Today is my 27th birthday. As always on my birthday, I reflect on the past year and assess where I am in life. I marvel at the course of events that got me to where I am now. My path is a sequence of “if-then” statements, like the Microsoft Excel formulas I used every day in my last finance job.
If I hadn’t chosen to travel alone to parts of South America in 2011, maybe that trip wouldn’t have sparked my wanderlust. Then I wouldn’t have traveled to Southeast Asia, which really got me thinking that maybe the beaten path of 9-5 life just wasn’t for me.
If I hadn’t stumbled across a random article about Lisbon, I wouldn’t have decided to spend my two-week holiday in Portugal in 2013 instead of anywhere else in the world. If it hadn’t been raining in Porto when I was in Lisbon, I wouldn’t have been forced south to Lagos and then over into Spain.
If I hadn’t gone on that Madrid walking tour in which the guide told me about the program to teach English in Spain, I wouldn’t have decided then and there that enough was enough, time to start pursuing my passions. Then I wouldn’t be living in Spain.
What if it had panned out differently? I’m so glad it didn’t.
The highlights of this year are easy to point out. I quit my job one year ago – actually, by now it’s actually been 13 months. I moved to Spain. I traveled to 15 countries spanning three continents. That’s more than some travel in their lifetime. I’m lucky, incredibly lucky. I’ve collected a number of experiences that I hold close to my heart, like spending two months in India, hitchhiking in the Balkans, and most recently, sleeping in the Sahara Desert during my trip to Morocco.
Most importantly, this year has been about finding myself and rediscovering my voice. I do things now that I haven’t done since I was young, like write, for example. I love sharing my experiences through my blog. It’s a way for me to relive some of my most cherished memories. And I’ve recently taken up drawing – I haven’t done that in years! Using my creativity to see things with a new perspective, that’s really the most beautiful thing I’ve learned this year.
The lowlights are also easy to see. Life goes on at home, with or without me. Friends get engaged, married, they move away and move on. It’s hard to stay in touch with everyone all the time. You grow older, farther in part in both distance and time. It’s normal and natural, but it still makes me sad. I can think back on my time at home as if it were yesterday, because I’ve had so few moments at home this year that it feels so recent. In reality, a lot of time has passed.
My life now is a little less ordinary, and it’s more colorful than it’s ever been. At 26 I was just beginning this journey living outside the norm. Now at 27, I’m still trying to figure out where the next few months will take me. I want a life of travel, but I’m not sure if it’s sustainable in the long-term. But if you can dream it you can achieve it, right?
This past year has been the best year of my life. I say that every year. That means that every year of life keeps getting better and better. I’m so thankful for my life and so hopeful for the future. I can only imagine what 27 will bring. Cheers!