Enjoy the Holidays Away from Home

The holidays are supposed to be the “most wonderful time of the year,” filled with family get-togethers and never-ending sugar buzzes. So when last year’s work schedule kept me away from home during the holidays, I thought I’d spend weeks moping around Grinch-style. But instead, I decided to make the best of my situation.

With a great city to explore and a few friends around, I was able to soak up some holiday spirit and enjoy the local festivities. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you’ll be away from home this holiday season:

Surround yourself with holiday cheer

My mom keeps our home smelling like fresh-baked cookies from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. Since she couldn’t be in my kitchen last winter, she sent me a box of homemade treats instead. If you know your way around a mixer and measuring cups, you could ask family members to send a few of their signature recipes and whip up some goodies yourself.

During December, I’m also used to living in a house that’s decked out to the nines. Because my decoration stash didn’t come close to the one my family’s been growing over the years, I decided to start a more robust one of my own. I hit the local dollar store for holiday lights and some basic craft supplies, then invited friends over for a night of decorating ornaments and stringing popcorn garland. It was a great excuse to get together—and in just a few hours, I had a festive, cozy place to take shelter from the cold.

Make new traditions

If this is your first year in a new place, being away from your hometown gives you a chance to explore how your new community celebrates the season. The holidays bring out the best in any area, with winter markets, ice skating and other local traditions. No matter how big or small your town may be, this is a great time to bundle up, grab a hot chocolate and have yourself an adventure.

Research local events and ask friends or co-workers who are sticking around for the holidays if they’d like to join you. Local blogs, community newsletters and word-of-mouth can be great resources for finding free or inexpensive events going on near you.

Stay connected with family and friends

No matter how far you are from home, there are tons of ways you can communicate with loved ones. Skype, Twitter, Facebook, texting and even the old-fashioned phone call can connect you with friends and family across the country. Last winter, I randomly started a Facebook message thread with some of my college friends, and it turned out to be a great way for us to catch up and boost each others’ spirits—in fact, we’re still using it.

The holidays can be a tough time if you’re away from family and friends, but they are also a chance to relax, recharge and start a series of your own traditions. Though I missed home last year, I know I’ll appreciate my family time—and Mom’s famous apple crisp—even more this season. Happy Holidays!