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7 Ways Travel Makes Us Grateful

Luke Armstrong | Dec 21, 2020

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7 Ways Travel Makes us Grateful for What we Have

Gratitude is a gift we give ourselves. Without needing to attain more than we already have, gratitude paints what we do have with a new shiny coat. So as you read this article, you can increase what you currently have simply by taking a few deep breaths, bringing a smile to your face (not a metaphorical smile, a real physical smile!) and appreciating all the blessings you were born into.

By getting out and seeing the world, we have a wistful opportunity to take note of things we previously took for granted. Just by being able to travel, there’s a lot to be grateful for. Here are seven ways getting out and seeing the world can make us grateful.

1. Grateful we can fly in an aluminum tube 30,000 feet in the sky ... possibly with WiFi and maybe a glass of wine.

I kinda hope you’re reading this article in a plane, connected to the Internet, with wine in one hand and a tea in the other. Tea was once a luxury that few outside of The Orient could get their hands on. Ditto wine for commoners. And flying—FLYING—the stuff of birds and legends!

I forget to be grateful for it sometimes too. Sometimes I forget flying is anything but a big hassle—long-lines at ticketing, ever-increasing baggage fees, passing through the rushed,  de-shoeing tension of security, canceled and delayed flights—airports and airlines seem to give us plenty of reasons to fly off the handle. And sometimes we do. We’ve all seen our fellow travelers break down over seemingly trivial matters—usually the final straw in a tortuous day of tough travel.

But when I remember to plug into the energy of gratitude—wow—we’re flying folks! We in the sky! We can go from from UK to NYC in a workday! We can get from NYC to LA in four hours. We can escape the cold of winter and go to any beach in the world.

But wait, you must have to be the king to ride one of those aluminum birds of the sky, right? No friend, that’s what I’m trying to say! Ordinary citizens—cashiers and cat ladies, fast food workers and people with only a basic YMCA membership—we all ride the skies together! So the next time you’re sardined into a tiny seat with a baby screaming somewhere behind you, remember how fortunate you are to be there. Few in the history of humanity have ever ridden such improbable skies.

2. Seeing less fortunate makes us see clearly how We ARE the fortunate

My three-year-old niece has a mountain of toys in her basement. My brother and sister-in-law’s language of love is giving, and my nice has gotten a lot of love in the form of material things!

I met a boy in Kenya her age whose only toy was a rusty spoon he loved to dig in the dirt with. I know some kids in Guatemala whose only toy was a deflated soccer ball.

Odds are, all of us reading this, and certainly the guy writing it, were kids who grew up with all sorts of toys. We then grew up to be adults with all the possibilities.

So let’s give ourselves the gift of gratitude for all we have. Thank you, we can say to our electric razor when we shave. We can open our fridge and conjure a feeling of gratitude that we have fresh food from around the world at our fingertips in our world.

Travel puts us face to face with the disparity that exists in our world. But this doesn’t need to make us feel guilty. Guilt has never helped anyone. But it ought to make us feel grateful. Gratitude is a mindful practice. It’s a practice because it’s not something we perfect, it’s something we take time for each day and allow it to grow.

Every traveler has their own personal encounters to draw on to remind us how good we have it here in the developed world.

3. Travel makes us grateful for tap water

In my base in Guatemala, no one drinks the tap water—usually not even the locals (only the locos do).

Most of the world has unsafe or potentially unsafe drinking water. So unless you’re from North America, Europe, Australia, or a handful of other countries where tap water is safe, getting drinking water is an ongoing hassle. When I’m back home in the US, it’s such a relief to brush my teeth from the tap, open my mouth in the shower,
and drink from a hose—all absolute luxuries we rarely take the time to appreciate because drinkable tap water is a reality most of us were born into. So go on, fill up a big glass of water, take a deep breath of gratitude and down the glass with a big smile—because hey,  you can!

4. Travel makes us grateful that buses run on time

In my birth county, you can plan getting around by bus, train, or subway and more or less get to places on-time (unless you live in Brooklyn and ride the G train).

In many countries, there’s no bus timetable posted online.There’s no app telling you where and when to go. There’s just some random dude you ask in the street and he tells you to walk over there.

Then you wait, and wait, and wait—no bus comes. So you ask some other dude. That dude tells you that this is not where the bus stops. He points you over there. So you ask a few more people and finally find the location where the bus stops. “How much longer before the bus comes?“ You ask some dude waiting for the bus too. “Not much longer,” he replies, “20 minutes.” When a half-hour goes by, you asked the guy again how much longer before the bus comes. He says again, “20 minutes.“

This saga of temporal existentialist uncertainty in face of clock-time and bus location can go on until you decide that “Fine!”—you will pay a bunch of money for the cab decided you couldn’t afford just an hour ago!

Then, when you have finally hailed a cab, you will see the bus pull up behind you, and pass the taxi you’re in. So the next time you find yourself delayed on public transportation, remember how fortunate we are to have the infrastructure and structure that our systems of mass transit operate under.

5. Grateful that English is my native tongue.

OK, if you are translating this article from English to Polish to read, my apologies for assuming. When I was growing up, people warned me what I was doing when I assumed, so I’m sorry to turn us both into that…

But since I’m writing in English, I’m going to take a jump to say that you speak English and likely grew up with English as a native tongue.

For much of the world, English is the common language for communication. It’s where we find all the good stuff on the Internet. It’s usually the common language of communication between groups from all over the world at hostels, hotels, and international dinner tables.

So just by having spoken English from infancy, gives you  a great luxury in being able to express yourself fully. You don’t have to struggle through the grammar, you can simply be who you are by navigating within the language you were born into.

6. Grateful for Job Opportunities and the Upward Mobility.

We have the saying “It’s hard to get ahead.” But most of us in The West have a huge headstart. We may not always find ourselves in a dream job, but usually we find ourselves with a job. Remember when unemployment was around 8% in the United States?—this was considered a high unemployment rate—Many people have never been alive to see you such a low unemployment rate in their country. The global unemployment and underemployment rate is estimated at 30%.

Simply being able to work a job that pays a fair wage is a luxury we can bring our hands to our heart and be grateful for.

7. Grateful to have an American or European passport

Have you ever tried to get anywhere on a Guatemalan passport? How about a Somali passport? It is exponentially more difficult than it is for someone with passport like an American or European passport.

We don’t pay steep fees and go through an arduous registration process just to travel to the places we’ve always dreamed of visiting.

It is sometimes heartbreaking to hear my less fortunate friends’ horror stories of going through a lengthy process of paying high fees and then still getting their visa to the destination of their choice denied.

I am so grateful that I was born into a country whose passport that allows my desire to see the world to be so easily fulfilled.

About the Author

luke armstrong

Luke Maguire Armstrong is the author of "The Nomad's Nomad." He has spent the last decade traveling, writing and designing, and funding philanthropic programs around the world.

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