Happy New Year! It is hard to believe that Christmas and New Year’s celebrations have come and gone. I quite expected the holidays to be a challenging time for us on our tour. But…how can we complain when the holidays look like this! It is so funny to see Christmas decorations in South Africa where it is 30+ degrees!
The past few years we have tried to make Christmas more about experiences and relationships, with less of a focus on ‘stuff’. The ‘stuff’ still seemed to creep in there but we have gotten better this year. It is much easier when you have to carry all the ‘stuff’ around on your back as it tends to make you a little more conscious when Christmas shopping. Mark thinks we should plan on travelling every Christmas. I’m not quite sure how that will go over though. One of our favourite parts about the holidays is the time spent relaxing and enjoying the company of family and friends and I was sad to know that wouldn’t be the case this year. I’m not complaining though. We made this decision and, our family would be the first to remind us of that fact.
I did anticipate the Mitchell’s feeling blue and homesick at some point. How could we not be when we were half way around the world, without our friends and family? Mark had planned for us to return to Gretna Green in Scotland for the week of Christmas. He figured it would be more “homey” to return to a place where we had stayed previously. Sarah and Nick and their two beautiful boys welcomed us with open arms. Although Gretna Green was not home, it sure felt like it. The house smelled of fresh pine, the trees were decorated in twinkling lights, the fire was roasting and all that was left to do, was to hang our stockings with care. In actual fact, we stepped right into a Christmas wonderland, without any of the prep work…talk about a stress reduction plan! Since we had chosen to reduce this holiday, I didn’t even have many items to wrap (although Mark would beg to differ). I could get used to this kind of Christmas!
I fully expected there would be tears during the holidays, and I was fairly close when my Mom put things into perspective. This would be the first time in 42 years that I would not be seeing her over the holidays. Things were certainly different for us on the road, but so were the holiday festivities at home. Thanks to some help (a lot of help) from my sister in law Michelle, I was able to keep up the tradition of giving homemade jam out to our friends and colleagues at school. Thanks to good Internet speed, we were able to connect with our families on Skype regularly. We even managed to take the annual photo of the cousins together. Thanks to Grandma and Papa, there were some extra surprises under the tree from our loved ones and lots of Christmas cake. So the girls enjoyed opening a little more ‘stuff’. We had lots to be thankful for this Christmas.
Pulling off Christmas Day fondue dinner was a little challenging without all of our equipment, but we made it happen on the stove. Our Boxing Day turkey dinner was also a success including mini turkey, stuffing and squash, After our Thanksgiving flop (turkey in a box), I was pretty determined to make Christmas a little more appetizing. Although we were not home for the holidays, we were relaxed, happy and content. We even had a visit on Christmas Day from Nick, Sarah and the boys. If anyone could help fill the void of family, it was Harry and Charlie running around with their festive hats.
|Our home away from home|
New Year’s Eve was also a smashing success. We missed our regular gang of friends but Rhoda, Kerry and Lauren threw a South African Braai – which is what we call a BBQ. They had invited some friends and a guest Jacqueline, who was staying with us at their Bed and Breakfast. We were moved with the selfless contributions Jacqueline was making during her work in the Peace Corps and enjoyed meeting Rhoda and Kerry’s long time friends. Although we had been travelling for close to 24 hours, we managed to ring in the New Year, in style. Ally had been reunited with her best friend (Lauren) from grade two and they were giggling as if the past 4 years of separation hadn’t happened, Mark played Auld Lang Syne on the bagpipes and I thought how lucky were we to be swaying, hand in hand with friends we had not seen in so long. It was a wonderful way to start 2014.
|Happy New Year everyone!|
To my surprise we not only made it through the holidays, we thoroughly enjoyed them. Perhaps we are getting better at this travelling thing, or perhaps we were just fortunate enough to find ourselves surrounded by friends that make us feel like family on the other side of the planet. Whatever it was, we are truly grateful. Happy New Year everyone, and all the best in 2014.