2014 will always hold a special place in my heart. It was the year that I took off to really travel by myself for 6 weeks. It was the year I visited over 9 countries, met countless people that I will cherish forever, and started on the path of a professional career. After such a year like this, it’s hard to look ahead to see if 2015 will surpass it—but one can only hope. It is, after all, a goal of mine to continue improving each year so that it’s better than the last. And so far, that’s been the case.
A note before we start
I was surprised by a few things when creating this list. At first, it was the realization that I really need to switch from the Academic Year mindset to a Calendar Year mindset. But more shocked by how short a calendar year actually felt like! Has it really been a year since I was exploring Berlin?
Also, while tracing the events of the 2014 year, I noticed how things slowed down exponentially once I did; the minute I settled physically, my travel list died although my professional list grew. There was a period of “dead time” during the summer where I did have a few jaunts to nearby towns here and there but nothing substantial really happened; this is about the time I realized that budget traveling and budgeting are two very bipolar monsters and that a happy medium would be necessary.
Now, let’s go down memory lane, shall we? Sorry for the length, but we all know I’ve cranked out longer pieces than this before.
What went well in 2014
- Traveled through 9 countries on extended solo backpacking trip
- Morocco (x2)
- Spain (x2)
- Germany (where I rang in the New Year… in a hotel room)
- England (x3, if you count countless layovers in Heathrow)
- Visited US states I’ve never been to before
- Made this video, which I’m still proud of:
Personal/Bucket List Success
- Moved to Austin, TX, a city that I’ve always wanted to live in for at least a year, and am contemplating staying for an additional year! Although there are many things that I wish could improve (driving&traffic)
- SAW STROMAE IN CONCERT. Nuff said.
- Picked up French, in a purely conversational sense—something that I’m surprised happened so easily while abroad. Now, although I’m not immersed in the language anymore, I still practice daily when chatting with a friend.
- Became more dedicated to blog (developed some very cool blog friendships)—but also, blog underwent some changes due to newfound stationary lifestyle. Temporary, I’m sure.
- I became a runner again. Back when I was in high school, I reveled in running and would wake up at 5 AM in the summers to avoid the heat—because there was no way that I would skip on running. I lost the habit after a knee injury freshman year of college and have never enjoyed it since. I flirted with HIIT instead of distance because it was over quicker, but later resigned myself back to endurance. Now, I’m picking it back up and have slowly begun to look forward to my morning runs (up to 2.5 miles now!).
- Mental health relatively better than previous years (for the first half at least). Except for a few months here and there, I didn’t fall victim to some episodes that I’ve experienced in the past few years. Although I’m still unsure whether that’s because of acceptance of fate or because it’s truly better.
- Started a journey of “clean eating.” In relation to endurance running, I got tired of eating junk all the time (although I don’t deprive myself when I really want something). In France, I learned the value of eating fresh and local through feeling a difference in how I carried myself. After shame-binging a bit when I returned, I found my way back to it happily.
- Got my first tattoo—planned many more to come!
- There were many moments in social and professional lives where I prided myself on the way I acted; I was there for when friends needed me, I kept in touch with the people I loved abroad, the way I supported my students at my job, how well I was able to connect to some of them, etc.
- Graduated! It happened a full semester after I officially finished my last class, so I didn’t really get the build-up hype that my friends did.
- Slightly restocked drained, post-travel bank account… but not to the extent that I would’ve liked. The fact that I have anything post-travel, though, makes me happy.
- Landed first, albeit temporary, job in Austin, TX. I’m glad that I took this Americorps position for the people I meet (as always) and for the opportunity of professional development. Through it, I learned what it was like to hunker down in a cubicle and what it was like to be working towards the same objective for a whole year. Most of all, I learned how to stay put—and that I have mixed emotions about it.
- Did first engagement photoshoot / became a marketing photographer at the local humane society. This was surprising simply because I never meant to make any professional moves with photography. Although these are baby steps for sure, and in no way means that I have a current company as a freelance photographer, but it gave me a bit of experience and enough to start a portfolio of sorts.
- Earned a B1 DELF Certification at the Alliance Française in Chicago… breezed by it actually. Needing over a 50% to pass the exam, I earned B’s and A’s in all categories. But that was right after coming back from France, of course.
- Able to understand average monthly spending / stayed on a very loose budget system. This is the first time that I’ve broken off and had an income… and I’ve done well in not needing to ask for more money (and not touching the money that I set aside) since then. This was surprising even to me; the reason why I worked so many hours waitressing during the summer was in anticipation of needing to dip into that while in Austin.
- Reached out to an unprecedented amount of odd jobs to learn more about those tracks; however, this was more in the vein of organic networking out of honest curiosity of them as a person than goal-oriented, traditional networking, which I think is a complete waste of time.
- A high-paying job is not worth it if you’re miserable
- Multitasking is the devil, along with an overindulgence of Netflix and screen media
- I do want an unconventional life… as long as I lay groundwork first
- No matter how well you know someone, you can reach out to them for almost any reason (travel, curiosity). You’re the only one holding you back from connecting with someone you want to know more about
- Disconnecting from media each night frees up hours of time for personal projects
- I love writing about issues I care about
- Time is wasted worrying about social conventions
- Always re-evaluate your goals and dreams and then make changes to reflect them
What did not go well in 2014
- At one point while I was still in Grenoble, I attempted to land an internship in the EU (silly me), which I didn’t get, obviously. This was done mostly out of desperation for extending my trip by any means necessary. I’m still trying to find a way to weasel into the EU workforce, but instead of a short-term goal, make gradual steps towards it.
- In the same vein, I promised abroad friends that I would make it back in time for a German festival near Tübingen… not.
- Didn’t go to half the places that I planned to visit. There were so many opportunities where I could’ve taken a weekend trip or a mid-week trip while everyone was studying to the Amalfi Coast, Florence, Pompeii (I’ve got Italy on my mind), but I didn’t. At the time, I prioritized my connections with others than traveling. I don’t regret it, however,
- Not traveling extensively while studying abroad (see above)
- Not being anything more than a hermit while trying to save for my next trip. This is something I’m still struggling with. I could section off a part of my paycheck each month to go towards a small trip that I take later in the year, but while I learned that I could live within my means, I don’t think I’ve learned yet to save. And living off $1000/month, makes it pretty tough to even get to the point I’m at. The next six months, however, I’m going to try to save $100/month (at least) and rent out my room for SXSW (know anyone looking?) so that I can afford a trip somewhere this summer. Even better if I find a paid temp job abroad or something.
- Not being able to continue eating gluten (oops)
- Not becoming as involved in Austin’s Alliance Française chapter as I would’ve like (faults on both sides). I tried! Originally, I was to be a part of their marketing force, which would’ve gone under professional milestones. However, after countless phone conversations with the coordinator, who delegated involving me to the Austin AF president… who isn’t nearly as on top of his shit (or purposefully not including me) as I would like. On one hand, it is a French organization (the president is half-French, himself), but I was really counting on his half-American side to GTD.
- Failed to care at all about single status and did whatever I wanted. Cultivation of me-time became a bit of a priority for me after liking it so much while traveling.
- Failed to avoid my fate as a cat lady (not related to above)
- Ran into a slew of health issues (bursitis in both shoulders, Celiac’s)
This is also my last post of 2014, so I’ll see you all next year! Have a Happy Holidays!
How was your 2014?