I've hated change my entire life. I've always felt that certain things should be a particular way. And I feel especially strongly about that sentiment at Christmas. My family has very specific traditions that are carried out from year to year. Such as the 200+ person annual family Christmas party. Or light looking on Christmas Eve with ice cream. Or watching Scrooge after pancakes and French Toast on Christmas day.
So moving abroad really threw me through a loop. It was something I chose to do. We didn't move for jobs or family, we just moved to travel. And my blog was (and is) how we pay the bills.
When I first started my blog I wrote more stream of consciousness posts. I've definitely morphed over the years and have seen what “works” when it comes to publishing on my blog. But sometimes you just need to get things off your chest or share a memory. At least, that's why I started blogging.
This blog has been and hopefully, will always be, a catalog of my life of sorts. I'm very passionate about living. Always have been. I'm also an overly emotional person when it comes to things I care deeply about. And one of those things is Christmas.
I'd state on the record that it's my parents' fault. They made Christmas just too special. I feel so nostalgic this time of year. But this particular month is our last December living abroad. It's bittersweet, of course. So I want to savor every moment.
Throughout this post I’m including some photos from the Christmas markets that I’ve been to this year. I'm also sharing some memories I can't help but catalog. (If you want a full on guide to Christmas markets read this).
Lately I feel like I've been lacking when it comes to blogging or posting on social media. It's not that I don't want to do it, I do. Blogging is my biggest passion and one of my favorite things to do. But I also know that since this is my last year here I need to be present. I need to go to Christmas markets every day. I need to listen to Christmas music on repeat and bake a pie in a cookie tin.
The cookie tin because we don't have a pie pan. Nor do we have a mixer. Oh, and we have one mixing bowl. But it's all part of our life abroad.
If you came over to my house you might laugh at the lack of decor and utensils. Since we knew it would be a temporary move, we decided not to over purchase. That means we are seriously lacking some very basic household items. Michael and I will open what we call our “mini fridge” and then try to make a roast in a baking pan and laugh at how we still don't have proper knives to cut things up.
Some things about living here are tough, and I've done my fair share of complaining. But other things are truly wonderful. And I think Christmas abroad is one of the most magical adventures anyone can have. And I've been lucky enough to experience it three times.
In 2016 I wrote: My First Christmas Abroad and reading that post still shocks me. Well, I guess the passage of time is really what gets me. I've always had trouble with change. Growing older, people moving away, the finality of endings pulls at my heartstrings. This from the girl that moved abroad.
Despite my love for adventure, I am truly a homebody. I love having a place I can reset and relax.
For my last Christmas abroad I'm choosing to make sure I take a look at everything. I want to soak in the moments and remember the little things. Such as the guy that sells Schaumkuss (the marshmallow fluff covered in different flavored chocolate) at the middle stall at the Christmas market. He always comments on the fact that I'm from Texas and asks me to say “y'all.”
I want to memorize the way the fog rolls over the castle and the town below, eventually revealing the tops of the roofs like a perfectly aligned blanket. I want to laugh over the number of stupid birds in the park that, no matter how much pleading, Millie will continue to strain on her leash to try and grab one. I never want to forget the table that we dragged in from outside when we got our apartment and use as our “nice table.”
Living abroad has been challenging but it's also been rewarding. I'm currently typing this from a train in Italy where I'm meeting my Mom to go see Italy at Christmas. On Sunday night I stayed up way too late having a dance party in my tiny living room with my friends who flew in from Colorado.
And lastly I want to take in the spirit of the season. Despite the cold or dreary weather it seems more people, even Germans (joke!), are smiling. Christmas seems to bring out the best in people and a sense of giving.
This December has already been so memorable. So often I write posts and guides that are full of information and are peppered with some of my favorite travel stories. But I often forget to jot down the oddities that happen when you live abroad. Such as our couch wine.
When we moved into our place we quickly bought a few pieces of Ikea furniture. One of those pieces was a pull out couch. We needed a place to let guests crash or ourselves when we gave visitors our bed. When my parents came for three weeks and Michael’s dad came for the same, Michael and I spent a lot of time on the couch. And it was extremely uncomfortable. So much so, I had a crook in my neck for weeks after.
Michael found a couch on eBay kleinanzeigen (the German eBay) that was a much better option. Although we had to carry the gargantuan thing down 5 flights of stairs, strap it to our car, and cross our fingers it would make it home. Now it was time to get rid of the Ikea couch. We put it up on eBay but weren’t getting any hits. Michael lowered the price and an offer came in almost immediately. “Hi, I can’t pay you but I could give you wine in exchange.” We asked what brand and he told us it was a private selection called “Rolf Willy.” I was sold. We exchanged our couch for 4 bottles of wine and I have to say it was one of the best tasting blends I’ve ever had. Plus I get to call it couch wine.
Our friends bought last minute flights from Colorado to Germany and we spent our time gazing at richly decorated wooden Christmas market stalls with hand painted decor, real evergreen trees, and warm lighting. Venturing over to the “Milch Automat”, where you get fresh milk out of a small machine, we passed a Christmas tree farm.
The farm was called “Tannebalms” and we took grainy pictures as the sun set early over the hills behind us bringing up a pearly moon. We spoke with the guy who turned out to be Canadian and loved dogs- so Michael’s cup of tea. At first, we threw the tree on top of the car. Then we realized it would just be easier to stick it through the car and hope that it would fit. With the boys in the back, the tree was across their laps with the top and trunk sticking out the window. I prayed that we would get the tree and car home in one piece. Despite our lack of resources the tree turned out to be wonderful. 99 cent tinsel draped in a zig-zag pattern along with handmade ornaments and two strands of lights made for a surprisingly lively Christmas tree. We even cut out paper snowflakes and taped them on the windows.
Maybe I want to remember this for myself or maybe you might relate to or enjoy reading about this, regardless I want a way to commemorate this time in my life. It’s been weird and wonderful and stressful. It’s made me really appreciate things in a different way. It isn't the same as Christmas at home, in Dallas. And I'm realizing that's a good thing. Different can be wonderful.
Other blog posts you might like:
The Best Winter Destinations in Europe
My Ultimate Life Bucket List – 100 Ideas for Travel and Goals
Ultimate Guide for The Best Christmas Markets in Europe