37 Things Backpacking has taught me to be grateful for

Great Wall back turned

I’ve lived outside the US for over 7 years.

Most Thanksgivings, I was fortunate enough to spend time with other expats.

Often, somewhere between carving the turkey and seconds of cranberry sauce, someone would inevitably bring up what they are thankful for. I always enjoy this part of Thanksgiving because it’s cathartic.

But this year, I am backpacking through China and will not have a proper Thanksgiving with all of the literal, and metaphorical, trimmings. So, instead, I decided to write down some of the small things that have made me happy while backpacking.

Most of these things are small; but I believe their sum is bigger than the addition of their parts. So here are 37 things that backpacking has taught me to be grateful for:

  1. My sense of direction – when it works.
  2. Acts of kindness from strangers because without them, I would be lost. Literally.
  3. A good book for those long flights and days of travel.
  4. Fully charged devices so I don’t run out of juice while taking photos or posting to social media.
  5. An extra battery pack for when I do run out.
  6. Being fluent in the international travel language (English). Sorry French, German and Spanish!
  7. Trains because they are so much more convenient than planes.
  8. My ability to go multiple days without a shower.
  9. The ability for those around me to cope with me going multiple days without a shower.
  10. My ability to eat almost anything. Seriously, I’m like a goat.
  11. Local markets and all of their rich, exotic and tasty food.
  12. Remembering Immodium and Pepcid AC for after the local market.
  13. Leaving cold weather for somewhere warm.
  14. Remembering chapstick because temperature change is hell on your lips.
  15. A fast internet connection.
  16. Being able to see my nephew through Skype.
  17. Fantasy Football shit talking with friends back home.
  18. Friends that send you a message saying that they are thankful to have you as a friend.
  19. Shower flip-flops.
  20. My ability to sleep for four hours or fourteen.
  21. Clean sheets (because I have an aversion to other people’s bodily fluids).
  22. A bathroom all to myself.
  23. Stocked toilet paper.
  24. Having grabbed extra napkins at Burger King – because “just in case”.
  25. My negotiation skills aka me being a cheap bastard.
  26. When everything goes according to plan.
  27. When everything doesn’t.
  28. A song that can change your mood.
  29. Or a beer.
  30. Or maybe two.
  31. The common room at a hostel.
  32. Being in a dorm-room without someone who snores.
  33. Remembering earplugs if someone does.
  34. Socks with anti-stink protection (I just wish more people knew about these).
  35. A four star hotel after staying in a hostel for 10 days straight.
  36. But nothing beats sleeping in my own bed when I return home.
  37. Coming home.

What are you thankful for? Tell me in the comment section below.

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