Some people might think snow is a gorgeous blanket of peace and calm as it’s falling. The tiny speckled frost kisses gracefully adorn the streets, the grasses are mysteriously hidden, the doggies become frantic with glee as they kick up the snow with their snow paws. What a peaceful wonderland, you say smiling with your hot chocolate in one hand and sweater tightly across your shoulders.
Oh hey, it’s a bit chillier than I expected, you think, but press on in the name of Christmas, earmuffs, and mulled wine – even after your toes become numb and you realize that your eyelashes look longer with icicles dipped on their ends. You notice that your dog has a convenient covering of fur and seems to be handling things in a less awkward way than you, a struggling to breath imposter who wishes that the world was green and sunny again. Then you slip and fall on the iced driveway and hit your tailbone, reminding you of your aging body’s inability to bounce back from injuries.
Oh winter, you slump further underneath your coat. You’re such a jerk. We’re on a break.
If only there was a magic spell to turn this snow into sand, you think. You do some research with the local psychic, and she directs you to see see a wizard who makes you give up a kidney to find the mortal version of the magical recipe of element transformation. You go home and perform the spell, using your computer keyboard to type in the magic formula. “Siri,” you ask the invisible spirits, “Find me cheap tickets to Boracay.” You can almost taste the coconut that you’ll soon be cradling in your elbow like a baby.
To recap, the official recipe for turning snow into sand is to fly to Boracay. I think you’ll see how being heated by electricity and “good merriment and cheer” is subpar to being heated by the actual tropical sunshine and the adrenaline of cliff jumping. This is simple emotional math. I chose Boracay in 2011, an island in the Philippines, but there are plenty of winter escape destinations that are equally glamorous and will perform the magic of transfiguration.
When I lived as an expat (read: temporary vacation immigrant) in Korea, the best part about the holiday season was the ability to bounce around to island paradises during my fellow expats’ overlapping breaks. We weren’t usually able to travel home for Christmas since it was rather pricey for English teachers, but we made the most of it by expanding our travel repertoire with each other in the many surrounding islands promising a different kind of holiday than the snow shoveling and frostbitten hellish existence that your hometown provides. The family would still be there next year, we told ourselves, the family would still be there and be exactly the same as they were last year. They’ll understand.
If you are attached to your own family clan for the holidays, then the islands can be wonderful family bonding trips that make the holiday memories a little different and more exciting than decorating trees and pretending to like fruitcake. For the rest of those living abroad or are generally avoiding family for specific reasons (no judgement) then there really is no choice but to bring your mingling misfit group of friends to the islands. They are whispering sweet silver bells and seductive promises of pink and orange sunsets and coconut water on a mile long sugary sand beach.
It’s everything to wake up and see Santa lounging in the waves with a corona propped on his bello full of jello shots.
While I was living in Korea, my friends were my family, period. We spent weekends, vacations, and after work happy hours together. We were awkward together, we did a lot of weird things together, we grew together, and we bonded together. I went to Boracay with my co-teacher, Chloe, and together we met other teachers living in Korea. We became friends with this group of girls and stayed friends when we went back to Korea after our holiday trip was done.
Christmas for us was lights on palm trees and jumping into the ocean on Christmas Eve. It was sweet and magical, and the dancing that occurred at the bar “Summer Place” was nothing short of infamous. Its such a wonderful island and people are very nice and friendly; a lot of Koreans actually come here for vacation, so don’t be surprised when you see plenty of Korean couples dressed in identical outfits.
In addition to gorgeous white sand crystal clear beaches, Boracay fills your days with sunset cruises, snorkeling, cliff jumping, an amazing nightlife you don’t need to leave the sand for, delicious food, a safe vacation environment, and cheap massages on the beach. Just make like a whale and beach it already. Your Christmas tree is a massacred plant anyway, and is happier alive, eating carbon dioxide in the soil where its meant to be.
Another obvious hot spot for tourists this Christmas is Thailand, a place that has already been discovered and rediscovered and riri-discovered until its tourists traps are hard to avoid. However, it’s still worth the trip. The country is beautiful and affordable and did I mention there is Pad Thai on every corner for about a US$1? That is still a thing and I hope to the Pad Thai gods that it never changes.
I went to Thailand for Christmas and New Year’s Eve in 2014, right before leaving Korea to begin a new life in the states. The trip was fantastic, we saw a lot of things I don’t care to see again but am glad I saw them just to say I saw them, (you know what I’m talking about if you’ve been to a ping pong show). If you’re into a crazy party scene for the holidays, I highly recommend Ko Phi Phi island, or something similar. The full moon parties only get better towards the end of the year, and the New Years Eve party is a night that is best remembered later, in a fuzzy haze, through pieces of a group collaboration. Elephants and jungles and beaches and trains, oh my! Thailand is culture and craziness and nonstop curry, gorgeous views and the most horrifying mosquitos. If you’re more of the exploring adventurer type, then book your flight to Thailand immediately.
There were many temptations, but the ones we definitely participated in were the fire limbo and fire jump rope challenge. Being a self proclaimed weenie I stayed clear of it and opted for the less flashy but just as crucial role of the photographer. Pictured here, the limbo pole was nearly out, but just have faith that moments prior it was a blaze of glory.
Fire is not my preference, but throw me in the ocean and I’ll immediately turn into a happy dolphin. and Snorkeling at night in Maya Beach – the chance of a lifetime, and being a fan of anything scary I was secretly hoping to see a deep sea ghost or at least a sea monster mermaid. The only thing we saw was speckles of glowing plankton, however. So we disappointing! You can’t travel to Maya Beach anymore however, due to the immense flood of tourists that have ruined it for the rest of us, but there are plenty other sun kissed areas to explore.
If bathing in glitter is your thing, the Grand Palace in Bangkok is worth a visit. Its opulence of gold and blue and rich colors make you feel like a princess, which, you basically are lets be honest. It’s breathtaking to walk through. If you’re dressed like a common hussy and showing your knees, (which I shamelessly was) they will graciously provide a skirt to use to cover your inconsiderate immodesty.
Thailand is a trip for all the senses, especially the sense of pleasure, which should be its own category. Its the feeling of indulgence and happiness, intoxicating scenery and perfect food, the moment is all that matters here and the idea of time ceases to exist. Eat, drink, party, repeat. And fit a good amount of cultural horizon expansion in between all the indulgence, please. It’s quite worth it to chat with Thai people, they’re exceptionally nice because they know you are going to spend money on your vacation. And don’t forget your bug spray. I’m as serious as that guy who tells you to wear sunscreen in that song every high school graduation used to play.
Thailand and Boracay are magical destinations for December and should be visited. Some of us plebeians, however, aren’t in the position to take two weeks off of life and wander across the world willy nilly. My attention strayed from Southeast Asia and set sights on the sparkling sands of the Caribbean. The stateside string of island countries offers a plethora of different styles of culture and beaches to experience. My contact for this holiday is a local, Tricia Biddle, who gave me the information I needed to turn up on Christmas in the Caribe.
You don’t need to waste days and jet lag therapy hours on traveling all the way to the other side of the world; in fact you can enjoy beautiful seas and cuisine just a few hours away from home, and your photos will be just as impressive and envious to those trying to smile through a Santa pub crawl in blizzard stricken Chicago.
Trinidad and Tobago is the ideal place to go if you’re yearning for a calm and relaxing holiday to escape the impending doom of commercialism that has taken over America. Usually serene and tourist free during the month of December, Trinidadians tend to keep to their favorite family and friends during the holidays, opting out of the wild festivals that you think of when you think of Carnival and Mardi Gras in the islands. Instead, they gather together and form intimate party parades with just their closest friends and family, moving from house to house and bringing treats, music, and drinks.
A moving celebration that Tricia informed me is called “Paranging,” named after the type of music it highlights during these tropical social calls. “There is debauchery involved,” she admits, insisting that gifts aren’t the focus at all but rather just being together, laughing, gossiping, and eating.
Signs of a fantastic holiday.
“We’re naturally a very party-happy people, so if someone comes to visit during December the bars will reflect the intimate family parties that everyone has. It won’t be as crazy at the bars, just a dialed down version of our Paranging, but it will still be festive and fun as hell.”
Beaches simply don’t get cold here, like ever, ranging from a nice toasty 85 degrees to a bottomed out temperature of 72— but only right by the sea where the wind cools the air. You can swim in the beaches in your holiday best, which might be a Santa hat and (gasp) nothing else.
The street festivals aren’t prevalent in December, not like during the rest of the year, but that might just be the best reason to visit. If you’re sick of the drama that the holidays cultivate, the guilt for not wanting to shed hundreds of dollars on gifts that feel more like a competition than a spontaneous urge to make people happy, or just the general need to flee the country because you read this news article that made Black Mirror seem like a reality show, you can come to Trinidad and see how a culture can forgo all that materialistic nonsense with some stunning results. They aren’t propelled to make headlines for tourist traps, they just are living their best lives. Come here for an undiscovered traveler’s gem, and if you are compelled to extend your stay you can hop on a ferry to South America. Trinidad and Tobago rests just on the coast of Venezuela, historically frenemies, however. The islands are safe to travel to, with violent incidents a rare event. Get back in touch with what really matters, and bring your closest loved ones to these beautiful islands for a different perspective of how to spend your holidays.
Her advice? If you’re into the busier lifestyle, head over to the bigger island of Trinidad. Tobago will appeal to a more chill, beach loving lifestyle. Explore everything, meet everyone, or don’t meet anyone, depending on your holiday mood. And then please, go back for Carnival.
After your spell is complete, and its time to go back home, guess what? The snow that you might have missed will still be there. Going to the tropics won’t stop winter, it is a mere brief interruption to your regularly scheduled program of iced sidewalks and hot chocolate by the fireplace. You can indeed have it all this winter season!
Megan is a weekly contributor to Newdie Mag, a compulsive traveler, a pursuer of justice, and claims to be allergic to winter. She You can read more about her adventures here at : www.kissesfromtheclouds.com