|Happy Thanksgiving! Ten years ago, I was 35,000 feet over the Atlantic. I was returning home after a long inspection tour. It was a strange, challenging, yet hopeful time. I had finalized a divorce earlier that year, was leading a company my parents had placed in my hands during the depths of the Great Recession, and I was doing everything I could to be the best Dad I could possibly be to my two year old son. I was feeling especially emotional…the booze probably helped with that…and I started writing a list of things I was most thankful for. I could never have guessed that it would become a tradition I would be doing ten years later. I also would have never thought that these past ten years would be the best of my life (so far!).
In many ways 2020 has been far worse than the pain I experienced a decade ago. In the past 12 months, I lost my Mom, my dog, I had Covid which led to pneumonia in March, and all of us in the travel industry are battling the most challenging professional crisis we have ever faced. Despite all of this tragedy, I have so much sincere optimism and joy in my heart. Gratitude is contagious, and I want to thank you for letting me share mine with you.
- I am thankful that my last moments with Mom were so happy. Our final visit was just before her facility stopped visitation because of Covid. It felt like a miracle as so many of the memories that would typically elude her came flowing back. We did not know that this would be our last time to see her, and I will never forget our hug or seeing Laura and the kids say goodbye. Everyone was laughing and had such big smiles. Please know that Dad and I have been overwhelmed by your support. Your notes and calls have meant so much to our family.
- I am thankful for Barley. After Truman died, I was unsure if I could get another dog, but Laura and the kids were persuasive! We rescued Barley, and he is now the love of our lives!
- I am thankful that when I was in high school and college my family had real financial challenges. Mom and Dad never shielded me from our situation. I still remember Dad showing me how to fill out financial aid forms for school. Both of my parents grew up in the Great Depression, and they taught me so many lessons such as avoiding debt at all costs and to save more money than I would ever need. Those lessons have put Celebrated Experiences in position to not just survive this pandemic, but we have dedicated ourselves to use this “opportunity” to build a better company for our clients and partners.
- I am thankful for Laura. Babe, what would I have done without you this year? I know it has been a tough year for you and your travel business as well. Thank you. Thank you.
- I am thankful for patience. Earlier this month we made a major announcement that we had handpicked a dream team of local driver, guide, and experience partners across Italy. We are offering everything from transfers to cooking classes, and fun walking tours to over-the-top experiences. We know it was a conscious decision on the part of many of our clients to support us despite the fact that we did not have these services until now. Thank you!! I am thankful for infectious laughs that force you to smile! I think Isla nailed that on her 3rd birthday.
- I am thankful for the future of travel. This Forbes article brilliantly lays out why I remain so positive. As an industry, we should spread the truths contained here far and wide!
- I am thankful for John Lewis and proud that Celebrated Experiences is based in the 5th congressional district. He nailed it when he said: “You are a light. You are the light. Never let anyone – any person or any force – dampen, dim, or diminish your light… Release the need to hate, to harbor division, and the enticement of revenge. Release all bitterness. Hold only love, only peace in your heart, knowing that the battle of good to overcome evil is already won.”
- I am thankful for Celebrated Homes! We heard you loud and clear, and we have built an extraordinary Collection of residences in Ireland, Italy, England, Scotland, and Wales. I am sure you have clients that would love to stay here, here, or here next Thanksgiving! We’d love to assist!
- I am thankful for snowball fights on surprise Snow Days.
- I am thankful for your support as it allows us to help others. Despite the pandemic, we will still be donating to important causes as a part of Celebrated Impact, where we donate $1 for every room night we book. The size of this year’s contribution will be far less than 2019, and we will report more in our Holiday email.
- I am thankful for the perfect line where sea and sky meet.
- I am thankful for wild Connemara, one of my favorite regions in the world.
- I am thankful for my exceptional team. From their steadfastness in responding to cancellations in the spring, to quickly processing refunds, to evolving our business by innovating and developing engaging programming like Mission:Celebrated and Celebrated Jeopardy. I am blessed to have the most helpful, hardworking, and kind team in the world.
- I am thankful that the travel industry is not standing still! So many of our Celebrated Hotels are in the midst of major updates, and we have some incredible new properties joining our Collection in 2021. We are especially excited about Ireland’s biggest hotel opening in years…Cashel Palace! Stay tuned!!
- I am thankful that you read until the end. Your reward for that is this “parting glass” and cheers to surprise endings. Slainte!
Thank you for being a part of our community. I am truly thankful for YOU and our collective tomorrow! I write with such hope because I sincerely believe our best days are ahead of us. This will not be an easy Thanksgiving, truly unlike any other. I hope you can find seeds of joy wherever you are able, and that they will soon grow into a better 2021.
– Jonathan Epstein