For most people, celebrating Thanksgiving away from home is weird and depressing. There’s no family, no football and no turkey, and considering I’m currently in South America, it’s 100 degrees outside and there is ne’er a brown leaf in sight. But for me, it’s made me take pause and make me realize just how lucky I am to have the opportunity to spend this holiday so far away from my family (even though I love them, and don’t even mind the fact that my mom burns the turkey almost every year).
Living and traveling full time has changed my perspective on a lot of things, and made me realize just how much I have in my life that I have to be grateful for. I’ve never had to worry about having a roof over my head or enough food on the table, let alone that I’m able to live out I am so, so grateful for this entire experience, something that I am fully aware is “once in a lifetime,” and that most people don’t get to spend an entire year living and working around the world. I’m also so, so blessed to have a family (and friends) who have been so supportive, and to have had a dad who pushed me really, really hard and made me realize that my dreams could be more than just dreams (Dad, thanks for forcing me to go to grad school. I’m grateful for that, too).
This afternoon, I’m going to celebrate Thanksgiving with 40-something people who have become my second family over the course of this year. We’re going to down 17 Asado chickens—turkey isn’t a thing outside of the US, apparently—and whatever other “traditional” foods we’ve managed to whip up with what was available to us at the bodega (I made pumpkin pie empanadas). Then, we’re going to go around and tell everyone what we’re thankful for. Because they’re definitely not going to let me talk for 45 minutes straight, here are 11 things that my year as a full time traveler has made me thankful for.
I once heard Remote Year referred to as “Travel with training wheels,” and truer words have never been spoken. I’m not going to pretend my experience with RY has been perfect (it’s still technically a startup, and we are literally *living* in its growth phase), but I will say that the ways its made my life easier have been immeasurable. As promised, they’ve provided me with accommodations in 12 cities, and dealt with all of the travel in between, but there are so many other things they’ve done to make my experience seamless all over the world. When I land in a new city and want to find somewhere to eat? I look at the Remote Year map. When my air conditioner/WiFi/shower breaks? I email Remote Year, and it’s fixed within 24 hours. When I want to meet a local or have some sort of outside-of-the-box experience in any given city? Remote Year has me covered. I’ve become really, really spoiled by the RY way of life, and am really thankful to the company (and my program leaders) to helping ease me into the digital nomad lifestyle.
I have a confession to make: I haven’t seen cold weather in 10 months, and it has been awesome. I’ve been living with aperpetual tan and 6 sundresses, and have never once had to worry about going outside with my hair wet. It also means that I don’t have to worry about paying overweight bag fees, because summer clothes are a lot lighter than winter ones. Florida peeps, you may be on to something.
A 2-hour Time Difference
After working overnights in Asia for four months, followed by a weird 6:30pm-2:30am schedule in Europe, I am over-the-moon thankful for the fact that I now get to work normal hours. I get to go to dinner with my friends, actually *sleep* when it’s dark outside, and then wake up and have some semblance of a morning routine before 9am. It’s the little things in life.
Free WiFi in Airports
As a traveler, there’s a certain rush you get when you land in a new city for the first time. That rush is *immediately* replaced with straight-up panic, though, when you realize you have no data and no idea where you’re going or how to get there once you’ve gotten through baggage claim. Shout out to the airpot cafe in Sofia, Bulgaria that let me sit there for 45 minutes while I frantically tried to figure out where my apartment was.
Tampons With Applicators
… You would be, too, if you spent 10 straight months without them.
You guys, the world is an unbelievable fucking place. I have seen so much beauty this year, it’s overwhelming to think about: The glaciers in Iceland. Iguazu Waterfall in Argentina. Rila Lakes in Bulgaria. The islands in Thailand and Cambodia. The beaches in Portugal. Then, there’s the manmade stuff: Angkor Wat. The temples in Myanmar. The churches in Eastern Europe. The Batu Caves. I am so lucky to have gotten to see as much beauty as I have this year, but the only problem is that it’s made me realize how much more there is to see…
Bikini Waxers Who Speak English
A month in Cambodia’s got nothing on 35 minutes at the hands of a non-English speaking waxer. There are few things more traumatizing than being yelled at to “flip and hold” in a language you don’t understand. Trust me on this one.
So, So Many Apps
Uber (because trying to communicate directions in a language you don’t understand is damn near impossible), Duolingo (for attempting to learn said language), Google Translate (for when I’ve given up on Duolingo entirely), Penzu (for when I need to write down my frustrations), Headspace (for when not being able to communicate gives me a borderline nervous breakdown) and One Second Every Day (so I have a daily video to remember it all — the good, bad and frustrating).
The Entire 4 Months I Spent In Asia
There are some experiences in life that you don’t realize are valuable until they’re over. This was not one of them. Every single day that I lived in Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand and (especially) Cambodia, stretched me in ways that have changed the person I am today. There were a lot of moments that were really fucking hard (like the weeks I spent with no internet, AC or shower curtain, or when I couldn’t figure out WTF to eat for a month), but there were so many more moments that were absolutely incredible (sunrise at Angkor Wat, the Full Moon Party in Thailand, every single meal in Vietnam) and that’s what I remember. In fact, if anyone wants to spend a few months of 2018 bopping around Asia with me… LMK.
How did I live 26 years of my life without these glorious things? I don’t even care that they’re making me fat. They’re that good. I’m also grateful for dumplings, Malbec, and Whole Foods grapes, and for the fact that I somehow never got sick off of Asian street food.
I’m going to really, really try not to get sappy here, but more than anything this year I’ve been thankful for the group of 65-ish misfits I’ve been traveling with. This experience would not have been anything without them, and I feel genuinely blessed to wake up everyday surrounded by so many people who I genuinely love. To the people who have been there for me through some of the shittier days this year and somehow still managed to make me LOL, the friend who checks on me on an almost daily basis to make sure I’m eating, the friend who brought me empanadas when I was literally sobbing in my bed, the friend who never judges my weekly Sunday life crises (and who may or may not agree to run off to Bali with me for the foreseeable future), and the friend who has been there for literally all of the above (👀Lauryn Bassett)… I am so overwhelmingly grateful for every single one of you. Thank you for making this the best year of my life.