Oh, 2016. You were something else.
If you’re a longtime reader of this blog (thank you!) you may recall that I tend to recap each year utilizing a theme. In the past, there have been reflections through the lens of food and even hotel rooms.
After a year of so many ups and downs for the world, many of us are looking forward to saying goodbye to 2016. Reflecting on the year, I’m looking intently for the good in these past twelve months. Thank you so much for being part of the journey.
Choosing safe places to travel.
The end of 2015 had me questioning my travel experiences and the world as I knew it. I did not believe one horrible incident abroad would really stop me from traveling, but I knew it would take a few places gentler than Colombia to build my faith back up.
I’m grateful to Ireland, Finland, Estonia, Iceland, lots of travel around the USA, and return visits to my beloved France for doing that for me.
Curating a comfortable home.
Another event that rocked the close of 2015 was unexpectedly having to move out of my apartment in San Francisco due to circumstances outside of my control. As a writer who can work from anywhere, it is a real challenge to make one of the world’s most expensive cities continue to work. This instability surprised me (as it often does) by leading to one of my most content living situations to date. I’m grateful for my current home and for the small touches I’ve been able to add that make it feel like a haven that truly suits me.
Creating annual traditions and daily routines.
From airport rituals to family holiday traditions, this has been a year of establishing and maintaining repetitive manners of being that I truly enjoy. Whether it’s walking down the same street in Paris or working out of the same coffee shop in SF, drinking wine with friends on Wednesdays or lighting a candle to begin my writing process…I’ve increasingly come to rely on and appreciate the simple traditions and routines that keep me grounded.
Chasing passions equally abroad and at home.
Similar to the themes behind these posts, I’ve been able to keep my passionate interests at the forefront of my life by actively seeking themes like cooking classes, used bookstores and libraries, and yoga no matter where I am in the world. I started paying attention to the things that would pique my interest at home or when traveling and then made a point to consistently pursue them. It has woven this interconnected series of experiences and memories for me to draw from all over the globe. It’s one of my ways of designing a life that I love, and I’m happy to continue to have the flexibility to do it.
Cultivating community in San Francisco.
The simple act of introducing good people to other good people has become a great source of joy for me. I believe there are good-hearted people in every place, but there’s something special about the Bay Area to me in this moment. From travel and writing to food and wine (and yes, even politics) it has been wonderful to connect with and support so many people who share my interests and a spirited love of life and people.
Eating and creating beautiful meals.
My flexible schedule means that I can (sometimes) stop in the middle of my day and cook a meal at home, just because it soothes me. Cooking alone or with friends has become a huge outlet for me. What excites me most, however, is seeking out absurdly delicious meals from all over the world — spicy hand-pulled noodles in New York, red wines with cheese in Bordeaux, roast pork sandwiches in Philadelphia, fresh fish and chips in an Irish fishing village, coffee after a sauna in Finland. I’m grateful to be able to eat in so many places. (It’s a major perk of continuing to lead a travel-focused lifestyle, if you ask me!)
Seeing more of my own country.
I’ve asked this question over and over, but why is that we as travelers often insist on seeing more of foreign countries that we do our own? I have my theories, but I finally put my money where my mouth is this year and traveled to something like eighteen new states this year. My cross-country road trip from Alabama back to San Francisco certainly helped, as did frequent business meetings on the East Coast. More than ever, I’m beginning to understand how different the rest of the United States is from my California bubble. I sometimes feel like I understand less about other states than I do other countries (and this year slapped me across the face with this fact.) I will continue to try to combat this.
Expanding my business.
While I fell short on some of my pitching and publishing goals for this past year, I kept busy expanding my freelance work. Though writing still makes up the majority of my self-fueled profession, I expanded my work in consulting and community management while adding paid photography projects and teaching to my repertoire. As the professional world continues to morph and flex, I look forward to keeping up and to continue growing my business in 2017.
Falling in love with being alone.
I’m an extrovert who thrives off of working in teams, collaborating, and socializing…not ideal for self-employed writer who needs to be alone and in her head to get the majority of work done.
Somehow in 2016, things really shifted for me. I became much more comfortable sitting with my own thoughts and motivating myself on my own. I learned to differentiate between the seeming connections of social media and the real connections that happen in person. Instead of wishing for life to be different, I worked with what is…and I grew to really love it. Though I sometimes wonder how I’d do working in an office surrounded by people, for now I prefer to choose who I interact with and when. I continued to love dining out alone, traveling alone, walking alone…I even began to crave alone time. Something shifted this year, and I feel much more comfortable in my own skin.
Romance in France.
While I paid my love a visit (the city of Paris) and fell in love with a new one (Bordeaux,) for once I’m not referring to my love of a place. 😉
I’ve been in a relationship for most of my major trips, meaning that I hadn’t much experienced the cultural differences of romance as I had other parts of culture. Dating in San Francisco had left much to be desired at times, for me and for so many of my single friends (both female and male.) So it was a lovely, lovely shift in perspective to see how courtship and commitments are approached in countries outside of my own for a change.
Clarity around not just who I am, but what I stand for.
Without going into it further here, many of the world events of this year deeply disappointed me. The ways people treat each other, the things they do or do not stand for, and the values we lay claim to…I have been shocked, I have been wrong (and more than once.) I still believe in the greater decency of humankind, and the many times I disagreed with others proved to strengthen my own resolve. I learned that there are some things we’re going to need to fight for, speak for. Where once I was apathetic or conflict-averse, I found my voice and my conviction in 2016. That is, I suppose, the silver lining for some of the nasty things I’ve seen and heard in 2016.
Finding depth and breadth in friendships.
I wrote earlier last week that I learned this year that investing in true friendships is one of the best things you can do for yourself. I really believe that. Having not been the case during other periods of my life, I’m particularly grateful to have so many friends from so many different parts of my life in San Francisco (and family close by!) at this moment in time. It is, more than anything, what makes having a home and being home here so worth it.
…which brings me to the end of this post, the end of this year.
I’ve spent New Year’s Eve all over the world — in London, in New York, in Sydney. This year, I thought about where I really wanted to be and why…the answer was much simpler than I would’ve anticipated (another theme I’ve uncovered while writing this post.) I wanted to be home, in San Francisco, creating and enjoying a beautiful meal surrounded by friends. Because no matter where I am or why throughout the year, that is what truly matters to me.
Like so many of us, I struggled, panicked, and drudged through parts of this past year. Yet I see with more clarity than ever what is important to me. And I have 2016 to thank for helping to solidify that.
(Also thanks for the surprise viewings of the Northern Lights in Iceland, the proper pint pouring lesson in Ireland, turning thirty on the beach with best friends, and the return visit to Chateau Balleroy, 2016. That was all pretty awesome of you.)
Happy New Year, and as always, thank you for reading.