DECK THE LONG HAULS
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.