Thankful for Nothing

Thankful for Nothing

When people ask what you’re thankful for, responses generally include, “Friends. Family. Health.” Those are big things. What about the little things? What about when you feel like you have nothing?
My glimpse into “having nothing” happened a couple years ago when I had a chance to rough it around the world. Literally. I backpacked across Asia, Africa, Australia, and Europe on a humanitarian missions trip team. We lived out of backpacks, slept in public places, wore the same clothes for days, rarely showered, and had to take advantage of anything free we could get. At points, it seemed like we had nothing to be thankful for except for the fact that we would soon return back to the comforts of America.
Well, as with many life stories, it was when we lacked things that we were truly able to appreciate them. Here are some personal photos of my 11 month trip to give you a better glimpse into…

“The 12 Nothings to be Thankful for in America…”

If it has wheels, it will travel. Very far and usually very uncomfortable.  Transportation and occupancy laws? Seat belts & Personal space? …Non-existent in many countries.


Drinking Water
Our bodies are not adapt to the bacteria and parasites found in many other countries. So we cannot drink anything until it is filtered and purified. For some reason we’d always be dehydrated of thirst when the Vietnam Airport security would make us dump out our water before flight, or the water tank would run out in Africa.
running water

… Running Water
If it’s not enough that we had to filter and boil our water, most villages on the coasts of South Africa have to walk MILES to get drinking, cooking, and cleaning water from wells. They pump and carry water every day… sometimes for hours at a time.

Alot of schools in Asia are forced to have numerous classes in one room. It’s extremely loud, but they make it work by having each class face a different direction. There was a month in Nepal where we lived in a glorified ‘tree-house’ with paper thin floors and walls that didn’t even reach the ceiling. If you stood up in the squatty potty bathroom, you could see right into the bedrooms.

Thank goodness for sleeping pads! We slept on the floor a lot on this trip. Turning the lights off entailed putting a mask over your eyes and plugs in your ears. There’s no ‘making your bed’… just folding it up.
My pack served as my ‘closet’ and 3 plastic bags were my ‘drawers’. Nightstands? Unheard of. The floor is where you sat the most. Chairs were definitely missed.

Vendors in Asia put your drinks in baggies. It makes sense for cold things I guess, but not with hot coffee. There’s not a lot getting accomplished with a hot bag on your wrist. Nothing beats sturdy mug and handle.


We did a lot of painting overseas… which meant a lot of chair stacking.

garbage cans
Garbage Cans.
In Asia, most trash gets thrown on the ground… especially in India. Done with your water? Throw it out the train window. Done with your candy bar? Throw that wrapper over your shoulder.


Where’s a Home Depot when you need one!? We improvised when we whacked down jungles of vines in Thailand, installed flooring with safety scissors in India, and swung shovels to cut bushes in Africa.


Hot showers. Any shower.
Dumping cold water on your head with a cup doesn’t exactly count as getting legitimately clean.

Air conditioning.
Definition of ‘Uncomfortable’: Southern Nepal in May and June. I have never complained that I was hot again in my life. I hope these two months we’re ‘character building’ because they were miserable. I was never NOT sweating, and we hiked to the creeks just to sit in water… That you could not drink of course.

Deeper than these lighthearted ‘Western World’ amenities that, to be honest, we can survive without, this trip around the world exposed me to a lack of three things that I am especially thankful for…

My Parents.
A LOT of the children in this world are orphans. I know because I met them, invested in their lives, and left a piece of my heart every time I had to say goodbye.


A Place to Call Home.
I was raised in a safe home. Until this trip, I’ve never had any real conception of what it would feel like to be ‘homeless’. I knew after living out of a backpack for a year, that I would be returning to concrete walls, and the comforts I’ve known my whole life. Many people in the world have ‘homes’ made of piles of trash… and they live here there whole lives.


My Education.
Kids in America are required to go to school and more often than not, complain about it (I sure did). Kids in other countries are excited for ANY opportunity to learn and appreciate anything from a new chalk stick to having a blonde foreign girl teach them English and Math.

Things are only ‘under appreciated’ if we allow them to be. There is nothing wrong with being blessed, but the real problem lies when we do not live a life of gratitude. Weather it be the comfortable bed you sleep in, or the loving family you’re surrounded by, be THANKFUL for it. 
Invest in others. Seek truth. Think outside yourself. Look deeper. Live your life with an abundance of gratitude towards both the big things and the “Nothings”.