I have a confession… I’m a little homesick at the moment. Not pack-it-all-up-and-go-home homesick… it’s just that in a few hours my friends and family will be getting together around their tables with turkey, mashed potatoes, and (if you do Thanksgiving right) the kind of cranberry sauce that comes from a can with the little ridges. And I won’t be there. Don’t get me wrong… I’m so happy to be in Thailand. It’s an incredible country– it makes my top 3– but it’s just hard being away from loved ones at the holidays.
This year, instead of watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, I’m in Chiang Mai watching a different kind of hot air balloon at the Loy Krathong “Fancy Hot Air Balloon Launch.”
And instead of eating turkey with family, I’ll be eating bugs and durian (the stinkiest fruit in the world). Ok.. maybe I won’t be eating those, but you can see video of me trying each of those things here.
So instead of getting down about the lack of cranberry with ridges, I think it’s a good time to reflect on the past 3+ months (can you believe it’s been that long already!?) and share some of the things I’m thankful for:
- The kindness of strangers. I think there’s a lot of fear associated with the idea of travel– especially solo travel– but I’ve been blessed with meeting the most amazing people along the way who have given selflessly and for that, I am so grateful.
- My very first week away from home, a new friend from the Pueblo Ingles program gave me her season ticket so I could experience my first Real Madrid game.
- An old neighbor of one of my best friends invited me to stay with her family in Abu Dhabi and showed incredible generosity in taking me around and sharing a taste of that beautiful city.
- After paying extra for an audio guide in Pompeii for being alone, one restaurant I wanted to try was closed and the pizza restaurant wouldn’t seat me as a single since it was a busy night. At this point, I was pretty over being a solo traveler and decided to just go back to my room. The owner of the hotel (surprised at seeing me come back so soon) heated up a breakfast for dinner feast and we chatted for the next hour. He’s been one of my greatest encouragers.
- Amazing volunteer opportunities and learning about new cultures from locals.
- Helping with a grape harvest and learning how to make wine was one of the things I was most excited about when I began this trip… and it was even better than I imagined! Guido was an incredible host, an amazing teacher and a pretty darn awesome wine-maker!!
- Kirsten and Pascal live in a beautiful villa in Tuscany, and I feel lucky they chose me to help with the olive harvest. The special touches that they took to provide a fun harvest included a trip to see the olives be pressed, ravioli and tiramisu lessons and impromptu Prosecco toasts after the harvest.
- New friends from around the world. I’ve met some of the most amazing people as I volunteer and travel, and each has taught me something that I carry with me.
- The awesome Kiwi I met in Seville who was just as excited as I was when we found gummy bears the size of our hand just after eating “Seville’s best ice cream.” She has gone out of her way to help me find possibilities for employment in New Zealand.
- Another great Kiwi in Rome. We fended off selfie stick salesmen as we watched an All Blacks game at a local pub and he taught me the Kiwi lingo so I’ll fit in once I get to New Zealand!
- A fun Russian who invited me, within seconds of meeting, to join her and her friends for a pastry at
- Lots of American WWOOFers who I’ve stayed in contact with– one of whom I’m participating in an online bookclub with and others who keep in contact regularly on Facebook.
- An American from Nevada who I met in Lisbon and has sent all kinds of helpful suggestions for Thailand, New Zealand and recommended my new favorite photo-editing app– Snapseed!
- So many amazing Spaniards and English-speakers from around the world through Pueblo Ingles…. seriously… the best people.
- Sweet artisans who share their craft and make me want to be more creative with my hands. I met Gaetano D’Esposito in Sorrento while searching for a nativity scene (I collect them from each country I visit). He’s an artist who has been creating delicate pieces of art out of wood for the past 60+ years. His wife proudly showed me newspaper articles written about Gaetano and his daughter runs the store next door where some of his designs are sold. He gave me some of the most beautiful ‘scraps’ as a gift, and showed me where he does his work.
- SO SO many more. I could fill an entire website with the amazing people I’ve met on this trip.
- Old friends abroad.
- I’ve been so incredibly lucky to have friends who love to travel and adventure! So far, I’ve seen a friend from college who was in Florence with the band he works with and a sorority sister in Florence because it was near a stop on the cruise line where she works.
- One of my dearest friends from high school is in culinary school in Florence and she graciously let me sleep on her pull-out chair while I was in town. She also shared Scout, her dog, when I missed Cooper (yes… that’s a dog in church!)
- A sweet friend from my mission trips in Kenya who invited me to stay with her as she visited her aunt and uncle in Germany. We had a blast exploring, trying the beer at Weltenburger Kloster (the world’s oldest monastery brewery), and helping her aunt and uncle throw a baby shower. (I think we’re doing it wrong in the U.S.– this shower lasted over 6 hours, had multiple cakes and a full dinner… So much fun!)
- A friend from college came to visit me in Thailand and we had the best time petting tigers, riding elephants and going whitewater rafting!
- Old friends at home.
- I’m so thankful for all of my friends who check in regularly. I love hearing about new boyfriends and new jobs, seeing kids in Halloween costumes via FaceTime, and hearing all about everyday life. I miss y’all so much, but I’m so glad that we’re able to maintain our relationships even though we’re half a world away!
- And of course family!
- I’m thankful for your support, encouragement and daily Cooper photos. I’m so excited to see y’all in less than a month!
- One last thing I’m thankful for? $5.59/ hour massages in Thailand– can you guess how I’ll be celebrating today?
I hope you have so much to be thankful for this year and that you enjoy a little extra mashed potatoes and cranberry with ridges for me!