It’s only human to get a little down when you’re tired, hungry, and far from home. And when you’re tired, hungry, and far from home, and you’ve just been told that your flight has been canceled or your hotel reservation has been lost, it can feel like the world is piling on. Traveling can make even small discomforts seem much bigger than they really are.
I remember the first time I met the production crew to shoot the original Real Rail Adventures: Switzerland episode. I flew from a different U.S. city than everyone else, so my flight dropped me in Zürich early in the morning, alone, while the crew wouldn’t come in until evening. I’d spent plenty of time in Europe, so the logistics were easy: Get off the plane, retrieve luggage, take the escalator down to the train platform beneath ZRH airport and take the train to Chur. There, I could check into the hotel and wait until the crew arrived later that evening. A good chance for a walk, I thought.
This was back before I could get reliable cellphone service in Europe from my carrier. I’d printed maps but, after walking around Chur in circles, I realized I’d gotten the hotel address wrong. I knew the name, but asking locals produced a lot of shrugging shoulders and dead ends. The sun was setting. I was jetlagged and wandering aimlessly and my luggage was starting to feel like it weighed a thousand pounds. Then, around a corner and up a small cobblestone-lined alley, I caught sight of the hotel sign. I’d made it.
I checked in. The room was tiny, with a single bed that was almost too big for it. A small window opened onto the narrow alley and the masonry wall that was my view was almost close enough to touch. As the light faded, I fell onto the bed and was suddenly overcome by a heavy sorrow and longing for my family.
I could allow myself to wallow for a moment or two, but not much longer. How could I recover? I sifted through the tools in my head to select just the right one: Gratitude. I thought about how very fortunate I am to have a happy, healthy family, close friends I can laugh and cry with, and work I find meaningful. On top of all that great, good fortune, I can travel - a real privilege.
It’s easy to look at our own problems and feel worried or down, but one look at the news reminds us that there are many people in the world who would change places with us in a heartbeat to enjoy the relative peace, stability, and wealth that we enjoy.
The Thanksgiving holiday in America means different things to different people, but I think the best meaning comes from actually being mindful of the great wealth of humanity and experience that most of us enjoy on a daily basis, and which we’re probably taking for granted. I’m thankful for my people and to be able to gather with them in such abundance. I’m thankful for having known the people who are now gone, and for the community that comes together to remember them during times like these.
Whether you’re celebrating American Thanksgiving or not, I wish you and yours the best. I hope this short message is a reminder to pause and count the many reasons we all have to be grateful.