Sand Dune Jumping in Mui Ne

Our First Christmas on the Road

This time last year I celebrated the holidays with my family in England knowing that there were just a few weeks left till my departure date and a new life on the road – I had no idea where I’d be in a year’s time. Now, here we are in Vietnam after our first Christmas on the road. As we prepare to see in the New Year we also reflect on how far we’ve travelled this year and how much we’ve learned in the process.

Christmas Decorations in Hanoi, Vietnam

Decorations in Hanoi, Vietnam

Christmas on the Road

Our first Christmas away from the UK was certainly a strange, quiet affair. The day dawned hot and the sky was a clear blue streaked with cloud. We rented a tandem bike and had fun cycling around the city, amusing the locals by insisting on wearing helmets for the occasion. We picked up some fresh bread from the bakery, some local Dalat yogurt and fruit for a picnic down by the lake. As we ate we watched people float along the water in swan-shaped pedalos while Vietnamese tourists posed for photos in cowboy hats on a nearby horse.

Christmas by the lake

Christmas by the Lake in Dalat, Vietnam

Our tandem bike

Tandem Bike in Dalat, Vietnam

Afterwards we wandered through the streets marvelling at the swaths of colourful decorations being laid out for the coming flower festival. We skyped our families and received some free Christmas cake after dinner; it might have been sponge cake rather than fruit and topped with whipped cream rather than thick sugary icing but we appreciated the warm gesture all the same.

Flower Festival in Dalat, Vietnam

Flower festival decorations

Vietnamese Christmas Cake

Vietnamese Christmas Cake

All in all it just didn’t feel like Christmas this year without the cold frosty winter mornings, drizzle and dark afternoons we’re used to back in the UK. The plastic tree in our hotel lobby didn’t match up to the spectacular Christmas lights we’d normally enjoy back in London and we missed the chance to spend time with our families. It was the little routines of Christmas that I pined for most of all; visiting the festive markets in London and enduring a boozy, tragic work do before heading back home for the traditional roast dinner and pudding followed by board games, Christmas TV and my mum’s party food.

Covent Garden Christmas Decorations

London Christmas decorations

Christmas Cheese and Crackers

Mum’s Christmas party food

The Gifts of Travel

Spending Christmas away from home did however allow us to reflect on how grateful we are to be travelling and still enjoying this journey after the most incredible ten months of our lives. We feel truly spoilt by the gifts that travel has given us – in particular the gift of total freedom that we’ve enjoyed since we left the UK. We feel so lucky to be able to truly go where we want when we want and spend our time exactly as we please.

Travel has also allowed us to experience things we dreamed of doing back in our ‘normal’ lives; be it scaling a mountain, jumping out of a plane, camping out in the jungle or simply strolling down a deserted beach. Travel has allowed us to meet new people, to learn about and experience different cultures – it has truly opened our minds to how diverse and incredible the world really is.

The View of Mount Doom from Mount Tongariro

The start of our adventure in New Zealand

Through travel this year I’ve also come to some realisations that I don’t think I ever would have back home. For years my itchy feet left me unappreciative of just how amazing the UK is and how lucky we are to call it home. Now I know that one day we’ll happily return to live permanently in the UK, there’s nowhere else we’d rather settle down; it’s also a great place to explore Europe from.

Another thing I’ve discovered during the last ten months is that life isn’t all about work. Sure, we all have to make money to survive, but after freeing myself from a rigid office routine back home I’ve realised that we don’t have to define ourselves by our professions. Before leaving the UK I was stuck on following a strict career path that I’d studied and worked towards for years and I was far too scared to veer off that course – in fact it simply never occurred to me that I could. Now I feel that it’s alright to do different things in life; all experience is good and valuable.  So, in 2014 I’ve decided to take a TEFL course and try teaching English in Asia, something I never would have considered doing a year ago. Teaching and living in a different culture  is a daunting prospect for me but it’s also a challenge, which is exciting.

Mui Ne Beach at Sunset

We love travel!

To a New Year of Travel

We’re now in Ho Chi Minh City and looking forward to the extravagant New Year’s Eve celebrations in a few days’ time. While 2013 was a year we’ll never forget, filled with the extreme highs and lows that only travel can bring, we look forward to a brand new year filled with fresh travel plans, adventures and experiences. We can hardly wait.

Merry Christmas Everyone and a Happy New Year!

Sand Dune Jumping in Mui Ne

Bring on 2014!

Where did you celebrate Christmas this year and what are your plans for 2014?

  • Patti
    Posted at 04:26h, 28 December Reply

    This year, as you know, we are on the road and it is a very different holiday experience. What I realized is that when you’re traveling you (us) don’t experience the anticipation of the holiday. The planning, the shopping, the decorating and baking – it’s all part of the spirit. But, with that being said, I was more than happy to give it all up to spend Christmas with our son. It’s definitely different, but totally fun.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Amy and Andrew! I look forward to following your 2014 adventures!

    • Amy
      Posted at 12:11h, 28 December Reply

      Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and all your family too Patti; sounds like you having a great time being together with your son. I know what you mean about the anticipation, there was none of that this year for us, in fact it sort of feels like we skipped Christmas altogether. I think that we’ll make up for that on New Year’s Eve here though, it’s supposed to be crazy!

  • Carmel
    Posted at 14:14h, 28 December Reply

    Merry Christmas to you both!

    Although we were able to be with some family during our first Christmas abroad, it was very different. We all agreed that the cool weather is part of feeling the Christmas spirit – most of us live in cool weather climates. But we had a great time all the same. We went to mass in a cramped little church, sitting on the floor, and listening to hyper-speed Christmas carols being sung by the kids. It was quite an experience!

    It has been a great realization for us that we can be defined by more than how we make money. It’s something you don’t realize you do so much until you take a step away from the beaten path and see who you really can be if you choose to do so.

    May 2014 bring you many more memories and experiences!

    • Andrew
      Posted at 16:17h, 28 December Reply

      Merry Christmas to you both too! It sounds like you had a pretty unique Christmas experience too, glad you had fun and got to spend it with some family. I’m so glad I’ve learned on this trip that there’s more to life than a job title and that there are more important things than earning money, I hope that lesson stays with me for the rest of my life.

  • Renee - RambleCrunch
    Posted at 22:12h, 28 December Reply

    What a lovely year you’ve had. It’s wonderful that your travels have made you appreciate where you’re from and helped you to recognize the UK as your future base. My family and I are always discussing where our base should be, and the decision fatigue is killing us. I wish you a joyous and adventure-filled 2014. And best of luck with the teaching! 🙂

    • Amy
      Posted at 13:40h, 30 December Reply

      Thanks Renee, it must be difficult not knowing where to settle – I’m sure you’ll figure it out in time. 2014 will definitely be full of new adventures as well as challenges for us but we’re looking forward to it.

  • Laurel- Capturing la Vita
    Posted at 04:11h, 29 December Reply

    A beautiful reflection of how travel has enriched your lives. It sounds like spending the holidays away from home turned out all right 🙂 Cheers to 2014 and many more adventures!

    • Amy
      Posted at 13:42h, 30 December Reply

      Thanks Laurel, despite the strangeness Christmas away from home was pretty good – we’re looking forward to a crazy New Year’s Eve in Saigon now!

  • Rob
    Posted at 16:39h, 30 December Reply

    It’s funny how the weather plays a part in triggering Christmas festivities. We felt the same in sunny Mexico. If it’s not freezing, it’s not Christmas.

    At first I struggled with it, but eventually I gave up and went with the flow. Ended up being really fun! Have a good New Year you two 🙂

    • Andrew
      Posted at 16:58h, 30 December Reply

      The weather makes a big difference, you’re right, it will be strange to be celebrating new years eve in shorts and t-shirt! Prospero año. 🙂

  • Heidi Wagoner
    Posted at 17:33h, 30 December Reply

    It’s tough your first year traveling away from home for the holidays and missing things and people. It is great that you can appreciate your full year and all that it has gifted you. We appreciate the time we have together and the quirky holidays we have away make for fond memories.

    I think it is great your getting your TEFL. Let us know how that goes as we are thinking of doing the same.

    • Amy
      Posted at 05:50h, 31 December Reply

      Thanks Heidi. I plan to take the TEFL course in London this summer so I’ll definitely write about how that goes, I’m looking forward to studying again!

  • Emiel
    Posted at 20:56h, 01 January Reply

    Happy New Year! I can so understand the feeling of homesickness, the longing towards the traditions of Christmas for example. Not that you are homesick, but I think it is always good to remember the good things you have back home.
    You have some great plans for the new year. Here’s to achievement of all those plans!

    • Andrew
      Posted at 04:49h, 02 January Reply

      Thanks Emiel! It definitely is good to remember the things you miss from home, next time we’re in the UK for Christmas we’ll really appreciate it.

  • Maddie
    Posted at 15:51h, 06 January Reply

    What a great post Amy, I love how most travelling Brits I know develop a real appreciation for what we have at home. I had exactly the same revelations about work when we were away and I’m going back into the workforce with a whole new perspective. Wishing you both the very best for 2014!

    • Amy
      Posted at 05:47h, 07 January Reply

      Thanks Maddie! I hope your transition back into work is going smoothly. I definitely think it takes some distance to really appreciate what we have. All the best for 2014 to you too! 🙂

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