The happiest time in my life was the three months before I left China. The remarkable thing about that is that during that time I was homeless and carried all my possessions on my back. I spent those months traveling from the northernmost part of Siberian China (in January no less!) to the fuzzy border between China and Tibet in the west to the very southern tip of China on the Laos border. I rode in old busses that seemed always on the verge of careening off cliffs and slept with strangers in hostels. I went days without showering and weeks without washing my clothes.
I also saw parts of the world that 99.99% of people will never get to see. I met some of the kindest people I have ever known. I had transcendental experiences. It was as close to perfection as I have ever known. It was a magical time. It changed my life forever.
I worry less. I care less about material things. My standards are lower. I’m more trusting. I’m more assertive. I’m more confident. I got perspective. I recognize a unity in humanity I never saw before. I learned to appreciate more and take nothing for granted.
As I think back today on all the things I’m thankful for, and it is a very long list, perhaps above all I’m thankful that even though we get tough times, we get great times too.