Around this time last year, I was away from home for the first time during the holidays. Instead of spending Christmas and New Year’s with my family in Los Angeles, I decided to travel to Japan and then to South Korea for the holidays.
At first, I thought I’d be fine. I figured I certainly wouldn’t miss the agony of having to sing another Christmas carol at our family’s annual Christmas Eve dinner get-together. Also, that I would be all right with not cooking Christmas brunch with my auntie and cousins, even though it was always one of my favorite traditions.
And you know what? For a while, I really was all right. I was feeling overwhelmed by all of the amazing sights— and tastes—that I was experiencing. From the bustling lights of Tokyo to the, ahem, blowfish “gentleman bits” that showed up on my dinner menu, I was so busy taking in all of my trip experiences that I didn’t even realize Christmas was coming up.
But, inevitably, it hit me. It was Christmas Eve and, even though I was spending it in Tokyo with a loved one, I was a little sad. I actually longed for the traditions—even the torturous ones—that I had grown up with.
All this wishing for the familiar got me to thinking: Isn’t the ability to experience new things and to make new traditions of our own one of the main reasons why we travel? It’s sort of the age-old traveler’s conundrum: You want to be daring and try new things, to force yourself out of your comfort zone every once in a while but, at the same time, there are times when all you really want is to curl up by a fireplace and sing Christmas carols horribly off-key with dozens of your relatives—all of whom are actually good at singing.
In a way, that’s how I felt about my trip last year: I was yearning for something entirely different from what I was used to and, even though I got what I wanted, my response wasn’t exactly what I had anticipated.
But you know what? It got better. Touching down in Seoul on Christmas night, watching snow dust the wings of our plane, it started to feel a lot more like the holidays. And spending time with good friends—both old and new—helped a lot, too. By the end of our trip, I was so elated, but I also couldn’t wait to see my family.
That’s the thing about the holidays, I suppose. No matter where you are, you just want to spend them with the ones you love—all of them. That’s why we’re more willing to endure crazy TSA security screenings and long drives on the road this time of year. And, if you can’t be there with them in person, you want them to know that you’re thinking of them—and likewise.
This year, I stayed put. Miraculously, I made it through the talent portion of our annual Christmas Eve dinner without having to perform (thank you very much, Melissa!). And I managed to keep up my longest-standing Christmas tradition: stuffing myself with tons of good food, of course. But a part of me couldn’t stop thinking of last Christmas, either. I’ll confess: there's a part of me that misses that Christmas, too.
So, I suppose being home for the holidays doesn’t mean having to be literally “home.” In fact, it doesn’t matter where you are exactly. Just as long as you’re with true friends or family, that’s all you really need, passport or not.
As for me, I’ve been lucky enough to spend all of my Christmases thus far with the ones that I love—definitely the best Christmas present you could ever get, no? And that’s exactly what I’m hoping each of my friends and family will have this Christmas, too.