This article originally ran on November 18, 2016; the message is timeless, and we look forward to sharing it every year at this time. Happy Thanksgiving!
“When you rise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love! And then make that day count.”
– Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free
Thanksgiving weekend is considered to be the heaviest travel weekend of the year, but it’s different from most travel.
For most people Thanksgiving is a special day once a year for spending time with family or close friends. It’s not necessarily a trip back home in the geographical sense, but it’s a journey back home for the heart.
Most importantly, it is a day set aside for gratitude, and that is a beautiful thing. Being grateful is one of the best things you can do for yourself, and one of the easiest ways to improve your life.
“When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around,” said Willie Nelson. When I heard that from Willie, I started to keep a Gratitude Journal.
I’ve seen the same basic principle stated a hundred different ways. Gratitude is the fundamental spiritual act. I claim no authority for this, but I have a feeling that gratitude is the foundation stone upon which all religions and spiritual practices are built.
An old maxim says, “Gratitude is riches and complaint is poverty,” and I have seen that principle in action. The simple act of being thankful is its own reward.
Traveling with the Half Full Glass
The principle certainly applies to travel. To a large extent your attitude will determine whether or not you will enjoy your trip.
Travel is a paradigm of life itself. We are all travelers here on this journey through life. The same principles apply to a trip as to the journey of life itself.
The attitude of gratitude is essential for getting the most out of traveling. It allows you to return to the state of mind of the very young, for whom all experience is new and thrilling. And if you are truly open, you will see that every day, every trip and every experience are truly once in a lifetime.
If you can appreciate all that you have received just by being alive, then you put yourself in the receptive frame of mind to appreciate all the good things of life.
The Mirror of Positive Thinking
In Norman Vincent Peale’s 1952 book, The Power of Positive Thinking, he described being approached by a 52-year old man who was despondent and in “utter despair” saying he had lost everything. Everything he had built over a lifetime, he said, had been swept away.
“Everything?” Peale asked.
Yes, everything, the man said. “I have nothing left at all. Everything is gone and I am too old to start again.”
Peale felt the man’s judgment was clouded by a sense of hopelessness. He proposed an exercise in attitude adjustment. He handed the man a sheet of paper and told him to write down “the values you still have left.”
“It’s no use,” the man said. “I told you. I have nothing left.”
“Let’s just see anyway,” said Peale. “Your wife? Has she left you?”
Well, no, the man said. Come to think of it, she was wonderful and wouldn’t leave him no matter how bad things got.
“Well, let’s put that down,” said Peale. “Got any children?”
Turned out that, yeah, he had three wonderful kids and in fact they had all come to him and told him no matter what happened they would stand by him.
Peale continued. Friends? Well, yes, actually some really good friends.
“How about your integrity? Have you done anything wrong?” Peale asked.
Seemed he was okay in that regard.
“How about the United States?” Peale asked. “Do you think it’s still in business and is still the land of opportunity?” That man had to admit that he still believed that was true.
Peale had made his point. The man had actually revealed to himself that indeed he did have many things to be grateful for.
When you are knocked down, gratitude can be the first step toward pulling yourself back up.
Grateful for Travel
One of the things I am most grateful for is travel. Travel has always been one of my favorite things, so any time I am able to fulfill that wish I am deeply grateful.
Traveling heightens my appreciation of the world, and I carry that feeling back home with me and I find it enhances my appreciation of things at home I may have taken for granted before. And that effect accumulates over time, creating an increasing appreciation of the world I live in.
A trip doesn’t have to be to a distant exotic place to be a great adventure. The adventure is in discovering something new. The new may be closer than you thought. Ask all the Americans that are discovering America’s national parks for the first time. Travel helps you realize that the adventure, the thrill, the novelty of travel is available to you in every moment of life, if you are receptive to it.
Gratitude is essential to living a full and happy life, and it certainly applies to travel. Travel is a metaphor for life. Each trip has its own life cycle from birth to death. A trip is a miniature version of the journey of life. What applies to a trip applies to life in general and vice versa. And it is certainly true that cultivating an attitude of gratitude enhances the pleasure and enjoyment of traveling.
I have seen the principle in action hundreds of times over in my casual observations of travelers. The attitude you bring to it has a tremendous influence over how much you enjoy it. You could go so far as to say it determines it.
And it works both ways. The excitement and novelty of new experiences on a trip help open you to the enjoyment of life, and you can carry that feeling with you when you go back home. Then you may be able to look upon your experiences at home with the same passionate intensity you bring to a trip, and become more aware of the novelty and fascination that exists around you when you are home as well. And then the enjoyment of travel never ends.
But what takes you to your spiritual home more than anything are the gestures of gratitude from your own heart.
On that note I wish you the happiest and most abundant of Thanksgivings.
Your Humble Reporter,
A. Colin Treadwell