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My Thanksgiving in Aruba

There is so much to be thankful for.

First, I am happy to be alive after a near death experience in the summer of 2020.

Second, I am blessed with the good fortune to try to simply experience and appreciate my life, which is something I very much need for my mental health.

Finally, I am thrilled to be in Aruba again with my mom for another three-week retreat this year.

I have only spent Thanksgiving outside the country once in my life. I was an expat living in London for work, and I didn’t fly home for the holiday, and I honestly don’t remember a detail about it. I find it highly likely there was a pang of homesickness as I boarded the London Underground to head to the office that Friday in 2006.

In Freudian terms, I probably suppressed the depressing memory of not being part of the celebrations.

Therefore, when I first considered spending Thanksgiving in Aruba earlier this year, I had trepidations about missing out on the amazing food, family and football.

Since I am trying to prototype living a better life and be more open to experiences, I decided to see what it was like to spend Thanksgiving outside the US, post-pandemic.

While there are limited options to celebrate a true American Thanksgiving in Aruba, the approximately 50% of tourists here this week are in fact from the United States, and to cater to them, the grocery stores do in fact have turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and pie if you are so inclined to cook Thanksgiving dinner yourself.

I feel lucky to have actually made it to the island. Given the pandemic’s resurgence, the Netherlands responded with new COVID-19 restrictions, which now require arriving Dutch visitors to submit to multiple COVID tests upon entry and while on the island if they are staying in Aruba less than 14 days. Even Americans need to submit a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of your departing flight from the US to Aruba for entry.

Aruba is close to the equator, so the weather really never changes year-round, which is rather unfortunate if you enjoy experiencing the seasons, but really is perfectly splendid when you happen to be a beach person like myself.

Usually, Aruba’s high season begins around now/early December and continues through March, a period when the snowbirds from the Northeast (they comprise the vast majority of American visitors to the island) wish to escape the chilly confines of their locales.

However, this year, I have noticed that it seems the summer season was busier in Aruba, certainly with American tourists. I hypothesize that many Americans are loath to spend their first post-pandemic Thanksgiving holiday away from friends and family at this current moment vs. the “Summer of Freedom.” COVID cases are on the rise, money may be tight; whatever the reason may be, I see a slight reduction in tourism.

Which isn’t a bad thing by the way. One doesn’t need to wake up at un-Godly hours of the morning to stake a claim on a beach chair. Perhaps post-pandemic, international travel will be like this for a little while. One can only hope.

We did receive another Thanksgiving blessing here on the island of Aruba. Last week, a group of five tourists were swept out to sea on a raft carried by an exceptionally strong current. They spent 24 hours in the open ocean, likely in only bathing suits and with no food or water, before being found floating miles away from the Aruban coastline by a Korps Politie helicopter.

The heart-warming story of these tourists lost at sea is both gripping and terrifying at the same time. In fact, I am currently writing a story inspired by these actual events in Aruba for the next new Social Musings by Austin podcast release.

Here is the link to the Social Musings by Austin podcast on Apple Podcasts:

Stay tuned, and while you are at it, you can listen to my most popular stories now told by me, their author.

More than anything, what I realized this year is that Thanksgiving can really be a mindset. One can be grateful and celebrate the holiday with family no matter what the location.

Perhaps this is a start of a new tradition for me. We shall see.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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