Surviving Christmas Away from Home

Ever wondered what it would be like to be away from your family for Christmas? On the other side of the world?

This week I’ve written about what it’s like to be away from home for Christmas as I’ve just survived my second festive season away from home in the last three years.

This post share the following:

  • What Christmas means to me
  • The story of my last two experiences of Christmas abroad (warning: it gets a little sad)
  • The differences between Christmas in hot and cold climates
  • Tips for surviving Christmas abroad

So here’s my story…

I’ve dubbed Christmas Day to be the worst day of the year for being away from home. It’s that day of the year I desperately wish I could zap myself back home to spend it with my family.

To me, Christmas has always been about family. It’s about taking the time to stop, relax and enjoy spending time with the people you love. A typical Christmas for me involves Christmas dinner with my mum’s side of the family; grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins. Each family brings along meat, a salad and a dessert to share around. We take in turns of hosting the meal so that it’s not always the same person hosting the 18 of us. We spend hours eating yummy food, hanging out and chatting away like we haven’t seen each other in years.  

I never expected to spend Christmas away from home until this thing they call the travel bug hit me – it’s a real thing ya’ll (looks like a little bit of Texas rubbed off on me).

My First Christmas Away From Home

My first Christmas away from home was back in 2015 when I was travelling around the United States after my semester studying abroad in California.

I totally underestimated how I would feel about being away from home for Christmas, I just knew I wanted to continue travelling and I just couldn’t justify heading back to Australia for one day.

So Christmas Eve was spent eating fondue and hanging out with friends in Rhode Island which was totally special in its own way. We opened presents and chatted the night away.


I stayed awake until a ridiculous time to chat to my family back home in Australia while the others were asleep (the time difference between the United States and Australia can be very difficult to manage sometimes). It was so nice to see everyone there… together… even though I was devastated I couldn’t be there 🙁 I missed the chaos and loud chatting amongst the family. The amazing fresh food and unwrapping our Christmas presents together.

I actually spent the 25th with a close friend of mine, her family and our good friend Ben in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The day was extremely low key, although we still had a nice time together.

Overall, I struggled much more than I had expected. It wasn’t a terrible day by any means, but just harder than I thought it would be.

My Second (and most recent) Christmas Away From Home

So my most recent ‘orphan Christmas’ was just this week since I’m currently overseas travelling in the United Kingdom. I spent the day at a friend’s place in London. Although my friend was back home in France, I managed to find three other Aussies who also wanted to do something for Christmas.

They came around on Christmas Eve so of course we decided to have a glass of wine so we could cheers as midnight hit and it was officially Christmas Day.

There was barely anything open so we decided to stay in for the entire day and cook ourselves a Christmas feast together.

Of course we opened ourselves a bottle of a wine, put the turkey on, prepared the veggies & relaxed!

We ended up playing Kings Cup and danced well into the night. I would have to admit that although I missed my family, it was MUCH easier than last time. We had a great time and I’m sure I’ll always remember such a random but amazing Christmas on the other side of the world. I wonder if this experience was easier because I had been through it before… Or because I was more distracted… Or maybe a combination of both?

Of course it was a pretty Aussie experience considering there were four Australians and the meal included pavlova and honey joys (a childhood favourite). In saying this, it was definitely nice to have a touch of home after being away for exactly four months to the day. 

Not the best looking Pavlova but it was still yummy!


Oh, on a side note…

Christmas in the United Kingdom is amazing. The month of December travelling around the UK meant I was lucky enough to visit amazing Christmas markets and see the spirit of Christmas lighting up numerous cities. If you ever get the chance, I 100% recommend travelling through the UK in December – Belfast, Edinburgh and Manchester were my favourites.

Here are a collection of some of my favourite Christmas snaps.


Winter vs. summer Christmas How does the climate change Christmas?

You’d be surprised at how many people struggle to comprehend what it’s like to spend Christmas in a different climate. Each location and climate is different and has its own quirks.

Growing up in Australia, my experience of Christmas has always involved warm (or often hot) weather in a dress or shorts and a t-shirt. A typical meal would involve cold meats (turkey, chicken, prawns, ham) and a bunch of freshly made salads. Dessert (my favourite) was usually a combination of trifle, chocolate ripple cake and pavlova. A typical Christmas Day would be warm enough to sit outside, drink cold beer and jump in the pool (if you’re lucky enough to have one). One particularly memorable Christmas involved an EPIC water fight between my uncle and cousins in 2008. Check out this adorable picture (it’s a photo of a photo – haha).

Christmas water fight in 2008

On the other hand, travelling has given me the opportunity to spend Christmas in a much colder climate… It’s a totally different experience than being home in Australia.

A typical Christmas in the UK and North America involves foods such as hot roasts, vegetables and puddings. Typically, you find people staying inside and keeping warm while drinking hot cider or mulled wine.

My Advice

So based on my personal experiences, here’s my three tips for spending Christmas away from home.

  1. Make plans! I made a point of planning in advance to make sure I had something organised for the day. I chatted to people along the way about their plans and decided I would spend the day in London. Don’t worry – I got a few rejections before I found something
  2. Be around people. My sole priority for Christmas was being around others as I know that this was the best way to combat potential loneliness. Don’t underestimate how lonely you could feel (not to say this is 100% going to happen to you but better to be safe than sorry).
  3. Call home. Both times I’ve been away, I made plans to video chat my extended family at some point during their annual Christmas dinner. This was the perfect chance to chat to my loved ones and feel like I was still part of their Christmas in some way.  

Have you ever spent Christmas away from home? What advice do you have for others who are considering being away for Christmas someday?

If you enjoyed this article, I would love to hear from you in the comments below. I would also be grateful if you can share the article using any of the ‘share’ buttons below.

Thanks for reading and Happy Holidays.

aLarkin Abroad

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