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Thanksgiving on the Road

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Thanksgiving on the Road

I am an American. I celebrate Thanksgiving; it has been culturally breed into me. A harvest festival, a hark back to the days when men listened to the gentile hums of nature; the days when the Farmer’s Almanac was an oracle to believe in- I cannot think of anything worth celebrating more.

I awoke this day in Portugal; I have been here for the past month and a half. Time moves by quickly when there is nothing to stop it. I rode a bicycle down the coast with my lovely, Mira, and ran aground where the Rio Mira runs into the big blue Atlantic. This is the Costa Azul, and it is named so for a reason: Everything is blue. The sky is deep blue, the sea borrows this hue with reverence, and the windows and doorways of all of the buildings of the town are trimmed with bright blue paint.

Milfontes is a quaint town beyond anything that white white New England could dream up. But they do not celebrate Thanksgiving here.

So Mira and I went about this day with a shear attempt to make it special, like good and proper Americans. So we made a date of it, and went out for a good dinner at a Chinese restaurant. We then returned and made Skype calls to our families in the USA.

Travel makes, breaks, and changes a person, but I feel as if the traveler should not shed their own cultural upbringing in exchange for the rapid fire and quickly relished ways of other peoples. To do so will leave you in a bottomless hole of political correct, falsely culturally relative nothingness.

I am an American, and I will always be an American. Socialization is not something that can be shook very easily- hidden and covered up, yes, but not shook. I act as an American and I talk as an American. Travel has not lessened my sense of nationality in the least, rather, it has strengthened it. There is no better way to view one’s own culture than to contrast it with another. I feel as if traveling to vastly different countries should be a part of the culture training of any body in this world.

Travel makes better Americans.

Travel makes better Englishmen.

To view your culture from the outside is to be able to see its building blocks and basic structures. I know of no other way that you could do this other than by traveling to far off corners of the globe.

I liken this effect to stepping out of a box. When you are in the box, you know nothing other than its cramped quarters, and bitch about the fact that the top-flaps never stay closed all the way. Once you get out of the box though, you are able to inspect it from the outside and contrast it with all the other boxes which are scattered all around. As you look at the other boxes, you begin to realize that they too are cramped and also have top-flaps that will not stay closed. Knowing the imperfections of the other boxes, you begin to realize that the box that you came out of is not as bad as you once imagined it to be. In fact, you realize that your box is pretty darn good, and you can now even understand why the top-flaps do not stay closed. But too get back inside of your own box now is simply not possible, as you know far too much of the riches of all the other boxes. Though, because you have experienced these riches, you can travel on with a renewed appreciation of the box that you came from. Learning about your own culture is one of the most precious jewels of traveling.


But these jewels come with a harsh price. The information, understanding, and experience that traveling provides is harshly counteracted by the fact that you are not able to spend much time with your family and old friends. Travel and deep, meaningful, long-tern human relations seem to be mutually exclusive. My family does not travel too often, and I am seldom with them in the USA. Sometimes I feel as if I am cheating them, sometimes I feel as if I am cheating myself. We carry on a continuous dialogue through email and Skype calls, but this is not usually enough. I want to have a daily relationship with them, I want to help raise my little Chinese sister and my Godson, but I walk a path that does not allow for it. Though I do try to make it back to my family once a year, and I should be returning to them for a couple of weeks in January. When I get back to them, I will have a few stories saved up for the kids, and a bag full of gifts. This is just what I do.

I miss my family nearly constantly, but I know that I can not go back now. Too many steps towards the horizon has created a knotted path that cannot be back-tracked. I have discovered what was on the other side of the box, and I don’t think I could fit myself back into it even if I tried.

“Different strokes for different folks,” as my father says.

Though I do think of home on Thanksgiving.

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Filed under: Celebrations, Culture and Society, Europe, Family, Portugal

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 80 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3131 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Wade Shepard is currently in: Zhushan Village, Kinmen, TaiwanMap