Where do you feel most grateful?
Those holiday moments when I am excessively smothered with my families love, encompassed by the stark contrast of warmth emitted from the fireplace in comparison to the fresh, frigid gusts of Montanan snow flurrying against the windowpanes, I feel grateful. That ideal combination of unconditional love, both natural and manmade, creates a strong concoction of gratitude.
Yet, that thankfulness is a mere fraction of the magnitude that radiates within me at other times in my journey. One would assume that I feel shaken with gratitude for the places I have visited and the things I have witnessed. I am blessed to have scaled Incan ruins, emerging from the hidden mountain, engulfed in mist, striking me with a unique appreciation for ancient civilization, ritual, unity, and ingenuity. I am blessed, like millions of others, to have marched the stairs, overwhelmed in splendor from the technical expertise and sheer size of Eiffel’s metallic masterpiece, impressed by limitless technology. I am blessed and chastened, to have walked through both Golgotha and the Dachau Concentration Camp, spiritually changed forever.
I am blessed to have imagined Gladiators battling for entertainment as I stood amidst the swarming stands of the Roman Coliseum, revered by historical significance. I am blessed and heartbroken at the oppression and sadness I have seen glittering in the beautiful eyes of a handful of Middle Eastern women, grateful for my freedoms as an American woman. I am blessed to have indulged in excessive amounts of delicious horchata, hummus, and pad thai, glutinous but enjoyable, almost to the point of sickness. I am blessed to have felt human sincerity at its finest when a Belizean man shimmied up a tree, machete in his teeth, to retrieve a coconut purely for my enjoyment.
I am blessed to have rappelled into a New Zealand cave, hundreds of meters underground to discover fluorescent glowworms exuding their brilliant sparkling lights, astounded by nature’s beauty. I am blessed to have gallivanted through the bustling cities of Hong Kong, Singapore, and New York, admiring the people and contrast of cultures. I am blessed to have hustled through Edinburgh, bundled in countless layers, for a New Year’s celebration, dancing and whirling to traditional songs, alongside thick accents and kilts.
I am blessed to have savored fish and chips alongside a seaside wharf with British mariners, saltier than capers; learning more about the ocean in an afternoon than I had studying oceanography in college. I am blessed to have worked alongside South Korean armed forces, through communicating with charades and a translator. I delved into their way of life and learned about their unbounded appreciation for Americans; to say the least, I feel blessed. Everywhere I have been lucky enough to visit, I have witnessed where history has emerged, observed natural exquisiteness at its finest and humanity at its best. Yet, none of these places represent the pinnacle of my maximum gratitude.
I have found that, although monumental, awe-inspiring and humbling, all these quests, places, and events are simply catalysts of gratitude. My deepest gratitude was kick started when I first met tribulation along that journey of self-discovery. By removing myself from my comfort zone, I am able to achieve a whole new realm of limitless gratitude. With each new venture, I find myself gathering yet another piece of myself, a characteristic I was unaware existed. Much like Hansel and Gretel collecting crumbs, my solitary souvenirs from my travels are simply new tools in my character kit of life. Whether it was my van sputtering to a stop on an unknown large hill, escaping dark shadows that followed me back to my hotel, sacrificing my passport for access to a famous landmark, collecting bedbugs from that hostel, or unknowingly accruing a traffic violation abroad… these, and several similar speedbumps, fuel gratitude.
When my patience, character, and bravery are tested, I find myself most grateful. Nothing can compare to the overwhelming appreciation I discover when I rise to the occasion and learn something new about myself. I obtain fulfillment through the journey within, by traveling without. The ambiguity of traveling leads to reassuring myself that I am capable, strong, and independent, and I can share these lessons with others. I
cannot define where I find myself most grateful, because I have discovered more about myself with each new excursion, and for that, I am equally indebted to all places. Surely, almost every place on this planet should be celebrated because of its diversity, but I ubiquitously celebrate because I have received more about myself than I could ever ask for.
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