• Travel

    Gratitude During Uncertainty: Thankful for Travel

    chiang mai flower and garden festival 2020

    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.