I'm just days away from my one year travelling anniversary and I'm not going to lie, I've missed some pretty important things in that time. From birthdays and anniversaries, to my sister's graduation, and my best friends making huge life changing decisions about their careers and love lives that force them to move across the country. The world doesn't stand still when you jet off to the other side of the world, it's easy to forget that life as you knew it carries on and the people you leave behind continue to grow and change. And it's okay, most of the time, because we're so damn distracted by the beauty and epic nature of the travelling life we have chosen, we kind of forget about what's going on at home. We have our moments when we get a rush of homesickness as we sit in a hostel hallway on the phone to mum and dad, or catching up with our best friends over FaceTime - and we do, we really do feel it. But then, more often than not, that fleeting feeling is gone, dancing away on a warm breeze like it was never there. You see, it's not that we don't care, it's just that our life as a backpacker is all about living in the present, and pining for what once was just doesn't have much of a place here. Yes we all have days where we wallow and we miss home, but you'll notice those were the days when we didn't have much on, when we were a bit bored and allowed ourselves the time to think of home uninterrupted.
There will always be certain times that bring up a wave of emotions for backpackers - perhaps it's the birthday or the anniversary of the death of a loved one, perhaps it's a certain holiday or something happens at home. For others it can be as simple as the first time they spend Christmas away from their families on the other side of the world. I've seen countless articles posted on backpacker Facebook groups lately about all the awesome things about spending Christmas in Australia but I wanted to talk about the other side of this experience. It's not rosy and lovely for everyone who is away, and I think it is important for backpackers to realise that it's okay if they don't have an amazing time. Everyone at home always thinks we're out here having the most incredible time 24 hours a day, and most of the time that is true, but there are rubbish bits as well. There are times when it rains, we feel like crap, get ill, break down and have rubbish moments just like we would at home - and when we have to spend the holiday that is all about family half a world away from everyone we love most, it can be a bit pants. Every moment is what you make it and while some people will have the time of their life celebrating this Christmas away from home, others will find it a little harder.I had no idea where I would be spending my first Christmas away from my family, I didn't know who I would be with or what I would be doing. For all I knew it could have been anything from a BBQ on the beach to a homemade roast with friends - the reality will be a little different. You see, I'm still living and working in the outback to get my second year visa. I took this job knowing full well it would mean spending Christmas and New Year away from my friends, mainly because I was so desperate to make sure I had my visa days sorted early and could really relax for the final five months of my first year. I don't regret that decision because I only have six weeks left to work out here and then I will be reunited with all of my amazing Darwin and East Coast pals, and we will more than make up for lost time. But in the meantime that does mean I'm feeling a bit lonely this Christmas and because I'm not surrounded by all my closest friends it's making me think of what I'm missing out on at home. I'm pretty close with my family and between them and all my friends at home, we have a mountain of Christmas traditions that I know I'm missing out on. But don't worry, there's no chance I'm going to let it ruin my Christmas in the outback because when on earth will I ever get the chance to experience this again?
10 things I really missed about a UK Christmas:
1. The build-up: from the UK's Christmas adverts to Christmas shopping and finding the perfect present for someone special. From hearing festive songs played in the supermarket, to planning the food for Christmas Day and the countdown to finishing work.
2. The weather - it's rubbish, cold, wet and miserable outside. It's dark at 3pm and much as we all complain about it, that's part of Christmas. It gives us an excuse to wear extra sparkle when it's dark outside and that chill in the air gives all the more reason to get all snuggled up inside.
3. Nights spent drinking and laughing with friends in boiling hot pubs with steamed up windows, not thinking about work the next day or how cold it is outside.
4. Family traditions - putting up the Christmas tree and decorations with my dad while we blast the Christmas songs, festive baking with mum, a trip to Winter Wonderland with my sister, the Royals on Christmas day.
5. Family gatherings - when family from all over the country get together for a day of food, wine and fun at their annual Christmas party. A chance to catch up and have everyone together.
6. Festive food - the mince pies and puddings, the roast lamb and beef, Yorkshire puds and roasties, and cheeseboards, oh god, the cheeseboards. It's too hot out here to really gorge like we do at home and the stuff they sell just isn't the same.
7. Christmas TV in the UK is great - from soap specials to period dramas like Call the Midwife, comedy shows like Gavin and Stacey and The Royle Family, classics like The Snowman and all those great movies from Elf to Home Alone and Cool Runnings.
8. Christmas jumpers! What is Christmas without wearing the worst jumper you can find, or a snuggly onesie that makes you look like a reindeer, or great big wooly socks? It's just not the same on a bikini.
9. The actual day - getting drunk with your family, seeing the surprise on someone special's face when they open their gift, the aftermath when you can't move because you ate so much...
10. The bit when your head feels like it's going to explode - too many people, too many parties, too much food, too many hangovers - you're almost glad to see the back of the holiday season.
I do have to just add to this post that I did still have a pretty fun Christmas thanks to some really good friends I've made here in Charleville and a huge thanks to them for not leaving me alone. I ended up having a turkey roast at a friend's house with her family, spent the day enjoying drinks followed by two Christmas parties. Boxing Day followed with more drinks with friends and a party at the Bowls Club with everyone in town and a lot of fun was had. It was better than I could ever have expected and that's all down to the wonderful people in this town who have made me feel so welcome.
What's your favourite thing about a UK Christmas? Have you had a lovely Christmas? What was your first Christmas away from your family like?
Now that December is in full swing and the elves are hard at work, I can't help but find myself really jealous of all the travellers who are going home for Christmas. I know that for me it would be impossible - I don't want to spend a fortune on going home when I have been working and saving so hard for my next adventures, and I'm slap bang in the middle of completing my regional work for my second year visa. Short term pleasure vs long term gain, it's just not worth it when I know I will be seeing everyone at home in just six months. I'm not actually homesick, just gutted I'm missing out on all the festive fun - the advent calendars, the decorating the house and tree, finding amazing presents and wrapping them up, Michel Buble on the radio, cheeseboards every night because why not? And all of the mince pies. I love Christmas, I go all out decorating and making everything special for the people I love. Everyone is always so happy even when the weather is rubbish, there's Christmas drinks with friends, nights in front of the TV watching Christmas specials, days of baking and preparing the festive feast and so much more. So yeah, I'm pretty gutted I'm missing out on all of that. I am intrigued by what an outback Christmas will be like, but it doesn't outweigh missing a traditional English Christmas - it's just not a big enough deal here!
But keeping in the festive spirit, I thought I would write my letter to Santa, to let him know that the greatest gift I could have this Christmas would be to spend it at home getting drunk with my mum and eating all the cheese, watching Frozen with my sister and decorating the Christmas tree with my dad. I know that this year it just won't be possible, so if I can't have that, the only thing that would make me happy is the opportunity to travel. In this case, the Santa I am writing to is Travelex, a travel money exchange company who have asked me to participate in their festive bloggers competition to win your dream holiday. They asked me to write all about my dream holiday, which naturally got me all excited thinking about all the amazing destinations I have on my bucket list - so many stood out to me as ones that I never stop thinking or talking about. There was my daydreams about going to Sziget Festival in the centre of Budapest, Hungary, and after dancing my heart out to amazing acts, having the opportunity to explore a city that has been at the centre of my thoughts for a long time. The stunning buildings and amazing history, combined with great food is always a winner for me. But then, there was the trip to Morocco that edged it's way into my subconscious - I went years ago and hated my experience of the country but reading more about it over the years has made me eager to return and to try and change my feelings. The vibrancy and spice of the culture and the amazing shopping just seems to good to miss out on. Plus I would love to experience the desert after seeing what the Australian outback is like - why not take it one step further and check out the African desert?But there is one place that has really captured my imagination for several years now - since long before I became a blogger or decided to travel the world solo. I have always travelled a lot with my family, friends and partners, but I have never been on a cold weather holiday and it is something I have always wanted to try. I'll be honest and say I'm definitely a warm weather gal - I'm made for the heat, the humidity and the beach. Asia and Australia have been my heaven, but there is so much I have yet to experience in the opposite climate. The one cold weather destination that really gets me excited, and it seems to have a similar effect on other travellers as it has become something of the destination of the year, is Iceland. This stunning country offers everything I could want from a cold weather break and much, much more. Here I would have the incredible opportunity to see amazing landscapes with geysers, mountains, snow and ice; there's something so raw and exposed about such a harsh landscape and I love it. And don't even get me started on the Northern Lights - this absolute phenomenon is something I simply have to see with my own eyes after spending years looking at photos and videos that have captured their essence. Being down in the Southern Hemisphere, it really would be a dream of mine to see both the Northern and the Southern lights - which I didn't realise even existed until I read an article a few months ago!
I'm crazy about the night skies and it is amazing being out in the outback where there is a lot less artificial light to block out the starlight - I'm actually really lucky to have a great friend out here who has his own telescope and is taking me stargazing this week. So for someone who visits space centres wherever she can, and who is always outside waiting to see super moons or any other unusual fluctuations in our skies, imagine how amazing it would feel to have seen one of the most well known and incredible sights with my own eyes. I have friends who have been and say it was just magical, and they've also had time to squeeze on amazing trips to the Blue Lagoon, pony trekking in the mountains, skiing, whale watching and to the Golden Circle. There is just so much to do that it is overwhelming, I would have so much to squeeze into my trip! I feel like a trip like this would open me up to a whole new world of travelling, perhaps leaving behind some of the hot destinations for cooler climates instead - I know so many people who have been on one skiing holiday and have now given up beach holidays because they loved the experience so much. Now I know I would never go that far, but it would be fun to mix it up a bit and experience something different. Especially when you're living in the Australian outback where it is 40 degrees most days!
What would your dream holiday be? What have you got planned for Christmas? Do you prefer hot or cold weather holidays?