I am stepping away from what I usually post on Fridays to review the year. Just to recap, at the end of 2014, I wanted to get the balance right in my life. I had moved to Poland at the end of 2014, and I was working a lot, but not doing much of anything else. It was important to redress that, and I did. I had some challenges along the way, but I’ve also learned and been reminded of a few things that are important.
The Challenges I Faced
Technology proved to be my biggest challenge in 2015. My smartphone stopped working in 2014, so I bought a tablet instead. It seemed like the perfect answer because I could still make calls on it, if I wanted, but I knew I would use it more for social media and the internet. Unfortunately, it was plagued with problems, and never really functioned properly. It stopped working completely while I was away one weekend. Thinking my technological problems were behind me, I bought another phone when I returned to the UK, but that didn’t work properly either. I just couldn’t understand what was going on. I still have to send it away to have it repaired. In the meantime, so I wouldn’t be without a phone, I bought a cheap smartphone. The camera isn’t the best quality, but it’s an interim solution until I can either get the other one fixed, or until I find another solution.
My netbook broke while travelling during the Easter holidays. I had an old laptop that I took back to Poland, but it was too big and heavy to carry around. I bought a replacement battery for it that only lasted few months. Now, it has to be plugged in to use, so it isn’t practical for what I need. I needed a laptop that would be reliable; long-lasting; have a great battery life, so I could use it without having to plug it in; lightweight, so I could take it wherever I went; and durable because I would be travelling with it. It seemed that there was only one company that made laptops that ticked all my boxes – Apple. So, in December, after much deliberation on my part, because of the cost, I bit the bullet and bought myself a MacBook Air. I went for a 13-inch because I’m not always travelling, and I wanted a decent sized laptop. I’ve only had it for a few weeks, but I am delighted with it because I take it everywhere with me; the battery lasts for such a long time; and it doesn’t take long to charge. In addition, the MacBook Air starts up and shuts down quickly, which is perfect for when I just have a short time, and it’s easy to share photos and links on social media.
My camera started playing up. The zoom didn’t always work, so I was concerned that it would stop working completely. I needed to get a new one. I wanted something that was small and light, but a good quality camera. I decided to go for a Compact System Camera (Mirrorless). I bought an Olympus PL-6 which came with two lenses. It is perfect for what I need. I can use it on auto when i need to take photos quickly, or use it on manual when I have the time to change the settings to get the photo I want.
So, apart from a mobile device for my social media needs, I have managed to sort out the challenges I faced with technology.
While I was in Poland, at the end of 2014, I had to pay to have my house in the UK re-roofed. That was expensive, and I spent most of 2015 paying that off because I was getting paid a local wage in Poland. Because of my financial situation, I was also restricted with where I could go and what I could do.
For my 2-week holiday, in February, I really wanted to travel abroad to somewhere hot. It had been snowing in Poland, so I wasn’t keen to backpack in the snow. Due to financial constraints, I did travel around Poland for that 2-week break. I was fortunate because the weather improved, and I didn’t have to backpack in the snow. I’m really glad I travelled around Poland rather than go abroad because I got to see a lot of the country. It was more diverse and beautiful than I thought it would be. I mean, who would have thought Poland had massive sand dunes? I would never have known that if I hadn’t taken the time to travel around.
When my contract ended in Poland, I returned to the UK to teach at a summer school for 5 weeks to help with my financial situation. The money I earned per week, was what I was getting per month in Poland. With bed and board included, that helped enormously. Then, while working at the summer school, I was offered a job in Oxford. I hadn’t thought about staying in the UK, but the job and money were too good to pass up, so I took it. My main goals then were to pay off the last remaining debt I had, which I did; get a good laptop and camera, which I did; and to travel more further afield. I hadn’t been on a long-haul flight since 2009. It had been 6 years since I last travelled further than Europe. So, I went to Sri Lanka for Christmas, and I have booked to go to Costa Rica in February. Winning the cost of the flight helped with my trip in February.
What I have learned
I only had one day off a week for much of the year, which was hard when I wanted to travel on my time off. I thought about going for day trips and the odd night away. The first day trip I went on was to a small spa town close to where I was living. The following week, I decided to go somewhere else. I ended up going away every weekend to a different place, and I went further and further every time. I was tired, but I found it energising. I realised how important it was for me to get out and do something. I got to see so much more, although I was limited with how far I could actually travel because I had to be back for work and prepared to teach my lessons. This experience taught me a valuable lesson, and that is that you can do a lot even with just a short amount of time. People use time as an excuse. I certainly have over the years. The thing is, you don’t need as much time as you think you need. Going away like that also made it seem as if I had longer off because I went away and did things. Perception of time is interesting.
Making the Most of Life
Even with a limited amount of money and time available, you can still do things you want, although you will have to compromise and do things slightly differently. I would have loved to have had longer off, so I could have seen and done more on my time off. The reality is, I didn’t. I had to make the most of the time I had. I wished I had more money to travel further afield, but I didn’t. The reality was, I had to travel within my limited means. I did, and I had a great time doing that.
Money isn’t everything; I know that. However, it is enabling me to do the things I want to do. I’m not one for material possessions, and I live cheaply on a day-to-day basis. The main thing I spend my money on is travel because it’s important to me. I love travelling: discovering new places, taking photos, and then writing about my experience. With more money, I can travel further afield, and I don’t have to use hostels all the time. I like hostels, don’t get me wrong, and I will continue to use them from time to time, but it’s nice to be able to afford an en-suite room, so I don’t have to share. Having a bit more money means I can treat myself a bit more.
Seizing Opportunities in 2016
I have no idea what 2016 will bring. I don’t know where I will be working, since my contract is only temporary and due to finish in February. Will the contract be extended? Who knows? Time will tell. Whatever happens, I need to identify and seize any opportunities that present themselves in 2016.
Have your say
What was 2015 like for you? What do you need to focus on for the coming year?