I am unsure how to describe this past year. It was full of once-in-a-lifetime experiences, spectacular views, life-long friends, lows & highs, emotional breakdowns, shear exhaustion, travel horror stories, and some of best and most unique food I have ever tasted. Yet, I am a talker, not a writer. I prefer to sit at a coffee shop and regale you with stories of the past year. I’d rather show you pictures than try and put words on paper, but I still need be able to articulate what this year was to me. It is something I still won’t fully grasp my head around for months until I am back home and in a “normal” routine again. So for real, ask me in like 2 months how Remote Year was but I will try and summarize as much I can.
But to fully grasp this year I think we need to take a step back and look at the journey and how it began.
Remote Year required a huge leap of faith and an unbelievable amount of hoops that needed to be jumped through to make it happen. Many of us were unsure of how legit this “Remote Year” company was and what would be the reactions of our friends and employers. Unbeknownst to many of my friends and family, the months leading up to myself leaving the country for a year were the most stressful of my life. The logistical planning for a year abroad was a nightmare in and of itself and that doesn’t take into account the high emotions of figuring out how to prep your company, family, friends, and loved ones for your absence for a year. This was the hardest part. Packing was easy compared to figuring out your personal relationships and working through the major family/friend events you would miss over the year. I was internally freaking out those last few months and on top of everything was dealing with a the loss of a good friend (which surprised everyone) so I had little time to go through the grief stages. On the outside it looked like I was about to start this amazing journey but I will admit I did a good job of hiding the stress from everyone. Fast forward to the present.
I made it my goal this year to emphasize to everyone that this year was not a vacation. At times, it seemed like it. And judging by my Instagram account, I know many people thought I was living the dream. But I supplemented my IG account with this blog and FB posts so I could be as honest with everyone back at home as I could. Traveling this extensively was extremely rewarding but was not always easy and I really wanted folks to grasp their head around that. That being said, we all learned so much about ourselves and how we act/thrive when thrown into unique & awkward situations. Traveling really does prepare you for all scenarios in life.
But 2 words I kept coming back to all year were: Perception & Appreciation.
My perception changed in both how I viewed this vast world we live in AND how folks view myself as a typical “American”. Participating in Remote Year gave us all a chance to immerse ourself in the local culture for weeks on end. We weren’t just typical tourists and the more I traveled the more I appreciated doing the “less-touristy” option. I preferred the hikes off the beaten path. The home cooked dinners in our city manager’s personal homes were so much more rewarding than the 5-star rated “must-see” restaurants. Having beers on the streets and & recycling the bottles at the local mart to buy more alcohol was way better than over-paying at an expat bar. In Cambodia, I took a boat to an island with no stable electricity, restaurants, or plumbing. I slept in a pier-bungalow and at night got to witness bioluminescence plankton in the water. It was a surreal moment that I will cherish forever and something that I happened to stumble on. These are the moments that I realized I value more than anything. Unscripted, unique, and away from the hustle & bustle.
This year was also at times the most stressful and trying year of my life, both emotionally, physically, and mentally. But boy did I grow and learn.
The one thing I completely underestimated this year was the amount of time I would have alone to myself for self reflection. There were days I was away from technology, friends, family, drama, civilization, and humans at times. As someone who grew up in a big family, I have never experienced this amount of alone-time before and at times, I hated it. I hated how much thinking and analyzing I did. I hated not having people to bounce ideas off of or vent to. I hated not having distractions.
But on the flip side, I really, really, REALLY got to self-reflect. I got to decide what was worth my time in life and what wasn’t. I was able to reflect on life decisions and personal relationships. This is also where I was able to truly start appreciating what I had back at home:
- The friendships and relationships.
- The support system(s) whether known or unknown.
- Stability and routine.
- The tangible and the intangibles:
- Security & safety
- Electricity & working wifi
- Competent healthcare
- Grocery stores and sanitary food
- Traffic laws
- Poop-less sidewalks
- Labels you can read
- Working ATM’s & credit card machines
- Reliable public transportation
- Common sense
- Plugs that fit your devices
- Iced-coffee (or just ICE!)
- Flushable toilets
Traveling TRULY did open my eyes & heart and really does make you appreciate things you most likely took for granted back at home.
I had the utmost privilege to experience 20 new countries, cultures, foods, and locals over the past year. I am supremely grateful for this opportunity but in full honesty I also am tired. It has been a LONG year. I am looking forward to just winding down and doing nothing for a little bit and catching up with family and friends. I missed out on best friends having babies this year that I can’t wait to coddle & play with (I am looking at you Juliann, Jaleh, & Alesia!). My parents built a new house outside of Charlottesville that I have yet to see (in person) and can’t wait to check out. Life continued in DC and I expect not much to have changed during my absence (minus the shit show in the White House).
Will I want to travel again? You bet your ass I will. That itch will always be there and I look forward to traversing the world all over to meet up with my fellow Remote Year family. Even with all the traveling I did this year, I have only seen about 10% of this vast world.
I’ve got some work to do — there are so many more places to see (so reach out if you want to join on future adventures!), but for now, it’s time to unpack, relax, and catch up on a year’s worth of missed sleep… and I couldn’t be more excited to do just that.