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Giving thanks on the road: Putting it down to experience.

Posted on Nov 21, 2012 | 9 Comments

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’m not much of a holidays person – not if you compare me to my sister Brooke, that is.

The girl has socks with candy corn and candy canes on them, sees minor occasions such as Flag Day as equally worthy of celebration as Easter or Halloween, and when it comes to spreading Christmas cheer, gives Buddy the Elf a run for his money.

There’s only one holiday I approach with such passion: Thanksgiving. It is, hands down, my favorite holiday – and not just because I get to eat my weight in pumpkin pie without judgment from others or guilt from myself. [Okay, maybe a little guilt…]

But seriously now, what’s not to love? It’s got all the family get-togetherness of Christmas, all the glorious food one could ever desire, and everything revolves around that little something called gratitude.

“That’s all that makes it Thanksgiving, just a little bit of gratitude,” my friend Erin rightly said last night to a fellow American traveler we met in Agra’s train station. Last Thanksgiving – which happened to find me in Sri Lanka – I gave thanks for the people who had made my time on the Subcontinent so meaningful.

This Thanksgiving, I want to take a different approach and focus on the experiences I’m most grateful for this year – both for the trips themselves, and for the people I would never have met if I hadn’t been a part of such experiences:

1. Snowboarding in Sweden.

When the invitation came for a media ski trip to Åre, Sweden, this March, I jumped at the chance. While strapping on a snowboard for the first time since New Zealand was thrilling, getting to hang out with journalists from national UK publications all weekend was just as rewarding.

Giving thanks in India

A little après-ski action on our last night in Åre.

2. Caminando el Camino.

Starting out on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail in Spain this April, I mistakenly thought I was hitting the trail for me. What I didn’t know awaited me on the Way was a cast of other pilgrims who would make me laugh, think and cry my way to Santiago, one bloody blister at a time.

Giving thanks in India

Our pack of pilgrims huddling in the rain at the Catedral de Santiago.

3. Bonding at Book Passage.

Whether it was meeting many of my travel writing heroes or bonding with other writers at the start of their careers, my weekend in San Francisco at the Book Passage Travel Writing and Photographers Conference was the perfect bridge between my summer at home and this year in India.

Giving thanks in India

Our pre-conference writing intensive with instructor-extraordinaire Don George.

4. Running with rickshaws.

If you’d told me this time last year I would be working for The Adventurists, I’m not quite sure I would have believed you. And as fun as it is to document the antics of the Rickshaw Run, both in India and Indonesia, another serious perk of the job is meeting loads of fellow adventurers.

Giving thanks in India

Rickshaw Runners – past and present – in front of Jaisalmer’s Jawahar Niwas Palace.

5. Journeying with Jeevika Trust.

I always look forward to my field visits with UK-based charity Jeevika Trust – not only to re-connect with colleagues from the London office, but to spend time with village women I would never have met otherwise. And who doesn’t love being kissed by a goat?

Giving thanks in India

My colleague Judith and I adopt a few goats with village women in Orissa.

So even as I mourn the pumpkin pie I won’t be having here today in Delhi – and more importantly, my family I won’t be sharing it with – I’m still incredibly grateful for the various experiences this year has brought me, grateful for the way each has been a portal into some pretty brilliant new friendships and connections.

As Proust himself wrote, “Let us be thankful to the people who make us happy.” 

Happy Thanksgiving! What are you giving thanks for today?

  • Wonderful article, C. I completely agree that travel is made by the people you’re with, you bump into, you make a connection with. Ther’s no other kinship like it.

    I’m looking forward to doing the Camino this summer, so any tips, especially in regards to packing, are welcome! Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Thanks so much, Cat! I love that word you use, kinship…it’s really a perfect way to put it. And I’m delighted to hear you’ll be hitting the Camino trail next summer! I could wax on way too poetical about how fantastic it is, but I’m sure you’ll discover it soon yourself 🙂 I think you might know of my friend I did part of the Camino with – Erin Ridley, who blogs at La Tortuga Viajera? She wrote a Camino packing list after we finished that pretty much covers it: http://www.latortugaviajera.com/2012/05/camino-packing-list/ Happy Thanksgiving to you, too, and Buen Camino!

  • The older I get, the more grateful I am for having the chance to get older. I am grateful for making connections, for learning over and over again that we’re not all that different from each other. And I can’t lie, I love me some pumpkin pie!

    One of my 2012 highlights is definitely Pueblo Ingles and meeting you and the rest of the crew. Even from half a world away, you continue to inspire me, Can Dance. 😉 much love to you, always.

    • Thank you for such a lovely note, Margi. I couldn’t touch on everything here, but yes! Pueblo Ingles was another massive highlight from this year – I’m so grateful to have met everyone, but especially kindred spirits like you and Terri. Wish you could join us in Delhi in February 🙂 Much love to you as well, and Happy Thanksgiving!

  • jen

    That is a goat that you are holding. Nothing makes me happier than that.

    Our thanksgiving is in October, but Lindsay had me over last night for a big feast and it was delicious. I was thankful for that – 2 Thanksgivings that I get to celebrate. Also the fact that it was Friday. And payday. The small things, you know?

    • It IS a goat and I’m pretty sure I haven’t been that happy in a while too. I’m jealous you got to have two Thanksgivings this year! One of these days I need to celebrate a Canadian Thanksgiving 🙂

  • I hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving, Candace. It was a pleasure meeting you at Book Passage. Looking forward to crossing paths with you again!

    • Thanks so much, JoAnna! How was your Thanksgiving? I’m really glad our paths crossed at Book Passage as well, and look forward to hopefully getting a chance to chat more at next year’s 🙂

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