A Travelling Thanksgiving on the Road

Celebrating a travelling Thanksgiving on the road isn’t always easy and this year would prove no exception.

Holed up close to the beach in Huanchaco, Peru, there’d be no turkey dinner or trimmings. No special table cloth, place settings or cutlery. Not a single extra seat dragged from some obscure corner of the house to accommodate a friendly new face and definitely no NFL game to help placate tryptophan induced food comas. To be honest, we didn’t even sit down to any sort of out of the ordinary meal.

In many ways, you could say that this year we really didn’t celebrate at all.

But then, that wouldn’t be exactly true.

Luca and Tanya

At least, if a lesson learned from a Thanksgiving 16 years ago on the US Island of St. Croix is anything to go on.

It would be a gathering that saw me on the island for less than six weeks at the time when a phone call out of the blue presented a stranger in a strange land his lone official dining option for the day.

And just like that I’d manage to stumble onto what would soon come to be known as the best Thanksgiving ever.

Like the invite, the day would begin in an unexpected and surreal manner. In the form of a morning surf in stellar conditions made all the more epic by the fact the line-up consisted of me, myself and I. Eerily empty, I thought to myself as I paddled out with my head on a swivel figuring I must’ve neglected to notice the shark sighting signs during my drive in to the secluded, off road, parking area.

Whatever the reason, I had it all to myself and, as such, I’d show up later that afternoon spaghetti armed, sun burned and with a PermaGrin etched across my face from my three hours in the water. And somehow things would only get better from there.

The dining area would be an outdoor, open aired affair at a table set for close to 30. White table cloths and place settings that looked eloquent in their own right but, set beneath the shade of a couple large trees and a fading afternoon light as they were, suddenly gave the entire scene the air of a professionally catered four or five star banquet. The sort of dining experience people pay large sums of money to be a part of.

And a feast it would be. All the usual suspects would be on hand. Who cooked what, escapes me, other than to say our hosts Jen and Brian set the bar incredibly high with a couple turkeys that more than lived up to the billing of the table on which they were served.

But it’d be after the majority of the plates had been cleared that the night took off. There, with candles now lit and glasses refilled, the stars came out and a gentle evening breeze made its presence felt. It was then that the night’s real magic began to play out.

The magic of friendly, easy going banter of people who somewhere deep down sensed the good fortune they were a part of.

For one night, at least, nowhere else mattered. Time slowed, voices rose, laughs rang out. More

Deja Vu…all over again.

than any apple cobbler, pecan or pumpkin pie, conversation would the evening’s primary dessert of choice and it would be served in copious amounts. Old friends (and, in my case) new faces mingled as one.

Everyone happy and grateful for the opportunity of, if nothing else, having had our paths cross on that little island in the Caribbean.

It’s virtually impossible not to think of that evening every Thanksgiving. And this year, sitting on the roof of our AirBnB apartment watching a final sunset together with a young Swiss couple whose own unfolding odyssey had intersected with our own for just over a week, the 16 year old memory seemed more poignant than ever.

As is usually the case in Huanchaco, our days would involve time in the water with it being an educational process for each of us. Educational for the Swiss Luca as he was just starting along the path of the surfing learning curve. And for me, educational in having my eyes opened to the fact my ‘experienced’ 47 year old body’s ability to spring back into fighting form after a solid eight months out of the water was now as unrealistic as it was suddenly physically incapacitating.

In short, one of those little life moments that whispers louder than usual; something about getting well and truly O-L-D.

Juan, Lucia and the gang. Paracas, Peru

In the meantime, our 20 something friends, Luca and his girlfriend Tanya had been sucked in to beach town living with a fair number of mananas coming and going regarding their scheduled departure. But now, with our many ‘Happy Hour’ sunset viewings behind us, it was finally time for the two spring chickens to put this chapter behind them. To bid farewell to the middle aged couple whose three and a half year old daughter had proved hard to shake over the past few days and jump on an overnight bus to the party town of Mancora.

And it’d be then, almost fittingly, even before Luca and Tanya were out of sight down the road (with the ring of our best wishes and good intentions to possibly catch up further down the line in Ecuador still hanging in the night air) that a familiar van pulled up with the next Thanksgiving road offering in tow.

They were Instagram’s TroncosViajeros, a young Argentinian couple still in the early days of their year and a half journey from South America to Alaska. We’d met them back in Aguas Calientes and then again in Paracas before a family gathering of sorts for them back in the megatropolis of Lima would see our paths diverge.

Until now.

As fate would have it, Lucky Meeting Number 3 was destined to play out there on our Hauanchaco porch. And it be there, with beers in hand, that we’d compare notes of our mutual paths since Paracas. Lima, the city we’d avoided like the plague, had been good to our friends Juan and Lucia but now the sleepy surf drenched town an overnight bus ride north of the country’s capital was again home for all of us. And, as I’d let them know, on Thanksgiving, of all nights.

“Really?” Juan would politely reply before asking another rhetorical question of sorts. “So, did you

Kaia in the TroncosViajero Mobile. Huanchaco, Peru

have any turkey?”

“Cheers,” I replied before raising my glass and adding the simplest, most profound toast I could muster, “To Thanksgiving.”

Like sixteen years earlier, the day had started with surfing and ended with friendly faces. In this case, some of the faces would be coming and others leaving while, as far as the surfing experiences compared…

Let’s just say both involved water and leave it at that.

The fact was, except for one pathetically sore back, we all had our health and we had each other. And once again, as it did 16 years earlier, the road had provided the proverbial icing on the cake in the form of faces otherwise known as friends.

And for this we were nothing but incredibly grateful.


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