Cultural Experience | Costa Rica

An Unconventional Holiday

Spending the holidays off the grid may help you understand the true meaning of the season.

It’s safe to say that the two months right after Halloween and before New Years Day are downright crazy. I’m talking about November and December. The Holidays. Some people live for this season, others cringe at the thought. Most people get so caught up in the dozens of activities that need to be completed in that short span of two months that they forget what is actually important. I mean I totally get it; it’s not hard to do. Between the friends, family, Thanksgiving Dinner, traveling, eating, drinking, partying, frantically shopping, Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve, *takes deep breath*, it’s easy to lose your mind.

This time of year should be a time where you spend quality time with the friends and family that you love most. Unfortunately, we’ve blown up this holiday so much (literally, with life-size inflatable snowmen on the front lawn) that most families want to strangle each other come New Year’s Eve.

This is actually a perfect description of my family. The crazy, hectic, stressful routine that was the holidays actually drove us apart instead of bringing us together. So we did something about it, we traveled, and traveling helped us realize the true meaning of the holidays.

No parties, no presents, no stress, just a good ole fashion family vacation to the beautiful town of Tamarindo, Costa Rica. This trip brought us closer together and here’s why.

No stress. This vacation gave us the chance to actually relax together. I can’t remember the last time I thought of the holidays as relaxing but this time it definitely was. We didn’t have to worry about what to buy each other or what to cook for the family meal. We just got to enjoy each other’s company.


We got to try new things together. While going to the same family party year after year and talking to your uncle about your inexistent boyfriend IS rather exciting, it gets pretty old. Honestly, the holidays can get pretty routine, and routines gets boring. Traveling during the holidays allows you to break every tradition that you grew up with. My family spent Christmas week lying by the pool, snorkeling, learning to surf, zip lining through the Costa Rican jungle and bathing in a mud bath that was “enriched with minerals” and “great for your skin.” Personally, I thought it smelled like eggs and left a sticky residue all over my body, but hey it was good for my skin so I went with it. On Christmas Day, a day that I have celebrated the same way for 20 years, my family hopped in a boat powered by a giant fan and did a swamp tour, seeing alligators and a ton of different birds. It was definitely the most memorable Christmas Day ever.

We were unplugged. Along with an out-of-country vacation comes limited cell phone use. This was actually the biggest blessing of them all. None of us could be mindlessly scrolling the Internet of consumed in a group text, so we actually had to have conversations which each other. FYI actually communication is not a scary as you may think.

There was shockingly no fighting. With two brothers and one sister, yeah, we like to push each other’s buttons. It’s just what siblings do. During the holidays, when we are spending quite a lot of time together, the bickering seems to increase. But this year it didn’t, we were actually nice to each other. We laughed and joked and hung out with each other making it the best holiday ever.


I’m not saying you have to go on an elaborate vacation in order to have a happy holiday, you might be one of those people who happily do the holidays the same way every year and wouldn’t change a thing about it, and that’s awesome. But a change of pace might help you rediscover the magic of the holidays and help remind you what they are really about: spending time with the people you love.

Emily Allen

University of Maryland | 9 stories

Hi everyone! My name is Emily Allen and I'm a junior communications major with a focus in public relations at the University of Maryland, College Park. As much as I love Maryland, I love getting out and exploring the world more. This job is pretty prefect for me considering I love creative writing, traveling, and taking artsy photos.

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