Thanksgiving is only a couple of days away and I think it is an important time for reflection. I am thankful and grateful for many things in my life...including travel. Travel has opened my eyes to beauty, other cultures, food, celebrations, and new experiences. Travel has given me many moments of awe and taken my breath away. Travel has also given me moments of fright, uneasiness, confusion and frustration. Each of these moments has been a learning experience and has made me a better traveler, if not a better person. I'm not going to get all philosophical here, but I do want to highlight some of what I am thankful and grateful for from my recent travels.
Don't judge a book by its cover. I had only visited the Caribbean a few times before last December and had always visited lesser known islands in an attempt to stay away from the most touristed islands (Cayman Islands, Dominican Republic, Jamaica...to name a few). I thought even if the beaches are gorgeous, why would I want to be on one with hundreds of strangers?? Not my thing. Everyone has different tastes and this isn't mine. Until it kinda was :) A friend said "Let's go somewhere next week" as she was switching jobs. Never one to turn down travel, I started to explore our options. Not willing to spend $$$, Jamaica kept coming up as a reasonable option. My friend had never even been to the Caribbean, so we were in the same boat about thinking it wasn't for us. Then I found a smaller resort called Sunset at the Palms in Negril. The rooms were like tree houses and the grounds looked like a botanical garden. There was a private beach and they used local ingredients for all of the food and drinks. There was an open air spa. It was not gated and guests were encouraged to explore the island. Hmm...not sounding so bad. Long story short, we decided seeing each other was more important than the destination and why not chat on a beach?? I came in with no expectations, but my experience completely changed how I saw the island. There is something for everyone---for me a small resort, for others that might be a large, all-inclusive resort. I am thankful for the reminder to keep an open mind.
Open your eyes and take it all in. I was looking forward to seeing Halong Bay in Vietnam and was not disappointed. As I mentioned in another blog post, our time was going to be cut short due to an incoming cyclone (hurricane), so we only had one night on the boat instead of two. I tried to savor every moment and enjoy the time we did have, but it was hard to silence the disappointment of "but I want more time". I was taking photos until daylight ran out and I thought, what if I didn't even get a good photo? The voice of many years of yoga teachers were in my mind saying "live in the moment", but sometimes that is more challenging than others :) I went to dinner and enjoyed conversation with our new friends and drank some wonderful French wine. We had been in Vietnam for 3 days and been going like crazy, so we had mostly been sleeping through the night with hardly any jet lag. Well, for whatever reason, that night I woke up at 1am and was wide awake. I tiptoed to the balcony as not to disturb my husband (something else to be thankful for....a spouse that doesn't wake you up when one of you has jet lag!). The sea was still mostly calm and the karsts (the limestone formations growing up from the sea) were eery shadows in the night. In a good way :) It took my breath away. It was if I was on another planet. So serene...the literal calm before the storm. While I would have never asked to not be able to sleep from 1am until around 3-something, I am so thankful for the experience it gave me. I finally could just sit and take it all in and appreciate the beauty.
Friends that travel. I am so thankful and grateful for my friends, family and clients. I learn so much from them everyday. You may be wondering what a candy bar has to do this with thankful sentiment?? Well, this summer I spent time with a friend who had just visited Norway just before I was heading there. One reason we are friends is we both love to eat...and try new food in each place we visit. Somehow the conversation turned to this "amazing chocolate bar that was so much better than a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup". Now that is a statement! I wasn't going to visit Norway without finding this spectacular treat. So, while I spent most of my time appreciating the beauty of Norway and hiking (and hopefully burning off a calorie or two), I did have a bit of time before my fjord cruise so I started to explore all of the little stores. Let me say, Norway has many, many products with both chocolate and peanuts (or peanut butter). I didn't try them all and texts to my friend never quite confirmed if I had in fact found the "one", but it is a wonderful memory of my trip and I'm smiling thinking about it now. Thank you all for being in my life.....and for my clients, I'm thankful you allow me to help you plan your traveling adventures :) Happy Thanksgiving!
Tracey is the owner of Unraveled Travel and has traveled to every continent except Antarctica.