I find it hard to believe that we have almost come to the end of yet another year, and what a year it has been! With Brexit, Donald Trump’s controversial presidential election, increasing instability around the world, death and destruction, it has certainly been a difficult one. 2016 is a year that won’t easily be forgotten, that’s for sure!
As I started to reflect on what I have done over the year, I was amazed at how much I have actually done, and how things have changed in the past 12 months. Just to give you an idea, my temporary contract became permanent; I moved to the north of England; I travelled a fair bit in Europe, Central America, and Asia; and I went on my first camping holiday. My goal for the year was to seize opportunities that presented themselves. I can confidently say that have achieved that goal.
At the end of 2015, I had no idea what 2016 would bring workwise as my temporary contract was due to end mid-Februrary 2016. That made it difficult to plan ahead. I decided to keep my options open, and play it by ear. I would stay in the UK if my contract was extended. If not, I would continue travelling when I went to Costa Rica. As it turned out, my temporary contract was extended, so I returned to the UK after my trip to Costa Rica, and I was eventually made permanent in June.
Being made permanent got me thinking more about travel (surprise, surprise). With a regular wage, I started thinking about all the places in the world I have wanted to visit that I had previously ruled out due to the cost. My job has given me the impetus to visit those places. In fact, I wasted no time and started planning some trips.
In February, I went to Costa Rica, a country I had wanted to visit for years. I was fortunate enough to watch toucans at breakfast, and I stayed on a chocolate farm, which was heavenly. I relaxed in a natural thermal spring and dined with a fabulous view of the Arenal volcano in the background. I finished off the trip on the coast where I had a close encounter with Capuchin monkeys, and was joined in the sea by horses that needed to cool off. That certainly isn’t an everyday occurrence! I also hiked to a waterfall, and had a surfing lesson.
In the summer, I finally made it to Iceland. I backpacked and camped in the north, west, south, and part of the east. During my time there, I saw terrain that looked otherworldly, water being forced out of the ground at high speed, hot mud bubbling out of the ground, the earth being ripped apart from beneath my feet, more waterfalls than I can remember, and glaciers. That’s all wrapped up in one amazing country.
In November, I went to India for a wedding, which was an unexpected delight. I met a girl on a bus while travelling from Jaipur to Haridwar in 2008. We kept in touch over the years, and she always said she would invite me to her wedding. Sure enough, she did 8 years later. As I only had a week’s holiday left, it seemed like a long way to go for such a short amount of time. But how could I turn down such an opportunity? I couldn’t, and I’m so glad I didn’t. The 3-day wedding was unmissable. I saw a lovely couple getting married, had lots of delicious vegetarian food, and met so many friendly, welcoming locals. I also got to wear a sari, which was a childhood dream fulfilled, rediscovered my love for the country, and felt as if I had been in a Bollywood movie.
Apart from these main holidays, I spent a couple of weekends in Ireland. I hadn’t been there in years, so it was good to go back. I went on a girly weekend to Dublin with friends, and then with my parents to mark their 50th wedding anniversary. It was wonderful to see relatives, revisit places from my childhood, and see where my parents got married all those years ago.
That’s not bad, considering I was working full-time.
They say that home is where the heart is. I was living in Oxford at the beginning of the year, but my heart certainly wasn’t there. While Oxford is a beautiful city, I wasn’t happy with my living conditions. I was determined to leave the room I was renting, regardless of whether my work contract was extended. When I returned from Costa Rica, I had a job but nowhere to live. I had decided to move to Liverpool because I liked it and had wanted to move there years ago. Thankfully, it didn’t take long to find a flat to rent. I love Liverpool because it’s a vibrant, friendly, historical, and cultural city. It’s also a great base to explore the north of England and Wales, plus it’s easy to get to Scotland from there. So, for the time being, my heart and home is in Liverpool.
Blogging has been an important part of my life for years, but I have struggled to keep it updated in 2016. On reflection, there are a few reasons for this. Working full-time and travelling at weekends and going away at every opportunity has left me with little time to think and write. When I have had the time, I haven’t wanted to do more ‘work’. I have also had major problems connecting to WiFi when I have been motivated to do something. On reflection, there is more to it than all of this, though.
When I started this blog, I did so to inspire others to get out of their comfort zone and do things they had only ever dreamed of, which for me was to discover the world. I had a reason to begin, and it would be a good reason to continue, if this blog were popular. It isn’t. I hate to say it, but this blog has never taken off. Other travel bloggers seem to have done well. They have huge followings, won awards, and have managed to develop businesses as a result of their blogs. I haven’t managed to do that. That’s why I took a teaching job in Poland and why I am now in my current job. I was fed up with not having any money. I needed to focus on something that was going to bring in some money, so I could do the things I wanted to do.
Even though I have published very little this year, it hasn’t negatively affected my statistics, which has surprised me. In fact, my audience has grown slightly. Obviously, this isn’t the slightest bit motivating, but I have continued to blog because I had convinced myself that it encouraged me to keep travelling. The thing is, that isn’t actually true. I have travelled a lot this year, but I haven’t blogged much about my travels. There are lots of reasons why I haven’t regularly updated this blog in 2016. However, the main underlying reason is because I haven’t got a compelling reason to continue to do so.
2017 is the year of reflection, refocusing, & planning
In 2007, I started a journey of self-discovery which lead me to travel around the world on my own for a year in 2008-2009. As a result of this, I discovered the gift of freedom. I no longer feel bound by anyone or anything. Now, if I want to go anywhere or do anything, I do it, such as living and working in different countries, and going on a solo backpacking/camping trip to Iceland for a couple of weeks. I don’t think twice about whether someone will be able to go with me anymore. I am happy enough to go alone. Shaking off the shackles that had stopped me from truly living life is the change I value the most – a new-found sense of freedom.
I have also changed my career path, discovered a love for writing and photography, and started my online journey, blogging and using social media. None of it has been easy, but I have learned a lot about myself. I love a challenge; I am an adventurer; and I am spontaneous. That all makes for an interesting life. With everything that has happened, and given that I have a bit of stability and certainty for the first time in years, it is time for me to reflect, refocus, and plan for my future in 2017. I need to take stock of where I am now, what I have done, and what I want from my life. Travelling and discovering the world around me will remain a major focus of my life, but I need to think about all the other areas of my life.
Have your say
What was 2016 like for you? What do you need or want to focus on in the coming year?