Thanksgiving to an American can mean several things. It can mean delicious traditions, travel, family reunions….Mostly, it means happy, satiated bellies with your closest family.
Growing up, my family was always better at Thanksgiving than Christmas. Maybe it was our shared love of food and talking for hours that seemed to jell better with the holiday. Either way, when I moved away from home to study abroad, I experienced my first foreign Thanksgiving without my family. It would be the beginning of a new tradition for me, one I would come to love just as much.
It’s been years since I’ve been in Texas for my favorite holiday. I’ve spent it in Spain, France, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Belgium. Each time has been different and delicious; each time it’s been rewarding to share with other cultures.
My first Thanksgiving away from home. My Spanish host mom, my fellow American Elisabeth, and Japanese friend Mari. 2011. (from right)
When I first moved to Paris in 2011, the pangs of homesickness started to nag at me. I was desperate to break bread with people who understood the importance of the tradition. Sure, it was my choice to be away from home, but this was a piece of home I was desperate to recreate. My second thanksgiving in Paris ended up in takeaway and tears. You can read about that here. 😅
This year, I’m so thankful for my friends far and near. We’ve been fortunate to see the world on more than just a trip’s timeline. I was never the kind of person to have heaps of friends, but instead always preferred meaningful connections over several topical ones. Today, I’m thankful for the amazing friends we’ve made over the past seven years. This year I’m especially thankful for our friends we’ve made here in Belgium, our home for the past two years.
No matter how beautiful the country or city that we’re in, it wouldn’t be anything without our friends; without the people who make us laugh until our faces hurt; without the people who know us better than we know ourselves. As we approach our next move to France, I can’t help but get emotional thinking of the friends who enriched this home of ours, enriched the experience as whole. As it turns out, our friends have become our family abroad, and this is our new normal Thanksgiving tradition.
We were fortunate enough to spend Thanksgiving for the second and third time with my favorite people. The people who feel like home, and the people who make being in Belgium so much fun, rewarding, and memorable. ❤️