Europe by train: day 13. Bruges, Belgium.
Last year Brian and I spent Thanksgiving in Puerto Natales, Chile. We’d just returned from walking the W in Torres del Paine National Park. It was snowing. We tromped through the icy streets to the only brewpub in town and, finding it closed, walked across the empty square looking for a place to have dinner.
I remember being sad and feeling far away from home. We found a pizza place, one of the only establishments open, and sat shoulder to shoulder on a picnic bench, a candle flickering in front of us and people yapping in Spanish all around. We put on our happy faces and ordered wine. I don’t remember what we talked about but I know we were thinking of home.
I remember our first Thanksgiving in Oregon. We didn’t have a single friend. We ate pizza that year, too, ordered and delivered to our apartment door. In those early days we were one step away from giving up and rushing back to Ohio, where we’d both been born and raised. It would have been easier to go home, where we knew what to expect and had people who would catch us if we fell.
I’m glad we didn’t go back to Ohio and I’m glad we pushed through our homesickness in Chile too. This year, we will spend another Thanksgiving away from the people we love. I still miss home. That feeling never goes away, even after you pass that invisible line when you realize you feel more comfortable away than when you’re there.
This Thanksgiving I do not have the same seasonal-enduced homesickness. It’s because this time around I know to appreciate this holiday abroad. I know that next year we will be home for Thanksgiving. We’ll be home for Christmas too. It took ten years of wandering to make us certain: Home is where we want to be.
Right now we are in Bruges, Belgium. We arrived yesterday by train. Bruges is adorable and cozy. The city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it’s like stepping back in time. Of course we are already charmed.
Today we will wander the canals and browse the Bruges Christmas market. When the sun goes down we will once again begin the hunt for a Thanksgiving meal in a foreign town.
Afterwards, we will come back to the hostel we are staying in, a room with two twin beds and posters promoting 1 euro jager shots at the bar downstairs. We will hold hands in the dark, our arms hanging in the empty space between beds.
Tonight, when I count my blessings, I will be thankful for our holidays abroad. I will remember to savor all of the things that won’t last forever, which is everything.
I wrote a book about how to live your dreams. You can buy it on Amazon for $8.99.