It’s only when you move your life forward that it makes sense when you look back. This year happens to be case in point, a year that I believe to be a pivotal one in the grander scheme of my greater lifetime.
My perspective back in January 2017 was severely different than what mine looks like today. I would never have imagined not only the many places I’d see (20 countries this year alone) but how much my life would change. When people say, “a lot can change in a year,” I assume that means, you know, everyone else. Not my life. It feels like it was just yesterday that my sister and I were making my year-long wardrobing decisions and packing my bags, all while drinking through some of the loveliest wines that remained in my possession from trips of vineyards past. Cheers to getting through another year and all that would lie ahead.
When I think about it now, my hardest month was January. Not because I quit my job and decided to work for myself for the year while seeing the world but because once I left Minneapolis, I knew it would be time to let go of all the things that previously defined me.
And I didn’t know how to do that.
So, I let the world teach me.
But it took some time to break free of old habits and mindsets. It also took leaving some of these countries and continents to understand what, exactly, the things were that I loved so much about each of them. The things I didn’t always recognize when I was in the moment, only after I was gone. At the same time, I understood just how much I’d been given.
I kicked off my year abroad in Asia not knowing what to expect. The Asian culture was so foreign to me, which, I suppose, is what made it so exciting. I experienced a lot of firsts while in Asia. I accepted my first contract writing assignment to review my seaplane flight from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay, Vietnam…
…taught dance in a foreign country (Cambodia) to underprivileged youth (easily one of the most rewarding moments of my year)…
…learned about horrific but extremely important pieces of history when I visited the killing fields (I cried almost the entire time I was there)…
…fell in love with elephants when I spent a day working at one of the elephant rescue centers….
…and tried more critters than you’d probably care to know about.
It wasn’t until I got to Europe that I realized how much energy a month-to-month move and re-acclimation takes out of you. At this point in the trip, I felt slightly exhausted from going so hard in Asia that I laid low and kept my head down while I worked hard on one of my biggest projects of the year with the City of South St. Paul. When I wasn’t working, I was sipping on wine in the Serbian countryside (I had no idea Serbia was a wine country) and building bonfires in caves. (I’m not sure that the latter was “technically” legal, but…)
Over the next few months, between Portugal, Prague, and a quick trip to Morocco, I found the partnership side of my business in full swing. Between writing conferences in Italy’s Almafi Coast, tasting menus in Florence, and reworking business and life plans on the beaches of Santorini, I found myself on a plane nearly every weekend in September. My jet-setting reminded me that my life wasn’t half bad, despite the challenging days. (Believe it or not, those still exist over here.) By the end of September, I felt recharged and ready to take on the remaining four months. Somehow, my time in Santorini gave me the clarity I’d been seeking and allowed me to realize everything I risked and gave up to be on this trip was more than worth it. All and all, Europe felt like a bit of an intermission between the overstimulation of Asia and the education and work hours I’d take on in South America’s wine country.
My arrival to South America gave me a newfound energy and level of confidence I needed to thrive for the duration of the trip. I felt like these four months were going to be something special…the most special, though I was unsure why. I found myself engulfed in the art of winemaking, wine pairings, and new wine varietals, and was ready to learn and taste from some of the world’s most notable and scenic vineyards. My priority became wine. (For the record, South American wines are on an entirely different level, and I’m well-equipped to entertain you with my worldly wine knowledge.)
At one point in Cordoba, sitting around with girlfriends enjoying a delicate buzz (because that’s all there is to do in Cordoba), I made the comparison of how we all get better with age, like a fine wine. How each of us in the room had, in this year alone, evolved in character and quality. If you let a wine breathe, evolve, change and come into itself, it will be what it is supposed to be. Life should be thought of in the same way.
This year taught me that nothing is too far out of reach. If anything, this year has helped me define how I shape the year ahead. No longer am I bumbling, grasping and panicking about what comes next like I was at the start of 2017. I have an array of beautiful options before me, any of which will make me happy. Now, it’s just a matter of deciding which path is best for me, and I’ll be excited to share more in early 2018.
With one month left, there’s still a lot that can happen, but I can already tell by the way things are shaping up that 2018 is going to be just as wild and exhilarating as this year has been. I’ll just be stateside. Well, more so anyway. I’m excited to see how it all comes together. Until then, I’ll be making each and every one of these last days in Lima count – big time.
To be continued in 2018…
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