CHRISTMAS TENDS TO BE a time when relatives get together whatever the circumstances. Grey nomads adjust their itineraries, children return from overseas, everyone takes time off to socialise.
All too often, however, there are tricky negotiations over where to have the Christmas lunch, not to mention hours of agony over roasts and salads; mountains of mess to clean up; too much alcohol at the wrong time of the day; relatives who ignore social graces around family because after the third drink, graces are unmasked as irrelevant…
This is not just annoying. It also puts your health at risk.
Some researchers categorise stressful events in terms of Life Crisis Units. Death of spouse tops the list at 100 LCUs, followed by divorce (73), separation (65) and death of a close family member (63, the same as a jail term). Minor violations of law sit at the bottom of the list (11 units), just below Christmas (12) and holiday (13). If you’ve had more than 300 LCUs in the past two years, your probability of developing a stress-related physical/mental issue is more than 80 per cent.
Let’s do the maths: Christmas plus holiday plus trouble with in-laws (29 units) add up to 54, or 108 two years in a row. Include change in number of family get-togethers (15), change in eating habits (15), irregular social activities (18) and change in number of arguments with spouse (35) and we’re well on the way towards a nervous breakdown.
But it need not be like that. RVers of all people have the means at their disposal to escape the Christmas mayhem and swap stress for peace. Those who’ve tried it will agree that some of their most memorable Christmases have been away from home, often shared with strangers.
1. Impromptu partytime
CW contributors Denyse and Tony Allsop, for instance, used to sail up and down the Qld coast in their yacht, and had several wonderful Christmas/New Year celebrations with other yachties. “A suggestion,” says Tony, “is to charter a boat and join in the impromptu parties in a safe anchorage. There is always a party on at Nara Inlet or Gulnare Inlet in the Whitsundays, or on one of the beaches there. Check on the boat radio.” Another option is to book into a bush hotel that does Christmas lunch and share the occasion with locals. This may require a bit of planning as most places want advance notice, but it’s likely to be a memorable event especially in more remote locations, where hotels are a magnet for interesting characters.
2. Unexpected experiences
Christmases can stand out for other reasons. “Another memorable Christmas was on our first round Oz trip and we were in Mildura,” says Tony, “when we heard about Cyclone Tracy. We immediately volunteered for the relief team for Darwin, Denyse as a medico in casualty and me to try and sort out a tyre business where all the staff were leaving.” Volunteering in remote communities, or wherever your van may take you this Christmas, can be a very rewarding offset to the opulent holiday season lifestyle.
3. Avoiding the heat
CW’s reviewer extraordinaire, Malcolm Street, recollects: “My most memorable Christmas was one where I was 15,000km away from all the relatives, campervanning in Britain somewhere in the Cotswolds, where one very cold night the gas cylinder froze (yes, gas does freeze) and we couldn’t use the gas heater. Apart from that it was a very different and enjoyable Christmas/New Year time with no relative get-together stresses.”
4. Lunch from a caravan kitchen
CW’s Wallaby Wanderer, Lionel Mussel, realised he didn’t need to leave his van to spend time with the relatives: “On some very hot Christmases I did all the cooking in the caravan and brought the food inside at the last minute before serving. As I was cooking for up to 18 people, that was quite a feat!”
5. Fresh air is the perfect entrée
Every Christmas for about a decade, CW stalwart Rob van Driesum used to escape with friends and relatives to the same campsite along a Victorian mountain stream. “We called ourselves the Christmas Clan and our strategy never failed – drive up on Christmas Eve or the day before; set up camp and enjoy the mountain surroundings; get a good fire going early on Christmas Day so we could cook the turkey, spuds and damper in the coals; and leave on Boxing Day when people began arriving. We never had any arguments and usually had the popular place to ourselves. Perfect.”
There’s no law that says you have to put up with abusive and/or tedious company just because they’re family and it’s Christmas.
If you’re one of the lucky ones who enjoy spending the festive season with family and close friends – consider telling your loved ones that a change of scenery can work to everyone’s advantage on Christmas. There’s a good chance they’ll agree that relaxing vanside is more enticing than cleaning up after Christmas dinner. Especially with the inevitable Boxing Day headache.
Edited version from CW Dec 08