Explorers’ Hearts Full This Thanksgiving

Explorers’ hearts are full of gratitude. (Image courtesy Tagxedo)

National Geographic explorers kicked off their Thanksgiving celebrations by sharing with us some of the things they are grateful for. From nightly raccoon visits to the smell of the ocean, our explorers continue to remind us to cherish the earth and celebrate the world around us.

“I’m grateful for nature—everyday. So many people take nature for granted, but without it there would be no human life on this small planet.”—Enric Sala, Explorer-in-Residence and Pristine Seas director

“I am thankful for all the wonderful creatures I get to spend time with who allow me a glimpse into their lives and in so doing a tiny window into the world and evolution of life.”—Dino Martins, entomologist and Emerging Explorer

“I am thankful to be alive in a time when exploration is more than just filling in blanks on a map, when our explorations answer fundamental questions about what it means to be human and our place in the cosmos. I am thankful for extreme landscapes and wild places. They remind me I am only human and how extremely lucky I am to exist at all. I am thankful for my body’s aches and pains, and the good stories they remind me of daily. I am thankful for the good people I’ve met on the way, and my family and friends who have helped me get here.”—Devlin Gandy, photographer and Young Explorer

Devlin Gandy's project  focuses on the rock art and cultural landscape of the Chumash people in Southern California. Photograph courtesy Devlin Gandy
Devlin Gandy’s project focuses on the rock art and cultural landscape of the Chumash people in Southern California. Photograph courtesy Joshua Roth

“I am grateful for many lifetimes of places to explore, friends to meet, and—most importantly— for not being a turkey, literally and hopefully not metaphorically.”—Kenny Broad, environmental anthropologist and National Geographic Explorer of the Year, 2011

“Reflecting back on the Ice Cream Expedition, I am so grateful for all of the generous friends, family, and supporters of the expedition who welcomed two itinerant ice cream men into their homes while we were on the road. Their excitement, stories, and home cooking showed us a very personal side of America, and spurred us to keep moving forward.”—Caleb Kruse, Young Explorer, Ice Cream Expedition

“I am grateful for what feels like a growing sense of ocean optimism in the world, where governments all over the world are starting to protect an increasing amount of their critical ocean habitats. We still have a long way to go, but I am grateful for the courage and foresight of these leaders and communities in setting up spaces for these critical ecosystems to rebound. I am also grateful to live in a time where to tools and technologies available for anyone to help protect, evaluate, spread the word, and fundraise for critical conservation and humanitarian causes are now accessible, capable, and inexpensive. We are in the start of the era of the true global citizen and it is inspiring to watch the start of this evolution on how we advocate for the causes we care about.”—Shah Selbe, conservation technologist and Emerging Explorer

Four National Geographic Explorers  traveled to the Okavango Delta. Left to right:  Jer Thorp, Gregg Treinish, Steve Boyes, and Shah Selbe.
Four National Geographic explorers traveled to the Okavango Delta. Left to right: Jer Thorp, Gregg Treinish, Steve Boyes, and Shah Selbe. Photograph courtesy Shah Selbe

“I am feeling grateful because this year the US protected more than 1 million square kilometers of pristine ocean space in the Pacific. Future generations will still be able to know what an ocean untouched by man looks like!”—Monica Medina, senior director of International Ocean Policy, Pristine Seas

“I am grateful for the opportunity to observe the private lives of ‘my’ raccoons every night. Watching them use their devious little minds to explore, play, and learn has been a great gift. And now that winter is here and they are not so active, I’m also grateful for the opportunity to get a full night’s sleep!—Suzanne MacDonald, Committee for Research and Exploration grantee (Watch MacDonald’s footage of raccoons escaping a trash can!)

“I’m grateful to be able to use non-invasive tools to show the public underground secrets of our past in Syrian tells, Jordanian khirbats, Siberian forests, Mongolian steppes, Japanese islands, Tuscan hills, Normandy battlefields, Iberian prairies, and Quebec plains.”—Alex Novo, geophysical survey specialist

“I am grateful that I have spent so much of my life in the presence of elephants. When I am with them I am aware of all my senses, observing, feeling, smelling, learning. I can’t imagine a world without them. Those of us who study elephants refer to them as “The Elephants” for they are contemplative, deliberate, and purposeful. They are persons in another form.”—Joyce Poole, Conservation Trust and Committee for Research and Exploration grantee (Refer to Poole’s handy User Guide to what elephant calls mean.)

“I am grateful for the smell of the sea rushing into the hatch of the sub after a dive. It carries a nostalgic sense of returning from the otherworldly depths of the ocean, and it pleasantly replaces the cold stagnant air we’ve been confined to occupying for hours.”—Erika Bergman, Young Explorers Grants recipient (See this fun video of Bergman showing off her dive gear for frigid Arctic waters.)

“I am grateful for now. Life happens in the now. Now is dynamic, honest, available, and rich in hope, diversity, curiosity, magic, innovation, information, and wonder. Now is all we have, to act, to connect, to express, to love, to know, to breathe, to be. Bird, beast, or man, now is what we all have in common. I am grateful for now.”—Asher Jay, creative conservationist and Emerging Explorer

Human Journey


Meet the Author
Amy Bucci is a web producer for National Geographic. Her projects mainly cover National Geographic explorers, grantees and initiatives.