I meet people who think like me when I travel. Almost too much so, actually. I meet impoverished writers who tell me an effective way of getting free food is to find the unopened stuff in the trash bins in places like Boulder. I meet 30-year-olds living on fold-out couches all over the world, people who say they save money on all kinds of things but they spend on certain special things. For one guy, it’s good Port. For most of them, it’s plane tickets. I meet people who tell me about the feeling of lifting off in an airplane, a feeling that brings them near tears, a feeling of wanting to incinerate themselves in the engines of a jet plane and thus travel forever, never touching the ground.

Because I’m traveling alone, people talk to me and I talk to them. On a bus in Bangkok, a white boy grins at me and begins to pester me with questions: where I’m from, what I’m doing, how long I’m traveling. In a shared taxi in Krabi, a woman tells me in broken English that I’m beautiful. “Me, fat,” she says cheerfully “brown, black!” she points to the skin of her arms and giggles. I try to tell her that where I’m from, everyone wants to be tan, but I’m not sure she understands.

I am thankful for these people I’ve never met before and whom I will probably never see again. I am thankful because they have turned a solitary trip into one full of conversations and shared experiences.

But I am thankful most of all for the family who waits for me back home, for those I have grown up with and the little ones whose eyes are still full of wonder for my snapshots of monkeys and elephants, who snuggle down into my lap in welcome. I can go all the way around the world and come back to the tradition of mashed potatoes and turkey and a sagging table full of memories.