Gratitude for Travel Experiences

My dad Farnell Jenkins and I got to meet legendary Earth, Wind & Fire singer Philip Bailey (left) following the band’s performance at the Nice Jazz Festival this summer.

‘Tis the season for giving thanks – and this passionate traveler never takes the ability nor the freedom to see the world for granted. So in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’d like to share five travel experiences, memories and things I’m grateful for this holiday season:

  • Summer trip to France with my dad. This June and July, I traveled with my songwriter/pianist/vocalist dad Farnell to France for a week-long series of performances he was giving in Samois-sur-Seine, the charming village where I spent last year. Invited to perform by the owner of a luxury bed & breakfast boat moored across the street from where I lived, my dad – whose music has been covered by British music legend Elvis Costello – rediscovered his musical groove during this trip. While in France, we headed south to the Riviera for the Nice Jazz Festival, which I was covering as a freelance writer. As I wrote earlier in my UrbanTravelGirl blog, “actually leaving the country with your dad puts your father-daughter relationship on a whole different plane…literally. Once you’re on foreign soil, you leave behind all things familiar. You’re struggling to speak a foreign language, spending cash that looks like play money, walking a fine line along a culture you may not understand.” We’ve shared adventures in Costa Rica, Panama – and now in France. What a huge blessing that’s allowed us to build a whole host of memories of our own.
  • A brand-new passport, full of expanded pages. I’m always both wistful and worried when it’s time to renew my U.S. passport, mailing or handing it off and waiting anxiously for a new one to arrive. A couple weeks before the France trip with my dad, I paid a long visit to the Chicago Passport Agency and picked up my stiff new passport – one for which I’d requested the extended version with extra pages. I’m thinking positively, looking forward to filling this 52-page treasure with stamps and visas from countries near and far until my passport expires in 2023!
  • My well-worn old passport, full of priceless memories. Even though the Passport Agency returned this invalidated copy to me with two holes punched into its front cover, this soft treasure is a walk down memory lane. I still keep it in my sky-blue leather passport holder (a thoughtful goodbye gift from former colleagues in Boeing International Communications) and sometimes pull this no-longer-valid book out to remind myself how blessed I’ve been to see so much of the world over the past 10 years. Packed with stamps from Argentina to Bermuda to the UK – and colorful visas from Italy to Turkey to Saudi Arabia – this old passport reminds me how much of this fascinating world there still is to see.
  • Living two blocks from the Blue Line L to O’Hare and the Orange Line to Midway. When I bought my South Loop condo back in 2000, I purposefully chose to live near the Blue Line L because I needed to ride it to a previous corporate job. But how fortuitous this location proved to be, seeing as that same Blue Line is a 45-minute, $5 trip to the world-connecting O’Hare Airport and its nearly 60 international destinations. And thank goodness for the also-nearby Orange Line L, which can take me to super-convenient Midway in less than 40 minutes. As my UrbanTravelGirl motto says, “You’re never more than one flight away from an amazing adventure!”
  • The opportunity to live abroad twice. I realize how truly blessed I’ve been to not only see much of the world, but to spend time actually living in Florence, Italy, from 2004-2005 and then last year in France. My life has been exponentially richer thanks to the time I spent as an expatriate in these European countries—making me much more empathetic to what it’s like to be an ‘immigrant’ in a land far away from home and more appreciative to the orderly ease of life (yes, really!) in these United States. These overseas stays also introduced me to treasured friends, second families – and the reality that there’s so much we can learn from the ways other folks think and live.

Tell me – what travel memories are you most grateful for this Thanksgiving?

Above: My dad Farnell Jenkins and I got to meet legendary Earth, Wind & Fire singer Philip Bailey (left) following the band’s performance at the Nice Jazz Festival this summer.


About Maureen Jenkins

Maureen Jenkins is a food/travel writer and communications professional who's visited nearly 35 countries and territories, lived in Florence, Italy, and recently spent a year living in a charming village near Paris, France. The self-proclaimed 'urban travel girl' talks travel, food and wine – abroad and in Chicago – in "TCW Travel Connection.” Read more of her thoughts on living globally at