What I’m Thankful For

November 28, 2009

I started this on Thanksgiving, but some old friends came into town yesterday and decided I needed a Thanksgiving party, so Mexican food, tequila and mezcal, dancing all night, and the drunkest acapella Elvis cover band in the world substituted for family togetherness and turkey. Kind of. Anyway, here’s what I started yesterday and neglected to finish until this morning:

I’m sitting on the hard tile floor in a mildewed dark room next to the only working outlet in this hostel that is also within range of wifi. My family and friends are several countries away, and on this day of family togetherness and giving thanks, I’m nursing a head cold and surrounded by strangers. Nobody aside from Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, so as you might guess I’m a bit out of my element today.

Making things harder is the fact that I’ve drifted far enough away from everyone I love that they aren’t really able or willing to contact me any longer. The last time someone outside of my family called me or emailed from back home was weeks ago. It’s not them – I don’t usually have a phone, and I’m far from the most communicative person anyway. Still, it hurts a bit when your good friend sends you an email and you realize you can’t remember the last time that happened.

It’s my fault – I’m the one who left, I’m the one who isn’t close, or a part of your day to day life, and I like to think that people do still think about me from time to time. Even if they don’t, I still have things to be thankful for, and this seems like a good day to reflect on them a bit.

First, the stupid material shit – I’m thankful for my little laptop, the eee I’ve had traveling with me all over Central America. Sure, she’s been more weight in the bag, but I couldn’t write or blog at all without her. Plus, it’s always nice to have a lifeline back home. Likewise, I really appreciate every single thing I still own, and that isn’t a lot. I’ve given away everything that doesn’t fit into my backpack or messenger bag, and as I do so every thing I still have becomes all the more precious. My 4 changes of clothes, 5 pairs of underwear, 6 pairs of socks are each valuable to me, each special in a way that I never understood before they were all I had. My mementos of this life, coins, bits of wood, shells, twisted metal parts are all imbued with memories. Really, if you carry everything you own around on your back all day, each thing takes on significance – this is my machete, it keeps me warm in the woods – this is my sleeping bag, it lets me sleep anywhere I choose – this is my headlamp, it lets me see, and so on. I’m thankful for everything I have.

Even more, I’m thankful for what I don’t have – my lack of a career, steady housing, a life plan, a car have all become precious gems, points of pride, and signposts that give evidence that I’m moving toward something better then what I had before. I take ridiculous pride in how much I don’t have, don’t need, don’t want even. I’ve found joy in not having, in giving away, in doing without the unnecessary. The other week I gave away almost 50 pounds of gear – clothing mainly, but also boots, a backpack, gloves, hats, books, everything. I haven’t bought anything I didn’t need for a while now, and I’m thankful that I’ve come to this realization of how little I truly need so early in my life. It would be much more difficult to live my life if I’d gotten deeper into the consumption game before I got out.

That’s what I’m most thankful for today – I’ve gotten out, torn myself free of a life I was terribly miserable in, and found a way of living that makes me truly joyous. I smile all the time, laugh genuinely, give hugs and kisses to people I don’t even know. I make friends every day, some of them for life, and get to experience a world completely alien to most of the people I know. I’m thankful for my Spanish – I can communicate with people I would never have otherwise met, learn about their lives, beliefs, hopes, dreams. I’m so thankful that I was right, that people everywhere are the same, all wanting and needing the same things – it’s one of the bases of my whole world, and sometimes it is quite nice just to be correct for once! I’m so incredibly happy to be living here, in this strange yet welcoming land, in another language, another culture, and still share moments of deep understanding with people of all stripes. From crossing cultural barriers I never knew existed before finding them to meeting, befriending, and sometimes dating people of very different worlds then my own, I’ve done a whole lot of growing lately – a trend I’m happy to be pursuing further.

Lastly, well, no, not lastly but lastly for now, I’m thankful to everyone who has made my adventures possible – from Sjoerd, Dan, Becky, Seth, Veronique, Marc, Matt, Karina, Vish and all of my traveling companions to the countless friends I’ve made, there are so many people who have made my life the better simply by touching it. The people I’ve left at home have been so good as well, especially my mother, who lives the most hectic life yet still manages to send me touching emails, and my father, a man who has fought so long to live life on his terms and is beginning to see the returns he deserves. I owe my existence to them, and am so lucky that they raised me in a way that has allowed me to become the person I am – did an excellent job too, I should add. Then there are my brothers, K2 and 3, who I see growing up and developing into themselves. It was incredible to call my family on Skype and see a DIY halfpipe in the backyard, then to realize that my youngest brother is taller then I am! Without the support of all of them, and my good friends too, I’d be so much lonelier out here. I’m thankful too that I can call home and everyone I know seems to be doing well, or at least, putting on a good show of it. Sure, I come off as crazy to most, but just having you there makes a hell of a difference.

So that’s it I guess – it’s been a tough year, but I’m better for it, and falling into this strange and wonderful life seems to be the reward. I don’t know how long I can keep it up, or how things will go tomorrow even, but in the present moment I’m fulfilled, lacking nothing essential, happy in every way, and in love with the world I inhabit. How can I not be thankful for all of that? Happy Thanksgiving to you all stateside – a day late and probably more then a dollar short, but I wish everyone the best anyway. Ciao! -k


One Response to “What I’m Thankful For”

  1. Jancie Says:

    I sincerely hope you keep all these posts, get a publisher, and publish these essay’s into a collection of your life adventure and realization. You truly have a gift here K~and a chance to make a real contribution to those who need it! J

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