November 27th, 2015
Dear random Facebook stranger,
You don’t know me except through the blog posts I link to my Facebook page. I don’t know you except for the comment you wrote regarding a recent post of mine. I wanted to thank you for that comment. It woke me up. It changed my outlook. It transformed everything, really. I’m a world traveler. I’ve been living, working and traveling abroad for over a decade, and my blog, Wandering Footsteps, charts those travels. Over three years ago, I met another nomad – one living in a camping car – and we fell in love, got married, and decided to go on a very long, very slow trip around the world. That very long, very slow around-the-world trip has taken us through Africa, into the Middle East, and now to Europe.
I’ve gone on safaris, slept on palm-tree-lined beaches, snorkelled in the Red Sea, ridden camels in the desert, visited crumbling churches and Roman ruins, tasted fine ethnic cuisines, and so much more. I write about all that on Wandering Footsteps, but of course you already know that. Last week, I posted an entry about my recent pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago. This 800km-long ancient walking route cuts across the northern coast of Spain, offering views of spectacular landscapes, charming villages and funky cities before culminating at one of the most historically and spiritually-important churches in the world.
Yet, my post barely talked about these things; instead, it focused on the multiple blisters I had developed on my feet and the rash of flea bites I’d picked up in the pilgrim hostels. I spent 2,000 words complaining about my aching feet and itching skin. I felt justified in my self-indulgent rant because it was an honest take on what had proven to be a very challenging experience. Your comment on Facebook simply said this: As a person in a wheelchair, I’d love to do this walk, blisters, bed bugs and all. Just enjoy what you do. Your words sat with me for several days. They haunted me, actually. I never expected the comment of a stranger – on Facebook, no less – to affect me so profoundly. As I mulled over your comment,
I realized that, somewhere along my worldwide travels, I’d lost something – my sense of gratitude. Traveling had become my new normal, my own personal status quo. I was forgetting to appreciate moments I ought to be thankful for; I was reacting to small misfortunes as if I weren’t living a charmed life. I have so much to be grateful for – a wonderful husband, the freedom to travel full-time, a collection of amazing experiences checked off my bucket list, legs. Yet here I was, complaining about blisters and bed bugs while walking a pilgrimage that many will only ever dream of doing, including you.
I visited the We Said Go Travel website today. I’d bookmarked a writing contest on the topic of gratitude, but forgot about it because I couldn’t connect with the topic (no wonder). When I looked on the site today, I saw that the competition was supposed to have ended yesterday, but that it had been extended a few extra days. I would ordinarily think this kind of thing were a mere coincidence. But today, I felt that the extension was fate, not chance – that contest had remained open so I could thank you. Since your Facebook comment, I’ve started a gratitude diary.
Every evening I jot down as many things as possible for which I’m grateful that day. It’s easy to write a long list. Slowly, I can feel things shifting. I find myself thinking of things as they happen that I will want to add to my gratitude list that night. I find myself looking for the positive when something doesn’t go just right. I find myself re-learning to be thankful in each place my camping car pulls up. I thanked you on Facebook for your comment the same day you wrote it. I told you that you were right, but that it was sometimes hard to see the over the hill to the rainbow on the other side. I wanted to tell you now that, thanks to you, I’m learning to remember the rainbow is always there, even if I can’t see it.
Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Gratitude Travel Writing competition and tell your story.