I Am Thankful for My Legs

For seven weeks in June and July of 2023, I ventured far from my island home on Maui, Hawaii to hike in northern Greece, Albania, and the Italian Dolomites, then I explored the cities of Treviso, Venice, Bologna, and Florence before staying in an ashram in Assisi and concluding my trip in Rome.

Throughout my travels, I did my human best to focus on the positive and let go of everything else as quickly as possible. I’m not always good at this–old habits would have me hold onto my anger–but my Higher Power helped me to improve in accepting the serenity for which I continually ask.

I fully enjoyed my rich and varied journey though it was not without  setbacks. I attribute much of my enjoyment to my practice of gratitude. When things don’t go as I prefer, I allow myself to feel my negative feelings for a short while, then I insist on opening my eyes to some things that are going well. I remind myself that everything, even the non-preferred parts, is happening for me, not to me. I am a hero in my own story, no longer the victim. Though I cannot express in words every little thing for which I am thankful, below are the highlights of blessings that my travels brought to light. I pray that my gratitude list sparks recognition of blessings in your life.

I am thankful that partnering with my Higher Power consistently provides everything I need. The long list of things that I was worried about prior to the trip faded and then disappeared as I safely navigated through each twenty-four hours, mostly in comfort.

I am thankful for the ability to earn money. With my wages, I get to pay for living expenses, I get to travel, I get to save for retirement, and I get to donate to my favorite charities. My security lies in my Higher Power, who helps me to withstand the rigors of work and to ferret out ways to live my best life on a budget.

I am thankful for vacation. Not everyone gets time off. Not everyone has the money to go do fun stuff. I count it as an honor to have the time and the resources (including mental and physical health) to explore the globe.

I am thankful for being mask-free! I could have survived the trip wearing a mask, but it would have been harder to keep a good attitude.

I am thankful for functional electronics throughout my trip. Problems with SIM cards, charging my laptop, and shattering my phone’s screen were worked out quickly and affordably. Google maps and Google translate worked well enough. As an added bonus, I enjoyed being entertained and educated by reading books on my Kindle app and by listening to Audible books and lectures. A mere hundred years ago, people were still being transported by ocean liners. Not only did I fly, but I got to keep my mind occupied with great resources available on my phone.

I am thankful for soap, a toilet, a clean towel, a hot (or at least warm) shower, and a washing machine or sink in which to do my laundry everywhere I stayed.

I am thankful for my sunhat, purchased twenty years ago at REI in Portland, Oregon. It protected me through a decade of sunny days, waiting for the wind when I was windsurfing and kiteboarding in Hood River and Baja. It protected me from a decade of tropical sun on Maui and seven weeks in Europe.

I am thankful for women’s fashion. I’m amazed at the advances that off-the-rack clothing has made in my lifetime, which made my stroll through each city seem like a walking, breathing fashion show–pretty dresses on pretty women.

I am thankful for my personal safety and for the safety of my possessions. Through all of the miles, no one hurt my body, no one ripped me off, and no one picked my pocket.

I am thankful for my body. Though I have health challenges, I also have solutions. I send blessings to all of my physical therapists who have helped me over the years, as well as the caring, well-intentioned medical professionals who have tried their imperfect best to support my healing. I am thankful for my support groups and sister friends who were there for me throughout my trip via Zoom meetings and WhatsApp messages and calls.

I am thankful for my legs, which carried me across many miles in Europe. Most of the tourist sites and hiking trails I visited are not wheelchair accessible.

I am thankful for healthy teeth and gums. I’m glad my mouth allowed me to eat, drink, and talk pain-free throughout my trip.

I am thankful for my wherewithal. Determination was required to see everything I have seen and do everything I have done. Traveling, while a privilege, is often quite challenging.

I am thankful for the ability to be present without drugs, alcohol, or other means of numbing out. For years, without knowing it, I had been preparing for my trip by meditating, building my relationship with my Heavenly Mother, and working with others on a spiritual path.

I am thankful for my growth as a human being. I stayed in a variety of accommodations, most of which were shared with hosts or roommates. I also dealt with dozens of cashiers, agents, and fellow travelers on planes, trains, buses, sidewalks, streets, and in stores and restaurants. In years past, many of my interactions with others would have caused me to implode or explode, but by and large during my trip, I remained peaceful both inside and out.

I am thankful for my point of view.  Virtually all of the art and acclaimed structures on my trip were created by and for wealthy men in power who did little to extend support to their community’s women, children, and men. While I appreciate the craftsmanship in ancient art and architecture, I am even more thankful that the world has evolved to include women’s opinions and contributions.

I am thankful for freedom as a woman to choose my life. I send prayers to women and girls around the globe whose culture forces them to submit to the will of men and which limits their ability to go where they please.

I am thankful for freedom as a single person to travel and do what I want when I want. My time and my money are my own! Within the constraints of my human existence, I get to go where I want, eat what I want, go to sleep when I want, wake up when I want, talk to whomever I want, meditate when I want, write when I want, spend time on my laptop planning my next trip when I want, have a good cry when I want, and pray when I want. I am not responsible for anyone else, and no one is responsible for me. Though being unattached can be lonely, it affords me precious freedom, and I am truly thankful.

I am thankful for being my own person. I am free to ignore the advice and opinions of others. I got to spend the first part of my trip hiking in nature. I got to cook almost all of my meals from scratch, eating fresh veggies, which nourished me. I only ate out a handful of times, which is also in alignment with my belief in saving money instead of spending it. While I happily paid for airfare, bus fare, train fare, accommodations, food, and tickets to museums, I did not buy any souvenirs. Nothing. Nada. Not one thing. I don’t need or want more stuff. These choices are not in alignment with mainstream culture. I am thankful, in these areas, to follow my own lead.

I am thankful for my own conception of my Higher Power. Seeing myriad iterations of the crucifixion in every museum made me both depressed and thankful. It was hard to see such brutality over and over again, but it made me thankful that I am free to choose my own spiritual path on which I am in communion with my gentle Heavenly Mother.

I am thankful for us, the lovely, aggravating humans that we are, creating beauty and messes, dysfunction and kindness.

I am thankful that my ears have heard peaceful, lively conversations in multiple languages, that I’ve seen families and friends from various countries caring for each other, and that I’ve witnessed exhausted parents of assorted nationalities extend kindness to their young children.

I am thankful for the hands and hearts of the humans who preserved the art and architecture of years past. Wars have destroyed an unconscionable amount of beautiful buildings and works of art. I’m thankful for what we have left.

I am thankful for my teachers in elementary school, middle school, high school, college, and grad school. They taught me to read, to listen, to think, to fit into a public system, and to keep trying.

I am thankful for my dear friend, Lori, who was instrumental in planning my European adventure. From her home in the great state of Washington, she met with me in a Zoom room once a week for seven months, arranging each and every part of my journey. Whenever I began to despair (when reality didn’t match up to the images in my head), Lori calmly clicked around on her computer, reading helpful information that was plain to see for those who were not panicking. She helped me with the big picture–which countries should I visit?–down to the details–how many pairs of socks should I bring? Our time together built our friendship and secured ten lovely and safe places to stay and the transportation in between. As I traveled, Lori kept my itinerary on hand, making sure I arrived safely at each new location. I could not have planned and executed this trip without her. For a couple of years, I kept feeling my Higher Power calling me to Europe. I didn’t know why, but soon after making the decision to spend the summer of 2023 abroad, my Heavenly Mother sent me Lori, and I am thankful.

I am thankful for God Mom who blesses me daily with the gift of life. With its burdens, disappointments, responsibilities, pleasures, joys, and mysteries, my life is MY life. No one else who walks this earth will live my experiences. I have Divine guidance and support to help me make the most of my time here, and I am thankful for the practice of forgiveness. When I get it wrong, I get to try to do better tomorrow. I am thankful that, in the darkest days of my twenties, I didn’t commit suicide. I am thankful that I stuck around, that I didn’t give up on myself, not entirely. I am thankful that a small part of me always believed that my life could get better, that I deserved to be happy.

I am thankful for you, that you have taken the time to read this. I feel less alone knowing that someone out there can relate. I hope that when you experience a moment of need, you recall something I wrote, and you laugh and remember not to take yourself so seriously. I hope that you keep reaching for connection with other humans because as difficult as we are, we need each other. And most of all, I wish for you a stronger relationship with your Higher Power and with yourself. You deserve to feel good every day. You deserve safe love and dignity. Don’t give up. Keep going. And know that I’m right there with you, trudging this road alongside you, doing my imperfect best to be kind to myself and others.

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Wellness with Lucky