Now that exams are over, we are on Christmas break. I had forgotten what a joy Christmas break is when you’re a student, because you quite literally have nothing to do. We all know I can’t handle that, so I’ve decided to go to Germany, explore a bit, and spend time with my family.
As expected, announcing this to people comes with much amazement:
“Wow, you’re so lucky!”
“That’s so exciting and fancy!”
“I wish my family lived there so I had an excuse to travel.”
A Note About My Privilege
I concede that my family privilege is a chance to see the world. That I grew up so blessed to be able to see so many parts of the our planet, and that I was lucky enough to be taught 4 languages as a child. I am so blessed. Traveling has opened my acceptance, my confidence, and my heart. But sometimes, I don’t feel privileged. I definitely don’t feel “fancy”.
Families & Difference
As quickly as Christmas break hit, my new Hamilton friends dispersed home to their families. Many have Canadian childhood homes 1-4 hours north/east/south/west, in small and quaint Ontario towns. Their homes are likely now filled with annoying or smelly or amazing extended family. I imagine baked goods. Fights. Laughter. Alcohol. Stories. I’m sure it’s not always wonderful, but it’s there. At Christmas. Thanksgiving. Reading Break. Easter. Victoria Day weekend. These gatherings are within arms reach.
In fact, these families are so close that my fellow classmates become annoyed by them.
I can’t relate. Growing up, my family has always been somewhere on the other side of the world. This might sound fancy to you, but my parents, brother, and I ended up spending a lot of quiet holidays together. When my parents split up, these became even quieter. On occasion, we got to spend the holidays with our friends. I adored those ones.
I considered it normal to spend the holidays in a different place almost every year. My parents, being immigrants, moved our family all over the place; we followed the work. I made friends in small towns across BC and then eventually learned to say goodbye to them. I became very, very good at staying in touch. I also learned at a young age that not everyone is as interested in staying in touch as I am.
By the time I was 6 years old I had been to Canada, Germany, the USA, and Mexico, and had flown unaccompanied at least three times. Three times.
Two week snapshots
Getting to know family was hard. One year my uncle was single, and then the next time I saw him he had two children. In the end, there was simply never enough time during our visit snapshots. At least, not the amount of time you want to spend with the people who are supposed to be your closest allies in life.
Now, I say this not for pity or to amaze you. This is just simply my existence. To see my blood relatives, I am, and always have been, confronted with a choice between Germany, Mexico, and Canada.
My family is far away. They always have been. To see them in general requires the aligning of exactly 54 stars, each of which represent money, time, time-off work, and coordinated schedules. This is why, as an adult, I consider my friends my family too.
The Value of a Plane Ticket
My friends consider me a travel guru, and I’m proud of how traveling has expanded my perceptions of culture and people. But the glamour was never apparent to me because we were always saving money for another trip to see my Dad’s mom. Or my mother’s mom. We were always trying to align those exactly 54 stars so that we could see our family once more. We longed to see them, but often just could not afford it. Can you imagine having to choose whether you see your mom next year, or get your kid braces? We grew up poor because the value of that plane ticket equalled seeing our family.
Damn my parents were brave to move here.
Anyway. This is all to say that I’m going to Germany today. My German cousins are now working in the grown-up world and my Omi is aging quickly. My Aunt and Uncle are lovely, supportive people who I don’t know nearly as well as I should. So I’m going on a 3 day adventure to Munich and then will hang my adventure traveler hat to then don the cousin and niece hat. Because in general I am not a travel guru – this is my life.
Travel < Family
One more note: if your family is close by, make sure you take some time to be grateful for their proximity this holiday season – it’s a very special, and wonderful thing. Hug them close for me!