December has been long and hot in Thailand. While many of my American friends and family are bundled up drinking eggnog, attending gift exchanges, and heading home to Christmas trees and feasts, I’m finding myself quite far removed. I see small hints of Christmas cheer in certain westernized stores and restaurants, but I suppose it’s no surprise that a Buddhist country doesn’t celebrate a Christian holiday. It’s hard to feel Christmas-y when you’re sweating your clothes off every day.
Being pulled back from the usual American holiday madness has provided a strong dose of perspective. My life isn’t surrounded by advertisements for Black Friday sales or holiday movie marathons. I haven’t seen wreaths and garland hanging in stores since October. If I want to hear Christmas music, I need to choose to find a song on Youtube. I’m realizing that it’s not Christmas time unless you make it Christmas time on your own accord.
Travel is meant to draw us away from the familiar, which indeed it has. Being so far away has helped me recognize just how big the world is that something as colossal as Christmas passes without much of a mention somewhere else. It’s not necessarily a negative thing, just a sobering observation that America isn’t the center of the world, although many Americans would love to believe so. While Christmas isn’t affecting my life right now, neither is a war in the Middle East or a school shooting in Connecticut or strife in Africa. There are so many different realities existing at once on this planet, and I’m happy my travels remind me this again and again.