5 Ways to Practice Gratitude Through Travel

It’s the time of year where the weather shifts, the days shorten, and there’s a natural inclination to turn inward toward friends & family and life comforts. Thanksgiving is upon us along with the holidays that follow, and with the celebration comes the questions about what we are thankful for, and why. As we reflect inwards it's the perfect opportunity to unpack and turn over the amazing -- and sometimes amazingly difficult -- moments that we experienced in our travels, and conjure gratitude for both the wondrous places and people we experienced as well as the indispensable lessons that the challenges taught us. Whether you’re on the road this season or taking a break before next year’s travels, now is the perfect time to practice the gratitude the travel teaches us.

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Slow down

Being on the road – whether a rapid fire city hop or a beachside vacation – still involves its fair share of long flights, late trains, inclement weather (talking to you, Sahara sand storm!), or long queues to get in to that touristy-must-see. These moments give us an opportunity to practice gratitude and just “be.” Meditate on what you’re grateful for and make peace with the stillness. As you travel, instead of planning your trip to fill each minute, allow yourself the downtime and peaceful moments to simply kick back and take it all in. It's often those experiences just sitting at a cafe, people-watching and writing your thoughts in a journal that bring us the strongest feelings of fulfillment, awe and appreciation for the moment we're in.

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Reframe

Travel mishaps are bound to happen, like that spilled hot chocolate – in my lap – on my last layover in Paris. Though it was inconvenient and messy (no extra pants in my carryon!), the older gentleman was terribly sorry and at the end of it I was just grateful it wasn’t my computer. Though perhaps not fun in the moment, these situations give us the opportunity to be mindful of how we react and to reframe a negative experience with one we can learn or even laugh from. Being outside of your daily routine in unfamiliar places, executing new experiences and exploring a new culture gives us so many opportunities to turn potential 'lemons' into lemonade - a great skill to practice on the road in those moments, and then apply to life back home. 

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Listen

When we travel, we step out of our own cultural norms and perspectives and into the world of another. The truths we hold and values we share can vary from place to place, and the best way to understand them is to listen. Not sure you agree with someone? Instead of arguing your position, ask questions about why they feel the way they do. See what insight you can gain just by listening.  There is a unique and beautiful perspective that travel allows us to gain about our world, the people in it, and our similarities and differences. 

Go Beyond Your Limits 

Being away from home, from routine, from your comforts is an instant upset to both your body and mind and more often than not, your spirit rises to the challenge. Didn’t think you could cycle 740 km across two countries in Asia? With the right bike & support, good company, lots of laughter, and copious amounts of Cambodian iced coffee, maybe you can! Or maybe you had your doubts about traveling solo to Europe for the first time, like one of our travelers did this year did.  She went for it, and loved it so much she’s already making plans to come back next year. Don’t be afraid to let travel push you out of your comfort zone, the reward is just on the other side.

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Learn & Grow

We can’t stess enough that travel is the door to global perspective, and that travel itself is a privilege no matter what kind of budget you’re on.  This season reflect on the moments that elated or challenged you in this year’s travels, from the times when you were awestruck and filled to the brim with your fortune like that incredible sunset, those friendly locals you met and spontaneously hung out with all day, or the bucket list site or destination that you finally stood in front of…as well as the times where road weariness hit or an experience wasn’t what you expected. How did that provide growth in your life and what can you do with that in the year to come?

Photo credits: Jim Hill