The travel most of us are doing these pandemic days is strolling down memory lane, and what better holiday than Thanksgiving to recount our gratitude, alone or with others, for past journeys, trips, and experiences?
We can do this solo in a journal, prayer, or extended mind travel, or if we celebrate the holiday with others (virtually or actually) why not launch a great conversation by throwing out some travel questions and going around the table (virtual or real) for answers.
Some possible questions: What are the “high” and “low” memories of your life travels (so far)? Besides Canada, what’s your favourite country to travel in? Favourite continent? What do you think is the best time of year to travel? Who is the most amazing person you have ever met travelling?
A different way to recount your travel blessings is to pick a noun. The options are limited only by imagination. A few that come to mind are “library,” “hotel,” “museum,” “sport,” “food,” “trees,” or “birds.” You can use the noun as a theme and a prompt. Think about favourites, weirdest or the most fascinating you have seen.
For me, “birds” is the noun I’ll conjure this year. Perhaps that’s because turkeys are often part of this holiday tradition, or perhaps it’s because I am fantasizing about flying more!
I am also empathizing with the winged creatures that can’t fly (like penguins, ostriches, cassowary and us, metaphorically). I am not a deliberate birder, but I understand the fascination. I don’t always carry binoculars, and I’m not quick to name a winged one. Now, however, I enjoy feeding and watching birds at home because of the awe I enjoy, which has been generated by the birds I’ve seen on my travels—and the great sense of gratitude I have that I was lucky enough to see them.
Could I ever forget watching the penguins of Antarctica through the dining-room windows of the Hurtigruten cruise ship, as those flightless birds went sliding down icebergs on their bellies into the sea? Or when I was on a shore expedition and saw chinstrap penguins building nests then actually witnessed a little chick come out of an egg? Or when I heard a gentoo penguin call out its “ecstasy” song?
Years later, in equatorial waters, I saw the smaller Galapagos penguins dart about while I was snorkelling. These northernmost penguins in the world are worth remembering.
The Galapagos are also renowned for the blue-footed and red-footed booby birds, and both the magnificent and the great frigatebirds. The latter lives up to its name when they puff out red pouches for a courtship show. During both of my trips to the Galapagos, one aboard Ecoventura and one aboard the Princess Grace yacht, I saw several different kinds of the very finches that inspired Darwin’s theory of evolution. He noticed that their beaks were distinctly different on diverse islands in ways that showed specific adaptations for survival.
On the Sepik River and in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, there were also unique birds, including the cassowary. This diverse country has more than 600 different languages, the most of any country. Each group or people we visited also seemed to have diverse creativity in the use of feathers for personal adornment, ceremonies, and art.
In the heartland of the U.S., in Nebraska, there’s a double bonus for my avian memories. One pre-dawn morning, I sat in a bird blind to wait for the sun to rise to see male prairie chickens do crazy dances for the females. Like the frigatebirds in the Galapagos, parts of them puff out in red to get attention. Another day at dawn and dusk, I sat in a bird blind to watch one of the largest animal migrations on the planet—hundreds of thousands of sandhill cranes repeating a migration pattern that goes back many millennia. The birds stop at the central Platte River to rest up and fatten up before heading north to Canada and the Arctic.
In Kenya, I happily anticipated being wowed by the elephants, lions, zebras and giraffes. What I didn’t expect was to round a bend and see a two-metre-high ostrich blocking our dirt road. I didn’t expect to see flocks of birds with neon blue stripes, or birds just sitting atop hippos and rhinos.
In Iceland, the waterfalls and geysers and landscapes of the Golden Circle lived up to the advance hype. The sight of puffins at twilight, though, which my husband and I saw thanks to a local who suggested an unmapped path, is what earned the exclamation mark for best serendipitous surprise!
Back home now, we may all look skyward and wish we enjoyed the freedom to spread our wings and ride the swooping thermals as bald eagles and so many other birds do. We can also be grateful for the flights we have had in the past, and for the freedoms we still do have! This includes the liberty to not only let our lips and fingers travel down memory lane, but also to dream and to plan the trips we would still like to take.
So after thanks for all the good paths, flights, and foods already experienced, here’s the last question for now for your journal or holiday conversation: “Where would you most like to go before next Thanksgiving?”
My gratitude for happy memories thanks to past travels with:
- Amazon Cruises: aquaexpeditions.com
- Antarctica: Hurtigruten Cruises: hurtigruten.com Galapagos: Ecoventura Cruises: ecoventura.com
- Galapagos: Princess Grace M/Y Cruises: quasarex.com/galapagos/my-grace
- Nebraska Cranes: visitnebraska.com
- Iceland: visiticeland.com
Lisa TE Sonne (www.LisaSonne.com) has travelled all seven continents and authored three different travel journals that have room for you to co-author with your experiences, MY ADVENTURES, BIKING LONDON, and THE GREAT OUTDOORS, which includes a check-off list to visit of all the Canadian National Parks. www.LisaSonne.com Twitter: @ExploreTraveler