It’s Thanksgiving weekend. A weekend for giving thanks. For taking a long hard look at your life and thinking about what you are grateful for in your life. Maybe even about people who might have changed your life. On Thursday I was moved by a speech given by someone at a Thanksgiving dinner. He observed that while we might be far away from home and from our family and loved ones, that we have something very special here. Our little community is tight and the floods a few weeks ago showed it in the best way with people rallying together. The speech was interesting timing because over the course of the last week, I’ve realised there are lots of people I have to be thankful for. And the truth is some of them I’m not just thankful for. They’ve literally changed my life through travel.
Last week I watched a talk by AJ Jacobs. It was about the lessons he had learned while writing his latest book Thanks A Thousand which is all about his journey to thank all the people responsible for making his morning cup of coffee. Spoiler alert – it came to over 1,000 people and took him as far as Colombia. The very next day I happened to read an article by his cousin, James Altucher, which led to the usual rabbit warren of following clickable links. And there I found another post by him called 410 – AJ Jacobs: Ten Superpowers of ‘Extreme Gratitude’. In it he described AJ Jacobs’ advice to him on how to live more thankfully and about how to experience extreme gratefulness – because apparently just a bit doesn’t really cut it any more. James went on to describe the things he did to follow AJ’s 10 pieces of advice.
What was AJ Jacobs’ first piece of advice?
Write a note to someone from your past. Actually find someone who changed your life, even in a small way, and take action.
Originally, I’d planned on doing something similar only with a travel focus but the more I thought about it, the more I realised I couldn’t without basically copying his style. So instead I’m going to do his first piece of advice 10 times. So I’ve written 10 notes to 10 people who changed my life through travel and I’ll be publishing them one at a time. And here’s the first.
My mum changed my life through travel
Dear mum (Granny Wanderlust to you readers)
It stands to reason you would be at the top of my list. After all, you took me on my first flight and international experience at the tiny age of 3 months.
I’m sure, like any mum, you always hoped you would be a role model to me. I hope I can be as good a role model to the Things as you have been (and are) to me. It’s funny, though, how without either of us knowing it at the time, you were a role model to me as an expat woman. How could either of us have known then that I would choose this life?
You took us on incredible holidays and adventures. I’ll never forget you showing us the Scilly Isles or exploring Paris with you. That 2 week road trip around California was beyond amazing. Our annual family trips to the beach are as ingrained in my memories as discovering the Great Barrier Reef together.
You taught me not to fear the unknown and to embrace a challenge. Through your example I know I can be as strong as you are. I know that I can achieve great things and inspire my children. I can show them the world – locally and internationally – and teach them about the values that you passed down to me.
Now that we are far away from you, you have shown me that distance does not matter. That family and closeness isn’t about geography. And that no matter where I am in the world, I will always want my mum.
P.S. Let’s be clear here – you have changed my life in many many more ways than just through travel but that would take more space than I have here 😉
The other 9 pieces of advice
In case you’re interested, the other 9 pieces of advice are:
- LOOK PEOPLE IN THE EYES – “The barista told me people just use her as a vending machine when they get their morning cup of coffee. Nobody looks her in the eyes.”
- “GRATEFUL” VERSUS “THANKS” – People say “thanks” so much that it has no power anymore. It’s just a placeholder for “words”.
- PUT SOME THOUGHT INTO IT – Don’t just say “thanks” when someone does something for you. Dig deep. WHY are you thankful? “Pay it forward.
- SAVOR – Savor a kiss. Savor the beautiful rooftops you pass by as you walk around the block. Savor the hard work that was put into a movie you love. Savor the smile of your child. Collect more MOMENTS.
- BUT WHAT IF YOU’RE ANGRY? TAKE ACTION. Do something generous for someone else. That will push away the anger
- SAY IT OUT LOUD – When you say it out loud, say EVERYTHING out loud that’s positive and grateful, the prefrontal cortex takes over from the lizard brain and creates a positive outlook.
- A-Z GRATITUDE – If you have trouble going to sleep, don’t just count to 100.Count A to Z and for each letter, think of something your grateful for that starts with that letter.
- TWEET – Gratitude is selfish. Remember the results of having gratitude. It makes ME better. Not the person I’m grateful towards. But… it’s nice to know people appreciate what you do.
- THE GRATITUDE MUSCLE – Gratitude is a muscle. The more you exercise it intensely using the ideas above, the more benefits you will have, the easier it will be for you to go from anger and fear to gratitude and well-being.