Archive for the ‘random musings’ Category

The Pros and Cons of Christmas Abroad

December 25, 2010

Anyone who lives a fairly nomadic life will likely spend some major holidays outside their home country eventually. It’s an enlightening, interesting, and yes, even challenging experience that can vary a lot depending on what your own traditions are like, and the traditions of the place you’re spending the holiday. Here’s my thoughts on spending yet another Christmas abroad.

I’ve spent three of the last four Christmases in Buenos Aires, where I’ve discovered some of the pros, as well of the cons, of spending this holiday abroad, and in Buenos Aires in particular. Since Argentina is in the Southern Hemisphere, one of the biggest differences for those from the North is celebrating Christmas in the summer. Those images of Santa Claus that are becoming more predominant here are pretty hard to relate to when it’s 90-plus degrees outside! And it’s a real challenge to get into the Christmas spirit if you grew up associating this time of year with cozy nights spent in front of the fire, getting bundled up to play in the snow, and decorations with winter-themed images.

Over the last month, locals have been preparing for summer vacation, and they waited until December 8, Día de la Virgen, to even think about doing any decorating. Meanwhile, online, I saw articles from U.S. sources describing ways one can avoid the stress of the holidays, and was bombarded with comments about how many shopping days were left until Christmas. I sweat through most of December feeling truly thankful to be away from the world of a million holiday parties and the pressure to buy lots of presents. I suspect that those who, like me, would rather move away from the consumerist traditions that have overtaken Christmas in the States find that spending the holiday season abroad is a great way to shift the focus back to the things that really matter, like spending time with family and friends – and eating plenty of tasty food (but not getting stressed out about preparing it all)!

However, it is exactly this focus on “what matters” that can make holidays abroad difficult. For the first time since I moved to Buenos Aires, none of my family came to visit for Christmas, and I didn’t go back to the U.S. I didn’t think it would be that big a deal – after all, I do have family here now – my fiancé and his family – and I knew we’d spend December 24th, Nochebuena, together. But in Argentina, at least, Nochebuena is celebrated a lot like New Year’s Eve – a big dinner with family as the anticipation builds until midnight, when people set off fireworks in the streets and everyone makes a toast to a Feliz Navidad with sparkling wine or cider and some traditional treats. December 25th is then a lot like January 1 – a day to sleep off the food and alcohol of the day before and just relax – and not much more. I found myself feeling pretty sad yesterday, realizing that being in a place where the traditions are so different made me feel even farther from my family and friends than normal.

As we create independent lives and families apart from the immediate family we grew up with, we all have to create our own traditions, and many of us have to get used to not having all our friends and family together at every important event or holiday. Creating new traditions might be even more important for nomads, who will likely find themselves a long distance from familiar ways of doing things but may be seeking some sense of tradition. Or perhaps the best solution is just to throw yourself completely into whatever traditions you find around you, and give up trying to make it something it’s not. Roberto suggested yesterday that we spend Christmas in a different country every year, sampling different ways of celebrating that we can incorporate as we create traditions that are uniquely ours.

What’s your experience been with spending holidays abroad, or far from friends and family? Wherever you’ve celebrated, have you combined family traditions with new ways of doing things?


The Excitement of Arriving, the Comfort of Staying

December 19, 2010

Today I really just wanted to curl up and read a book, but it hasn’t quite happened (yet, the day’s not over!). Roberto and I watched Eat, Pray, Love a few days ago, and one of the images that has stuck in my head was of the main characters having a quiet evening at home, reading and listening to music. Yes, they were in Bali, and the gorgeous open-air design of the house might have been part of the appeal, but when I saw that scene I thought, When was the last time I (or we) did that? Relaxing with a good book, being in the company of a loved one but not talking, in comfortable surroundings with nice lighting – that’s a pretty great way to spend an evening, in my opinion.

Of course, my inner struggle is apparent yet again when I think of the other images that have remained in my mind since I watched the movie, of each time she arrived in a new country (first Italy, then India, then Bali, for those not in the know). Those first-day-in-a-new-place sensations are so palpable for me–that first day of wondering where the heck you are, everything new and different and wonderful, trying to figure it all out, and hardly able to believe that you’re really, finally, there. I think that yearning for new experiences is a big part of why I travel, what makes me so eager to get back on the road.

We’re both antsy to do more traveling together. I guess I better bring a good book with me, so when we find a spot of comfort somewhere along the way, we can curl up for a nice evening “at home.”

Three years and counting

May 21, 2010

Three years ago tonight, I was heading out to a pub quiz at Sullivan’s bar, on my first night (living) in Buenos Aires. I remember being proud of myself for being out on the town right away, and for finding my way to the bar on the bus (when I called South American Explorers about the event that night, the girl said, “OK, do you have a Guia T?” Not yet wise to this incredibly handy guide to BA’s amazing bus system, I said, “What’s that?”). I probably said over and over again that night as I met new people, “I just got here this morning. I’m not sure how long I’ll be in Buenos Aires; we’ll see.”

I certainly never dreamed I’d still be here three years later, sitting in my very own apartment, waiting for a group of great friends and my awesome boyfriend to come over and help me celebrate my time here. It’s been quite a ride! Here’s to many more years of adventure, friendship, and love, wherever I am.

Photos: Catch Them While You Can!

May 19, 2010

I’ve been thinking recently that it’s about time to retire the old Nomad Chronicles photo gallery, and the discovery that the comments were chock-full of spam made the decision easy. So, when I switch web hosts in July, the gallery will be no more. I may eventually get some of those photos up on Flickr, but considering my track record for posting photos, don’t hold your breath!

So, if you have any interest in checking out the photos from my round-the-world trip in 2004-2005, my 2006 U.S. cross-country drive, or trips to Arizona and Honduras that same year, do it now!

I’m also debating retiring the domain entirely (at the moment it’s just hosting my photos, since the home page redirects to this blog on This is not to say that I’m leaving my nomadic ways behind, it’s just that I’m paying for the domain and not really using it. Thoughts?

Yes and No

April 11, 2010

I just finished reading Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods, about his experience hiking parts of the Appalachian Trail (AT). It was an enjoyable read, but one passage in particular really resonated with me, and I even went back to read it a few more times after I finished the book. It reminds me of how I felt when I finished my round-the-world trip, and how I still feel sometimes, torn between wanting to travel forever and never leave home again, wherever/whatever “home” is.

When Bryson is asked if he feels bad about leaving the trail before finishing, he writes:

I had come to realize that I didn’t have any feelings towards the AT that weren’t confused and contradictory. I was weary of the trail, but still strangely in its thrall; found the endless slog tedious but irresistible; grew tired of the boundless woods but admired their boundlessness; enjoyed the escape from civilization and ached for its comforts. I wanted to quit and to do this forever, sleep in a bed and in a tent, see what was over the next hill and never see a hill again. All of this all at once, every moment, on the trail or off. “I don’t know,” I said. “Yes and no, I guess.”


July 26, 2009

The last month has been a bit of a blur, but in a good way, as I’ve been gallavanting around the US visiting family and friends – sorry if I didn’t make it to your neck of the woods! Now to figure out how to fit all my new purchases/gifts into the suitcase…

I’m looking forward to being back in BA… but hopefully the “polar” cold front will have passed by the time I get there.

A Pain in the Neck

June 18, 2009

So much for that writing every day thing… But here’s a slice of my life today.

I was up late last night researching things I want to buy while I’m back in the States this summer, and had trouble getting to sleep thinking about new toys and the impending arrival of a new (to me) couch! I was up early too, and headed out to a friend’s second-floor apartment to watch two guys (who arrived EARLY – shocking) lower said couch over the balcony and onto the sidewalk below. They kept telling me how complicated the job was because of this sign that was attached to the front of the building, but it all looked pretty smooth to me! Their clunky truck carried the couch and us 22 blocks to my place, where they (thankfully!) determined it would most likely make it in the front door of my apartment, and proceeded to carry it up 10 flights of stairs. The older guy, sweating on arrival, declared the stairs “mortal.” And mentioned again that they had done such a good job, and, you know, no obligation, but a tip might be nice. I was already paying a pretty penny for the move, but took pity and threw in a little extra “para los chicos.”

Then I had lunch and enjoyed a nice nap on the new couch.

Then I went to a personal training session with my yoga teacher to work on some things to improve my yoga practice. Afterwards I stopped at a store, and while the guy was wrapping up my purchases I was rolling my starting-to-be-sore neck and shoulders. He asked me if I’d been here long (“here” meaning BA, of course), and when I told him I’d been here two years he said, “That’s why your neck hurts. Buenos Aires is a nice place to be for just a little while.” This sums up the sentiments of a lot of people I’ve talked to here, who can’t really understand why so many foreigners would want to come live in Buenos Aires, when they’d all just love to get out. Argentine-American singer Kevin Johansen has a song about that, actually; this is the chorus: “And all the people that aren’t from here would like to come and stay / And all the people that are from here just want to get away.”

A Good Sign

May 17, 2009

On the subway there are ads for the lottery that say something to the effect of, “You could win a new life today.” And every time I see one of these ads I think, “But I don’t want a new life! The one I’ve got is pretty great.”

Ooh, pretty…

May 8, 2009

I went to the (perilously nearby) yarn “district” to buy some knitting needles today, and I found what I was looking for – but I also impulsively bought 4 skeins of yarn! They’re all different… A few I can chalk up to “research” for other projects I have in mind, but really I just bought them because they caught my eye.

In other news, the smoke is back, and lots of people I know are complaining of headaches and general malaise… The current conditions on my weather alerts even acknowledge it: “Smoky, 68 degrees.” I haven’t had time to find out why it’s back, I just know that I can feel it – and see it.


November 23, 2008

I will have time to better update this blog. And post pictures.

I will have reliable Internet access.

I will respond to the emails that I’m probably neglecting.

I will finish this crazy project I’m working on.

I will be back in the States for Christmas!