The Simple Joy of a Nomad’s Christmas


Like so many of you travelers, we’ve often been on the road over Christmas – whether by plan or happenstance. And over the years we’ve celebrated with a tinsel-covered palm tree in Khartoum, admired a quirky Christmas tree in Larnaca, and popped Christmas crackers in London. For us it’s always been about finding the simple joy in the season.

In 2011 we’d embarked on our second round-the-world journey, and found ourselves in Athens for Christmas. We had also just started blogging, and Gallivance was in its infancy. So please pardon the grainy photos as we share a Nomads’ Christmas.

We wish you a Merry Christmas filled with simple Joy … no matter where you find yourself!

All the best, Terri & James

* * * * *

It’s already Christmas Night here in Athens and many of you are just now rolling out of bed to see what Santa left under the tree. We’ve had a wonderful day, filled with good food, favorite music, twinkling lights, and great conversations. Just like home.

We make ourselves feel at home anywhere with only a few key ingredients: flowers, candles, music, books, and food. Then we add our family and friends – and if we can’t see them in person, we can always email, phone, or Skype.

Our Christmas plans started when we first outlined our RTW back in July. We knew we’d be traveling over the holidays, and decided we wanted to be somewhere chilly but not cold … and in a country that celebrated Christmas. So we chose Greece.

I started looking on the internet for an apartment … and knew it the minute I laid eyes on the little Athens studio. The selling point was that it had a working fireplace – a true rarity in a short-term apartment. Woohoo! Those of you who know James (aka “Pyro”) can confirm that he loves to tend a fire – campfire, fireplace fire, trash fire. You get the picture. There’s nothing that screams Christmas like a fireplace!

James at Fireplace

And although the apartment came complete with firewood, James has been out all week scrounging additional scraps of wood for our Christmas fire. In his opinion you can never have too much firewood. Too bad we haven’t managed to find marshmallows!

Our decorations are super simple. We gathered local greenery, picked up bitter oranges dropped from the trees on our street, and liberated some nandina berries from a vacant lot. Combine these ingredients with candles and a few strings of white lights … and we have Christmas.


We plan to Skype with family and friends later. Right now we’re watching Home Alone on Youtube on the iPad (in 10-minute segments) and eating microwave popcorn. It’s our first popcorn in 3 months – don’t ask what we paid! Not bad for a couple of Nomads!

We wish you a very Merry Christmas!

Peace and Love,
Terri & James


P.S. And Yes, those are snail shells! They’re huge here in Athens and we picked them up (empty) along the sidewalk. Who knew?


We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at

39 thoughts

      1. Thanks Yvonne. We’re still in the deep freeze here as well and hoping for a thaw. But in the meantime, it’s a good excuse to stay indoors and relax. All the best for a good holiday and a happy and healthy 2023. ~James

    1. And Merry Christmas to you as well Kathy. Like most folks we hope for a white Christmas, but this year we got more than we bargained for. Our utility company in KY has warned of rolling blackouts, but we haven’t experienced any yet. I’m sure that when everyone is home for Christmas eve and day, the energy demand will skyrocket even more, and we’ll all be going through blackouts. But if it prevents a massive shutdown we can deal with it.

      Take care, stay warm and have a great holiday. ~James

  1. The kind of simplicity you show here is my preference even at home; it’s all perfectly lovely, although I am a bit envious of that fireplace!

    My best ‘nomad Christmas’ happened the year I visited Salisbury. Although my visit to Stonehenge was memorable, I still remember with a certain glee what happened at the inn where I stayed. The fun began on Christmas eve, when we guests had to rise in the middle of the night to let the innkeepers back in; they’d gone off to a pub and forgotten to take their key. But the best was Christmas morning, when I opened the door to my room to find an orange and a peppermint stick lying there. Santa always knows where we are, and he’s always ready to provide a Merry Christmas!

    1. Lovely story Linda. We lived in London for a few years, and have wonderful memories of our Christmas holidays there. At the time we both fully engaged corporate types, so Christmas for us was a time to withdraw into our cozy cocoon and veg out. Of course, that sounds like a good formula for a delightful Christmas anywhere.

      I hope this Siberian Express is not causing issues where you are and that you have a wonderful holiday. All the best. ~James

    1. Pam, Christmas on the road is always a little strange … in a good way. It’s always fun finding new traditions, and in Athens that was making tiramisu a new holiday Christmas tradition. Take care, stay warm, and have a Great Holiday. ~James

    1. Thanks Sophie. Terri loves using natural decor and found objects in her decorating, and Athens was fertile ground for gleaning. All the best to you for a relaxing and Happy Holiday. ~James

  2. Merry Christmas Terri and James. Wow Athens is a great place to celebrate this special time of the year. Loving your fireplace, keep warm and cozy.
    Best wishes for 2023 😀

    1. Thanks very much Gilda. Our experience with Christmas on the road is that we’re pretty much left to your own devices to find interesting new traditions and search out new solutions to old traditions. And that’s exactly what we did in Athens: great memories.

      We hope that you, Brian, and the family have a happy, healthy, and relaxing holiday as well as a great 2023. ~James

    1. Thanks Anita. We try to make all our Christmas celebrations special, but our holiday time in Athens was particularly memorable. Interestingly, because we were in the middle of an around the world trip and were in the area, we spent Thanksgiving on Santorini, which was also marvelous. We hope that you have a relaxing, peaceful, and warm holiday. ~James

      1. Those are both beautiful places, and were perfect locations to celebrate holidays! I was in both locations back in the 1980s (which makes me feel really old, now! Ha!), and loved them. Enjoy your ongoing travels, and have a Happy New Year!

  3. Happy holidays and an adventurous 2023 to you both! From the moment Terri is fully recovered, I hope you get to embark on that third around-the-world journey and who knows where you’ll celebrate Christmas 2023??

    I’ve spent more Christmases on the road, all over the world, than in Belgium. Good thing that it’s not a big event in my family. 🙂

    1. Leisbet, as you know from your travels, the predominant image of Christmas is commonly a Western concept, but it can be whatever you want wherever you are. A special time together with loved ones is what it’s all about, and we hope that you and Mark are having a great Holiday.

    1. Thanks Carol. It certainly was a cozy Christmas, and I’m wishing for that fireplace now in our tiny little Lexington, KY apartment. All the best for a relaxing, warm holiday and a wonderful 2023. ~James

  4. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to both of you! I hope the blizzard won’t affect you and your loved ones too much. I saw on the news and that is a lot of snow!

    1. Thanks Bama. At our apartment in Lexington, Kentucky we really didn’t get much snow (1 in or so), but the temperatures were absolutely brutal. Our low was -4 F which is -20 C, and the daytime highs barely got above single digits. However, these temps are unusual for us and we’re hoping for a thaw soon. We hope that all is going well for you and that you have a great holiday and a wonderful 2023. ~James

      1. Yikes! That’s really cold! I do hope this won’t last too long and soon enough you’ll get a ‘normal’ winter. I wish you a great and more fulfilling new year too!

    1. Thanks Chris. Our Christmas was quiet and relaxing, which in my estimation is perfect. I hope that you and Sarah have a Happy New year and all the best for a wonderful 2023. ~James

    1. Thanks very much Virginia. These past couple of years have been humdingers, and we’re hoping that 2023 gets back to something approaching normal … whatever that is. We hope that you also have a healthy, fun, and fulfilling year. ~James

  5. This sounds like it was a really sweet Christmas. We’ve also spent Christmas in many different places. I remember a particularly very cold one in Bolivia. This Christmas just gone we were lucky enough to be with family in Australia.
    All the best for 2023 you guys. Let’s hope it’s a good one!

    1. Happy New Year Alison! It’s so great to hear from you. I was just checking in on you a few days ago and saw that you spent a lovely time at home in Australia. That’s wonderful. You and Don look so happy and relaxed. Like you, we’ve also been taking some time off blogging, doing some traveling, and planning our next adventure. It’s a joy to see you back and I look forward to so many more great conversations. Big hug, Terri

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