'Tis the season! For many people, this weekend will include loading up the car or rushing to the airport to catch a flight back to their hometown. Whether you've been away for five months or five decades, the experience of going home for the holidays is joyous, complicated, sweet and surreal. To help you navigate this weekend, we put together a list of 5 Commandments of Going Home for the Holidays:
1. Thou shalt shop at local businesses.
Whether you're doing last-minute Christmas shopping, an afternoon of boutique browsing with your siblings, or are just in dire need of a coffee after a red-eye flight, prioritize local businesses over national chains whenever possible. Locally owned businesses keep towns and cities alive, bolster the local economy, and help create stronger communities. They also face immense competition from big box stores this time of year and would be thrilled to receive your business.
2. Thou shalt not take the political debate bait.
We all have a few family members who are a little too excited to bring up a controversial topic at the dinner table. Come prepared with a few quick and easy lines to re-route the conversation to a topic less likely to end in tears and estrangements. Here's our current favorite conversation starter.
3. Thou shalt dine at thy favorite high school lunch spot.
If the restaurant you loved most in high school is still open, consider yourself very, very lucky, and make sure to set aside an hour to treat yourself to a throwback lunch. For me, this place is Phil's Subs in Forest Grove, Oregon. Every time I'm home, I make a point to eat there at least once, enjoying the rush of nostalgia, a chat with the owners, and most importantly, a small "warhead" on wheat with extra peperoncini. I'm drooling just thinking about it.
4. Thou shalt take notes.
Do you come from a small town and live in a big city now? If so, coming home might provide insight into the unique ways people in small towns look out for each other. (The flipside of that coin? Nosy neighbors!) If you're coming home to a big city, you might revel in the art and culture available at your fingertips. Coming home to a rural area might be a breath of fresh air (literally).
Pay attention to the things that appeal to you about your hometown, and think about ways you can bring some of that inspiration back with you. A trip home can be a potent reminder that you need to spend more time in nature, or get to know your neighbors, or simply appreciate all the amenities available to you in your current city or town, because they're not available everywhere!
5. Honor thy hometown in all its imperfections.
Returning to a place you left is a strange experience. It often feels like you've changed dramatically while everything else has stayed exactly the same. This makes it easy to focus on all the reasons you left, or all the ways you see the place stagnating. If you can, try to see your hometown or city with fresh eyes. The things that once felt stifling might feel comforting now. The things you ran away from might charm you.
Alternatively, the flaws you saw growing up might be even more obvious and painful now. Just remember: for better or worse, the place you're from helped make you who you are.