In an attempt to come up with something creative and witty for Kaleidoscopic Wandering to celebrate Thanksgiving, I ended up walking back to the usual cliche of why I’m thankful. But who cares? After all, isn’t Thanksgiving about getting back to the roots of what defines us as people … our family and friends, remembering the past and making memories to enjoy in the future, feeling extreme joy and great depths of sadness. For me, this is when I think about years that have gone by and what has made them significant, forgettable, outstanding, frustrating. Who and what gets a nod for all that I’ve become and all that I’ve done? What am I really thankful for this year?
> First and foremost, I’m thankful for my parents who set the travel bug free in me at a very young age. I was always encouraged to ask, explore, wander, go, be and see. Together, we sang golden oldies driving through Iowa in the middle of the night, collected national park passport stamps and visited sites in a number of U.S. cities. They encouraged me to travel wide and far and never, ever hesitated to support my decisions in traveling time zones away from home to attend college or live and work abroad. Dad and Mom: Your unforgiving support and encouragement is something for which I will always be thankful.
> I am thankful a million times over for having a husband who is supportive of my job and frequent trips to awesome locations far from home. He takes a lot of flack about ‘letting’ me travel on my own, but he has never, ever suggested that I give it up. I am also thankful that he loves to travel and is always up for an adventure during his vacation time. We’ve created some awesome memories on the road together. Cory: I couldn’t ask for a better travel companion. Every trip with you is an even better adventure than the one before.
> Some of my favorite adult travel memories come from the trips I’ve taken with my one and only sister. She works so hard and it always breaks my heart to see her stressed beyond belief, but my memories of the two of us laughing and chatting and trying new things we when travel remind me that under that hard-working exterior, my little sister can still be found. Rebecca: We need to get back on our annual routine of traveling together. It really is a highlight of my year.
> It should go without saying that I am incredibly thankful for study abroad programs that encourage students to travel and live in a different country. I am a different and better person today than I was four years ago, and that’s because of the absolutely incredible teenagers who have walked into our lives and left footprints on our hearts through their foreign exchange programs. A, M, S, C, N and L: It is not easy to travel far from home at such a young age, and I admire you all for doing something that most people wouldn’t be able or willing to do. Thank you for sharing your lives and traditions with me. I love you all more than you can imagine.
> My dear fellow travel writers and photographers have no idea how thankful I am for their companionship. Being a writer can be a very lonely job, but having a network of friends with whom I can swap work and travel stories can help a lot. When I’m feeling like the only one staring at a computer screen, trying to figure out how to summarize a ten-day trip into 800 meaningful words, or it’s a race to the deadline for me and a guidebook, these are the people to whom I turn. There are several of you out there and you know who you are. I am unbelievably thankful for you. Without you, I would have given in to the pressure and gone back to Corporate America long ago.
> Las Vegas is a hot spot for travelers, and I am thankful for all my family and friends who I get to see when they pass through each year. Three cheers for awesome vacation destinations!
> The United States has a wretched public transportation system, but I am thankful that I can travel nonetheless. I have no problem getting in the car and traveling for hours upon hours if it means reaching a certain destination. I also appreciate living in a place with an efficient, effective and accessible international airport. Despite the fact I’m not such a fan of flying, I am very thankful for air travel. Without it, my passport would be embarrassingly naked.
> Which leads me to my passport, one of the few items I own that I can not live without. My passport is like freedom to me, so I’m thankful the government shutdown didn’t massively impact the renewal of my life line this year. I can go anywhere I want as long as I have that little book in my hand.
> And thank you to the many people around the world who have welcomed me into their countries, included me in their traditions, shared their food and language, taught me about their cultures and encouraged me to share my experiences with others. Thanks to travel, I have friends in dozens of countries and their friendship continues to expand my worldview.
Happy Thanksgiving and safe travels to all of you!