Travel, for me, is a way into the soul of gratitude.
I am at that age where people are starting to slow down. Lest you think I am in my twilight years, I will tell you that I am 35. And lest you think that I am delusional, let me back up my claim.
The thirties are a decade sandwiched in between a lot of movement. In the thirties, at least in my circles, people start to plant. They plant relationships and jobs and kids. The gallivanting seems to be in limbo, ready to pick up once things are “settled.” (I have heard the word “settled” a lot in the past few years, especially as many people don’t think I have enough of it in my life.)
While I watch all the rooting around me, I have had time to reflect on how awesome all of my travel experiences have been. How the snoring man in the hostel in the Czech Republic made for fantastic travel fodder. How the lizard that lived in my bathroom in Thailand turned from something that kept me up at night to a valued roommate. How when my friend’s grandmother suddenly wouldn’t let me stay with her in France because I was an unmarried woman travelling alone, I found a fantastic wine bar and had an incredible time.
Travel from our past and our future often gives us great memories to return to when we are still. Whether we are still because of illness, or age, or circumstance, we can go back to the bank of the memories that were great and horrible but always vivid. It is hard to forget the color of the ocean the first time you see it.
Long after I have returned from any trip, when my bags are unpacked and I start using full-sized bottles of shampoo, I find that my daily gratitude always increases substantially. Sometimes it is for the simple things, like how great it feels to sleep in my own sheets with a cuddly cat after weeks on the road. Sometimes it is for the way my partner kisses me when we are away and we don’t have to argue about who puts the dishes in the dishwasher. Sometimes it is for the fact that I noticed so many sunsets and flowers when my mind had the chance to be free, that I can’t stop noticing sunsets or flowers even when my life gets busier.
Talk to an elder and they will talk to you about the moments in their lives that held great significance. Wars, marriage, moves and travel. These stamp onto our heart even when we must sit still. Moving and being in a new place makes you see the beauty in stillness. It is difficult to have one without the other. The contrasts of life help us to see the remarkable in the everyday: the moments that are not in polar opposition to one another but rather simply in the middle.
While my passport gets a little less use than it used to when I was on the road every two weeks, I get to reflect on how lucky I am to have seen different corners of the globe and met people that have taught me how to love the whole world. Even home itself is a slippery construct, but travel, for me, is a way into the soul of gratitude.