As we go around the table this Thanksgiving, we’re likely to name check the many things we’re grateful for, including the loved ones seated around us and the feast we’re about to enjoy. This year, let’s add travel to the list, too. Not just because we’re always thankful to lay under the Caribbean sun in February drinking margaritas while much of the north is knee-deep in snow, but because travel is also an often profound, meaningful and transformative experience that makes us better citizens of the world and—let’s be real—more interesting at parties. Here, some of our favorite travel writers and bloggers share why they’re thankful for travel and how it has changed their lives. In the comments, we hope you’ll do the same!

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Getting to know incredible people around the world

Dr. Cacinda Mahoney, Points and Travel

I am thankful for the people I meet along the way, introducing me to their daily life. Everyone from famous sculptors to hard-working doctors, violin makers, yacht owners, cooks and even waiters who free dive. Recently, I met a PR executive who was extremely charming and knows his home city of Wurzburg, Germany like the back of his hand. He was very informative and yet comfortable to talk about his love for this city he represents. I also met a writer from Washington, DC who asked the most intriguing questions. I never would have met these people if it wasn’t for travel. Sure many encounters are brief, but most of them are memorable.—Dr. Cacinda Mahoney,

Experiencing things you never dreamed of

Travel allows you to experience the world in ways you could never even imagine. That’s why I’m thankful for it. As a child, I remember listening in awe to my mother’s tales from adventures around the world—from India to Russia. I continued to feed my curiosity by devouring every word in National Geographic, and then grew up to build my life around exploring the world. I never imagined travel would allow me to view an entire village of storks in France while on a canal cruise, then watch grizzly bears climb a hill from a train—all within a few weeks. I have learned that no matter where we go, we are all connected—from the smallest creature to the largest—and the beauty and adventure of the world is a gift we get to share with each other.—Ava Roxanne Stritt,

Feeling completely free

Jason Heidemann, Inspire editor

I’m thankful for the sense of freedom travel provides. In a world where most of us are tied to full-time jobs, an endless stream of bills and the never ending demands that come with parenting children and/or pets, true freedom often remains elusive. Yet every time I board a plane, train or automobile, I get to wave goodbye to the emails that normally demand my immediate attention, a house that constantly needs cleaning and a city where traffic is at a constant standstill. In particular, I’m a road trip fanatic and for me there is no greater joy than that of the open road. Even though loved ones back home are given my itinerary in advance, when the windows are down, the radio cranked up and my foot is putting pedal to metal, all I can think is, “This is true freedom!”—Jason A. Heidemann, Inspire editor

Spending quality time with family

There are so many reasons I’m thankful for travel, but the main one is the opportunity to spend time together as a family. Since our kids were little, we’ve had a policy of “no electronics on vacation” (with the exception of mom and dad). By unplugging, we make a concentrated effort to live in the moment. There are no distractions, just the five of us, learning about other cultures, enjoying new adventures, and connecting on a deeper level. It’s an experience that’s difficult to re-create at home when we are all running in different directions. Travel is one of the great gifts we’ve been able to give our children, and we are thankful for it each and every day.—Kirsten Maxwell, Kids Are A Trip

Sher Jordan, Sher She Goes

Becoming a richer person

I’m thankful for travel because it broadens my horizons by letting me see more of our beautiful planet, and by giving me the chance to learn more about other cultures and people and hear their stories. Travel not only gives me great perspective about how much bigger the world is than we often realize, but it also makes me so grateful for my place in that same world. Without travel, I would not feel as deeply connected to the places and people around me.Sher Jordan, Sher She Goes

Benefitting from a radical change of scenery

Traveling with my family allows us to get out of our bubble (we live in Orange County) and see how others live their everyday lives. We are exposed to down-to-earth experiences like apple picking and being able to commute by train or foot from one side of town to another. We love how traveling brings us closer as a family and how later in our days we’re able to say, “Remember when we did XYZ?” As a mom, I’m thankful for travel that allows me to bond with my chicklets because I know soon enough they’ll be out of the house, but I’ll cherish these moments with them forever.Pattie Cordova, Living Me Vida Loca

Staying close to your heritage

Trinidad, Cuba

Trinidad, Cuba

My multi-cultural family includes Cuban, Irish and German roots so we’re always grateful to reconnect with family around the world, brush up on our language skills, sample local dishes, learn a recipe or two, and just generally feel more in tune with the many sides of our heritage. We try to go to Cuba at least once year to visit friends and family, and it’s always a trip to see my young daughter dancing to rhumba and salsa in the streets of Old Havana, trying to speak Spanish with her cousins and discovering how much she loves fried plantains at her aunt’s house. It’s a much more fun way to keep in touch than the phone.—Martina Sheehan, Inspire editor

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