There's another way to spend Thanksgiving that could provide spontaneous adventure for the long holiday weekend: spending it with friends.
Friendsgiving — being with friends on Thanksgiving instead of traveling home to be with family — has grown in popularity over the past few years. For many people in their 20s and 30s living independently, immediate friends become a second family. Add the stress and financial cost of Thanksgiving travel to the stress and emotional cost of holiday drama, and it's clear why so many people are opting to celebrate with the family they choose.
Trading obligation for adventure: Long-distance trips increase by 54% during the six-day Thanksgiving holiday weekend, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. In 2012, 44 million people traveled during that weekend, most by car but 10% by train, bus or airplane. Traveling during this time is already hectic, but doing it to spend time with friends instead of family can turn an otherwise obligatory trip into an adventure.
"When you spend holidays with your friends, everyone goes into it with low stress, low expectations, low pressure, which makes the whole experience a bit more smooth," Ariel Cohen, 23, told Mic. "There can be pressure around spending holidays with your family for some people."
Instead of going home, many people are choosing to do something more spontaneous with friends domestically. Kaveh Sadeghian, 25, and a friend are skipping Thanksgiving meals on Thursday and traveling to the Catskills from their homes in New York City to go hiking.
"There's obligation after obligation," Sadeghian said. "Even going to Thanksgiving dinner is an obligation. For me, this is an opportunity to be able to take ownership of Thanksgiving again."
With little time to break from work and other responsibilities, Sadeghian wanted to take the day to reflect outside instead.
"The point of giving is to gain perspective, take a second, step back and be thankful for what you have," he said. "For me, the best way to do that is to not make giving another obligation but to actually go out in nature and gain some perspective."
A Nordic Thanksgiving: Cohen has spent the past two Thanksgivings traveling to new places with friends. Both times, she was living abroad, so it didn't make sense to buy a plane ticket back to the United States for a few days.
While living in Tel Aviv, she went on a trip with her boyfriend, who was able to get away from work in the states and meet up in Norway. No one was celebrating Thanksgiving there, but they found a different way to spend the day.
"We went on this long hike in the woods, and, afterwards, we went to this mountaintop cafe and ate a bunch of apple pie," Cohen said. "We were like, 'Oh, Thanksgiving! Apple pie! We're doing it!' And that was really fun."
Justin Miller, 24, has spent three Thanksgivings with friends. His siblings are spread out and his family doesn't celebrate the holiday very much.
"I really enjoy spending time with my friends and learning more about their families," Miller said. "It's always a home away from home, but a home that I get to learn and explore more."
He's spent Friendsgivings in Charlottesville, Virginia, New York City and, this year, Texas. Miller will be visiting the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and he'll stay on a ranch with friends he lives with in New York City.
"I'll be spending time on two ranches this Thanksgiving, where I will be trekking through mud, woods, riding on four-wheelers and even hunting javelina hogs," Miller said.
New traditions, new takeaways: Miller found spending the holiday away from his family to be refreshing.
"Growing up, Thanksgiving was kind of the same routine at home," Miller said. "But spending time with friends in new places, doing new and exciting things, proves to be quite the adventure."
For Cohen, the globetrotting Friendsgiving was a chance to visit places she had never visited before. The fact that Thanksgiving was not a holiday in those countries turned out to be an opportunity to start new traditions.
"It makes you bond much closer with friends to do something you would normally do with your family but instead choose to do with them," Cohen said. "Traveling around and spending Thanksgiving with people who aren't my family, but still having a good experience, made me realize that it's about spending the holiday with people you care about."