Expat advice: When you’re not home for the holidays

expat holidays away from home

I’m not gonna lie. In some respects, living abroad during the holidays is great. Here in Madrid, lights and trees and decorations are already up all over the city. Thanks to Amazon Prime, my U.S. gift shopping stress doesn’t even register. I may not get to spend all the special days with my besties or family, but if needed, I can distract myself with a 35€ flight to Toulouse or quick train to Sevilla.

But then, I start thinking about this Thursday. It’s Thanksgiving in the U.S. but just a regular day here in Spain. Regular to the point that I’ll be getting a cavity filled at 10:50 am. Regular to the point that I’ll be smooshed in the metro with the other regular-day commuters, thinking of all the roasting turkeys and toasts happening in the U.S.

When you live abroad, there’s a good chance you’ll celebrate solo a time or two. It’s not always possible or practical to get home. But celebrating holidays away from family can wear on even the steadiest heart. There’s a unique loneliness that slinks in no matter how accustomed you are to being away from home. So, what’s an expat to do?

Since we’re looking the holiday season in the face, I say it’s time to get proactive. I’m a girl that loves a plan. I swear, seven out of ten things that plague my inner being can be solved with a decent list. If you know you won’t be with family this year and already feel the tickle of bleak desolation on the fringes of your heart, it’s time to get going! Don’t wait until you’re in the depths of despair with a bottle of tequila on Christmas Eve.

Keep reading for five ways I avoid the lonely that can creep in around the holiday season.
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Dealing with Distance

sd to bog map

I’m practically through our second summer as expats and am wondering if this season will ever be easy for me.  I’ve mentioned to Cody several times recently how much I miss the heat and sun of San Diego—it still feels strange to look at the calendar and know that it’s August, but to be wearing sweaters, pants, and closed-toe shoes.  In the sixteen weeks between May and August, we’ve had eight three day weekends due to various holidays.  It doesn’t matter, I am still jealous anytime I see someone post a photo in a tank top.  I feel like a real turd saying that, because on the other hand this has been such an incredible experience and I am so appreciative of our life and the positive changes it’s brought us.

Apparently, there is just really something about the California summer that has it’s hooks in me…it just seems like there are fewer responsibilities, everyone is warm and relaxed, and where in a few months there will be pressure to see everyone and find the money for flights and gifts, there are only casual get togethers where the whole point is simply enjoying each other’s company.  I genuinely believe that physical proximity isn’t a requirement to love people and have close relationships, but there is something about this season especially when I feel the physical distance pressing on me.  It doesn’t stem from a fear of missing out, but more of wanting the familiar summertime routine and to share it with people who are important to me.

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