An Untraditional Thanksgiving

Instead of describing the Thanksgiving Clay and I celebrated three years ago in South America as a “Thanksgiving Fail”, I prefer to remember it as an untraditonal Thanksgiving. This holiday is here once again, and for the third time in our lives we will not be spending it with our families at home. Even so, that doesn’t mean we won’t be surrounded by people we love.

Another tropical Thanksgiving in paradise with this one.

Our first Thanksgiving spent away from home was celebrated in Pucon, Chile in 2013. Clay and I found ourselves among a small community of whitewater kayakers and travelers congregating at the Pucan Kayak Hostel, delighting in Chile’s whitewater, hiking, culture, and more. A tight knit community, some from the US and others from England, Canada, Switzerland, and more, we agreed to participate in the either much-loved or yet-unexplored tradition that is Thanksgiving. Or – we tried to.


I quickly became friends with a remarkably bright and bubbly LT (formally named Lauren Thomas) at the kayak hostel. She was the manager for the season and did everything from laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning. She also got on the river whenever possible and ensured that everyone felt welcome and at home. An extraordinary kayaker, chef, homemaker, and friend – we instantly clicked.

With Thanksgiving around the corner and the interest expressed by our new friends, we all joined together to pull off this Chilean Thanksgiving. At dinner one night, everyone discussed their contributions and quickly and excitedly agreed that this holiday was in fact on the third Thursday of the month. It was settled. We began planning the menu, executing the shopping trips (where we had to convert ounces and pounds to mL and L and haggle for all of the ingredients in Chilean supermercados), and ensuring we could pull of this feast for 20+ hungry kayakers and friends just a few short days away.

Thursday arrived. I stuck around the hostel to help LT with the task at hand while many of the guys spent the morning on the river. Come mid-afternoon, we had made great progress. The quincho (a Chilean word for outdoor kitchen or gathering place) became our hangout where our friends congregated while the last dishes were prepared. We sat in front of the quincho fire, talked story, told jokes, and anxiously awaited Thanksgiving dinner.

The quincho (right) at the Pucon Kayak Hostel)

As we were nearly ready to sit down to dinner, Clay announced that he had some bad news.  We all turned to him unable to fathom any “bad news” that could possibly follow at a time like this. His parents who were casually watching football in back home in Georgia gave it away. When Clay texted them to ask why they weren’t with relatives celebrating they replied by saying that they would be doing all of that – next Thursday. “Thanksgiving is next week”, he quietly, slyly admitted.

LT and puppy Aiyla!

Laughs, shock, and humility outweighed any disappointment. A Thanksgiving feast it was indeed and we enjoyed the food, the company, and the humor in it all. It was a wonderful meal with wonderful company, made even more memorable by the fact that we celebrated Thanksgiving on the wrong day. Perhaps I wouldn’t talk about this story or think so fondly of it if all had gone according to schedule.

Pulling over to let sheep to pass. Life in Pucon.

Wherever you are, I hope you enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving! Here is a little interesting tidbit questioning if Thanksgiving has in fact ever fallen on the third Thursday. Happy to know we aren’t alone in our mistake!

Later celebrating New Years Eve by hitchhiking and trekking to Cerro Castillo NP. We made a fire, cooked pasta, and enjoyed wine with our new friend and fellow traveler, Zach.

3 thoughts on “An Untraditional Thanksgiving

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