Apart from being about having a really tidy bedroom, (because if it's messy, Santa won't come) Christmas is all about family. (And actually quite a lot about food too...)
Being the other side of the world at Christmas time isn't the easiest. The really hot weather obviously helps a little bit, but it's just not the same as being at home. Plus, you're constantly aware that there's not a single chance that you'll be able to enjoy your nan's stuffing for Christmas dinner - and even the sunniest of December days spent at the beach isn't going to make you feel any better about that!
Unlike most travellers/backpackers/whatever it actually is you want to call me, I was fortunate enough to be invited to spend Christmas Day with the family friends of a friend and her family and my friends too. (How's that for a mouthful!?) Such a lovely gesture is one that I'll be endlessly grateful for - especially as it made my first Christmas away from home so much easier.
Waking up on Christmas morning was strange. For a start, I wasn't freezing cold, and second of all, the fact that I didn't want to jump out of bed straight away made me realise exactly how much I love sitting with my mum and brother (and obviously my cats too) and opening our presents together. McDonald's breakfast made me feel a little better as we started the journey to Eltham to meet everyone.
I can't begin to explain what an incredible feeling it is, to be welcomed into the house of a family you have never met, on a day as personal as Christmas is to most people I know. Made to feel instantly welcome and provided with the most amazing food - it was like having an adoptive family for the day!
After dinner, things escalated pretty quickly and before we knew it a slip n'slide had been set up in the garden and we'd borrowed swim suits so we could partake in the fun. I never thought I'd spend Christmas Day sliding down the garden on my stomach - but then again I've never spent a Christmas Day in the 35 degree heat before! There were lots of jokes, some fantastic dance moves and endless laughter. I had an absolutely unbelievable day - I think the only time I (just about) managed to stop laughing was whilst I was eating my dinner!
I always knew that being away from my family at Christmas time was likely to be the hardest part of travelling, but it was made so much easier by the fact that there are such good, accommodating people in this world. I can't begin to thank everyone enough for providing us with a surrogate family, a welcoming home, an absolutely delicious meal and a phenomenal day.