While travel nursing can be an exciting way to explore new places and experiences, celebrating your favorite holidays away from home can be bittersweet. No matter what time of year you’re on the road, there are plenty of creative ways to embrace the holiday spirit and feel festive in any location. Here are some tips for celebrating those special occasions while still fulfilling your professional responsibilities.
- Explore local traditions. While you might be used to your local haunted house or Christmas village, most towns have their own unique holiday traditions to experience. Search for local festivals, shows, performances, markets, fairs, and meetups in the weeks before the holiday and find out how locals celebrate. Theme parks, cultural institutions like zoos and botanical gardens, and locally-owned restaurants often host unique holiday activities. But try to get tickets in advance – they often sell out!
- Get crafty with decorations. You can’t jam all your regular holiday decorations in a suitcase. Instead, picking up inexpensive crafting supplies and making your own will allow you to decorate for the season while doing an activity that will get you in the holiday spirit. Even if you’re staying in a plain hotel room, throwing on a holiday movie and making some construction paper turkeys or snowflakes will allow you to decorate your space at a low cost. When appropriate, this is even an activity you can do with your patients or their children at the hospital.
- Volunteer. Volunteering for holiday events will let you experience holiday cheer while connecting with members of your local community. The Thanksgiving soup kitchen is a classic, but don’t stop there: synagogues will likely need volunteers for Hanukkah celebrations, churches and community centers might have not-so-haunted houses for little kids, and the local Turkey Trot probably needs help handing out medals.
- Send local gifts. One of the best parts of the holidays is watching your loved ones’ faces light up when they’re opening their gifts. Buy locally-made gifts to let your friends and family know you’re thinking about them while supporting the community where you’re working. Your friends and family won’t remember it as the year you couldn’t make it home; they’ll remember it as the year they got real maple syrup from Vermont, or authentic turquoise jewelry from Arizona.
- Try the opposite of a tradition. If you’re far from home, trying to recreate traditions might only remind you of what you’re missing. Instead, create memorable holidays away from home by doing something totally different. If you’re used to a white Christmas, try a Christmas at the beach. If you cook the same thing every Thanksgiving, try something totally new and different. Instead of staying up until midnight on New Year’s Eve, go to bed early and wake up to watch the first sunrise of the new year.
- Get a holiday manicure. If you’re gone for several months, it will be hard to pack outfits for every holiday, but a themed manicure will let you feel festive without taking up room in your suitcase. Use apps like Pinterest and Instagram for inspiration. Whether you opt for bold nail art or simple festive colors, you’ll feel the holiday spirit every time you look down at your hands.
- Celebrate with your patients. You’re not the only one missing a holiday: your patients might be spending their first holiday away from home and are probably just as eager for a little festivity as you are. When appropriate, ask patients how they usually celebrate the holiday and try to bring a little cheer to their bedside. Bonding with patients over holiday memories is a great way to alleviate homesickness for you both.
- Optimize your holiday Zoom calls. Zoom is a great way to keep in touch with family and friends over the holidays, but after years of video calls, Zoom fatigue is real. Keep things lively by creating a loose agenda of things you want to talk about or questions you want to ask. Maybe you want to talk about what you’re grateful for, find out if your dad liked his new golf bag, or see your nephew’s Halloween costume. Then, when the conversation begins to lose steam, sign off with the knowledge that you made every effort to connect with your loved ones over your holiday away from home.
- Plan a belated celebration. Just because a holiday is listed on the calendar doesn’t mean that’s the day you have to celebrate it! If you’re missing an important holiday, plan a celebration for when you return. Who says you can’t cook a turkey in February or have a costume party in the spring? Remember, “Christmas in July” is a thing for a reason. The celebration will be that much more unique and memorable because you made it work.
- Reflect on the experience. Finally, use this time away from home to reflect on the meaning of the holidays and what they signify to you personally. Spending the holidays away from home as a travel nurse can be a transformative experience, teaching you the value of adaptability, resilience, and the importance of the connections you have with your loved ones.
Working as a travel nurse during the holidays may seem challenging, but with the right mindset and a bit of creativity, you can turn it into a memorable and fulfilling experience. This holiday season, as you continue to provide exceptional care to your patients, also take time to care for yourself and appreciate the unique opportunities that come with being a travel nurse during the holidays.