When it came to writing an “end of the year” post, I realized I’d already said all I wanted to say. It was an absolutely brilliant year–as always, better than the last. A wonderful balance of travel and fixed life, I’m feeling calmer, more confident, content with my past and excited for the future.
Without trying to invent the wheel, here’s a look back at what I did, where I went and what I felt in 2012:
January // Bali
“But as I rode my motorbike on a shortcut through a rice paddy with the sun blazing down, as I sipped a mango smoothie in a thatched-roof hut after a canyon ridge trek, as I completed a sun salutation watching the rain pour down and listening to thunder rolling—I realized that I really like Bali.”
February // Thailand
“I’m learning that any place Lonely Planet titles a “backpacker heaven” will be my idea of hell. Cheap drinks, crowded dorms, tanned and lithe bodies strolling the streets without a shirt. Backpacker heavens seem to be idyllic spots that have been ruined in the quest to get young foreigners sunburnt and stumbling.”
March // Vietnam
“The thing about Africa is that you cannot give up and take the easier way out because there is no easier way or other way,” said my ultimate travel writing inspiration Martha Gellhorn about traveling in Africa. I think the same thing goes for Southeast Asia. Once I got on the road, there was no turning back. Even when I was breaking out in a cold sweat, I was taken aback by the untainted beauty and simplicity of life that surrounded me. The stretch between Saigon and Hanoi can seem unbearably long, a “flyover” region to many pressed for time. But it’s where you can get witness Vietnamese life at the source: the farms where the coffee is grown, the entire villages that float, the simple fact that you can drive for three days and only encounter five stoplights.”
April // California
“I worry I’ll never be satisfied, that I’ll search the world over for my happiest place all while quietly knowing it was within. I could be happy in San Francisco, I tell myself. Just like I could be happy in Sacramento, in Melbourne, in Paris: I know that my happiness depends less on my surroundings and more on me. I’m happy when I make time for a daily yoga class, when I spend an afternoon with a glossy magazine and a good coffee, when I curl up in sweatpants and a glass of white wine for a long chat with a girlfriend, whether that’s in person or via Skype.”
May // California
“Don’t let your life revolve around weekends. If you do, you’ll only be living 28% of your life. If you are dragging yourself from Monday through Friday just to drink into oblivion on the weekend: rethink things. Live your life so that every day matters, so that every day is worth remembering. If that means finding a job you care about, start searching. If that means traveling the world, start saving. Just do something: apathy will lead you nowhere.”
June // Paris
“In America, women tend to aspire to a bland, consumer-driven state of perfection: perfectly shiny hair, perfectly clear skin, perfectly matching shoes and jewels and lipstick. We become an army of on trend: sporting the shoes we saw in a magazine, the neon accents popular on Pinterest, the same sweater as our best friend because we all shop in the same chain stores. We are less interested in asserting our individuality than assuring that we fit in.
Parisian women are often hailed as the most stylish in the world, their effortless chic the subject of many a book, essay or magazine article. The world reveres French fashion, haute couture houses, the looks spotted sur la rue. But perhaps what we should admire more is their ability to carry themselves with grace, their knack to pick and choose what suits them best.”
June // Croatia
“My memories of Croatia shall forever be a thousand shades of shimmering blue: the vivid and cloudless sky, the fish swishing through impossibly clear turquoise water, the sun dancing over the sea. Sure, there were other colors, too: the unexpected joy of red flowers in Zagreb, the melting of purples at dusk, the primary shout of red and white in the checkered Croatian soccer jersey. But to me–and perhaps, my Instagram feed, Croatia will forever be blue.”
July // Across the USA
“I went on this road trip to see more of my own country, to explore my own backyard before I tackled any more of the world. It wasn’t as deliciously foreign or as tropically exotic as France or Thailand, or as subtly exciting as Australia, as scenically stunning as New Zealand. I recognized the chain restaurants, understood the road rules, spoke in the same slang. Traveling with an Australian forced me to examine our country and our culture, our landmarks and our idiosyncrasies: seeing my home–even when it was thousands of miles away–from an outside perspective helped me to appreciate it even more. ”
August // New York City
“And then, my last day in Bali, I thrust my backside up and my head down into downward dog to start off another Vinyasa flow. I had spent the hour before class sipping a smoothie and listing the pros and cons of different choices, a favorite exercise of my anxiously logical former self. And then I let myself open up and simply see what the universe was telling me.
The echoing of this eerie song from this video in my head, a clip that brought me to tears the first time I watched it yet compelled me to instantly watch again, and again. The reflection of these photos in my mind: the crash of sunlight and glass skyscrapers and pure energy. The memory of words in a recent email from a close friend, where he said the city amazed him, that just breathing in the air put lightning in his teeth.
That was it. A trifecta of nudges, the universe calmly but surely telling me what was next: my intuition knowing that I need a little lightning in my life.
I’m moving to New York City.”
September // San Blas Islands
“In the early stages of relationships, we tend to put our “best self” forward. Perhaps the same thing applies to our vacation selves. When we remove ourselves from the pressures and expectations of our daily life, we often let our best selves shine through: the ones who breathe, laugh, risk without worry or regret. Our best self might simply be who we are when we stop being afraid of what we should be doing, when we instead embrace exactly what we are doing: on the other side of fear is freedom.”
October // New York City
“And I guess that’s what it comes down to. The most invigorating part of travel is the constant novelty, the ever-continuing discovery of new things. If you can train your mind to think like a traveler–to be grateful and impressed by every sunset, even when you’ve seen it from the same standpoint plenty of times before–you’ll stay refreshed, curious, adventurous. Perhaps it’s less about how far you go and more about how you think about where you are…”
October // Boston
“One of the brilliant things about being back in the USA–even if I am on the opposite coast of my hometown–is being closer to my family and friends. Suddenly, I’m only a couple of time zones and a domestic flight away.”
November // New York City
“At the beginning of 2012, I chose three words that I wanted to define and shape my year: dare, grace, balance. I wanted to take more risks, to push myself out of my comfort zone. I wanted to be more quietly elegant, to give every movement a purpose. I wanted a life where work, play and relationships all have equal footing and where they’re often interchangeable with one another.”
December // Bahamas
“Stop saying “I’m jealous”: I was really conscious of this year, and it paid off: I felt so much more content in my own choices, my own body, my own place in the world than I ever have before. Focusing on all that I have, instead of comparing myself to others, paid off in confidence, happiness and a certain serenity in knowing that I was exactly where I need to be and completely capable of change.”
As always, thanks for following my adventures–even as they become much less exotic! I’m looking forward to become entrenched in life in New York City, albeit with plenty of exploration. I’ve already set my goals for 2013 and scheduled a red-eye for New Year’s Eve: I’ll be waking up to the new year in New York City, rested and refreshed and ready for entrenchment and excitement.
A very happy New Year’s to you and yours.