Yesterday was the fourth of July; just another winter day in the ancient Andean city of Cusco, Peru, where my husband and I are currently based as part of a multi-year experiment in Latin America living.

In lieu of the usual fireworks, picnics and holiday revelry that defines the day in the U.S., I spent the day reflecting on freedom.

Or more specifically, how grateful I am for the freedom to travel.

Gratitude comes easy. With more than a year of slow travel behind us, I often find myself overwhelmed by feelings of appreciation for the gifts of travel. Here’s a shortlist of things I am grateful for…

The People We Meet

By spending extended periods of time in one place, we have more time to interact with and become friendly with the people we meet. I love it when a local merchant, waiter, street musician or vendor greets us by name or with a smile of recognition; and we are able to do the same. Even better is to share a meal together, take a long walk, or sit and chat. The best is to be invited into their homes and lives. Other travelers, too, with their invaluable advice, shared experiences and inspirational perspectives, have greatly enhanced our journey.

Opportunities to practice respect, patience, acceptance and trust

Leaving home means leaving our comfort zone behind. The language, food, social norms and daily routine are new and foreign. That’s why we crave it. The newness feels exciting. Foreign seems exotic. Until it doesn’t. That’s when growth begins. Each time I manage to replace annoyance with respect, frustration with patience, judgment with acceptance or fear with trust, I am one step closer to the becoming the better person I know I am capable of being.

Learning to live with less

Fifteen months ago, when we crammed a lifetime of belongings into storage and packed our bags for the unknown, the idea of wearing the same clothes day after day or getting by with only two pairs of shoes, was still an untested aspiration. As was living without a car and working remotely without all the bells and whistles of a well equipped home office. No printer. No landline. No car. No matching shoes for every outfit. So what. There are taxis and buses, laundry services and print shops, shoe shiners and simple solutions to every need. It’s surprising how little we miss our stuff; how easily we’ve adapted to living with less.

The license to travel

The more I travel the more I recognize how fortunate I am to possess a passport that is welcomed throughout much of the world. An inherited privilege far too easy to take for granted and one unavailable to many we meet. “Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility,” said Eleanor Roosevelt. The freedom to roam is a precious advantage granted by accident of birth and my responsibility, as I see it, is to behave with dignity and grace, to conduct myself in such a way as to respect and enhance the freedom of those I encounter along the way. It’s a challenge and an honor I carry daily.

What about you? What does freedom mean to you? What are you grateful for? Feel free to share.



Ellen Barone is an American writer and wanderer. She co-founded and publishes the group travel blog and is currently at work on her first book "I Could Live Here".