Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
In a typical year, this holiday marks the changing of the seasons, gathering with our loved ones, and maybe a cheeky getaway over the long weekend.
This has been far from a typical year, of course – we’ve hit some turbulence, maybe spilled a drink or two, and have been instructed to keep our seat belts tightly fastened for a little while – and Thanksgiving in many households around Canada will look and feel very different from years past.
But that’s why I think it’s even more important than usual to take a moment and give our thanks to the things in life that we value the most.
My fiancée Jessy recently developed the film from her Olympus vintage camera, which she likes to bring along when we travel together and snap a spontaneous shot from time to time. Seeing the photos gave me a chance to pause and reflect, and I’ll intersperse a few of them here as I share with you some of the things I’m most thankful for in spite of the tough year we’ve all had.
I’m thankful for good health, good spirits, and loving family both near and far. Life would be very different without these core elements, and I often must remind myself not to take these for granted.
I’m thankful for how things just seem to work out sometimes. I’m thankful that Jessy and I got to spend two weeks in New Zealand late last year, which quickly became one of our favourite countries, shortly before it would close to visitors for the foreseeable future.
I’m thankful that we got engaged under the Maldivian sunset in early March – if that trip were scheduled for one week later, who knows how things would’ve played out. I’m thankful that the return journey brought me on one of the last flights of Etihad Airways’s Airbus A380, allowing me to experience the Etihad Apartments, before it was grounded indefinitely.
I know many of you will be spending today reflecting upon similar trips that you had the good fortune to embark on shortly before everything changed.
But I’m also thankful for when things don’t work out, because of the lessons we can always learn.
Indeed, in many ways, I’m thankful for external shocks. No, I wouldn’t wish the events of 2020 on any future generation, but I know that external shocks like these are an unforeseeable and inevitable part of life.
In that sense, I’m thankful for the innate resilience we all possess, our ability to find silver linings in the worst of situations, and the chance we all have to grow, learn, and recover. I’ve learned many valuable lessons this year about myself, what I want from life, running a business, etc. that I probably wouldn’t have learned if it weren’t for the pandemic.
For these lessons, I’ll offer a begrudging “thank you” to the once-in-a-generation external shock we’ve all witnessed this year – otherwise, for heaven’s sake, please get lost already.
Here in Canada, I’m thankful for the respectable work that our government has put in to containing the pandemic and balancing that objective against our natural instincts to continue living our lives.
We may all have varying opinions about how well that balance has been struck – including many of us who might bemoan the ongoing requirement for 14-day mandatory quarantine upon return – but I think we can all agree that decisions are being made with the best interest of the public in mind, and that’s a luxury not all nations around the world have been afforded.
In the meantime, I’m thankful for staycations and domestic road trips. For the opportunity to take a walk through different neighbourhoods and be a tourist in my own city. If nothing else, I’m thankful for the simple combination of Google Maps and Wikivoyage, which lets me dream about faraway destinations for hours on end.
I’m thankful for the miracle of modern air travel. The sense of wonder that a widebody aircraft evokes. The rush of adrenaline upon takeoff. The fact that it’s somehow possible to fall asleep and wake up on the other side of the world.
I’m thankful to the sunrise and sunset – distinct from every vantage point around the world, but equal in beauty. I’m thankful I’ve been lucky enough to watch them from a fair few of those vantage points, as well as for the opportunity to look forward to many more to come.
I’ve said this many times before, and will say it many times again. I’m thankful for the inherent serendipity in our lives, and how travel amplifies it.
Anytime, anywhere, something could happen that changes the course of your life forever, and as you travel, you play your part in stretching the invisible thread that connects all of us far and wide. You open your life up to be shaped by unpredictable forces in unpredictable ways, and you open yourself up to shaping the lives of others, too.
I’m thankful for the hundreds of happy strangers whose paths have crossed my own all over the world.
The gallivanting couple with whom we shared a long conversation on Santorini’s black sand beach. The Montenegrin student with whom we exchanged travel tips by the Dead Sea. The locals who helped me out in faraway islands like Chuuk and Pohnpei, who lead lives so unimaginably different to my own – lives that I’ll never possibly truly understand, but still consider myself fortunate to have caught a glimpse of.
I’m thankful for the inherent sense of mystery in having crossed paths with these strangers, knowing that we’ll almost certainly never see each other again, but leaving open the possibility that we’ll miraculously bump into each other somewhere in the world.
Finally, of course, I’m thankful to the wonders of travel, the pursuit of Miles & Points that allows us to travel more and travel better, and the platform I’ve built that allows me to share these with you.
I’ve always said that it’s kind of a miracle that the opportunities we have with Miles & Points even exist in the first place. I’m very thankful that the airlines realized the allure of frequent flyer programs way back in the 80s, and that carefully learning and applying the right strategies with credit cards and loyalty programs can allow us to unlock experiences most of us would never have considered possible.
I’m thankful for the sheer breadth of new experiences that we encounter in this pursuit, ranging from the spectacular, whether it’s your first business class flight, which you’ll never forget, or getting to bring your kids on their first international trip and showing them the world – to the frivolous, whether it’s debating the merits of First Class champagnes or batting your eyelashes at the hotel’s front desk in an effort to suite-talk your way to an upgrade – to the downright ridiculous, whether it’s being known by your mailman as “that guy who gets three new credit cards every week” or racking up five-figure bills at your local grocery store.
On a deeper level, I’m thankful that I’ve found my passion in life and get to live and breathe it every day. Mine just so happens to be travel, but even if it were something else, I’d feel equally thankful.
To that end, I must reserve the final round of thanks for you, my readers and the Prince of Travel community. It’s only because of you that I have the privilege of doing what I do, and I’m very thankful to be entrusted with the job of informing and inspiring you with everything you need to travel more and travel better.
Many times this year, I’ve been going about my day as usual, and then suddenly I’m hit like a train by the realization that something genuinely crazy and terrible has happened this year, affecting all of us and upending our lives, and we just kind of have to… deal with it.
But just like when we hit a patch of turbulence in the air, I have no doubt we will collectively strap ourselves in, overcome, recover, and very quickly move on from the events of this year.
When that happens, I’m sure those 2am karaoke nights with our friends will be a few decibels louder, those endless platters of local food in foreign lands more delicious than you remembered them, and those sips of bubbly in Seat 1A just a touch more satisfying.
Until clear skies resume, let’s make sure to give our thanks and hold them close to our hearts.