DECK THE LONG HAULS

Sunday Herald Sun - Escape - - HOW I TRAVEL - CE­LESTE MITCHELL

Twas the night be­fore Christ­mas and all through the air­ports, all through the mar­kets, and all through the cruise ter­mi­nals, trav­ellers were on their way to mak­ing un­for­get­table hol­i­day mem­o­ries. I first trav­elled to New York City when I found my­self al­most broke, job­less, sin­gle, and re­turn­ing home to live with my par­ents with my tail be­tween my legs.

With an in­vite from a friend to sleep on her friend’s couch and enough money for an air­fare, I jumped on a plane and touched down in the city I’d longed to visit for so many years, the week be­fore Christ­mas.

It was freez­ing and mag­i­cal – filled with Christ­mas car­ols and mulled wine and iceskat­ing un­der the gi­ant Christ­mas tree at Rock­e­feller Cen­ter. I was Ma­caulay Culkin in Home Alone 2, mi­nus Joe Pesci and the es­cape-the-rob­bers an­tics. I wan­dered the streets alone, slip­ping into elab­o­rately dec­o­rated stores to hear cheery strains of Happy Hol­i­days and I was hap­pier than I had been in a long time.

And even though I tech­ni­cally missed Christ­mas al­to­gether – de­part­ing JFK on Christ­mas Eve and eat­ing turkey in the sky as the Vir­gin cabin crew brought joy to ev­ery­one on-board – it was one of the most en­joy­able and mem­o­rable Christ­mases I’ve ever had.

The de­sire to travel at Christ­mas time – whether to cel­e­brate as a fam­ily in new ways, or avoid the fes­tiv­i­ties al­to­gether – has never been stronger or more pos­si­ble.

In­trepid Travel has found Aussies are shun­ning the stay-at-home fes­tive sea­son in favour of fam­ily trips to Viet­nam, In­dia and Costa Rica and solo trav­ellers are us­ing the time to cy­cle across Sri Lanka or ex­pe­ri­ence an ex­treme white Christ­mas on the Win­ter Trans-Siberian Ad­ven­ture.

The com­pany has more than dou­bled its fam­ily trips with 40 Christ­mas hol­i­days de­part­ing be­tween De­cem­ber 20 and 27, 2018, up from 16 last year. If you’re still at a loose end about how to cel­e­brate this Christ­mas, there’s some avail­abil­ity on the Viet­nam Fam­ily Hol­i­day (De­cem­ber 20 and 22 de­par­tures), and North­ern In­dia (De­cem­ber 20 de­par­ture).

Spend­ing Christ­mas in an al­ter­na­tive re­al­ity al­lows us to ex­pe­ri­ence cus­toms, tra­di­tions and food that would never nor­mally make the spread back home. And it may even help to ce­ment a few new tra­di­tions for the fu­ture.

Es­cape con­trib­u­tor Amanda Woods’ first Christ­mas over­seas was while she was liv­ing in Lon­don. “But de­cid­ing that if I was go­ing to be cold for the first time I wanted snow, my friend and I flew to Canada. Wak­ing up to snow fall­ing, mak­ing snow an­gels, and ac­tu­ally be­ing warmed by eggnog rather than slightly sick­ened by it was a Christ­mas I’ll never for­get,” she says.

Es­cape cruise colum­nist An­drea Black once spent Christ­mas in New York to get the full white Christ­mas, Yule­tide, chest­nuts roast­ing, Christ­mas carol ex­pe­ri­ence.

“Day one my hus­band lost his pass­port, I stacked it on the street in the sludge and we ended up get­ting snowed in dur­ing a po­lar vor­tex so missed our flight home but I’d do it all again to­mor­row!”

My hus­band and I cel­e­brated Christ­mas in Mex­ico last year, eat­ing tostadas and drink­ing mar­gar­i­tas, and watch­ing the sheer joy on the faces of fam­i­lies bussed in from Cen­tral Mex­ico vil­lages to play at the beach the fol­low­ing day. Now, I can’t imag­ine Christ­mas with­out gua­camole.

Feliz navi­dad, ev­ery­one!

EVEN IF YOU’RE NOT TRAV­EL­LING THIS CHRIST­MAS, WHY NOT …

Make san­gria and play a Span­ish Christ­mas mu­sic playlist.

Taste-test the Christ­mas ham the night be­fore with a ham sand­wich like the Swedish do.

Get as close to a white Christ­mas as you can in 30C heat and seek out an ice-skat­ing rink.

Play Silent Night, a UN­ESCO In­tan­gi­ble Cul­tural Her­itage and world peace song, to be trans­ported to the vil­lage of Obern­dorf near Salzburg, Aus­tria, where Joseph Mohr and Franz Xaver Gru­ber wrote and com­posed it 200 years ago.

Start the party early, like the Mex­i­cans do, with Posadas – a se­ries of nine par­ties oc­cur­ring ev­ery day from De­cem­ber 16-24 and make a star-shaped piñata, with seven spikes rep­re­sent­ing the seven deadly sins.

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