chiang mai flower and garden festival 2020

Gratitude During Uncertainty: Thankful for Travel

Before I start, here’s my disclaimer: I know that our global pandemic is an enormous problem. There’s the primary pain of loss of human life due to the illness, and thousands of secondary pains to medical workers, small business owners, local restaurants, wage workers, and so many more. I’m not celebrating by any means, and I ache for the many people who are suffering. But I can’t change our current reality, so I’m practicing gratitude for what I do have.

During the past week of isolating at home, I’ve been savoring the memories of all the faraway places I’ve been able to visit. The privilege to travel is one we don’t have right now, but that helps to remind me what an enormous blessing it is, and I’m so glad I’ve explored so much of the world when I’ve been able.

Planes are magical. I read a lot of historical fiction, and whenever I read about immigrants at the turn of the 20th century, leaving their families and homelands forever as they board a ship for a months-long voyage, I think of how incredibly fortunate we are to be able to travel as rapidly as we do. It’s something we take for granted, even complain about. My journey to India took around 30 hours each way, and yes – it was brutal! But the privilege to travel around the world and return within the same month is unheard of in most of human history!

flying over the arctic circle: a white wonderland

This is a picture of one of the most breathtaking things I’ve ever seen. I was on a plane from Newark to Tokyo, somewhere about 10 hours in, and cracked open my window shade only to be blinded by the white landscape below. We were flying over Siberia, and I stared for nearly an hour as endless mountains of snow and frozen rivers passed below us. It was clear that this vast landscape was uninhabited, perhaps barely explored, and most likely ever changing with the winds and snow. I still can’t fathom the scale of it all. It was so barren, so frigid, and so beautiful.

This week, I’ve been cooking some of my favorite foods from my favorite places. Nothing transports me back to Thailand like a hot bowl of Khao Soi, started with a packet of curry paste that I carried back from Chiang Mai. I even made my own sweetened condensed milk to add to my Thai iced tea (yes, that one’s the real deal). The spices, the flavors, exude vivid memories of my day of learning to weave, or my delight at wandering the Jim Thompson house, and I can’t help but be filled with gratitude for the chance to have had those experiences.

sunny day in tokyo - japan wearing face masks before it was cool

I may be stuck at home, but with a cupboard full of spices and a phone full of photos, home doesn’t feel so small. I have the power to make home whatever – or wherever – I want it to be, and for that I’m grateful.


  • Mama

    I love these photos!! Siberia looks amazing. So glad you opened your window shade to take look outside! I feel so fortunate that I was able to join you on some of your travels and looking forward to more adventures. 🙂

  • Julie Clayton

    Hey, Sam! I love the Jim Thompson house too! The olive green Thai silk of our duvet cover came from the official Jim Thompson fabric store (elsewhere in Bangkok — did you get there?). Of course, I can’t claim to have sewed the duvet cover myself; instead, I took the fabric to a seamstress in Lampang, the city we had live in when we lived in Thailand. With my very modest Thai language skills and some dimensioned drawings I made, they were able to create a beautiful bed covering that we still use to this day. So maybe I didn’t make the bedspread, but when I say I made the bed, what I mean is that I *made* the bed. Built us an awesome platform bed if I do say so!

    • Samantha Sews

      I did go to another Jim Thompson store so I bet it was the one you’re talking about – they had a “clearance” floor which was much more enticing than the offerings at the tour house 🙂 That’s so cool that your duvet’s silk came from there, and that it was custom-made just for you! What a special item to always remember your time in Thailand. It must have been so amazing to live there.
      And you built your bed?? That’s amazing! Way more impressive than making a duvet, I’d say. I’ve actually been thinking of trying to build a bed for our next house… I always love the Crate & Barrel style platform beds and they are, mechanically speaking, very simple in design… you’ve just helped my motivation for sure!

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