Cut a hole in a box Make sure you can actually do it. Check the dates, BUY the ticket and make sure you can get to/from your destination. Without this, all the other steps are just duuuuust in the wind.
Step 2: Find an accomplice. (Ron Weasely level) in this case, my older brother was up in the middle of the night (thank you swing shift/young baby) and so I called him and booked it on the phone and we had a 30-second awkward white kids dance party as I got the confirmation email.
Step 3: Misdirection. Here comes the Hermione Granger level–DETAILS. I told my mom specifically what I was “doing” over the break. “A bunch of teachers from here are going to the Philippines and it’s so much cheaper and I can visit a new country and a beach and yaaaay” and I was totally about it. As she said how hard it would be and how she would miss me I said, “yeah, me too but it will be SUCH an adventure, Mom.” The truth is that several teachers WERE going to the Philippines so I got flight numbers, details, etc. from them to pad my throne of lies. Buy all your stuff using a card/account that your parents are not co-signers on since you live overseas.
Step 4: EXECUTE. Sneak up to Seoul for your birthday (True) and fly out (Secret). Tweet nothing. Facebook nothing. Have Philippines teachers tag you in their posts “LOL going on vacay!!!” Land in Seattle and turn off Location Finder and go full-on Airplane mode on your phone. Go ghost. Text Accomplice that you have arrived; he has already
gotten invited himself to dinner at parents’ house. Catch bus. Have Accomplice #2 (sister-in-law) pick you up from bus station. Drive to parents’ house for ‘dinner,’ adding the last push over the cliff text to Mom, “boarding the flight to Manilla, Love you!!” and feel 87% guilty as her reply, “we will miss you but have fun and be safe,” comes back. Have small bubble in stomach as you pass neighbors’ houses. Do not give up now.
Peek head around car and shout “MERRY CHRISTMAS” at your parents who are standing outside greeting Accomplices #1, 2, and Baby Accomplice. Watch their very shocked faces take 3 full seconds to stare at you in the darkness. It will feel like the longest pause of your life thus far. Grow swiftly concerned as mother sinks down to sit on steps and opens her arms because you think “oh my god she’s fainted and this was terrible” but father says “what’s all this?” in that happy voice you know only too well from when he was immensely pleased with you growing up and she didn’t faint but she’s crying so you should probably stop recording this and enjoy the hugs.
Step 5: Bask in the glow of happiness. You are happy. They are happy. The accomplices are happy. The internet is happy for you. The world is happy. Every Christmas song you ever heard was right. Every time you thought about not coming home for Christmas with that peach pit in your gut was right–you’re meant to be here. You might not always have the freedom and funds to do it. But here in this moment, everything in the entire world is gloriously, wonderfully full and whole and perfect.