Lonely? A Traveller’s Tale of Christmas on the Other Side of the World.

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Christmas Morning on the Other Side of the World.

I opened the curtains on to a bright, sunny day. I watched a lone paraglider spiral slowly down through the perfect blue sky.

It was Christmas morning and I was alone. In a motel room in Queenstown, New Zealand.

“It’s just another day!” I had assured Sue, my travelling companion, convinced that it wouldn’t trouble me at all. Her boyfriend had flown out to join her for Christmas. Mine hadn’t. He was far too busy. Far to important. Traits that would ultimately clinch his place among the ranks of the X-Men.

But it was not just another day. By my own choice, I was on the other side of the planet from my loved ones and I missed them like hell.

090 Lake Wakatipu
Christmas at Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown, New Zealand

Christmas breakfast was dry toast and kiwi jam, which made a change from the usual motel breakfast of two tinned peaches and two slices of bread. That, it seemed, was too complicated for the kitchen on Christmas Day. I did get clean towels – they probably tasted the same.

We were nearly a day ahead, so it was not yet Christmas at home, but I couldn’t help thinking of the family Christmas traditions. Dad employing differential calculus to work out the cooking time for the 28lb turkey that Mum always got, regardless of numbers for dinner. Dad down on one knee; one eye closed for accuracy, planning how to get it into the oven with minimal loss of limbs (from the turkey.) I wouldn’t be there for a homely chat with Mum over a sherry, as we sliced crosses into the stalks of interminable mounds of Brussels sprouts, and peeled tractor loads of root vegetables.

Dad’s failsafe calculation to estimate the cooking time for a 28lb turkey.

Sue and Adrian rescued me from my reverie and we motored over to the Shotover Gorge. Even on Christmas day, jet boats shattered the peace. We had an impromptu picnic lunch at Arrowtown, a pretty colonial gold town. We had just two sparrows and a shifty looking seagull for company.

The plan for the evening was a trip to The World bar, which offered ‘A Refuge for Lonely Backpacker Orphans’. $15 bought you Christmas dinner and a present from Santa – the dodgiest-looking Santa I have ever seen. He was smoking a roll-up and had more tattoos than Billy-Bob Thornton in the film Bad Santa.

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Dodgy Santa presided over the Refuge for Lonely Backpacker Orphans.

We lasted approximately 15 seconds in The World. Through the backpacker grapevine, we learnt later that the present that we missed out on consisted of backpacker essentials: a pack of noodles, a condom, and a Christmas cracker.

We looked for somewhere ‘happening’ but Queenstown was basically closed, although we did manage to score a turkey dinner in Abbey Road for $8.95. We wandered back to the motel past festively lit homes. The glow behind each set of curtains suggested they were filled with laughter and love, maybe the odd argument; but overwhelmingly, togetherness. The warm circle of family and friendship.

I tried to phone home, but every call box in town was surrounded by others doing the same. (This was B.C. – Before Canines and PMT – Pre Mobile Telephones!) I resolved to rise with the worms – ahead of even the early birds – and try to call then.

At 4 a.m. on Boxing Day, NZ time, I was overwhelmed with joy to speak to my family, who had just finished making a small dent in a rather large bird.

Just another day?

It can’t be when you know that you’re on the outside: that you’re excluded when it seems the whole world is celebrating.


Up to a million adults in the UK will be on their own at Christmas. There are practical actions that you can take which will help to combat loneliness, which as I discovered to my surprise, really does hit home at this time of year. 

If you are lonely, you are not alone! People do care and there are many organisations and initiatives which may be able to help; 

Published by Jacqueline Lambert @WorldWideWalkies

AD (After Dogs) - We retired early to tour Europe in a caravan with four dogs. "To boldly go where no van has gone before". Since 2021, we've been at large in a 24.5-tonne self-converted ex-army truck called The Beast. BC (Before Canines) - we had adventures on every continent other than Antarctica!

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