How to Survive a Christmas Abroad

Sorry I’ve fallen off the face of the Earth! I’ve been too busy living it up to update this (though one of my New Years Resolutions is to do better, we’ll see how that goes). I was originally going to post this forever ago (as in before I surprised my mother by suddenly appearing at home for Christmas) but there’s no point in keeping up that charade that I’m spending all of the Holidays abroad.

I did get a bit of travel in before I came back to Chicago, with some quick visits to Amsterdam to see the cousins, London to see Queen in concert and Dublin to see Guinness before I came back. In just a few days I’m off again to snowboard in France and explore Croatia before the new semester starts!

However, I know these tips are still applicable for people out at Christmas. While some people may not be able to fly home, others may not feel welcome at home, or not have a place to call home at all. To any and everyone wondering WTF their plan is for the holidays, hopefully these tips can help:

Don’t go it alone

Mod Cocktails
High tea with my Aussie friend in London

Just because you’re spending the holidays away from home doesn’t make you alone. Make friends! Rope friends you already have into plans! Or do like I did, and convince your father to come to Europe (in order to create a long, drawn-out surprise for your mother when neither of y’all are in London and instead are chilling on the couch when she comes home from work).

Even though I did have a quick jaunt home, I’m still spending the holidays with friends. I’m flying back to France and spending New Year’s Eve in Lyon at a hostel before meeting up with friends and going snowboarding in Chamonix (the French Alps). Needless to say, I’m excited to be unfathomably sore and cold with some of my Cal Poly homies.


Make it something to look forward to

Embracing grey skies

Some people have this amazing ability to make everything negative. I don’t comprehend how they can even manage it around Christmas, but somehow Debbie Downer always rears her ugly head. These people can never focus on how adorable a Christmas market is, only how it is packed with slow-moving tourists. The gløgg is too alcoholic, the weather too dreary, everyone too cheerful, and their comfort zone firmly planted in their hometown.

Needless to say, don’t be that person.

Treat yo’self. Book a flight to that place you’ve wanted to go (mine was Amsterdam). Splurge on a nice dinner for yourself (10/10 would recommend 101 Talbot for a nice meal). Have that extra bit of gløgg. Be the only person without a hip replacement at the Queen concert (featuring Adam Lambert) in London. Go HAM, my friend. Santa would approve.

Embrace the travel time

Plane views

I know this is a shocker for everyone in the northern hemisphere, but I’ll say it: Christmas takes place in winter. Freak weather and travel cancellations are practically a given. I had three flights cancelled out of Copenhagen airport in my quest to meet my cousins in Amsterdam before I finally sucked it up and sat on a bus for 13 hours. Freak snowstorms will not be freakish and more of a given if you’re trying to get anywhere with a tight deadline.

However, look at these travel setbacks as an opportunity. I’m significantly closer to achieving my goal of reading 30 books this year because I couldn’t sleep on the bus. Also, flight cancellations mean you can catch an extra nap in the airport! Win-win. Don’t be a Debbie Downer, just go with the flippin’ flow. Screaming at your flight attendant will not get you anywhere faster (and might actually get you arrested and your flight grounded as I saw on my flight to Reykjavik).


Maintain Traditions


In my family, we have some traditions that have to happen every year. For example, every time we go somewhere new (or just take a trip to somewhere special), we have to get an ornament for our Christmas tree. That way, the process of setting up the Christmas tree is less of a chore and significantly more nostalgic. However, I’ve done a lot of traveling. My father is going to have to bring an extra suitcase for all the ornaments I’ve snagged.

Additionally, I always bake this time of year. Though I doubt I’ll have access to a kitchen on Christmas, I got my fill of cookie decoration at a recent Christmas party for Cal Poly kids in Copenhagen. That’ll have to do.

Hit up every Christmas market you see

Candyland in Poland

Finally, please go to Christmas markets. American versions don’t come close to even the dinkiest of ones in Europe, so please, go to every one you see. My personal favorites are in Copenhagen and Krakow, though you’re more than welcome to put your recommendations in the comments. Stroll through the place and support local vendors, I’m sure your grandmother would much prefer something from a small booth in Poland than another box of Sheri’s Berries. Plus, they improve you Insta game like nobody’s business.


Hopefully this can help some of y’all hold on to the evasive Christmas spirit a bit longer!

Hej Hej!

Phrase of the… year?
Glædelig Jul!
(glay-leh-lih yool)
A bit belated, but it’s how you say Merry Christmas!

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