I am fully grown up. Well, sort of; I pay rent and taxes, I live in an exciting, foreign city, and I frequently get to travel to other exciting, foreign places. I am allowed to hire cars and rent a room in these exciting places and I have a credit card that bears my name to pay for it. But once a year I travel back in time and become a child again. It’s called Christmas.
As I have not lived in Germany for the past 12 years this going home for Christmas trip has become part of my annual vacation schedule, sometimes a bit grudgingly so. Flying to Germany is one flight less somewhere new. And while I love my family dearly, I often find myself longing for a proper adventure. Something more than making bets with siblings if there will be snow and shouting matches consisting of ‘a little more to the left, no, the other left, hurrah, the tree is straight!’.
While I do look forward to it each year, it always gets me in the end this being home business and the whole being with family stuff. Different characters, different tempers, and different ideas what makes an acceptable Christmas gift don’t necessary mix well just because you are family. To be honest it being part of a family just isn’t easy and the wish to relax on a beach, Gin Tonic in hand, can increase exponentially with each time the platter of Lebkuchen gets passed around and auntie is asking you why you are not married yet.
Add to that the stress of the actual travelling part and I am usually ready for a holiday before the holidays have even began and definitely long after. But the last years have taught me a few things which in these days make it all a bit easier and believe it or not this Christmas alone I added a few more to the list – yes, it was one of those trips. So I put together the hindsight guide on how to make all aspects of holiday travel a little bit easier – print it out and stick it in your suitcase, Easter is just around the corner…
- Make a list and check it twice and also check that your suitcase handle is secure and will not fall off immediately after getting off the plane. If it does, be grateful that it came off the luggage belt first – it is the little things that count, especially during the holidays.
- As a Travelette I probably shouldn’t say that, but do not attempt to fly in your heels. If you do, be gentle with your feet and your shoes. Don’t pull too hard on the zipper so that it breaks off and you have to hobble through the airport with an unzipped shoe and a broken suitcase that now needs to be carried.
- Have some extra presents at hand to bribe delivery people. In case your luggage gets lost and they manage to bring you the wrong bag a day before Christmas, you may convince them with wine and cookies to make the extra trip to Bad Kissingen to swap with the people who got yours instead.
- I always thought Kevin in Kevin, Home Alone got lucky when he got sent to the attic all by himself. You are not at the Radisson, but at home and siblings are not room service, so knocking on a door before entering is not mandatory for them. I suggest you find the key to your room and use it. This definitely applies for the bathroom too!
- I have eaten a crickets in Thailand, a camel burger in Morocco, and fruit bat curry in the Seychelles. However I will not ever eat celery. Everybody has a celery. Tell the chef in your family you are allergic to spare their feelings and your stomach and turn mealtimes into a peaceful affair. Even better do the cooking yourself and you are usually excused from doing the dishes afterwards.
- When you do cook, do not attempt to feed your family with Vietnamese spring rolls, biltong dust or Mexican Mole for Christmas. They will complain that it isn’t goose and can’t you just eat Kinderschokolade if feel like chocolate like everybody else? Do make a brioche. It is just exotic enough and festive too. Also baking bread comes with extra satisfaction of feeling accomplished, especially if you manage to eat the whole thing by yourself afterwards.
- The same goes for bringing other foreign celebratory trends home for Christmas. It is not always appreciated. Wearing a Moroccan djellaba to church in a small town will definitely get you some unwanted looks, pretty as it looked on you while riding a camel through the desert. And if you want to add a bit of big, wide world flair also forgo the idea to make a Gucci tree. Black tinsel will not look very chic ever.
- Instead discover home. Go out. And while for me the notion that there is anything notably new and exciting in my home town makes me laugh, I still like to go out and re-discover the familiar. Add a little bit of blue sky and a Christmas market to any city and it can turn into something picture-worthy.
- Last year I woke up at 8am and got scared because it was still pitch black outside. This year, I was happy to discover that even during winter getting up early is sometimes worth it. There are damn nice sunrises to be found at 8.10am in Germany.
- Every woman should have at least one stretchy, but chic outfit.
- Every woman should also have a good travel agent, an insurance broker, and if all else fails a good lawyer for any kind of travelling.
- You can still exercise at home. Unless you are uncomfortable with family members staring at you while you are in downward facing dog next to the Christmas tree and asking you constantly if you are alright and doesn’t it hurt? In that case I think it is perfectly acceptable to put exercise back on the New Year’s resolutions list.
- If all else fails drink lots of alcohol. Make sure you have enough in stock to share with others and make friends with your family over a glass half full.