Travel is an excellent teacher. We don’t know anyone who has taken a trip and come back without a renewed appreciation for their family, a home-cooked meal or their warm bed to sleep in. And we’re no exception.

Now there are some things, the things you might easily guess, that we are always extremely thankful for: our families, our friends and each other, just to name a few.

But, because it’s Thanksgiving week – the perfect time to express thanks to all the unsung heroes of our travels - we decided to focus on a few of the less obvious on our lists.

All before the tryptophan sinks in.

Where I Grew Up (Hillary)
Growing up in a small town in rural Connecticut, I always resented the quiet. Parties with my friends consisted of bonfires in the woods because the mall and the movie theater were each a half-hour’s drive away; I have a sneaking suspicion that there may be more cows than people; and about the most exciting thing to happen was getting a Dunkin Donuts - our town’s first major chain - but only after I moved away to college. Maybe that old adage is true, but after a year of travel, distance really has made my heart grow fonder. I relish those moments where I can go home again, gather around the dinner table with my family and, yes, enjoy the quiet.

My Camera (Matt)
My camera is my crutch. I can’t leave home without it, nevermind travel the world. My camera has allowed me to document people, places, and things that I’m able to cherish and share with the rest of the world. It’s my journal. It shows how I see my surroundings. From the Matterhorn in Switzerland to the Arches in Utah, using my camera to document the world is what makes me happy. It brings me joy and gratitude that's hard to describe, but necessary in my life.

Knowing I’m Not a One-(Wo)man-Machine (Hillary)
OK, guys. I’m going to reveal something that might shock you a little bit. I have flaws. Pause for reaction. All jokes aside, I’m actually known for being a pretty independent person. I’m one of those people who will do the opposite of what you say to prove there’s another way of doing things (just ask my Mom). I enjoy being by myself. I believe that every woman should live alone at one point in her life, and I’d rather poke myself in the eye than ask for help. But weirdly enough, when I travel, this picture of an “independent woman” you have in your heads goes right out the window. What I mean to say is, it’s always Matt who drives.

My Health (Matt)
Traveling in our local communities, throughout the United States, and around the world, you begin to realize how lucky you are for being healthy. When you see people with severe physical disabilities or health ailments that prohibit them from sleeping in an igloo in the Swiss Alps, or scaling an inactive volcano in Costa Rica you begin to realize how important your health is in order to travel. I work to take care of myself through exercise and good nutrition, but unfortunately some people’s health issues are out of their control. I’m grateful for being healthy and fit because without it, my crazy travel dreams might be too far out of my reach.

My Sleeping Bag (Hillary)
Earlier this fall, Matt and I took a pretty awesome road trip around southern Utah and northern Arizona. We lived out of our rental car and camped - rain or shine - for two weeks straight. Growing up, my family and I never camped; we stayed in Marriotts and four-star resorts. The first time I had been camping for real was this past summer in the Catskills when I stayed up all night, my heart thrumming in my chest, convinced a bear was going to thrash through our tent. So yeah. This was an adjustment. But you know what? Throughout our trip I didn’t miss my bed or my apartment once. I reveled in the freedom of carrying my home with me and waking up with the sun. I also grew so completely smitten with my Big Agnes sleeping bag that Matt and I “joked” we would sleep in them (he has the men’s version of mine) the first night back in our apartment.

Rental Cars (Matt)
OK, I know this may be a strange one, but without rental cars we wouldn’t be able to experience most of the sites and sounds that we get to see. While sometimes they’re pretty pricey, rental cars have taken us to the middle of South Africa’s Cederberg Wilderness, 2,100 miles around southern Utah and northern Arizona, to five different national parks, and to a half-mile long zip line in the Costa Rican jungle. Without the reliability of a rental car we wouldn’t get to see the incredible hidden gems our world has to offer.

My Citizenship (Hillary)
In 2010, I took my first trip to Nicaragua as a delegate for the Albert Schweitzer Institute at Quinnipiac University. It was there, working with students and families less fortunate than I, that I kept hearing the same sentence over and over again: My dream is to go to America. Pretty much since birth, I’ve been programmed to appreciate my American citizenship, but it wasn’t until this trip that the weight of that mantra set in. My citizenship and my passport are like a golden ticket to pretty much anywhere, affording me the opportunity to come and go as I please.

Meeting Helpful People (Matt)
Sometimes while traveling plans don’t always go the way you expect and you need help. From taxi drivers, to guides, to a random stranger on the street, we’ve gotten to where we need to go because of other people’s generosity. In Switzerland, where we had a tough time navigating a couple of locations because we don’t speak French or German, there was a man who noticed we looked lost getting off the train. While he didn’t speak English, he saw the address we needed to get to and immediately gestured to follow him. He even took Hillary’s suitcase and rolled it for her as we walked down the street. A short walk later and the gentleman brought us to the hotel we were searching for! Without him, we would’ve boarded another train and gone in the opposite direction. We never got his name or knew who he was, but I’m grateful for people like this because you realize that you don’t have all the answers.

Silence (Hillary)
I’m such a chaotic, tech-obsessed world, it’s really difficult to find a place (or a moment) where you’re unreachable. For better or for worse, I’m known among my family and friends as being notoriously unreachable, especially during really serious moments. (I remember interning at the DNC in Denver and having to catch a red-eye back to CT. I had no way of getting back from then Democratic candidate Barack Obama’s speech to the George Washington University campus I was staying at, so I walked. At night. By myself. I told my mom, sister and then-boyfriend what I was doing. Then my phone died. But I digress.) The more I travel, though, the more obsessed I am with having to tweet and ‘gram all the deets. It’s getting rarer and rarer that I don’t have my phone on a full (OK, partial…) charge or that I’m not hooked up to WiFi during at least one part of the day. It really is such a blessing to be in areas like Canyonlands National Park or South Africa’s Cederberg Wilderness, where there’s no cell reception. Not only am I able to be in the moment, but I’m able to enjoy face-to-face conversations, time to take in my surroundings and moments that I won’t soon forget.  

My Freedom (Matt)
We live in an incredible country: The United States of America. Living here allows us to move freely around our own incredible landscapes as well as around the world. Many people around the world don’t have the freedom to move freely. Some people are stuck in civil wars, others can’t travel because their governments won’t allow it. We have the freedom to see the world. A right every individual on planet Earth should have. I’m grateful I can see, do, and experience just about anything I want here on our beautiful planet Earth!


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