Breaking the Christmas Tradition

Celebrating the holidays in remote locales is a great way to break out of the normal hustle and bustle of the holidays and choose yourself. Most of us spend the year being for others, serving others and neglecting ourselves. Most people don’t even plan their time off, except around holidays, and by then not only are you usually burned out, but instead of resting, you’re still thinking about and giving to others. I think the holidays are the perfect time to be selfish and give to yourself. The term “selfish,” gets a bad rap. I actually find that being selfish is necessary, especially when your default setting is to be selfless. If you’ve been serving others all year, it is okay to introduce balance and be selfish to tip the scale in your favor for once.

Spending the holidays off the grid, in lieu of being with family is something everyone should do, and I dare say, often.

Going remote during the holidays creates the separation you need to go within. This is not the case for everyone, but for some, spending time with family can be awkward and draining. Being away at a remote location gives you the excuse to be unavailable and prioritize yourself and your well being. While you’re there, make sure to breathe, check in with yourself, set new rules and intentions that are your own sans the influence and pressure of society and those you love. While away, you get to assess your boundaries and reset them before the new year if you find that the old ones aren’t working. Chances are, if you are entering the holidays depleted, sad, confused and overwhelmed about thoughts of the new year, then your boundaries aren’t working. It means it’s time to be alone and reassess. 

Our family generally has our best interests at heart. However, their idea of our best interest is not always in line with who we truly are and the life we see for ourselves. So getting away can eliminate the noise and pressure for you to finally choose for yourself.

My first experience spending Christmas away from family outside of the country was in Cabo, Mexico. Experiencing Christmas in a warm climate was quite the culture shock. While I intentionally did not spend much time on my phone or social media, I did check in on Christmas to view the warm tidings and share a few of my own. Seeing the usual Christmas traditions and warm and bundled content cross my feed as I sipped tequila from a coconut, was definitely an adjustment. But it was such a great feeling to be doing something new and out of my comfort zone. I did avoid posting pictures so as not to tease those who would have rather been in a warm climate like I was. If you tend to plan your vacations around the holidays in order to be back home in time on the actual day, I recommend changing it up. It is absolutely an experience we must all have. And it helps that the flights day of or the day after tend to be way more affordable, since everyone else is at home with family. So I spent 5 days in Mexico and took a direct flight back on Christmas day. Holidays in the air anyone? Don’t rule it out. I highly recommend it!

I haven’t actually been to Joshua Tree, but I imagine it would be lovely. At Christmas time, a dry and warm climate is always a nice change of pace, and I imagine finding the perfect cactus to decorate like a tree. I’m sure I’d need some protective gear so as not to bruise myself in the process, but what a lovely time it would be. It’s giving Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree, but make it desert and my own.

For me, spending Christmas in Canada was top tier. There’s nothing like a fresh dense snowfall and a true, almost guaranteed White Christmas. Depending on where you are in the United States, you may or may not get even a snowflake on Christmas Day. But way up north where the temperature gets cold sooner and the winters are signature to the region, your chances of experiencing the crunch of snow under your feet while listening to Christmas carols and feeling the deep pause that comes with snow fall are higher. 

There’s something about Christmas there that feels more like the movies. I felt like I was in a winter wonderland all my own. It helps that things move at a slower pace there than its neighboring country, so instead of the hustle and bustle leading right up to Christmas Day that I was familiar with, everything came at a standstill. 

Leave your phone in the room and take a walk after a freshly fallen snow and just take in the new air. Pretend you’re in your own winter movie, and you’re the main character. Something about that stillness and quiet invites the clarity that you may have been longing for all year. Take a walk to the mall and buy yourself something nice to commemorate the moment. Something about being in Ontario during Christmas just felt different. Even the Big Mac I cheated and treated myself to tasted… fresher. I often joke that it tasted like a salad. But there’s a pureness that can’t be explained and must be experienced, so I highly recommend the region for solo holiday travel.

I had so much peace spending Christmas in Ontario. Pausing to take in the vast miracle that is the Niagra Falls, feeling the awe of time standing still and not racing on to the next big thing, and the freshness of the resources and air in Canada made it quite a unique experience with all of the familiarity and fanfare of a North American Christmas.

You get the chance to not only pause and reflect on yourself, but you also get to determine what are the traditions you are doing because someone else told you to and what are the traditions you follow because you actually enjoy it.  I believe it is important to create your own traditions. We often fall in line with traditions and lose sight of our own sovereignty and creativity to do more and invite new. Traditions are important and sacred and should be kept, but not at the expense of new ones being birthed. In a world where everything is changing, what better time than to reflect on what new traditions can be birthed from that?

If you’re new to going off-the-grid or traveling alone, here are some quick tips to keep in mind.

Pack lightly. Minimalism is the way to go when going off the grid. You make yourself vulnerable to theft, loss or physical drain by having too much stuff to manage or keep in mind. Stick with the essentials. When packing, start early, and then revisit your luggage two or three times asking yourself each time, does this really have to go with me? The more you syphon down what you’re taking the more room for what you might want to bring back and the more energy you’ll have on the journey because you aren’t dragging your life’s inheritance with you. You’ll feel lighter and more energized and present to the adventure, trust me.

Opt for bagging that you hold close to your body with little effort,  backpacks, fanny packs, satchels) when venturing outdoors. These forms of bagging free up your hands and mind, and reduce the chances of theft or loss when escaping danger, should it arise. Plus  won’t weigh on you as much as shoulder bags which cause tension and stress and can easily fall. They’re just a great way to enjoy your stay, worry-free.

If you’re a woman travelling alone, try not to ever be completely alone unless you are indoors where it’s safe and doors are locked. Unless I am on a hike in nature and intentionally wanting to be by myself, I like to make sure that there is at least one other woman within eye or ear shot of me should danger arise. It is a scary world out here, with Human trafficking on the rise especially. But for women in particular, having another woman’s presence, even if its a complete stranger, adds another layer of protection because we tend to be concerned for one another and look out. 

I’ve been in bars alone and felt the alertness of a woman peak when she sensed danger or noticed a creep approaching me. We just have that sense. So it’s a good idea to know that there is another woman somewhere close by before completely letting your guard down. This is by no means a full-proof form of protection, because I’ve heard stories where the woman was the bait to trap a woman, so obviously be careful and don’t assume everyone is safe. But do use your intuition and instincts to feel it out in any setting before getting too comfortable and letting your guard down.

This time of year, unfortunately, is rough for many who do not have the means to live or give and seek to take from others. Y’all know what I mean. Theft is high, desperation, and some people are looking for who to take advantage of. Don’t fall victim to their ploys. Stay vigilant. Pack light. Leave your high valuables at home or locked up indoors. Keep your phone and backup battery charged every chance you get access to electricity (do not neglect this). Relax and breathe, but stay alert. You never know who is lurking and looking for an opportunity. Keep the conversations short when on the go if you don’t feel completely secure, and certainly do not go off with anyone you don’t know without having ALL of the details.

Remote, solo travel can be so fun and rewarding. But without the necessary precautions and forward thinking, it can quickly become a disaster you won’t easily forget.

This year, I will be spending Christmas in Costa Rica, where I have been living since February. These are all tips I used when arriving here in February as a first time solo traveler. And now I feel pretty safe and comfortable wherever I am.

While I could fly back to the States and spend it with family, my memories of Christmas in Cabo make me eager to spend another Christmas in tropical weather. Fortunately, I’ve made some really good friends here that have quickly become family, and we’ve made plans to spend it together in our own way. These friends come from all over the world, seeking a new way of living and solace in the paradise that is Costa Rica. Together we represent a fine spread of global holiday traditions. And together, we get to share the traditions we love that we typically experience with family back home, while creating brand new ones together.

So far, the plan is to wake up beach side on Christmas morning, share our usual morning coffee and see where the day takes us. For me, I’m always up for a chill vibe and a great view. Check both of those off in the country that has brought me so much joy and peace this year, and I’d call it a perfect Christmas.

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