Growing up in Kansas, the holiday season was always a time of intensity and stress. Big family gatherings meant lots of arrangements, presents and preparation, plus in our family of mixed religious backgrounds, we always ended up trying to celebrate a little bit of everything – but I never felt like we fully landed on anything.

When I went to college and my parents moved to New Zealand, all of this came to an end. Now the holidays were about the winter break from classes and long distance phone calls – definitely less stressful, but also less celebratory.

Now that the move has become semi-permanent, my parents decided that my brother and I should get one annual visit each and this year we’ve all ended up in the same place for Christmas again, albeit halfway around the world from where we used to be. It’s been odd to listen to Christmas music with the windows open for the breeze, or to walk down the block looking at holiday lights in shorts and sandals.

But there’s huge rewards for if you can make the “difficult” adjustment : it turns out there’s nothing more relaxing or more joyous than a family Christmas picnic at the beach.

This post has been entered into the Grantourismo HomeAway Holiday-Rentals travel blogging competition