Reflections on Gratitude in a Year Without Travel

He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.

— Epictetus

In January, I wrote a blog about my thoughts on Traveling in Europe in the New Decade. Wow, that seems like a long time ago. How could I have known what would hit us all in 2020? Of course, I couldn’t have known – but it’s interesting to consider how oblivious I was to the possibility of living through a pandemic, and the effects it would have on all our lives.

Hiking the vineyards in Barolo in March just before the pandemic forced us home

Hiking the vineyards in Barolo in March just before the pandemic forced us home

Sadly, I’m a worrier – I worry about lots of things…. but a pandemic was not among them a year ago. I feel naïve and blindsided. Nevertheless, I have learned a lot in the last year – about myself, about my love and appreciation for travel, and about gratitude. At this time of Thanksgiving, I want to share a bit about this last part and reflect on what I am most grateful for this year, even in a pandemic, even when we can’t travel, even when we can’t help other people go to Europe and beyond.

First of all, I want to say that I wish I were one of those people who really accomplished a lot since the coronavirus hit the US, and travel stopped for most of us. Some people have used this time effectively to get in shape, learn a language, read voraciously or organize their photographs. Others have been working from home while teaching their children or taking care of toddlers. Still more are essential workers who I admire and appreciate, who are somehow managing their stress as they get us through this crazy time.

Sadly, I am not one of those people. I aspire to be one of them! I am beyond impressed by those folks. But alas, even though I have been busy as always, I cannot say that I have achieved a great deal during this pause in our travel lifestyle.

But there are many experiences in the last 9-10 months that I have thoroughly enjoyed. I have absolutely loved spending time with Chelsea and Sam in their home in Madison. It has been amazing for Greg to be able to help them renovate their first home and see the progress over that past year. We also have been able to see our son, David, several times, and that has been a truly unexpected and wonderful pleasure. We’ve visited Greg’s parents in Ohio, and been able to help them, too, which we could not have done if we had traveled this year as we planned. So, this special time with family warms my heart, and I will always be grateful for this time with my adult children and aging in-laws.  

Enjoying a hike at Devil’s Lake State Park, Wisconsin

Enjoying a hike at Devil’s Lake State Park, Wisconsin

We have traveled in the US and visited with friends (socially distanced, of course) who we haven’t seen in way too long. This was a totally unanticipated joy. We have stayed in touch while we travel, but it’s just not the same as visiting in person. We appreciate this chance to see those we haven’t been able to see much since we decided to be nomads. You can see our post on what it’s been like for us To Be Nomadic Travel Planners During a Pandemic if you’d like to know more.

Visiting US national parks this past summer was amazing! We thought we would travel through Europe while we are “younger” and road trip through the US as we get on in years. Well, we reversed this idea a bit and got to see parts of the US that have been on our list for a long time. You can read about some of our travels and follow our recommendations for traveling during this time in our post on 5 Helpful Hints for your US Road Trip While Waiting to Go to Europe. We are so grateful for these experiences, and they leave us wanting to see much more of the US as soon as we can.

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park

I am also thankful for information and the time to learn about our current situation. I never wanted to read about viruses and pandemics, but there is so much information out there that is important to understand, so that we can do our part in containing this horrific outbreak. I have also read a great deal about politics these past months, and listened to many a podcast as I walk hours on end, just to get some exercise. I am grateful for access to the information I need, and the time, energy, and focus needed to try to absorb as much as I can about the current situation. This is a bit of a pain point for me, actually – I probably read more than I should about these topics. Sometimes I need to layer some fiction on top of my readings, just for fun!

We have cooked together, laughed together, enjoyed amazing meals, watched terrific shows, kept up with emails, worked on the website, helped our clients cancel, postpone, and change their travel plans, and more. We have been busy, even though we haven’t been busy traveling in the way we expected.

My heart goes out to those who are struggling through this pandemic. I know how privileged and fortunate we are. I would rather be traveling, but I recognize that we are truly blessed. I have a lot to be grateful for this Thanksgiving, and always. I’m looking for ways to give back and help others who need it so much in this crazy time. Send me your ideas. Until we can help others travel again, we look forward to helping others in meaningful ways.

We don’t have a house right now, but we are grateful that others have made us so welcome in their homes. We send you our very best wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving. May we be truly grateful, in every circumstance – even this one.

Celebrating “Friendsgiving” in Bristol, England, November 2018

Celebrating “Friendsgiving” in Bristol, England, November 2018

Dreaming of travel to Europe when things open up again? We can help with that! We are here for your custom trip planning to Italy, France, Ireland, the UK and all of Europe. We are experts in creating custom travel itineraries and leading small group trips to European destinations. We also book European cruises! Feel free to reach out via email — We’re always available to talk about travel!

We can also help with trips in the US while we wait for Europe to open up. We’ve traveled extensively throughout the US and visited many of our National Parks as well as wine regions, major cities, and tourist destinations. We just love to help people travel!


Betsy Ball – Betsy is co-founder and partner of Euro Travel Coach (ETC), which crafts custom European vacations for independent travelers and leads small group trips to Europe. She is a passionate and culturally curious traveler who thoroughly enjoys sharing her love for exploring Europe with ETC clients. Prior to founding ETC, Betsy taught International Business at Tarleton State University in Texas (part of the A & M System) where she led study abroad trips to multiple European countries and other worldwide destinations. She retired from teaching two and a half years ago and now travels 9 months of the year in Europe. She has a degree in hotel, restaurant management from Michigan State University and an MBA from Southern Methodist University in Dallas. She also holds a Level 3 certification from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust.

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