When I was a child growing up in London in the 80’s and 90’s, I’d never heard of Thanksgiving.
Except possibly in a passing mention of the Pilgrim Fathers who sailed across the atlantic in junior school history class. Perhaps it’s not entirely coincidental that the British paid little attention to this American Holiday.
As the years have gone on, and particularly in the last few years, my awareness of thanksgiving has grown. Thanks to American friends and former colleagues, thanks to Facebook, and thanks to the globalisation of… well, everything.
I may not be eating Turkey or even Pumpkin Pie today, but I am now much more appreciative and aware of this American holiday (and yes I’m also very grateful for those black-friday sale discounts, which seem to be available worldwide now) because of that reminder that it serves us. The reminder to be grateful. A simple, but incredibly powerful tool I find, but one that’s also exceptionally easy to forget.
So without further ado, in the spirit of gratitude, here’s what travel has made me thankful for over the last few months.
- Travel has made me thankful for the ‘small’ things. But actually, it turns out that the small things are maybe not so small. Such as: being able to drink water straight out of the tap. Such as: being able to wake up to stable electricity and wifi. Such as: being able to skype with friends and family. When we’re on the road travelling to more ‘adventurous’ places we can’t have these things all the time. Sometimes for months on end. So it’s the small things that can mean the most day to day.
- Travel has made me thankful for life’s fleeting nature. Impermanence. Change. The only thing we can be sure of in life is change… in meditation, mindfulness, Buddhism, or any type of eastern philosophy this is one of the central teachings. And in travel I find that we see it the most. We meet people who change our experience along the way… whether for a second, a minute, a week or much longer, we pay attention to the small encounters which change our reality. When things don’t go as we’d like, we know that with travel that we can just move on, that it won’t stay that way forever. And equally, we have to leave places and people behind.
- Travel has made me thankful for vulnerability. And trust. Even with the best preparation in the world, when we journey to somewhere new where we don’t know the language, our way around, and are not familiar with the culture, we trust those that we meet. We don’t have any other choice. I think about that every time I get in an uber or taxi in a new country. The media in general make it out today that we shouldn’t trust anyone, but I find the reverse to be true. I’m not encouraging naivety, but I find that the more we trust people, the more our trust is repaid.
- Travel has made me thankful for what I have. I’m pretty sure this goes for everyone. I may not have much with me when I travel (my backpack is pretty small at 40L!) but it makes me realise how lucky I am. To have had the luck to be born in a country where I got a passport that allows me to travel freely through the world. To come from a country that provides good, free education and healthcare. To come from a country that despite its flaws and current political woes is a democracy.
Above all I’m thankful for the people that work in responsible travel, who continue to inspire me on a day to day basis. These are the people that care about the future of our planet, and the future of travel & tourism, and make steps every day—from small steps to giant leaps—to make progress forward and continue to push the responsible tourism agenda. I’m grateful for the inspiring accommodations and tour companies that I’ve found and worked together with in the last few months. I’m thankful to myself for taking the step to leave my office job and follow my passions through this blog. And even more importantly… I’m certainly thankful to you if you’ve made it this far in my post!
And the part I didn’t expect?
I have a whole new definition of ‘Luxury’. Since being on the road, luxury has a whole new meaning to me, and I’m grateful for that. It ties in with point #1—being thankful for the small things. Luxury for me now is having my own room (vs dorm rooms), not having to re-pack my backpack every day and being able to linger longer in places. It’s having clean sheets and having a soft towel. It’s being able to find vegetarian food to eat. It’s waking up to warm sunshine or having a coffee, and being able to carefully plan where to responsibly travel to next.
Thank you for reading, and Happy Thanksgiving!
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What are you grateful for this year? Is travel in your plan? I’d love to hear in the comments below.
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