Have you ever thought you were one type of person only to discover you’re the polar opposite? I’ll give an example, two years ago my now-husband and I planned a one month backpacking trip through Germany, Austria and Italy. We peppered our itinerary with must-see landmarks, hidden gem restaurants, budget hostels and five-star hotels (for the odd treat). During the six-month planning phase, I learned how to pack a 50L backpack from Pinterest, googled tips for hostel-dwellers and Instagram creeped the crap out of wanderlust accounts. I was ready for my minimal-living, nomad adventure. Fast forward two weeks into the trip and a mild meltdown in one of the loud side streets of Naples because I couldn’t cozy up to the hostel life. I learned very quickly that while I’ve always admired (and followed the Instagram accounts of) spontaneous adventurers, I was very much not that person.
Nervously checking our beds for bedbugs and sweating over the cleanliness of the bathroom, I decided that it was okay to not be okay with this travel style. While our trip was absolutely unforgettable – and one of the best I’ve been on – life got a lot easier after I accepted this fact about myself, and J and I agreed that future trips will include hotels and well-researched Air BnB’s. I guess you won’t see any future Instagram posts from my hostel bunk or tent in a park, but I’m okay with that.
These adventures have helped me realize I’m much more “myself” when I’m organized and prepared. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love to celebrate and how much I treasure traditions – birthdays and anniversaries are like my personal crack. I get off on a planning high, strategically making dinner reservations, researching sweet treats and attempting DIY projects that represent the person I’m celebrating.
This year was the first year J and I were away from family for the holidays. At first, this fact really upset me but once I realized this was an opportunity to create our own traditions, I embraced it fully. Living in a city like Chicago over the holidays is amazing. There are One of a Kind shows, the Christkindlmarkt (modelled after the same market we visited in Nuremberg during that fateful backpacking trip!), carollers at the bean and zoo light shows.
I realized how important these new traditions would be now that we are living in a city on our own – and quickly got to planning. As the food-obsessed humans we are, our holidays reflected our passions: we drank gluehwein from the controversial ceramic Chicago mugs, made Christmas Eve pizza (a new tradition we adore), and adopted the American tradition of having mac and cheese with our Christmas dinner. Both Diehard 1 and 2 were watched on Christmas Day while we got creative with cocktails (coming soon!) and took a nap between viewings. On Boxing Day, we explored our new city, walking for hours and talking about our plans for the next year.
Of course these new traditions didn’t replace all of the family we didn’t see over the holidays, but it helped us enjoy our first Christmas as a married couple, away from home. While dad’s fish chowder was sorely missed (and yes, I FaceTimed my sister, begging her to show me my favourite Christmas delicacy), our new traditions helped us forget what we were missing back home and happily celebrate the holidays – and our new adventure – as two Canadians in the Windy City.
Are you living in a city away from family? Here are some tips to make the most of upcoming holidays:
- Research your city to see what fun/free things are happening around you.
- Pinterest some festive recipes you’d like to try over the holiday.
- Do things that you like to do – dedicate an entire day to reading a book you were gifted, or take a nap after eating a festive meal (because it’s “tradition”).
- Incorporate your favourite hobby into your new traditions – enjoy making cocktails? Learn a new one and designate it your holiday specialty. Love knitting? Treat yourself to new yarn and vow to make a festive dishcloth over the holidays.
- Incorporate previous family traditions into your new life. Whether it’s FaceTiming your family during the annual party, or reading the Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve, these traditions will make your holidays even cozier.
While I may never be the spontaneous person who spends six months living out of a hostel or goes with the flow over holidays, my inner-adventurer shows in other ways. I like to think my wanderlust is present in the choices I make for myself, like when I left my job to pursue a career in freelance and a future in a new country with my husband. You may not see me living in a hut on a beach in Thailand anytime soon, but I can promise you I still spend my evenings planning my next adventure: googling European cities with hopes of finding a quaint town I can call home in the future. I find great happiness in knowing I will be embarking on more adventures this year, even if that means it’s all planned well in advance.