A year ago, around Thanksgiving, we found ourselves in Zomba, Malawi, after a bit of a rough patch of travel through Mozambique and Malawi. It was one of the few times on the trip I found myself homesick; we were really, really far from home, in a country–hell, a continent–where we had no friends or family. But we had each other, some food we rounded up from the local markets in order to make something resembling a Thanksgiving meal (a small chicken, some yams, apples, carrots, herbs and spices), and we kept reminding each other that homesickness was a small price to pay for the experience we were having. We knew all along that being away from our loved ones would be the hardest part about this year. As we began to cook our lonely Malawian Thanksgiving meal, a group of five American Peace Corps volunteers appeared out of seemingly nowhere, and our day suddenly turned into a gathering of people who were tied together not by blood, but by the fact that we were all far from home and all longed for our families and our traditions, so we were re-creating them as best we could in a foreign place. We only spent five hours or so with this group of Americans, but the comfort they brought us on that day–a reminder of the community of friends and family we had several thousands of miles away–raised our spirits tremendously.
This year’s holiday was quite different from Thanksgiving 2011: we spent the day in a warm house, surrounded by family, wearing our slippers, sipping wine and cooking together. We ate more kinds of food in one sitting than most people in this world eat in a year. We consumed until our bellies hurt, we laughed until our sides hurt, we drank until we knew our heads would hurt the next day. How wonderful, I thought: to be surrounded by family; to feel comfortable in your own skin; to genuinely enjoy the company of those you’re with. To feel that you could be anywhere, and it wouldn’t really matter, as long as you were with people you love. There is nothing that I could be more thankful for. I know how lucky we were to spend a year away from home, exploring the unknown, and how rewarding that year on the road was and still continues to be. But I also know how fortunate we are to have a home (multiple homes, actually!) to come back to, where each day spent with those you love is an exploration of yourself and those around you; where each day, simply being wherever you are is a rewarding experience in itself.