A Year of Pleasant Surprises
I’m sure anyone who reads this post will have the same thought: “I can’t believe it’s already been a year.” Well, believe you me, I can’t either. We have a running joke in Mangata where we say “In some ways, it seems like yesterday, and in other ways, it seems like years ago.” I say joke because we laugh about how frequently those words pop out of our mouths without us meaning to. But it is, of course, the truth.
Fortunately, though, for me it hasn’t seemed to fly by very quickly. Many of the places I visited this year feel like lifetimes ago. I feel like a different person. The same, but with so much more knowledge and appreciation than I left with. I better understand myself, how I operate, what I value in life now and in the future, the types of people I like working with and those I like being friends with, the places I connect with and why, and how easy it is to build the life you want for yourself if you just take the scary step forward and try something new. I feel so much more comfortable with the uncertain after this year. I feel less driven by money in some ways and more so in others. I feel more focused and more creative. And, most importantly, I feel even more loved now than when I left. Constantly being around 30 of your best friends does that to you.
As I sit on my bed in Mexico City writing this, with my suitcases more or less packed up on my floor, I keep looking out my wall of windows, into the greenery that makes me feel like I live in a treehouse (see my AMAZING Mexico City apartment video here) and thinking about this past year. So many little memories flood my mind that make me smile and I really wanted to write down five (ok seven) of my favorites here.
1. Dubrovnik: My first overnight side trip on Remote Year. There were nine of us girls, each of whom would become a close friend of mine by the end of the year, although I certainly didn’t know it at the time. That’s why I loved this trip so much in retrospect. At the time it was a nice weekend. But looking back, I smile thinking of how young all these relationships were and how much they grew over the next 11 months.
2. Aquarium day in Lisbon: A random Sunday spent with four friends who, at the time, I couldn’t yet call friends. Starting at the LX factory flea market, we found some special Portuguese treasures, nibbled on some burgers, and then spontaneously decided to head across town to visit the Aquarium (which is the largest sea water aquarium in the world). On the Uber over, Jeanna, our sole Australian Mango, filled me in on much of her life that I hadn’t yet discovered. This was followed by hours of quoting Finding Nemo with Danika (this was our only point of reference for pretty much all sea-bound creatures). Christina and I squealed over otters and Josh was Josh. I remember leaving that day filled with happiness at feeling so much closer to this random group of Mangos.
3. Spain: Spain was never on the top of my list, but I’m sure glad I put it there as this was an easy highlight of my year. My travel companions – Addison, Rossy, and Jess – were so easy to get along with and we fell into an immediate groove. Ultimately, I didn’t stay very close to Addison or Jess, but in some ways that makes this trip more special and I’m so glad I have these memories of the four of us and our adventures in Portugal and Spain.
4. Food experiences in Japan: I’m not a foodie, but I loved a few food-related activities in Japan. The first was our early morning sushi class (early being 11:00, but when you’re working till 2:00am that’s early). A group of girls met up with our experience manager, Yuki, who took us to her friend’s house where we learned how to make sushi. It was such a personal experience and one with a great group of girls. This then led to Christina, Jess, and I trying out sushi at AWOMB sushi which was another relaxing, happy, morning Japanese experience for the books. And then on our last Friday morning in Japan, I drug my hungover self out of bed to try Kobe beef. Although I would not likely pay $90 for this experience again, I loved adding it to my list of happy food memories in Kyoto.
5. Vespa day in Cape Town: The only thing we knew about our plan for the first day of Cape Town was that we wanted to see the penguins. We first decided to swing by the Remote Year workspace where we ran into an RY citizen who told us about how we could rent Vespas to get to the penguins and we could stop by a beautiful viewpoint along the way. Without a moment’s hesitation, we trooped out of the workspace and headed over to the scooter shop. An hour later we were on our way to see some of the most beautiful views of our life + PENGUINS (who are not as nice as their cute faces would lead you to believe).
6. Chile with the girls: The trip of a lifetime. I knew Danika, Griffin, and I would travel well together, but I had no idea just how well. We laughed and cried (usually from laughter) and spent a week eating up some of the best views we’d ever encountered.
7. Huacachina: My final RY memory that I’ll jot down here was a trip to the oasis of Huacachina, Peru. Five of us girls rented a car and drove the barren highways out of Lima to a winery where we would spend our night. Our friend Loes had discovered this estate in a travel magazine and she, Matt, and Cathy had visited it the previous weekend. Not really knowing what to expect, we showed up and were blown away by its beauty. Part of our elation was because we were out of dreary Lima while the other part just couldn’t believe our luck. This restful day was followed by sand dune buggy riding which was easily one of the funniest activities of the whole year. I highly recommend it.
The common thread amongst all these stories is not hard to find. Each one was unexpected. Whether it was the pleasant surprise of great travel companions, an activity I hadn’t anticipated, or trying new foods I wouldn’t have pushed myself to try, each of these favorite memories is rooted in the unforeseen.
It still feels surreal that it’s over, but I truly feel like I’ve left this year with a lifetime of memories and many life lessons discovered. Most importantly, the idea that you can never plan it all, and sometimes that’s the best part.