Christmas 2016, my first solo Christmas. Having travelled as much I have, I’ve been abroad for a few December 25th’s: Australia, the Cook Islands, Cambodia, Kyrgyzstan, and now Jamaica. But through all the previous years, I was with at least one person, though more often a group of friends or even a stand-in family.
This year was different, and I wasn’t sure how it was going to go. Of course, as a solo traveler, doing my own thing is not a new thing. I’ve eaten many a meal, spent many an evening, and generally entertained myself many many times. And yes, I have been to the movies by myself.
But never on Christmas.
My First Solo Christmas in Jamaica
(and Why it was Awesome!)
Solo Christmas? Hmm…
Not that the Christmas holiday itself is especially profound to me, in the spiritual sense. More so, as an adult, Christmas has become about eating tacos on the 24th, watching Lord of the Rings, and drinking wine. My family is not a big one, so it’s always been a relatively relaxed affair, mainly with just my parents and brother.
All that said, it’s still Christmas! I still love the tree and the stockings and the family meals. And the wine.
This year, I’m in Jamaica.
My parents just visited for 3 weeks at the start of December, so flying home at the most expensive time of year seemed silly. Plus why would I go to cold snowy Canada when I’m in hot Caribbean Jamaica? That’s just nonsense! But what to do in Jamaica?
I made tentative plans to go to a local friends family Christmas dinner (ok, I’ll admit, I totally invited myself in an absolutely shameless manner). Unfortunately, on the 23rd, dinner fell through. Now what? I have ten days off from work and the only person who will hang out with me is Michelle Obama (my cat). I told a few of my friends that I was going to be alone for Christmas and one even said “Aww that’s sad!”
Ok: A- You’re a jackass and B-Yeah, maybe it might be sad. We’ll see how it goes!
I am nothing if not pragmatic. It may be the winter holiday, but I’ll be damned if I’m not going to the beach! After some quick research into places to stay in Treasure Beach, I booked into a ‘furnished tent’ at Katamah Guesthouse.
What is a furnished tent? Great question, one which I couldn’t answer and therefore hoped for the best while expecting the worst.
I also made a reservation at Smurf’s, a local café that was hosting a Christmas Day dinner complete with all the Jamaican style holiday fixin’s (whatever that means).
I guilted a coworker into feeding Michelle Obama.
And with that I was off for my solo beach Christmas!
Two and a half hours and 3 taxis later I arrived in the beach community of Treasure Beach on Jamaica’s south coast. I love Treasure Beach. It is years away from the tourist hovels of Montego Bay and Ocho Rios. There are no all-inclusive resorts here, no one trying to sell you crap on the street, and no private beaches at all! Treasure Beach is hippie; laid back and chill with gorgeous, almost empty beaches, fishing boats going in and out, and some fantastic family run cafes. The roads are potholed and that’s just fine!
Staying in a Furnished Tent at Katamah Guesthouse, Treasure Beach
Back to that lingering question though: What is a furnished tent? And had I just made a Christmas destroying mistake by not booking a room with the traditional 4 walls?
So my furnished tent is just that. One of those monster 2 room camping tents (the kind with two front doors that can be split with a curtain down the middle). There is a real bed in it, off the ground, some rugs, a couple of tables, and an LED camping lantern. The outdoor shower and the bathroom is across the sandy yard. My front stoop is sand. The Caribbean Sea is 25 steps away. I can hear the crashing waves from my bed. I can see the ocean from one of my mesh windows.
My furnished tent is kind of awesome. No, let’s be real, it’s really awesome.
So how did I spend my first Solo Christmas Day? And was it “sad”?
I woke up at 6:45am to the sound of the ocean. I got dressed in my running gear and hit the bathroom. I walked in on a guy on the toilet. Merry Christmas!
I went for a 10km run, during which I greeted and was greeted by many a local wishing me a Merry Christmas and a good morning. I ran through a small community of men already celebrating, shouting Merry Christmas and that I was awesome! Thanks guys, you’re right, I am awesome!
I then literally ran to Smurf’s for breakfast.
Then back to the tent to change into my bikini and into the Caribbean I went.
The rest of my day alternated between a sun chair, the ocean, and a shady lounge.
I Skyped with my cousin Darcy.
I posted pictures of me in the ocean, wishing friends a Merry Christmas while loving the fact that I was making them jealous of my beach setting. #shameless
I ate pizza for lunch.
I pet dogs.
I read a feel good novel my friend Aubrey had given me.
And around 6:30 I bathed and headed down to Smurfs for Christmas dinner.
Christmas Dinner in Treasure Beach Jamaica
Christmas dinner at Smurfs was amazing! Families, locals, expats, and tourists alike came along, all to feast on the huge offerings put on by Dawn and her team. Salad and roast veg, followed by almost every animal you can eat: stewed beef, roast chicken, red snapper, ham and of course lobster! Mashed potatoes and rice rounded out the main course, while key lime pie, bread pudding and chocolate cake stepped up for dessert. An enterprising soul parked his car on the road and sold Red Stripes out of his trunk. Perfect.
Everyone was festive and thrilled to be eating so well while not having to cook themselves. I sat myself down with two 20-somethings from Seattle and had a great feed with great company. Nothing sad about this Christmas dinner!
By 8:30 I was feeling nappy only in a way that that much food can make a person. I walked back to my tent and Skyped with my family who had all just finished their own meals. After the quick call, I settled myself into bed and within moments fell asleep to the sounds of the ocean.
December 25, 2016: Scene.
Solo Travel, Solo Christmas
So was my first Solo Christmas sad? Clearly not! It was different, very different than the traditional idea of Christmas, but not once in the day did I feel lonely or really even alone. I did things I love to do (run, swim in the sea, eat, read, write, drink beer) and I talked to great people, either folks I love unconditionally or totally new friends. I ate lobster!
Travelling solo, and celebrating holidays solo, isn’t for everyone. Even as a solo traveler, I know this to be true and I will be the first to say it. But as I travel farther and wider, even after years of solo travel, I’m often surprised by just how un-alone you can be if you decide to own your solo status.
Contrary to what some non-solo travellers might say, solo travel isn’t settling and it’s not second best. Travelling on your own is the act of making a very conscious and empowered decision to live your life on your own terms and do what you need and want to do.
Often, I am asked “Why do you travel alone?” (A question that really gets my goat btw, I greatly doubt couples and families ever get asked, “Why do you travel together?”). I normally answer, as politely as I can muster, “Why not?”
So why not celebrate Christmas solo? Embrace it! Sure, I wasn’t sure how I would feel flying solo on Christmas, but as with anything, you’ll never know unless you give it a whirl!
Don’t whine about not having someone to travel or celebrate with, just go and meet new ‘someone’s! Embrace them (but only if they’re into the hug, don’t be weird)!
Don’t wait to take that leap, even if it’s a scary leap. Just leap! You never know where you’ll end up (and if you do leap, I hope you land on a sandy beach on Christmas Day with lobster dinner ;)).
That is my 2 cents on solo travel, something I’ve thought a lot about, especially this Christmas. Do I like travelling with friends? Heck yes I do! Do I like travelling with my parents? Normally! But I also love travelling on my own, the true captain of my own destiny!
So I must report: Christmas 2016? Absolutely awesome!
And for my 2017 wishes: More beaches, tents, morning runs, dinners with strangers, Red Stripes, and lobsters. Also, a lot more writing!!!! Stay tuned… Happy Holidays everyone!!!