My family has created a strong Thanksgiving tradition in the last few years of high school. We always spend it in Bodega Bay, a place we've been as long as I can remember, cooking a smaller Thanksgiving dinner and playing board games and charades.

When I chose a school in New York City, on the opposite coast from my family, I was told, "You know you're not coming home for Thanksgiving, right?" Mostly, this had to do with the fact that we only get Thursday and Friday off, so there's no practical way to fly home for the holiday. My first Thanksgiving away from home was looking like Thanksgiving for one.

All things considered, I got pretty lucky that the place I was stuck in for the holidays was New York City—if all else failed, I could always head to Chinatown for dinner. Even in a big city with lots going on I had to find ways to keep myself excited for the holiday season despite the solitude. 

Do something fun.

I started doing research on fun stuff to do in my area for Thanksgiving, and eventually settled on going to see the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (waking up at 4:45 am to get a good spot on the sidewalk turned out to be totally worth it). This gave me something to look forward to, and I didn't feel homesick since it was something totally different from any of my family holiday traditions. 

A photo posted by Tina Simpson (@ctinasimpson) on

Eat a couple of your favorite Thanksgiving foods. 

apple pie, pie, apple, pastry, tart, sweet, cake
Emma Delaney
I googled the best pie places in the area and browsed the farmer's market until I found a pecan pie that I thought looked good (it was). This was something that was special to a solo Thanksgiving because my sister usually picks the pie and never chooses pecan. This year I got to choose the flavor and have my favorite pie for the first time on Thanksgiving. 

Don't feel too constrained by Thanksgiving traditions.

Obviously, you can't eat an entire turkey by yourself (trust me, I've tried) so don't feel pressure to eat an entire feast by yourself. Pick a couple things you want to eat, like pie and stuffing, and get more untraditional with the rest of the meal. I, for example, ate pizza because I love pizza, and having a smaller meal left lots of room for my pecan pie. 

Let yourself feel lonely, but not for too long.

Photo courtesy of

Yeah, I was sad after I called my parents and talked to my sister. I was bummed that they all got to be together and I was stuck on the other side of the country. I was jealous of everyone who got to eat my mom's cooking and sad because I felt like I was the only person stuck on campus for the holidays. I cheered myself up by catching up on my favorite shows and having some me time without any of my three roommates in the room.

In the next year, make some friends who will invite you home for Thanksgiving.

cheese, bacon
Tina Simpson
Unfortunately, the real problem is that November of my freshman year, all my friends were either traveling for the holidays or I wasn't close enough with anyone to get an invite home. Next year, start early and drop hints that you can't go home for Thanksgiving. Hopefully, you've made some real friends, like I have, and they'll take pity on you and invite you to come home with them. 

I'm glad I had my solo Thanksgiving, because I got to change things up and spend some time doing the things I love. Whether you are having a classic suburban Thanksgiving or Thanksgiving on campus, be sure to fill your day with yummy foods and things that make you happy.