The Adventure Chronicle

How To: Survive the Holidays Abroad (HD REDUX)

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Christmas is a tough time to be on the road. A traveler can’t help but get a little homesick thinking about family gatherings and traditions; or, if out of the “west,” Christmas music, December weather, decorations, bowl games, holiday feasts, and infuriatingly frantic trips to the mall for gifts. There is something intoxicating about the whole month- everyone is smiling, a “happy holidays” is always around the corner, there is even something wonderful about encountering adverse driving conditions, the massive crowds that are normally annoying suddenly become inspiring, a beacon of hope that people care for each other, and of course the inundation of cute snow bunnies everywhere. So, no one can be blamed for feeling blue in a non-Christian, tropical, holiday-less setting. Of course, there are ways to avoid the trap. This is a fool proof 10 step process to avoiding the Christmas Blues (yes, so good, I can offer in 10 what “they offer in 12”):

1) The first step to a solution is to admit that you are an addict: “I am a holiday fiend.” Doesn’t that make you feel better? Now that you have admitted that you are addicted to the holidays, we can avoid any self-consciousness you may feel with the following steps. After all, for some reason society frowns upon adults getting caught up in the spirit. Forget that, get your “Buddy” on. Women think he’s adorable and he gets to live Christmas up, isn’t that what you want?

2) Now that you have admitted there will be dire consequences if you don’t deal with your addiction, let’s start planning to avoid a terrible December of withdrawal. Always be prepared for the holidays. If you know you may not be home for the holidays, make sure you pack accordingly. A standard “Christmas abroad” set should include:

  • a) An iPod updated with all your favorite Christmas CDs: The Home Alone OST, “Christmas with the Rat Pack,” Ray Charles’ “The Spirit of Christmas,” “Ella Fitzgerald Wishes you a Swingin Christmas,” Bing’s classic “White Christmas,” the all time classic “Charlie Brown Christmas” by the Vince Gueraldi Trio, and of course, Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song.” If you are going to do this and do it right, Elvis’s “Christmas Duets,” Diana Krall’s “Christmas Songs,”Andrea Bocelli’s “My Christmas,” “Christmas with Dino,” Sinatra’s “The Christmas Album,” Harry Conick Jr.’s “When My Heart Finds Christmas” and a couple compilations like the 1997 release “Ultimate Christmas” and Time Life’s “Treasury of Christmas” are really good ideas. And, Sting’s “Once on a Christmas Night,” some Transiberian Orchestra or Manheim Steamroller, Aretha Franklin, and Maria Carey are all excellent choices for moods of non-traditional Christmas music.
  • b) A couple Yankee Candle Co. candles in your favorite holiday scents. “Pumpkin Spice” is always an excellent choice as is a Cranberry scent based candle for a sweet alternative.
  • c) A holiday sweater. Even if you are going to the tropics, bring a sweater. There will be at least one night when you need to carry it to an air conditioned bar in which it will not be inappropriate to wear while drinking fresh draught Guinness pints by the dozen. Or, to a holiday themed movie (no matter how shitty… yes, even Disney’s latest “A Christmas Carol) and you know movie theatres are always freezing.
  • d) Holiday literature. Only an amateur would leave home without the coaster sized copy of Sedaris’s “Holidays on Ice,” which takes up less space than that frivolous extra button down you brought “just in case.” Similarly, “A Christmas Carol” is under 100 pages and is often bound as a fantastic looking, travel sized, leather encased, pocket gem. It is THE Christmas story- how could you not have a copy.
  • e) Some classic Christmas movies on a laptop or video iPod are a good idea since you are bringing them anyway: “Die Hard,” “National Lampoone’s Christmas Vacation,” “Christmas Story,” Disney’s 1980s animated version of “A Christmas Carol,” “Love Actually,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “Miracle on 34th Street,” “The Santa Claus,” “Jingle All the Way,” “Bad Santa,” the 2001 Fiesta Bowl, you know the classics.
  • f) A Santa hat.
  • g) A bottle of Jameson. You have to have the self-control to save it though.
  • h) A photo of those you would enjoy to be with. Now, I don’t want you to become some emotional, blubbering wretch sitting in the corner of a hotel room dreaming about Christmases past and what you’re missing. I am writing this with the expectation that you are a reasonable and fun loving person who can you all these things responsibly and balance the act of celebrating and honoring Christmas with the commitment and enjoyment your holiday trip abroad is due.

3) Find an English/Irish pub, wherever you are, offering a Christmas meal. Wherever you are, there are English speaking ex-patriots near that like Christmas too. Their pub is guaranteed to be serving up something on Christmas day. Most will offer a ridiculous feast and charge a good amount for all the trouble. It is worth it so spend the money as this may be your most effective measure of avoiding Christmas depression. You can google search for a pub in your city, or try and find an English publication which will undoubtedly have some advertisements. If worst comes to worst, hail a cab and mime Christmas as best ye can.

4) Go to a holiday movie. No, odds are it wont be what you really want, but as long as it’s holiday related and it’s an outing its going to help tame your cravings. Last year was “Four Christmases” this year is the terrible Jim Carey voiced version of “A Christmas Carol.” Whatever, you can’t be picky.

5) Grow a holiday mustache. Ok, so I am a proponent of this tradition regardless; but, it is particularly intelligent while abroad. First off, what’s more holiday than a sweater clad man in a mustache? In America there is some public disdain for mustaches and a sense that women don’t find them that attractive. All that is gone abroad! In nearly every other place in the world, facial hair is good! A sign of masculinity to some, proof you’re “white” to others, a respect garnering badge of age and wisdom to most- regardless, a good idea. If nothing else, there is no one here that will care, you’re already the funny looking foreigner. Embrace the stache, focus on it’s growth, it will be a physical symbol for your holiday spirit.

6) Educate your local community about Christmas. There is a really odd satisfaction that comes with trying to explain/show/teach someone about your Christmas enthusiasm. I recommend carols, but it’s pretty hilarious teaching non-English speakers to say “Can you pass the turkey?” “What’s the score?” “Anyone need a drink?” “Merry Christmas!” “What do you want for Christmas this year?”

7) Go mall hopping. You don’t need to go shopping, but even in the tropics, western influenced commercial centers go all out. Trees, Santa Land, ornaments, music, beer gardens, they are holiday central.

8. Can’t/refuse to go to the pub for dinner? Get creative and make Christmas dinner. A pork roast or full chicken with local veggies (corn or green been), some KFC mashed potatoes (there is a KFC everywhere), and a pie/cake (every culture makes desert) with plastic silverware, a local bottle of dark liquor, and can of coke is oddly enjoyable and very exciting. You will marvel at your own craftiness.

9) Download Skype. Again, this list is for those that functional long for Christmas. If you are skyping your days away on the road, you have a whole slew of problems that these steps can’t help. But, for the travelers out there, don’t forget Skype. After not seeing or talking to a family member or friend in the last 10 weeks, a holiday skype call or two will be so fantastically refreshing this Christmas may seem even more magical than your typical, hammered, home based Christmases that you dream of.

10) Go to sleep early on Christmas Eve. Not only will that give Santa more time to give you presents. But, it avoids the potential whiskey bottle of sorrow that will be looking very attractive. Besides, you can ALWAYS be home for Christmas, “if only in your dreams.”

Remember, follow the steps and take the season one day at a time. I do recommend a holiday sponsor to help you through the month.

Joyeux Noel.

(How great are Cengiz’s Christmas photos?! If only he had an ounce of Christmas spirit, they would redefine the season)

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5 responses

  1. Mama

    Tony, your advice is so one-sided. Any recommendations for surviving christmas without you???

    December 14, 2009 at 8:41 am

  2. Tony Z, the elder

    The embedded eleventh recommendation seems to be blogging your way through Christmas–writing yourself with full knowledge of the love beaming across continents and seas from friends and familys?

    Feliz Navidad, son!

    December 14, 2009 at 8:57 am

  3. Aunt Ginny

    Tony we are going to miss you so much. It is just as hard for us not to have everyone present. But the spirit of Christmas goes on all year and I treasure any day my family can get together (4th of July). So just know you are in our hearts and we will see you soon and celebrate then.. Love to you Aunt Ginny

    December 14, 2009 at 9:19 am

  4. Hack

    Well, all these sentimental responses to your Christmas message are sure to make you homesick, maybe. You should be glad you are not spending it in Edwardsville and/or STL. I will try to make you feel better. First of all, there are no people here. It is lousy cold, about to rain and snow, so that is much worse than rain or snow. There are no sports. Lousy bowl games (Idaho vs Minnesota?), Cards are diddling with Holliday, thank God they didn’t deal for Milton Bradley, Mary Lou has her urinary tract infection, and Mr. Pants has that red area around his private part. I had to get a follow-up of ML’s urine, and thankfully no visit from the paper boy as I snuck up on her. ML doesn’t like humans slipping bowls under her rear parts. Smart dog. The SLU faculty is going nuts because the good Fr. Biondi did away with the graduate school in one fell swoop, not talking to the faculty about it. Retirement has its benies. I had a great Republic class. One kid wrote on his final that I changed his life, but I think what he was after was for me to change his grade. And he didn’t say which direction I change his life. Billikin basketball is still just a little above average, but not much. The guard Mitchell is supposed to be the team leader as a sophomore, since there are no juniors or seniors at all. But this Willie Reed dude might just develop into a force. I hope. Already there are carpings about Majerus. Now I am sitting here at 3 in the afternoon on this terrible weather day with Mr. Pants next to me passing the most disgusting gas at very frequent occasions. So I hope you feel better. I liked your story about the kids and playing in the abandoned bldg. So much of what you are describing as feeling in the mundane and routine times reminds me of my years in Nippon. Good and bad. And just some being there. You need some books? I have two great Rome historical fiction one going now, a great Greek one on post-Alexander mercenaries, and the Andre Agassi bio is very good if you speed read the parts on Brooke Shield. Ithink that’s what caused some of the trouble in that relationship, come to think of it–Andre speed-reading the parts on Brooke Shield. Take care, TZ, Strength and Honor to you at Christmas!! Hack

    December 18, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    • arzupancic

      Family, thank you for all the thoughts. Hack, you gotta get those dogs to stop humping any tramp poodle that walks down Dalton. You have to be careful in college towns. And, the Republic changed my life as well: it made me realize a) how much better debauchery and gossip was back in the day and b) fear the Samnites.

      December 19, 2009 at 12:10 am

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