Christmas Homesickness and Happiness - Perspectives From Our Second Year on the Road

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Thursday 24 December 2015

Christmas Homesickness and Happiness - Perspectives From Our Second Year on the Road

Strolling gently through the Mediterranean waves in the warm afternoon sun of the Albufera Nature reserve this Christmas Eve our minds turned naturally to home, Christmas, family and friends. Although, without a doubt, our Christmas location this year is idyllic, we were both also aware of a nagging sense of homesickness and restlessness that has been growing in us both these past few days. The purpose of this post is to reflect a little on that feeling and share a few thoughts on our own perspective.

Both of our childhood experiences of Christmas were highlights of the year with gifts and tasty food galore served in the warm embrace of family gatherings. Then as we grew up a little and left home, like many young adults, we still found ourselves returning to our childhood home each Christmas time to be with family once more. At first we would spend Christmas's apart while we visited our respective family's, after all we could be together the rest of the year, then as time wore on we would spend Christmas together but travel rapidly around the UK or even taking flights trying to visit each family in turn. Yet still the one who was 'away from home' on Christmas Day itself would feel a little homesick. In fact, prior to starting our motorhome adventure we spent just a single Christmas on our own, in Spain as it happened, taking a last minute flight to Malaga and a warm apartment and even then, despite the sun and sea we still recall that nagging homesickness on the day itself.

Perhaps it might seem strange that I even mention this feeling as though it is anything other than obvious. After all, feeling an urge to be with family on Christmas Day is normal for many people. It is one of the few times of year when a majority of people have a little more time off work and can spend extra time together if they choose. At least that had been our experience. Certainly last year during our first motorhome Christmas we missed our family's at Christmas time as we always had done and were grateful to be at Camping Los Escullos with lots of friendly people and good company to pass the festive season with. So far, so normal. After all, we'd not seen our family's for 8 months by that point.

Yet this year as Christmas has approached and we've found ourselves stationed on a fairly remote, beach parking by the Mediterranean sea we've become very aware of that same keen sense of homesickness even though we both saw our family's just a few weeks ago during a trip home and not just a fleeting visit either. We'd spent a month with family and even celebrated St Nicolaas in Holland with Esther's relatives. Also, in addition to the homesickness we've felt increasingly restless, like we were searching for something that we couldn't quite put our finger on. We kept finding ourselves discussing where we might go, what we should do, what we might eat, should we give each other gifts (it might seem unromantic but for many years we didn't do so).....basically brainstorming ideas to mark Christmas Day in some way that was different to our normal routine.

But at the same time we couldn't quite say why. After all, our normal routine involves eating the foods we love every day. We can look out of our window over a postcard perfect view of the bright blue sea beneath a clear blue sky and we are already doing the things we love, beachwalking, reading and listening to music together. Why then would this nagging urge to change something just not go away when we already had all we wanted? To the extent we almost found ourselves driving south today in search of another beach, even though the one we are staying at is just perfect. Just because we had been here for a few days this already along with some time here last year as well, we somehow wanted Christmas Day to be special. It even crossed our minds to drive 5 hours to Camping Los Escullos and be back in the same place as last year in the search for the familair. Our thoughts telling us we needed to make a change were overriding our hearts which said that it was already lovely right where we were.

As we strolled along the beach today it suddenly struck us that in addition to being a wonderful family time of year, full of love and laughter, Christmas in our old lives had also always been about doing everything to extremes. There was always extra food, extra TV, extra things, extra time together. It didn't really matter what we were having extra of, the point was that there was more of it than normal. I suppose it is exactly this idea that has always been the essence of marketing around any special occasion; the message that more is better and the man-made illusion of scarcity ("but you can only buy mince pies at Christmas....") that leads to overconsumption even though Christmas in the UK seems to start in October and the food is basically the same stuff in different shapes and packaging. Could it be, we thought, that even now when we have so many of the things in our life that we adore, that we still want them to be 'extra' for just one day. In some ways, this outlook one that we have held for so long, is a actually little selfish. After all what we had essentially been asking was how can we make the day more special for ourselves this year.

It might seem obvious, indeed it does now writing these words, but we realised that it would be better instead of trying to turbo charge a single day of our life and elevating it above others, we started to see the beauty in every day and the simple things that we have a tendency to overlook. Not that I'm knocking making a fuss Christmas at all. It has always been a wonderful day for us and the opportunity to come together and share joy with loved ones was always welcome. I suppose we just noticed this year that it was working the other way and making us feel we might be missing out.  I find it telling that even though I remember winter in the UK and wishing I was somewhere warmer, that even now I am 'somewhere warmer' we still have various snowy scenes from Christmas cards stuck on the walls of our motorhome with our Christmas decorations. For us Brit's it seems that the Christmas image is always one of frost and snow! I know that we are currently in the very fortunate position that we are very happy in our daily lives and that were this not the case then perhaps we might not have noticed the restless feeling the approach of Christmas was bringing. But noticing it has also helped it to dissolve as well.

And so, as the sun sets on Christmas Eve and we start to make our usual dinner, the same one we love and enjoy most days and will probably have a variation of tomorrow as well we feel much more calm and at peace. We will still be lighting our few Christmas candles and preparing to open our handful of gifts collected during our recent family visit tomorrow as usual. But mostly we want to focus this year not on what we are doing for ourselves but instead make the resolution to see what we can do for others, not just at Christmas, but in the year to come as well.

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