the webcam, full size on our laptop screens, it is easy to forget how many miles we are apart. The only thing missing is the hugs!
4) IMPROVISE, POSITIVE FOCUS & PLAYFULNESS
We always had a beautiful angel on top of our Christmas tree, but we didn't want to bring it or buy another one here. No problem! Mozart made one last year and we used it again this year. The first year we fashioned one out of a plastic water bottle and aluminum foil and this one is out of a paper towel roll and construction paper.
I think it illustrates well the principles of improvisation, positive focus and playfulness that will not only keep you from feeling depressed and lonely while doing extended travel during the holidays, but will support your life in many ways.
“You simply will not be the same person two months from now after
consciously giving thanks each day for the abundance that exists in
your life. And you will have set in motion an ancient spiritual law:
the more you have and are grateful for, the more will be given you.” —
Sarah Ban Breathnach
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is
a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” — Albert
“You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the
concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and
grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting,
swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I
dip the pen in the ink.” — G. K. Chesterton
“Both abundance and lack exist simultaneously in our lives, as parallel
realities. It is always our conscious choice which secret garden we
will tend… when we choose not to focus on what is missing from our
lives but are grateful for the abundance that’s present — love, health,
family, friends, work, the joys of nature and personal pursuits that
bring us pleasure — the wasteland of illusion falls away and we
experience Heaven on earth.” –Sarah Ban Breathnach
We do try to keep our focus on gratitude, optimism and Grace which seems to help us. Thank you family, old friends and readers ( new friends!) for your love, caring, and goodness that we feel with us as we travel. May you have a most joyous Holiday Season!