My First Holiday Away from Family

Lucy Beall Lott shares her experiences of her first Christmas away from her family, and how she explored her own definition of family as a result. What does it mean to be surrounded by people we love and how can we forge those connections with people on the other side of the world?


Independence from my family became a defining feature of my adulthood. I left home at seventeen to begin my higher education in the UK, which has shaped my views on adulthood and how separation between myself and my family fed into those views.

However, I’m incredibly sentimental and value tradition, which is why Christmas with my mother and siblings has always been something that mattered deeply to me. I knew at some point I was most likely going to spend a few holidays away, especially since my boyfriend and I became serious, but as I approached my first Christmas away from my family I was unsure what to expect and what I would feel.

My boyfriend invited me to spend the holidays with his family, who are expats in Malaysia, so I would also be experiencing a completely different culture that was not necessarily Christmas oriented. It also meant that there was a fourteen hour time difference between my family and me.

I suddenly felt very adult after I stepped into the humidity of Southeast Asia. It was an experience I’d always wanted, with people who I loved, in an amazing place. But on Christmas Day, when my mother and siblings called me, I was filled with a sense of nostalgia and melancholy even though I was on a beach with my toes in the sand. I was confused by these emotions. Would this feeling become an essential part of my adulthood as well?

After New Year’s Day, I experienced similar feelings after speaking to my siblings, I understood the feelings I felt were not negative. My mother has always encouraged our independence and especially change. I fully realized the importance of my family’s presence in my life.

While I did miss them, I also was able to fully reconcile my opinion that we are able to make our own families. Although I was not with my mother, sister and brother during the holidays, I was with people who loved and cared for me, people who wanted to see me happy. Are those not qualities provided by family?

Because of my holidays apart from my family, my definition of that word has been broadened and filled with deeper meaning. Your first “adult” Christmas, whatever that may mean to you, is a significant experience. Fully embrace the emotions you feel as a result and allow your own definitions of family to grow in return.