Traveling for Christmas to see family

I was chatting with a colleague this morning about traveling during the Christmas period. Although he and his wife both live in the San Francisco Bay Area now, they are both originally from Ohio, where they met, dated, and got married, so they have similar friend groups and their parents live only a 15-minute drive from each other. So when they go home during the Christmas period, they always fly back to Columbus and go back and forth between each set of parents’ places every few days between the days before Christmas and before New Year’s Day. “We’re really fortunate that we don’t have to travel far or take turns seeing sides each Christmas since we’re both from the same home town,” he said to me. “I know other people who have to drive hours and hours between homes or fly thousands of miles.”

“Oh, really?” I said to him, smiling. “I know what that is like. But I don’t see it as a misfortune. I see it as a benefit for me.”

He immediately realized why I responded the way I did and started laughing, though a bit awkwardly.

When others make comments about how hard it must be for Chris and me, both being from very different parts of the world and thus having our families thousands of miles apart, I usually laugh and say that I don’t see it as a bad or hard thing, that we actually enjoy it. We’ve both left our families and moved to new places where we pretty much knew no one, but that’s part of what growing up is supposed to be about — starting a new life for your new family with hopefully more opportunity and thus successes. And that oftentimes means leaving your hometown. No one ever really looks back and wonders how their grandma or great-grandfather left their parents to immigrate to a new country and how sad it must have been for them to leave their families. My dad’s mom immigrated to the U.S. with her husband and first son, and she never went back to China ever again, meaning she never saw her parents or any of her siblings ever again. No one seems to comment about any of that much. My mom married my dad in Vietnam and left her hometown in 1973, never to see her mother again, who died three years before I was born. She didn’t return to Vietnam until 2008, when she had only one living sister remaining and endless nieces and nephews, all other siblings and parents/aunts/uncles gone. But I get comments all the time about how hard it must be for me. It really isn’t. I get to have a home in New York City with my love, my original home in San Francisco with my parents across the country, and a third home away from home away from home in Melbourne, Australia, with loving family on Chris’s side. That’s three cosmopolitan, beautiful cities across two countries. That is not a “hard” thing. It’s quite a beautiful and blessed state of being if you ask me. That means I get to call three different places globally “home.”

I think we’re both better for being with each other with our different backgrounds. We’ve both learned a lot about each other’s home country and cultures, and we’ve learned things that we just wouldn’t get by being with someone from our own hometown or own ethnic backgrounds. We have an understanding to a depth that others would not have, an awareness about the pluses and minuses of both cultures and countries that would not exist without each other. As Michelle Obama wrote in her book Becoming, “Sameness breeds more sameness until you make a thoughtful effort to counteract it.” You can choose to only stick to the familiar, whether it’s the type of people, the places you choose to live, but you can proactively and consciously try to expand your knowledge and understanding of the world by stepping outside of your default bubble.

At this time of year, I actually oftentimes stop and think to myself, I feel like one of the luckiest and most privileged people to be alive. I’m no Bill Gates or Mother Theresa, but I have been blessed with so much good fortune that I wish everyone could have at least a bit of. I want for nothing, and I have people in my life who love and respect me. I have a lot to be thankful for, regardless if others view what I have as “hard.”

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