Living far away from your family means that sometimes your strength and persistence will be tested.

It’s Christmas 2014 and I am in Montreal. A cold wind is blowing, the sky is grey and it’s raining. I wander rue Sainte-Catherine, watching people with shopping bags rushing from store to store. I already bought my gifts in the Yukon and sent a package of birch syrup, candies and souvenirs to my family in Germany.

Last night I checked the flights to Frankfurt. They are too expensive, and I know it would be unreasonable to fly to Germany spontaneously. For a moment the urge to pack my bag and travel home is strong like the wind in the streets of Montreal. Then I remind myself: tomorrow, some relatives will pick me up in Montreal and we will spend Christmas together.

Back in the Yukon I hadn’t much planed for Christmas and suddenly I realized that some of my friends had already made their plans and were travelling to go see their families. So I asked my second cousin, who lives in Ottawa, if he and his family would adopt me for Christmas. They agreed to include me in their plans and meet me in Montreal where they had a family gathering on Christmas Day.

I am an independent person and I have travelled a lot, but there are moments when I wish I could just go home for a visit, to have Sunday dinner with my family like we used to do when I lived just a drive away. But now I live a 10-hour flight away.

People sometimes asked me what my folks say about me living far away from them in the Yukon. The truth is, they are supportive, because they know that I am living my dreams in Canada.

But back to last Christmas in Montreal.

My relatives picked me up and we had a nice family dinner in a fancy restaurant. They introduced me to other distant relatives I had never known, and we all enjoyed a big celebration. I felt good about being part of their gathering and being treated like a special guest. While we ate our soup I realized that if I had flown home for Christmas, I wouldn’t be a guest for long. Maybe for one day and then everything would be back to normal.

There would be lots of food, lots of talking, maybe some misunderstandings, arguments and boredom.

With my second-cousins I was treated as a special guest who had to tell some tales from the Yukon, where my relatives had never been. It was an extraordinary holiday for me and I am very grateful that they adopted me.

Living away from my family is actually a blessing for me, because I can appreciate them more when I see them. I can now enjoy spending quality time with them since we seldom see each other.

Everyone has their role in a family, but being away in a foreign country shows you that you are much more than what your family (or anyone else) thinks you are. You develop skills like flexibility, courage and independence.

At the moment I get to enjoy my family’s company every day here in Germany, before I go abroad again to Namibia. There I will be working for a German Newspaper until my return to the Yukon in March. Another Christmas away from my family.