Homesick For The Holidays? 7 Ways To Make It Suck Less
It’s that time of year again. Thanksgiving is just two weeks away and in the blink of an eye we’ll be watching Elf, hanging lights, and singing carols. (Or being Grinches, none of my business what you do.) With the holidays approaching, you might be looking forward to quality time with family and friends. Many of you will be traveling to see your loved ones. Which means many of us flight attendants will be working to get you there.
Flight attendants know when they are hired that this is a round-the-clock operation. We are required to work weekends, holidays, special occasions, you name it. But knowing that in advance doesn’t cut the sting when it actually happens. Often, flight attendants and pilots spend the holidays not at home with their families, but on a plane with strangers. In hotel rooms, alone.
Some of us don’t mind. We might even look forward to an excuse for alone time during the holidays. But for many, especially newer flight attendants, this can feel depressing and terribly lonely.
If you are one of the unlucky ones who has to work this year, cheer up, Charlie, I’ve got you covered. These are some of my best tips for what to do if you’re feeling the homesick holiday blues. Things to do on the plane, in the hotel, and in your thoughts, to make it a little bit better.
While this post was written with flight attendants and pilots in mind, it can apply to anyone. If you will find yourself alone, far away from home this holiday season, then read on for tips to keep the homesickness at bay.
7 Tips To Beat The Blues
& Make Working The Holidays Suck Less
1. Treat Yo-Self
This means different things for different people. For some this is a decadent dessert ordered from room service, for some this is a massage or a pedicure. For some this is microwave popcorn and trashy tv. Maybe it is online shopping, getting lost in a good book. A little self-love, if you catch my drift.
Whatever your flavor of treating yourself, do it, deliberately and full-on. No feeling sorry for yourself during your massage. No scrolling through social media while the movie you’re “treating yourself” to blares on in the background without your attention. No burning your tongue wolfing down that expensive dinner you were “treating yourself” with.
Take in what you are doing. Savor. Notice. Enjoy. Delight in whatever it is.
We are experts at distracting ourselves. It can help if we’re sad. But it can also cause us to miss all the good things right in front of us. With a bit of conscious effort, you can find enjoyment in something small but delicious. If you’re alone during the holidays, I suggest you pick something really, really good and give it the focus it deserves.
2. Get off Social Media (unless it makes you feel good)
Speaking of getting distracted…
It might make you feel more connected to look at all the holiday photos your friends and family are posting online. But for MOST of you this is not the case. Scrolling through other people’s holidays will make you feel sadder.
Study after study has shown negative effects of social media, from poor body image to—yup, you guessed it—*loneliness*. If you are already in a state of feeling lonely or like you are missing out, Instagram is not the cure. It’s the fuel to your pity-party bonfire. If you want to wallow, go for it, that is 100% your choice. But if you genuinely want to feel better, maybe give Facebook, and your thumbs, a rest.
I know you believe me, but if you’re pretending you don’t, then feel free to click some of these articles on social media and loneliness:
Does THIS look like a bad time!?
3. Be Grateful
If you are a flight attendant working the holidays, or if you a regular person who is homesick around the holidays, know there are still things to be grateful for.
Be grateful you don’t have to listen to Uncle Hal talk about Q-Anon at the dinner table. That you won’t be there to answer annoying questions from extended family about why you’re single, or advice on what you could do to “remedy” that. That you don’t have to force yourself to stay awake after eating your body weight in turkey and mashed potatoes. (You can nap whenever you want!) That you don’t have to help with the dishes!
Be grateful that you have this job. The job that you wanted, that you spent a month of intense training to get. Sure, it sucks when it keeps you away from home during the holidays. But other times you love being far from home. On your non-rev adventures around the world. On those fun-ass Cancun and Aruba and downtown Chicago layovers.
Finally, if you are a flight attendant, or anyone else feeling homesick during the holidays, be grateful that you are blessed with people at home to miss. Be grateful for a track-record of healthy, happy holidays with your loved ones. Not everybody has this. For some the holidays are painful reminders of the family they don’t have. Of deep trauma. For some people, the holidays are anxiety-provoking, conflict-inducing, difficult times to get through. If you are lucky enough to have family, friends, and happy holiday traditions to miss, then you are rich with blessings. And you should also be rich with gratitude.
4. Engage with Other Humans
I know this one is hard for a lot of us slam-clickers and introverts. But hear me out, pushing yourself to do this might yield better results than you could have imagined.
Meet up with your crew. Even the strictest slam-clicker needs a little socialization once in a while. And who knows, maybe you will be surprised. Maybe the camaraderie of all being far from home during this time will make you feel closer to these coworkers. Maybe you will discover, over a bottle of wine or a stroll through the city, that you have more in common than you would have guessed. That the person sitting next to you on the jumpseat is so much more than meets the eye.
Talk to people. Gate agents! Maintenance! The Cleaners! Provisioning! Get out of your damn head and connect with some other humans. These folx are all working during the holidays, too. Just as hard (if not harder, let’s face it) than you are. Have friendly conversations with your extended airline family. We are all in this together, even if company policy can leave us feeling jaded. Not only will engaging with coworkers stop you dead in your poor-me pity-party tracks, but you might just get some warm and fuzzy “family-ish” feelings out of it.
Engage with customers. Not about what they want to drink. Not the way you have to engage with them to do your job. I mean really, meaningfully connect with someone. Just one person on the plane. Have an honest interaction. Tell someone you love their boots. Ask if they are okay when they seem anxious or upset. Ask them about their travel plans if they seem happy. Allow yourself to be sucked into the small talk in the galley while they wait for the lav.
Listen, I am not suggesting we do this with every passenger or every day. But you already feel like shit for being at work. It just might make you feel better if you stop holding on so tight to your shitty feelings and loosen up for a minute. Experience some human connection.
Maybe the person who seems annoying is actually really fucking cool. Maybe they work on CGI effects for major movies and your geeky, action-movie-loving self would never know it if you gave them the cold shoulder. Maybe the person is traveling to say goodbye to a dying relative, to check their child into rehab, to finalize a divorce. And maybe you, as a human, with your own complicated life and family situations, could relate to one of these things. Maybe engaging with a stranger could give you the totally unexpected, juicy feeling of being understood and less alone. Maybe that stranger behind the mask with the deep voice or green eyes or nice-smelling perfume is your next great love. (Sorry married people, we just never know what the universe has in store for us.)
Leave yourself open to possibility. A little conversation won’t kill you. At worst, you will get outside of your own head for a minute and give your neck and eyes a break from staring at your phone. But it could be more than that. You might just have a moment of genuine connection. You might be surprised at the good feelings you get. You might have a little fun, and you might gain a little faith in humanity. You might make someone else’s day. And you might just end up feeling more grateful than you did before.
Who knows, maybe the course of your life will completely change in that moment. Roll your eyes, but you can’t tell me I’m wrong. We really never know.
Don’t scroll through your days. You can’t get them back. Keep your eyes open, and your mind, too.
Remember you are a part of something bigger. A 7.9 billion-member extended family of humans.
5. Get into the Spirit
Sure, it sucks to have to be at work, shuttling people around (who are largely ungrateful for your services), when others are relaxing with their families. But sulking about it is not going to make your day any better and neither is wishing you were off or complaining to your coworkers.
Make the best of it.
Yes, seriously, this is my big advice.
Decorate the galley. Make it look like autumn threw up back there. Make it a blinking winter wonderland. Bake cookies for your crew. Or buy them a coffee if your funds permit. Wear a turkey hat or some flashing lights. Take the focus off of yourself and turn it toward what the holiday is about. And then double down on that spirit.
I give zero fucks if this advice is corny, and neither should you if you’re feeling miserable.
Bring some pine-scented spray for your hotel room and dim the lights so it feels festive. Watch a Hallmark holiday special (I know, I can’t believe I’m saying this either.) Look up holiday activities in the city where you’ll be spending your holiday layover. Plan to do some of them. Invite your crew.
Bring your favorite food/dessert/treat that you love to have on the holiday. I might pack some stuffing in my lunchbox, for example, if I had to work over Thanksgiving, because it is by far my favorite part of the meal. When we were kids, my brother and I always got chocolate covered cherries on Christmas day. I don’t know if I love them now, but it would make me feel nostalgic as hell if I opened up a box in a far-away hotel. (And let’s face it, with my sweet tooth there aren’t many chocolate-covered things I wouldn’t eat.) Don’t feel like cooking? Find a restaurant serving a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Maybe the comfort food will make you feel more comfortable. Or take the opportunity to go way outside the box and get something totally unrelated to the holiday. Pho anyone?!
If you are feeling blues over missing the holiday, my advice here is Don’t miss the holiday. It is a feeling. Bring that shit wherever you go.
If you can't get out of work, then get into it
6. Make it Virtual
This obvious tip depends on who you are and who you’re missing.
Over the past two years, many of us have become adept at having virtual interactions. We did it during lockdown and many of us are still doing this for our jobs on a daily basis. It is not hard to “be there” virtually for your family’s holiday celebration. And for many of you this simple solution can make you feel better about things. This is especially true, I think, for flight attendants and pilots who are missing their kiddos during the holidays. Watching them open presents or getting to see their holiday outfits makes a big difference, and we are lucky to have this technology.
For others, seeing the action they can’t be a part of might make them feel worse. There’s no better way to be, we just all react differently to things. If you think being on a screen while your loud-but-loving family conducts the holiday—talking over one another, passing you from one distracted person to the next, football game on surround sound, pans clanging and forks scraping in the background—would make you feel worse and not better, then skip it or make it brief. There is nothing wrong with opting in or out of a Facetime holiday.
If that felt like too much, maybe you could Facetime with your inflight bestie. Talk to another flight attendant who is also on a crummy layover somewhere. Or your pilot husband. Have a dinner date. Commiserate with someone who gets it. Marco Polo your best friends and wait anxiously for them to sneak time away from their families to reply. (Have you guys seriously not downloaded Marco Polo yet!? Click here and do it for Heaven’s sake!)
Whatever level of virtual interaction you want is fine. Take notice of how you actually feel while on the call. If it gets sad or overwhelming, tell them reception is bad in the hotel and go back to texting your (also-working) flight attendant friends.
7. Choose-Your-Own Holiday
Just pick a different day. Celebrate the holiday with your family the weekend before or after. My mom and I are both flight attendants, so my family has been doing this for years. And it’s been great! For those of you with blended/extended/modern families, this is a good tip even if you aren’t working the holidays. Not having to run around to multiple households in a day or pick and choose whom to see and whose feelings to hurt, makes the holiday so much less stressful. Plus, you miss the worst of the holiday traffic—both on the roadways and in the airways.
Make a plan to gather everyone up and do your holiday celebration in style. Go all out, traditional foods, matching pajamas, the works. You may be thinking your people won’t want to adjust their plans for you, but you may be dead wrong. So, suggest it at the next family meeting.
I hope these tips will help some of you if you are dreading being stuck at work and far away over the holidays. I promise you it doesn’t have to suck as much as you think it does. And, like we always say in aviation, it gets better.
Hang in there, try to cheer yourself up, make the most of the day. If worse comes to worst, it will be one bad day out of the 365 you get in a year. You need only to look at the ratio to see it’s not so bad.
Wishing you all a happy weekend and the happiest holidays, wherever they’re spent. <3