Travel as the Ultimate Act of Thanksgiving
I've sat down every day for the last five days to write this, but for whatever reason, just could't write it. I considered talking about what I was thankful for and then scratched it. I then decided to write about the people who had made the last year possible and who I was so thankful for and then scratched it. I then decided to write about 10 ways that travel had taught me about gratitude and then scratched it.
And then this morning, I put on Mumford & Sons' new song, Home, on repeat and pulled up a blog post I wrote nearly a year ago, ironically about home and just a couple weeks before Thanksgiving and a few weeks before heading to Central America. I absolutely lost it. In that post, I saw a little boy. A boy who wanted to dip his toes in to feel the temperature of the water, but not jump in. I saw a boy who was terrified, insecure, and unsure of the path ahead.
And so it is, in mere weeks I leave comfort, friends and family to go to a place where I don’t know anyone, have never been and am re-learning the language. It’s daunting and challenging, but I’ve come to realize in life that sometimes the long way home, is the best way home. Ask me again in a couple months if this is the case. It reminds me of the words to one of my favorite prayers: “Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up, that to be low is to be high, that the broken heart is the healed heart”.
12 months later, I'm still terrified and insecure many days and while I'm not sure where the path ahead exactly leads, instead of a boy walking down it with caution, it's more of a skip, kicking my heels up in the air every so often. Instead of reluctantly walking up to the edge and peering over while a couple rocks dribble down the cliff, I see the edge from the distance, get a running start, and jump before the uncertainty and insecurity can set in. While I can't say that it'll have the same effect on everyone, a stint of traveling, living abroad, and moving 2,500 miles to San Francisco changed me. Who I am now, is not who I was then, and as I think about the last 12 months, the feeling that swells up within me more than anything is a feeling of thanksgiving.
A stint of traveling and living abroad did something that I never expected. I expected that traveling would make me happier, broaden my view of the world, and teach me a lot of things, but I never considered that more than all of that, it would give me such a strong sense of gratitude. Before traveling, I was outwardly a thankful person. I was raised to always show appreciation and thanks no matter what the circumstance. However, there's a substantial difference between a demonstration of gratitude and an aura of thanksgiving about you. I was missing that aura. The words came, but there wasn't anything behind it.
One of my favorite books of all-time is a series of books by C.S. Lewis called The Chronicles of Narnia. In the first book, The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe, a family of young children open up this old wardrobe, walking through the back of it, and into this magical world that enlightens their senses. It's a whole new world like they've never experienced that is full of possibilities.
That's how I felt when I stepped foot back onto American soil last spring. Life had previously lost it's luster and had become monotonous. However, the life I came back to last spring wasn't the life I had left several months earlier. I had needed to see that the world was beautiful again, and boy did I see that it was. What resulted was a feeling of fulfillment and gratitude that I had never felt. It's one that thankfully hasn't worn off months later and continues to drive me. Months later I continue to have this sense of wanting to give and love that I may have outwardly said, but never felt like this.
Thanksgiving is tomorrow and Christmas in just a few weeks. I'm not sure I've looked this forward to the holidays since I so eagerly anticipated a Nintendo that I was so sure Santa was leaving me as a child. I'm not too sure why I'm so excited, being that I won't actually be seeing my family for Thanksgiving or Christmas for the first time and don't have any expectations of receiving anything special this year. However, this holiday season I feel like I'm returning back to that since of wonder and excitement I had as a child, but that has often gotten lost in the hustle and bustle and commercialism of the holidays every year as I've gotten older. It's a time for me to reflect on my best year yet, personally thank those that have helped make it amazing, and look forward to 2012. If 2012 is half as good as 2011 was, it'll be a pretty epic year.
THANK YOU. Yes, you, sitting at your computer and you preparing your home for Thanksgiving while reading this on your iPhone. Some of you are strangers, some of you my editors, some of you family, some of you friends. This has been a year of wanting to inspire others while I, myself, am inspired by the world around me and I'm thankful for every one of those that have listened, supported, and shared what I've had to say. I don't know what you have going on in life, but amidst whatever it is, take a moment to think about this year and raise a toast in gratitude, while also looking forward to 2012. Cheers!