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Spending the holiday season overseas is something my family has had the privilege of doing in recent years and I absolutely love it.

There is something to be said for a traditional Christmas at our Michigan home. We open presents next to a fire built by my mom and everyone helps cook a big meal (often a Southeast Asian meal) before we go see a movie together.

But being at home we all still have our usual distractions. In fact, the afternoon on Christmas Day often feels like any other day off.

Waking up in an exotic destination like Cape Town on Christmas morning cuts out distractions that come from checking our phones, email, and social media. All of our focus is on enjoying each other’s company in a new and fantastic place.

This is not the family’s first time to Cape Town (I spent a semester at University of Cape Town and a few years prior we vacationed in South Africa and concluded the trip in this beautiful city). But this is the kind of place you can return to again and again and still find new things to experience.

We’ve rented a beautiful Airbnb in Bantry Bay that is located on a running/walking path that in one direction leads to the beach and in the opposite direction leads to Sea Point (full of shops, restaurants, bars, and cafes). The living-room windows look out to the Atlantic and the sound of seagulls and crashing waves continuously fill the space.

I’m sure what I have just described doesn’t fit your stereotypical visions of Africa or even South Africa. It’s important to note that Cape Town is very distinct from the rest of South Africa and South Africa is distinguished in its own ways from the rest of the continent. The South African population is 8% white. That’s it. Looking around at the demographics of Sea Point or Bantry Bay, however, you would never guess that.

Throughout my international upbringing my parents worked extremely hard to make sure my sister Grace and I truly got to experience the culture and life of the places we visited. We never stayed in all-inclusive resorts and avoided touristy areas. If we did stay in hotels we would then shop and eat almost exclusively at places frequented by locals. These experiences are what give travel its true value.

On this trip we have obviously gone in a different direction focusing on comfort and fun. But in just over a week we will be returning to our more usual travel methods in Ethiopia.

This holiday we are deciding to celebrate by just enjoying one another’s presence in this beautiful place. Instead of a traditional gift exchange we shopped the Watershed at the V+A Waterfront to find one treasure for each family member (with a limiting budget of 100 ZAR or $6.83 to spend on each person).

Christmas Eve activities will consist of Afternoon Tea at the Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel. We will spend a leisurely two hours sipping teas from around the world and eating scones, finger sandwiches, mini desserts - the works. Tea will be followed by a Christmas Eve service at a local church (Fun Fact: 86% of South Africans are Christian).

Christmas Day plans begin with exchanging the little South African gifts we all found for each other and then venturing out to Cape Point, the second most southern tip of Africa. I find immersing myself in nature to be incredibly spiritual. The world is awe-inspiring and diverse, so what a better time to enjoy and explore it than the holidays?

Finally, following tradition, we will end the day with a movie (my vote is for “The Grinch”).

There is something so special about being at home on Christmas. But the level of presence that being in a foreign place demands is sacred. And for me, that’s something I treasure having on Christmas Day with the family.

Happy Holidays to everyone no matter what or where you are celebrating!

Check out this Christmas Day photo gallery so you can enjoy the beauty of Cape Point along with us.