I walked in solitude as the cold winter sun cast long shadows of crosses and stars on this solemn ground. I could hear voices whispering their modesty in thanks for my sojourn to Normandy from Paris to visit with them in silence. I came to offer my deepest gratitude and prayers for souls that sacrificed it all on the shores beneath the cliffs just meters away. And also to offer the same for all the US and allied soldiers who have fought upon foreign shores and lands for the spread of freedom and liberation of the oppressed.
I started my day today in stark contrast to Thanksgiving of a year ago. A solo yoga session at 8 AM eased me into my favorite holiday. After, I grabbed my day bag, hammock and surfboard, and walked the 100 meters to Playa Santa Teresa. There I pitched my hammock under the shade of palm trees and ventured into the surf for about an hour. Exiting the water I found needed rest in my hammock under the shade of palm trees and rehydrated.
Contrast that to last Thanksgiving when I was enjoying a large meal surrounded by love from family in Atlanta, GA, relaxing, and just being lazy. I did FaceTime my family earlier to share in their happiness on this day. Honestly, there is nothing better than being with those who mean the most to you and that love you no matter your faults or trials. But, other than wishing I still had my Tucker, I wouldn’t trade much of anything else to be where I am right now. Last year I was thankful for the constant love and support from the best family and friends a person could have. And also, I was thankful for having sold my condo in Santa Monica which afforded me the opportunity to embark on this around the world journey that would have me living out of a backpack and trekking through foreign lands I didn’t know. But how long would I travel for on this epic journey? My goal was eighteen months. Would I surpass that and push for two years and beyond? Or, perhaps, feeling labored and exhausted of living out of a backpack and not having solid personal relationship connections with anyone, would I only make it six months? The future would certainly foretell the time duration and the universe would dictate my ‘backpacking’ tolerance. And as I pondered my future tomorrows last Thanksgiving, I thought to myself, “Where might I be celebrating next Thanksgiving and who would be surrounding me on my favorite holiday?”
Fast forward to today. A full year has transpired. Eight countries have experienced this EpicuriousTraveler’s epic adventures. Adventures that span a cornucopia of memories like my challenge to learn Espanol in Sevilla. Climbing the tallest mountain in North Africa without any training and literally wearing every trace of clothing I still had in my pack to keep warm. Surviving death on my birthday in Iceland, digging out successfully with a butcher knife and a tire iron. Driving the impressive and beautifully scenic Slea Head Drive in Ireland and walking into the bitterly cold North Atlantic on a secluded beach. Spending four awesome days in Porto, Portugal at a wine hostel with fantastic people. Seeing a UEFA fútbol match in Lisbon. New Years Eve in London with a dear friend and taking in my first FA Cup match. Seeing the most gorgeous sunset in Granada with three strangers I had met just hours earlier. And visiting the Cemetery at Normandy and making the walk up to the top of Mont St. Michele. Just a few of the experiences too countless to labor on about. And respecting your time you will just have to trust me when i say that there are many more.
How does one properly account and give thanks for all that my eyes have seen, my ears have heard, my mind and heart embraced and nose and lips have smelled and tasted? Hopefully my writing about them will keep them firmly supplanted in my memory bank as my memory fades as I age. But most rewarding were the many friendships that have been forged for life. The people that crossed my path and that I still stay in touch with have all touched me beyond measure. Those I certainly will cherish and not fade from memory. It’s amazing to sit and recollect on a year as blessed as mine has been.
And now, on this Thanksgiving evening, I am resting comfortably in a hammock, drinking an Imperial Silver, watching the sunset on the beach. Awaiting a traditional American Thanksgiving meal to be served along with about 3 or 4 dozen others who are beginning to find their way to their reserved tables. It’s hard to put into words how to express my gratitude to God on this day of thanksgiving for all that I have experienced over the past 365 days. Not all has been fun, enlightening and adventurous. I have certainly had and still am having challenges along the way. However, the good far outweigh the challenges for the good is/was cloaked in happiness, smiles, laughs, gorgeous sunsets/sunrises, new beginnings, new friendships, new experiences and conquests, and, most importantly, love. I choose to let those be the winds in my sail that will carry me into every tomorrow rather than letting the challenges define my today.
So, this Thanksgiving, I ask you to look around at those that surround you and give thanks. Whether you are around a dinner table full of food, in a tv room watching football, or like me, in a foreign country on a beach surrounded by strangers who are just learning your name and story. Give thanks to God, the universe, the ocean, the sky, old man Blue or who/whatever you believe in that grants you the right to your life of abundance. Take stock of today and the road you have traveled. But, most importantly, love where you are at this very momen. Your road has led you to today and where you are for a reason. Be grateful, thankful and respectful of that. Happy Thanksgiving everyone. No matter who or where you are at this moment!
I love sunsets.
My best friend Cecil can definitely attest to this. We have experienced many a setting sun together (and an equal amount of sunrises also) in a few different countries. The sunsets with Cecil I will always remember are the Taj Mahal in India, on the beaches in Koh Samet and Pattaya, Thailand, at Yosemite National Park with our dogs, on the ferry from Sausalito with the Golden Gate between us and the sun and all the ones from our race across northern India in the Rickshaw Run. Other memorable sunsets for me were in Bali on the beach, Lombok watching the sunset drop into the crater of a volcano making it seem as if it were erupting, at the Shangri-La Resort in Boracay, the beach in Arrifana, Portugal, and the Icelandic Horse sunset in Iceland. Not to mention countless ones in Santa Monica and Chicago where I resided over the past 19 years (see my photos from sunsets around the world here). The most beautiful one I have witnessed occurred two months ago in Granada, Spain, and you can read that blog post here.
Two weekends ago I was invited to travel south of Agadir for a gathering at a cave home. I had seen lived in caves along the rocky cliffs north of Taghazout where fisherman, daily, meander down to the shore line to cast their lines. But I never realized that there are regular people who purchase these caves and redevelop them into a home or weekend home. Some more elaborate and larger than others. Our friend, Gorka, had purchased one in Doura to redevelop and serve as his weekend home. He was very kind to open it up to a large group of us, many seeing it for the first time.
March 6th – I sit now beneath the balcony where my Yuneec Breeze lies after an unfortunate crash that most likely ended it’s all too brief life. Roughly 48 hours ago I planned one last flying mission for my drone here in Sevilla before departing to Cordoba, where I wanted to capture some great aerial shots of the famous Mezquita and Cathedral there. The missions we accomplished the night before the crash of the Catedral de Sevilla (uploaded later that night at the hostel) and earlier on Saturday were fantastic. From my viewing screen I had captured excellent footage of Plaza de Espana as the clouds had just broken and the sun was shining brightly onto its impressive tiles and towers. Our second mission of the day, well, it did not go, at all, as planned.
The morning started like most all others have the past four months. Hostel rooms seem designed for vampires and my reluctance to get out of bed is powerful each morning. Light barely creeps in and with the cool weather and no heat in the room, your desire to stay warm and cozy usually wins out. But knowing I was needing to be in the queue at the Palace of the Alhambra by 09:00 and still needing to book a flight or train to my next destination, I was out of bed by 06:45. Taking a seat on the couch in the reception area and powering up my Dell laptop I quickly, but thoughtfully, planned my next adventure’s locale. I honestly did not yet know where I would go next in Spain. Looking at prices for transportation and weather reports I had made up my mind. Destination? Barcelona!
Friends and Wine. Is there a better combination?
To me, the best thing about traveling, isn’t the site seeing, exploring the architecture of a city or the beautiful countryside, nor is it experiencing the local culture and its culinary specialties. Please don’t misunderstand me, those are all fantastic and I cherish each one. When I reflect back on any adventure or journey, what I most fondly recall are the encounters with locals and other travelers that blossom quickly into friendships. God directed my journey, controlling the decisions I made of where to stop and how long to stay, so He could bring me to this exact spot at this exact time.