Don't Visit Your Family on Thanksgiving
I have one very special
To get this out of the way up front, my refusal to depart the city limits for the holiday has nothing to do with my family. They're great! And I'll be seeing them in less than a month, when I take another very-expensive cross-country flight to visit them for a longer, more leisurely stretch of time at Christmas. Dealing with the significant hassle and expense of visiting them for two days-just a month before I'm scheduled to visit them for an entire week- would be a fool's errand. For what it's worth, my parents agree with me.
Even if your family lives closer than a 3,000-mile, $700 flight, if they're anything more than a short subway or car ride (60 minutes maximum) away, you can bet that getting to them will be hell on earth. To wit:
And that's to say nothing of the rampant drunk driving that takes place on and around Thanksgiving. Wouldn't your loved ones prefer that you stay where you are, and well away from dangerous, overcrowded highways? You can see them another time, when your safety won't be quite so compromised.
Which brings us to another point: the Wednesday before Thanksgiving has become known as one of the heaviest drinking nights of the year, when people get uncomfortably too-drunk with old friends (or enemies) at their hometown bars. Do you really want to put your emotions and your liver through that kind of stress? Much better to stay behind and have a low-pressure time with the other people who have opted not to travel for the holiday weekend, who've undoubtedly banded together while everyone else rushed out of town (see also: staying in town for 4th of July or Memorial Day Weekend). And if you're not subjecting yourself to holiday travel hell, the night before Thanksgiving is also very fun for dates.
But this isn't a practice specific to getting in and out of major cities. No Travel Thanksgiving first started my freshman year of college, when it was simply too expensive to fly from the Midwest back to the Pacific Northwest for a lone weekend-much of which would have been taken up by the cumbersome, unpleasant trip itself. Instead, I stayed behind in the dorms with the other west coast stragglers, going to $3 movies at the local theater, polishing off jugs of cheap wine, and over the years, perfecting the art of piling leftovers from the (shockingly delicious) dining hall Thanksgiving into Tupperware for our later use.
The holiday has taken on a different tenor since moving to New York post-college, but unlike friends who might be facing down a fraught time with their families, Thanksgiving as a free agent has never been anything other than great. Crashing someone else's Friendsgiving? A slam dunk every time. One-on-one restaurant Thanksgiving with an old friend? Laid back and perfect. Joint Thanksgiving with my roommates and neighbors? A huge success for several years running! Party hopping from dinner to dinner? Roll me into a cab and I'm there. Tagging along as a straggler invite to someone's family dinner? Cozy and drama free, and even if there are family fights, you don't have any skin in the game. Pour another glass of wine and wait for it to pass! Once the whole thing's done, instead of struggling to find mutually enjoyable movies and battling Black Friday crowds for the next few days, you'll be facing down a three-day weekend during which you can get ahead on holiday shopping, or do whatever you damn well please. No one will be guilting you into anything, thanks.
Counterintuitively, I'd venture that loner Thanksgiving has the potential to make you a better person, as well. Thanksgiving wasn't a huge to-do growing up-usually just our nuclear family-and having varied, somewhat random Thanksgiving experiences every year has made me much more open than I'm normally prone to be. Most of the time, I'm a little bit of a fussy asshole when it comes to who should be invited to what. (One wrong person can throw off the entire vibe!!! ) But on Thanksgiving, all bets are off-total strangers, someone else's weirdo relatives, even friends' unpleasant partners get a pass for the day as we all jumble together for what's theoretically a "family" holiday. So much generosity (of food and of spirit) has been extended to me as the Thanksgiving Rando that, in turn, I find myself wanting to extend that to others.
Granted, a lot of it this is predicated on my own Thanksgiving experience, but unless you live in the same city as your family, or Thanksgiving is one of the biggest gathering days of the year for you and yours, I'd urge you to at least consider canceling the trip. Tell your family you love them, rustle up some last minute plans with your friends, and book a date to see your family at a cheaper, lower-stress time of year. Your holiday will be much better for it.