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Happy Thanksgiving. I have never written my Thanksgiving message with tears in my eyes, but it’s been a very challenging 36 hours. Nevertheless, I have decided to not let my sadness get in the way of my 9-year tradition of sharing gratitude. Though I experienced massive loss, I’m overwhelmed by thanks.

Yesterday, we made the difficult decision to say goodbye to Truman, our 14-year old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. This is the first time in my life that I am struggling with my own grief while also consoling my children and Laura. Truman was also a key member of our Celebrated Team, coming with me to the office everyday until it became too challenging for him. Then he started working from home!

With that, here I go with the most challenging Thanksgiving Message I have ever written. Thanks for allowing me to share.

  • I am thankful for each tear I have shed because it accompanied a powerful memory. I will gladly trade a few days of heartache for so many years of love and joy.
  • I am thankful for the lessons my son learned today. It is the first time he has experienced such loss and so many tears. His love for Truman will be the foundation he will use to build relationships over the course of his life. Truman was there for all of his 11 years, teaching him about trust, resilience and unconditional love.
  • I am thankful for the confusion that my 2-year old experienced today. I am not sure how many times I had to answer “Where did Truman go?” However, I can tell you that with each answer it solidified the common bond everyone in our family had with Truman. I am excited to make a photo album for her, where she can always reflect on the relationship she had with Truman.
  • And I really don’t mean to pile on, but it has been a crazy year. I am also thankful for another horrifying moment that reminded me of just how much I cherish time with my Dad. You probably do not know about this because my Dad – who founded our company – is too busy sharing 30-years of opinions. Unexpectedly in September, Preston had a heart attack. He drove himself to the ER, and doctors rushed to place a stent in a blocked valve. Of course, he wanted to go back to work, but we made him take a week off. Then he was back, sharing that epic smile, and joyously assisting travel advisors with their clients travel to the UK and Ireland.
  • I am thankful for country pubs in the UK and Ireland. Did you know that many allow pets? You’ll often find a farmer’s golden retriever sprawled on the floor by a warm fire.
  • I am also thankful for the music that can be found in many of our favorite pubs. If you buy me enough beer I may be tempted to sing Wild Mountain Thyme. Don’t know it? Well here is my 2-year old daughter’s version (better than mine!).
  • I am thankful for family support from my brothers, sister, mom and dad, my in-laws, and my ex-wife who always watched Truman whenever Laura and I hit the road, often on Celebrated’s Annual Inspection Tours. This year 22 different members of our Celebrated Team combined to meet with dozens of guides, experience partners, and inspect over 280 hotels. There is no substitute for this investment to ensure our team sees a hotel’s updates, understands the differences between different rooms, and can assist clients with comparisons between properties.
  • I am thankful for Scotland’s Cameron House, a true phoenix story as it rises from the ashes. A fire struck days before Christmas in 2017, and in the second half of 2020, the rebuilt 5-star property on the banks of Loch Lomond will assert its place as one of the best hotels in Europe.
  • I am thankful for my Celebrated Experiences Family that lifts each other up and always seeks to improve and innovate so we can better serve our clients. By the way, we are growing and hiring, looking for a new Director of Sales (Bekah has been promoted to Vice President!), and we also have some entry-level positions! Please let me know if you think someone may be a good fit for a career based in Atlanta or just south of Washington, DC.
  • I am thankful for whisky. The Balvenie I drank last night definitely helped in the crafting of this message. I am also thankful that The Balvenie asked me to partner with them on an epic “pop up” experience in New York City this year!
  • I am thankful for our Celebrated Impact program and the room nights you book with us. We are again donating $1 for every room night that our clients book with us. I am pleased to report that this year between Italy, Ireland, England, Scotland, and Wales, we will book over 44,000 nights and will be donating over $44,000 to important causes. Each member of our staff is allocated $500 to give to their favorite charity, and I am thrilled that so many help animal-focused causes such as the Humane Society and charities where animals support those with disabilities.
  • I am thankful for the family farms that dot the landscape in the UK, Ireland, and Italy. If you want to play with sheepdogs, pick apples, hunt for truffles, harvest grapes, and support sustainability, our experience partners have you covered. We love booking curated experiences!
  • I am thankful for the joy that animals add to the guest experience at Celebrated Hotels such as Ashford Castle’s Cronan and Garvan; Jack at Villa di Piazzano; Pearl at Rosewood London; Gregans Castle’s pet donkey; the hawks and owls at properties from Bovey Castle to Gleneagles to Dromoland Castle; the beautiful horses at Il Borro, Mount Juliet and Castle Leslie; the Highland Cows at The Torridon, and so many more.
  • I am thankful for feedback, and the clients who take the time to share it. Keep sharing. We are hungry to improve.
  • I am thankful for family hikes and that hiking is becoming a much more common way to experience Italy, Ireland and the UK. From the Path of the Gods on the Amalfi Coast, to the Portofino Coast, to the Trossachs, to Connemara, and the hundreds of trails in Killarney National Park, discovering new destinations on foot makes us feel more connected to a place. Here I am with Sheila from Sheen Falls hiking a nearby trail in County Kerry earlier this year.
  • I am thankful for you being in my life and allowing me to share something so personal.

Being 100% honest with you, typing this has been very hard, but it really helped me feel better. It proves yet again that showing gratitude can always lead to happiness. I am so thankful for Truman and that you read something so personal. Our family was very lucky to have sweet Truman in our lives.

Happy Thanksgiving!

– Jonathan Epstein