“The miracle about gratitude is that it shifts your perception to such an extent that it changes the world you see” ~ Dr. Robert Holden

“It is not happy people who are thankful. It is thankful people who are happy.”

Dear Asher,

The one thing that long term travel helps us realize is that all humans are more similar than different and there is the same driving force for everyone. We all want to lessen suffering and increase happiness. Since happiness is the most important universal, we named you Asher, which means Happiness in Hebrew. Your Grandpa Bill gets the credit for naming your mom and I often joke that he didn’t get too far in the baby name book, but he too chose wisely because Alyssa means Happiness in Greek. The great thing about this universal pursuit is that happiness is not just something that happens to you. Much of our happiness comes from our behavior, and as your mom knows (the expert in applied behavior analysis), behaviors can be changed.

The new science of happiness, Positive Psychology, has examined many behavioral choices that lead to happiness and at the top of the list is gratitude. Budget backpackers are known for their minimalism, but if there is one thing they have an abundance of, it is gratitude. When you live for four months with just two or three outfits, preparing one pot meals with no spices, sweating on sticky chicken buses and doing all your laundry by hand, gratitude for the luxuries of home is easy. The trick is to express gratitude when the fog of the familiar blinds our ability to accurately assess our abundance. Asher, as a behavior check, we have decided to start the new year by expressing what we are grateful for, both on the road and at home, before each meal. We have had six meals since the start of the new year and here is our list so far:

What we are grateful for on the road:

Dad – all of the quality time we have been able to spend together
Mom – all of the unique experiences you have had
Dad – the warm weather that helps dry your cloth diapers
Mom – a culture that adores children
Dad – a wife that embraces adventure
Mom – a husband that does all of the cooking and laundry
Dad – an endless supply of cheap fresh fruit
Mom – our international family of Couchsurfing hosts
Dad – all of the time spent outdoors
Mom – daily smoothies
Dad – a wife and baby that co-sleep, breastfeed and practice elimination communication
Mom – a baby that is flexible, adaptable and enjoys trying new things

What we are grateful for back home:
Dad – washing machines
Mom – living in a country that provides generous parental leave
Dad – having a well stocked kitchen
Mom – living a lifestyle that allows both parents to take a parental leave
Dad – my job, despite all of its headaches
Mom – clean water from the tap so that when I bathe my teething child, I don’t have to worry about him sucking on his fingers
Dad – clean floors and soft carpets for babies to crawl on
Mom – mosquitoes that don’t force you on high alert for fear of contracting dengue
Dad – family and friends who always look out for us
Mom – almond milk
Dad – chocolate!
Mom – real baked goods!


Asher, when you are older, if ever you find yourself in a funk, keep a gratitude journal and things should turn around quickly. Better yet, hit the road, as it is the ultimate awakening from the fog of the familiar.


6 thoughts on “Gratitude

  1. Hello Slee Family
    Nice photo Asher. You are certainly a cutie on duty at the beach. The particular area you are in right now looks so beautiful. I can’t believe you get such beautiful beaches to yourself. No throngs of people to wade through is my idea of a nice beach day too. Definitely something to be thankful for. Enjoy your sunshine, we have seen little of it this holiday but the weather has been nice and we finally have some white stuff floating down from the sky. Go build some beautiful sand castles, and we will build some too…white ones.
    The Gall Crew


  2. Love this blog. It is always eye-opening to see what people are grateful for. It makes me realize how much we can start to take for granted if we aren’t constantly reminding ourselves how blessed we really are. I can’t believe that Alyssa is grateful for northern mosquitoes but there you go! Haha!
    I went for a walk in a gentle snowfall yesterday and even though I envy you the beaches, I too am thankful for all the moments of grace that we stumble upon.
    Grateful for your presence in my life…


  3. Dear Asher,
    When I was a wee little girl I was taught that two very important words were, “Thank you!”
    How often can I say this in a day to a tried grocery clerk, a busy employee, a kind family member, a tiny squirrel who lights my path. Each time I do it brings me back to the realization we are all one! I am so thankful for you, your enthusiasm for life and awe at every new experience. I thank Dad & Mom for the gift of you. May your days be full of thanks!
    Hugs to everyone!


  4. Hey Guys,

    Funny story:

    Here at work, reading your blog on my prep, and I spill my coffee and knock my sandwich on the floor and all over myself. Covered in coffee, cleaning up the mess, I couldn’t help but be grateful that I had a sandwich to eat at all. Even if I needed the 5 second rule.

    Now I am heading upstairs to teach a class covered in coffee.

    Thanks for a thoughtful post!



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