At age 25, leaving home felt like a basic survival challenge, and I most appreciated those things (caffeinated beverages, earphones, online banking) that made the journey easier.
But growing older in the world – with the world – creates a respect for things less tangible. The sort that make our journeys more interesting (chatty Uber drivers, misguided map directions, crowded street festivals), but not necessarily more simple.
Now, my gratitude spins from the recognition that both easy and intricate pleasures deserve a “thank you.”
A traveler can always be thankful for:
- The thousands of travel apps that create an open world.
- The opposable thumbs that shut off travel apps, push the phones into back pockets and grasp the world in tech-free ways.
- Blank notebooks.
- Hand sanitizer.
- Passport stamps, those magical tattoos inking our route.
- Travel food shows on TV. (For all those times that your kitchen is as far as you can afford to go).
- Farmers markets and night markets and craft markets…
- Empanandas, ramen, injura, fried plantains, and all those favorite foods from countries only visited through a menu.
- Postage stamps. Assuming folks still send paper postcards these days…
- And house swaps.
- And everything else we exchange on the road: stories, phone chargers, snacks, bed bugs.
- Suntan lotion.
- People who don’t speak fluent English.
- Inspirational travel words that only exist in another language.
- Complimentary samples at Duty Free.
- Stainsticks. #mybestfriend
- Trains. Even the slow ones.
- Color-coded public transit maps.
- Portable chargers.
- Spare change. (Because when I think of a cashless world where no one will ever hold a peso or rupee again, it just sounds boring).
- Dry bags.
- Travel music playlists, and the hours spent creating that perfect list for each new journey.
- Friends that visit you in faraway places.
- And folks who are happy to hear your “That reminds me of this one time…” tales, even if they’ve never joined you anywhere outside of your own hometown.
- Public parks and green spaces.
- National parks and campgrounds.
- Every place where you can witness a wild animal – in the wild.
- Bug spray.
- Airlines that still give out free snacks.
- Down jackets and duvets.
- Snorkel masks.
- Reusable water bottles.
- People who hug. Especially strangers.
- Families that travel together.
- Every bed you’ve ever slept in.
- Universal expressions of gratitude, as straightforward as a smile.
- And a home to return to – where someday, a decade later, you’ll span through an old album and memories will wash over, erasing wrinkles and worries and recalling that you have been somewhere…
What’s on your list of things to be thankful for?