I’m currently sitting at the kitchen table of my childhood home, reflecting upon the upcoming holiday and all the things I’m thankful for. There are so many things that it would be impossible, and very boring for you, for me to count them all.

Instead, I wanted to write on a subject I think about often: how travel makes you thankful.

Posing with thanksgiving paper turkey
Yay, Thanksgiving!

Because of the holiday, I’m using the word “thankful,” but I could just as easily use grateful or appreciative. I’ve written about travel and gratitude before, and in my opinion, they’re pretty much bff.

I believe that traveling changes you in a lot of ways, with one of the most important being that it makes you more appreciative of your own life and home.

Travel makes you realize what you have

If I had never traveled, I’m not sure that I would be as at peace with my life right now. When you travel, you are thrown into an unknown, and often that unknown is missing things that you take for granted.

Thanksgiving hand-turkeys drawn by Korean students
Thanksgiving hand-turkeys drawn by my Korean students.

The brilliant Joni Mitchell sang, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone?” Traveling gives you the opportunity to see what life is like with certain things gone.

When you travel somewhere else, no matter where it is, there will be certain conveniences, foods, and people that won’t be there. Whether it’s something big or small, you can bet that the next time you return home, you’ll be more appreciative of it.

I’m always thankful for Wednesday-before-Thanksgiving parties at my house.

What travel’s made me thankful for

Talking and being understood. Only having to worry about the material in my classes, and not the language they were taught in. These were things I never thought about until attending a public high school in Switzerland, where all of my classes were in French. When I think about all of the students who are struggling with both English AND coursework, I feel so thankful for the fact that I was able to attend most of my schooling in my first language.

Cheese at Dimarco Bros in Philadelphia
Cheese, glorious cheese.

Cheese. I would never have recognized my insane addiction to cheese had I not lived in Korea, where it’s difficult and expensive to buy. I still walk into the cheese section at my grocery store and smile while fondling gruyere, manchego, and extra sharp cheddar.

Western toilets. After spending any significant time in developing countries without Western toilets, I guarantee you will never look at a toilet in the same way. Public bathrooms that have sinks, soap, toilet paper, AND paper towels? Heaven.

The right to walk around, uncovered, and unaccompanied by a man. When I traveled to Jordan, I was shocked to see how few other women were out on the street. During the day, at night, period. (It’s not against the law there, but it’s far less common than in the States.)

Streets of Amman, Jordan
Not too many chicks cruising the streets of Amman.

Not having to worry about my next meal, or about getting to school each day. That definitely hit home after I traveled through Tanzania and Kenya, volunteering at an orphanage and a community center.

So, the stove in my Alaskan apartment made an awful noise, and my oven didn’t have any numbers on it (true story). I’m thankful for the fact that I had an apartment, and food to cook in it, unlike many people across the world. I’m thankful for the fact I was in Alaska, because how cool is that?!

Break out of the bubble

I’m not a good or reflective enough person to have thought twice about these things had I not traveled somewhere without them. Traveling makes you realize what’s wonderful about a place that you know, by showing you a place that doesn’t have it.

It puts everything in perspective.

View from the top of Dude Mountain, Ketchikan, AK
Break out of the bubble!

Can’t or don’t want to travel? Though that’s been how I’ve grown thankful, somehow breaking out of your everyday bubble is more important than traveling internationally.

If you don’t have the opportunity to travel abroad (and even if you do), there are many other ways to do the same thing. Join CouchSurfing and attend a “meet-up” in your town to meet people you normally wouldn’t. Ask a bookstore employee to recommend a book that changed their life. Search Netflix for a totally random documentary to watch.

Or, in my opinion, the best choice: volunteer in your hometown. Through these types of activities, you’re bound to gain new perspectives, which will hopefully lead to a more thankful life.

This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for travel… and all the things it’s made me thankful for.

Your turn! What has travel made you thankful for?