Travel Lessons on Thanksgiving

Dad and Harper

Instead of remembering how the Pilgrims dined with the Native Americans before and after far more brutal acts, the experience of voyaging to a new land always presents travelers with myriad opportunities to appreciate the world that we’ve been placed into. That’s why I would like to reflect upon my travel lessons this Thanksgiving.


Each time I go abroad, I’m reminded of these lessons. Most recently, the teachers have been the people who I’ve come to know from the backs of their heads and from their rectangular-framed gazes: the cab drivers.


On my first cab ride in Dubai, I was swindled by a driver who kept his meter hidden, most likely running it before I even got into the vehicle. Incidentally, during my next ride in a taxi, I sat in the backseat overly guarded, doing my best to express a lack of interest in conversation, while displaying a degree of distrust in my countenance. But the driver, a gregarious Bangladeshi man, kept chattering away from the front seat, oblivious to my obduracy. Or maybe he just felt bored or lonely. He asked about my life in New York, the health of my then-pregnant wife, and the name we had selected for our daughter-to-be. Having been exposed to this man’s humanity, I dropped my guard, answered his questions, and repaid the curiosity.


He had a family, too, I learned. But he hadn’t seen them in fourteen years. He lived in Dubai because he was unable to support his family with his past jobs in Bangladesh.


Today, he uses his money for basic necessities and for a shared room in an apartment–not a shared apartment, but a shared room that he sleeps in with three other cab drivers. (This accommodation is so popular among the poor expatriates of Dubai that even the real estate section advertises bed space.) Then he takes the remainder of his paycheck and sends it home to his wife and daughters, loved ones who he probably cannot visualize anymore without the aid of photographs.


About a year prior to sitting in this man’s cab, Marissa and I were in Chiang Mai, Thailand, negotiating down the price of a tuk tuk ride by a dollar or two. When we got the driver to agree to our price, he took us to our hotel. Then, in the shadow of the beautiful resort, he looked up and shook his head.


“The money that you spend here for one night,” the driver said, “I could use to feed my family for one month.”


Marissa and I gave him his original asking price. We would learn similar lessons from the tuk tuk drivers of Cambodia, too.


Thinking about travel lessons on Thanksgiving are my life lessons. This year, two things came to mind when I reflected back on these taxi-driver conversations: I’m lucky that I can travel, but even luckier that I can sit beside my one-week-old daughter as she sleeps in her crib and makes her newborn noises.


Happy Thanksgiving



Posted on by Noah Lederman in Baby Voyage

4 Responses to Travel Lessons on Thanksgiving

  1. Mrs. Gross

    Happy Thanksgiving! May you have many more wonderful moments to be thankful for with your growing family.

    • Noah Lederman

      Thank you. I hope you had a great Thanksgiving, too, Mrs. Gross.

  2. Sam

    Traveling on thanksgiving is so stressful. But loving that baby is easy to do.

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