A day of thanks during a year of travel

Taking a moment to reflect on our reasons for being grateful

As we’re preparing our own little feast for just the three of us in Salamanca, Spain this year, we’re reflecting on how many people have left their imprint on our travels over the past several months. If there’s ever a single day to be thankful, isn’t it Thanksgiving?

All over the world, family and friends have made us feel welcome—and shared their time and communities with us, from small towns in Poland to bustling cities like Hong Kong. So, today, a series of thank yous:

Thank you to everybody who welcomed us into their homes.

We can almost taste some incredibly memorable homemade meals: apple pie with a cup of tea, a robust assortment of veggie burgers, blistered shishito peppers with lemon, a seemingly endless spreads of pierogi and naleśniki, pandan and green-tea mooncakes, and perhaps a few beers and glasses of wine too.

In Ireland, Sean’s cousin Ellen and her family welcomed us to their home in Cork before we flew to Paris. We watched our daughters play together and may have joined in as they sang “How Far I’ll Go” off the Moana soundtrack. They gave Eliza a little doll dressed as a bear, which she calls Baby, who has set off on many indoor adventures in her arms.

In Germany, Cathlin’s childhood friend Christie and her family made their place feel like ours, only with many more toys for lucky Eliza. They toured us around Bonn and Cologne, marched us up quite a steep castle-topped hill, and entertained us with stories and reminiscences until far too late, making us feel like kids ourselves.

In Australia, our friend Ash’s parents, Bernadette and Ian, set up the coziest guest room and home office for us to stay and work. They also drove us on a tasting trip to the Hunter Valley wine region, and their dog sat at the bottom of the stairs on guard for hours to protect Eliza after hearing her cry in the night.

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Also while in Australia, Sean’s cousin Hugh picked us up and dropped us off at Sydney’s airport. He met up with us throughout the week around his work schedule and did all he could to ensure we were entirely comfortable at his place. He even ventured through the crowds of Bondi Beach with us on a weekend when Cathlin requested a viewing of the iconic beach.

And on visits to Ann Arbor, Michigan, our pals Lindsey, Teressa, and their families opened their doors for us and we cherished the moments with all of our kids together—and then after their bedtimes rolled around, when it was just the adults together able to catch up like no time had passed.

Thank you to everybody for the most unexpected gifts.

While traveling with a baby, all of us getting enough sleep is a gift in and of itself, and we were helped greatly along the way. In Ireland, Aunt Margaret and Uncle Murt picked up a Pack ’n Play for us to borrow, not once but twice. In France, friends of Sean’s family loaned us their daughter’s portable cot while they were away. And a comfy pillow for our travels in Australia and New Zealand gave Eliza added comfort while sleeping.

In Sydney, the Boston University program where Sean studied abroad nearly 15 years ago (!) toured us around their current campus, ordered in burritos for lunch, and sent Eliza off with her first BU Terriers t-shirt. She also has new Polish vocabulary books that have the added benefit of helping her parents learn too. In some cases, we’ve appreciated simple gestures such as somebody setting aside a newspaper clipping for us to read later. And thanks as well to one particular cousin’s skill with making any car look as good as new.

Thank you to our cousins for getting hitched.

We had the greatest of reasons to visit South Korea when Cathlin’s cousin Nick and his now-wife Jihyun celebrated their wedding in Seoul in August. Kam-sa-ham-ni-da! (감사합니다) We then revisited New Orleans thanks to Sean’s cousin Hannah and her now-husband James tying the knot in October when Eliza participated in her first parade down Bourbon Street. (It also gave us a reason to fly from New Zealand to New Orleans over the course of two days).

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Thank you to everybody who set aside time to see us during our travels.

In Paris, Sean’s former professor’s daughter welcomed us with dinner reservations at a tasty Lebanese restaurant with her family. A week later, Cathlin’s mom Liddy traveled from Grand Rapids, Michigan to be there with us, which made for such a special trip. And our friends Meggie and Pat even planned their vacation to stay literally across the street, although they’ve subsequently moved to Paris so it must’ve been a particularly good visit. Shortly thereafter, another friend, Amy, came to see us in Ireland after a business trip and we loved showing her how local sights can sometimes surpass the well-known ones.

In Poland, we spent a few days with family in Białystok, Warszawa, and Poznań, all of whom made us feel so welcome and shared with us their stories and memories of past visits. Sean’s cousin Piotr and his wife Magda in particular went out of their way with kindness. And Sean said it felt like olden times in Kraków barbequing with Thymn and his family—although nearly a decade had passed since Sean and his sister were chiming in on Johnny Cash singalongs with him at a late-night party and then crashing afterwards on the floor of his apartment.

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In South Korea, Sean’s friend from high-school Sang introduced us to his family and taught us that garlic bread there is actually sweet while we did our best to stay cool in a massive shopping mall on a brutally hot day. And Cathlin’s aunt, uncle, and cousins adopted us into their tour bus to explore Seoul and its surroundings while we all gathered to celebrate the bride and groom. And that particular bride, Jihyun, was the most incredible tour guide and resource, and she somehow did it all in the days before and after her wedding too.

In Hong Kong, we watched lightning storms across a stunning skyline with friends Tanya and Magnus, before Sean and Magnus set off for gherkin martinis and discussions of press freedom. And in Singapore, we were thrilled to be able to time our travels to cross paths with Sean’s sister Tara and her fiancé Gordon. And Sean had the added bonus of seeing former colleagues at the Google Singapore office too!

While it might sound like our adventures together have only involved visiting people we already knew, nothing could be further from the truth: these have been anchors along the way, but the moments of travel we’ve also appreciated—the kind that will stay with us, or at least live on in Cathlin’s travel notes—are the passing chats, the warm greetings, the hands extended to Eliza, and other such moments we’ve had with people we didn’t previously know who either live locally or are also traveling.

And a special thank you to both sets of our parents. We’re immensely lucky and grateful to know that it’s inordinately easier to be on the go when you know there’s a place you can always return. In our case, Cathlin’s parents in Michigan and Sean’s parents in Massachusetts have consistently watched us come and go with open arms—and now the added gift of being grandparents/babysitters, which allows for the occasional parent date nights.

Lastly, we’re grateful to everyone who’s followed our blog and hope you have a wonderful holiday, however and wherever you’re spending Thanksgiving.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Thanks for sharing, Cathlin. Your post is such a good reminder for me to be thankful for our travels too, and for every thing, big or small, that we have in our lives. 🙂

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