I love to take some time at the end of the year to reflect on and appreciate all the wonderful things I was lucky enough to experience in just one 12-month period. I think it’s easy to go through your daily life feeling like not much is changing, or that you’re somehow not doing enough on an everyday basis, but I find that when you look back and take the long view, it’s easier to acknowledge how much you’ve grown and accomplished and created.
In years past I’ve usually just done a short recap of the year here on the blog, but this year, I thought it would be fun to write the highlights of each month.
I rang in the New Year on a beach on Boracay Island in the Philippines, with a delicious custom vegetarian 4-course dinner prepared by a local chef, followed by champagne with our toes in the sand, loads of fireworks, and dancing. It was raining a little, but we had a great time. Heading home to (beautiful) Busan after that was a bit of a drag, but exciting because I only had a couple short months left in Korea before my travels. I also got laser eye surgery in late January, which is probably the best investment I’ve ever made.
February + March:
The next two months were a whirlwind of activity in which most of my spare time was spent visiting my favourite places and restaurants in Busan, saying goodbye to friends, packing up my apartment, getting vaccinations and submitting visa paperwork. I also spent a fair number of nights after work watching Gilmore Girls, researching travel destinations and going out for amazing Korean food.
I left Busan on March 31st, and kicked the month off with a bang by heading straight to Laos. I had almost two weeks in the country by myself, and it was wonderful. I spent my birthday swimming solo underneath a crystal-clear waterfall, watched a lot of sunsets, had (several) drinks at the best riverside bar, made a few friends, and settled back into the travelling lifestyle.
Midway through April, I flew to Chiang Mai to meet up with two of my good friends from Korea, and to pick my sister up from the airport! We celebrated a very wet and wild Songkran together, went to visit a beautiful elephant sanctuary, travelled up to Pai to rent scooters and explore waterfalls, headed to Bangkok for a couple days of temple-hopping and then took a night bus down to Koh Tao. Once on the island, my sister and I watched every sunset, had lots of Leo beers, ate a lot of delicious food, played gin rummy, and slept in a little cabin only steps from the beach. In the daytime I also took my Open Water Diver scuba diving course!
I spent most of May in Vietnam with my friend Katie. We went from North to South, spending our time in Ha Long Bay in a teeny tiny fishing village; playing guitar, singing, and drinking beer bowls in a little bar on a little boat in Hoi An; going canyoning in Da Lat; and having drinks in fancy rooftop bars in Saigon. It was such a incredibly good time.
Then we went back to Thailand and headed down to the lesser-known Thai islands of Koh Chang and finally, Koh Mak (aka Paradise). It was such a gorgeous way to finish off my two months in South East Asia.
This was a special time of the year for me, because I started my yoga teacher training in northern India. I got to learn a ton of amazing new ideas from my teachers and friends, feel inspired, and challenge myself in every way: physically, emotionally, and mentally. I also met my boyfriend the very first day of our training, and instantly connected with him.
We spent June and July practicing hard every day: 4+ hours of physical practice, 2 hours of lectures, and at least another couple hours for homework and self-practice. Any time we had left over we spent exploring our little town of Ram Jhula, trying out nearby restaurants, and of course falling in love. In late July, I flew home to Canada and he stayed on to do his 300-hour teacher training.
I had such a lovely time being home – finally, after a year and a half!! – with my family and friends. What stands out to me the most were the simple moments with them: the dinners, the campfires, playing bocce ball, reading outside on a deck chair, going for hikes, and playing with the cat. There were also several wonderful weekends spent with my wonderful friends downtown Toronto. I have the best friends, who take me to great places and give me couch to sleep on and welcome me – always – with open arms.
One fun thing I did in September was fly down to NYC to visit my friend Katie. She was living in Brooklyn at the time, and we spent a week laughing our heads off and eating a ton of delicious food. On the days she had to work, I spent my time puttering around Manhattan, exploring Central Park, looking at pretty houses, window shopping, and having my first New York bagel (verdict: insanely good). On the weekend we hit up Smorgasburg, a food truck festival held every weekend in Williamsburg during the summer, and headed out to Long Island to stay with her family, go hiking by the water, (quickly) drive through the abandoned psychiatric institute and eat awesome pizza.
On the second-to-last day of September, I moved to Quito, Ecuador, to see about a boy.
More specifically, I moved to Quito to be with my boyfriend. We moved into a sunny apartment together in the Northern part of the city and started our relationship for real. It’s definitely at times been an adjustment for me to go from Single Girl Living Alone and Travelling The World Independently to Girl Living With a Boy in a Foreign Country in just a matter of months, but overall it’s been wonderful.
After the initial rush of getting to know the city and being tourists, we tried to settle into some routines, baked a lot of bread, went to see a really fun South American soccer game, and visited a lake in the crater of a volcano. I also learned a lot of Spanish, got to know Paulo’s family, and walked in the park every day.
The first half of the month included early Christmas parties and one drawn-out (but ultimately successful!) visa application. On the 15th, we came back together to visit my family at home in Canada for the holidays! We’re still here at the time of this writing and it’s been such a lovely trip so far.
I feel so blessed to have so much love and adventure in my life and am manifesting more of the same for 2016.
Goals & Intentions
1. Read 75 books: ✓
I achieved my very favourite goal of the year! I made it by the skin of my teeth, and by reading a few short books in the last few weeks. For me, the point of reading books is to learn new ideas, and since sometimes short books can be the most powerful and chock-full of ideas, for me they count. I think audio books are great for the same reason.
I know 75 seems like a ton of books to read – so much so, I’ve caught myself sometimes sharing the number sheepishly or quietly, like I’m embarrassed. But the truth is? It’s not that many books. It’s a little under one and a half books every seven days. And if I prioritize reading, I personally really can achieve that without much fuss. Reading is one of the great loves of my life, and it makes me a better person, so this goal merely reminds me to prioritize something I love to do.
2. Learn to speak Spanish conversationally: ✓
This goal almost takes my breath away. In my blog post where I set these goals, I wrote: “I’m hoping to find someone to practice speaking with (or even just write poorly-written letters to!) so that I can improve even more.” I then proceeded to do nothing about finding someone to speak Spanish with, until I arrived in Rishikesh, India, and met a quiet man with an awesome smile who was born and raised in Ecuador. I now live with that man in Quito, and we speak Spanish (more or less conversationally!) every single day.
When I first arrived in Ecuador at the end of September, my conversations with his non-English-speaking parents mainly consisted of “hola” and “gracias”. Today, I’m proud to say that I can carry on conversations with all his family members by myself with little to no help. When I set this goal last year it was a little random and I had no idea if I’d really accomplish it, but now it’s so special and I’m so grateful.
3. Meditate daily: 228/365 = 62% = ✓
Sixty percent to me means that I didn’t fail at this goal – I did it for more than half of the year! That is a huge accomplishment, because I’m sure my numbers for the year before were more like 10% of the time, if that. The best part is, in the past couple of months I’ve really felt my practice start to become a habit. I’m resenting it less, enjoying it more, and I really feel like I’m getting more out of it. Not only that, but I truly notice the days that I skip my meditation.
I’m currently doing 10 minutes per day in the morning, and I usually do a simple counting meditation where I count my breaths up to ten, and then start again at one.
4. Keep a gratitude journal: 365/365 = 100% = ✓
Every single day this year, I wrote down at least ten things I was grateful for. Every single day. Sometimes I didn’t get a chance to write in my journal the same day – in fact, I usually do it first thing in the morning for the day before – but I always took the time to reflect on the day in question and remember all the good things about it.
This practice hasn’t seemed to change my life in huge, monumental ways, but I still feel like it’s increasing my positivity and starting or ending my days with the right perspective. I think the next step for this practice for me is to read a random page from a month or two back after I’ve finished writing for the given day. Reflecting on the good things in my life in a more overarching way will probably bring more life and joy to this habit. I have no plans to stop gratitude journaling!
5. Move: 290/365 = 80% = ✓
I’ll gladly take an 81% – until writing this post, I hadn’t ever counted up my days missed on my goal trackers for any of my goals, so seeing the concrete numbers is so exciting and in a way, such a relief. What I love most about tracking daily goals is taking the long view and reviewing the year as a whole. Each day that I’m not able to check off at the time feels crummy, but when I look back over my efforts for the year, it feels awesome. “Move” to me meant intentionally moving, something like going for a walk or doing a yoga practice that fell outside of my normal day-to-day activities. There were days that I walked around a shopping mall but couldn’t in good faith give myself a check mark because it wasn’t a) a lot of movement, really, and b) intentional.
It’s totally great to see that the vast majority of my days, I intentionally moved.
6. Floss daily (bonus goal!): 138/138 = 100%
This goal wasn’t on my list at the start of the new year, but I added it in August after reading Better Than Before and figuring out that I’m a Questioner. Since I figured out how best to implement this goal for me (lots of compelling reasons, a good handle on the right technique to use, and a set time of day) I haven’t missed a single day. And honestly, flossing has been one of my favourite habits of this year. (#nerd)
My Word of the Year: Grace
I found that grace didn’t resonate with me as much as my 2014 word abundance did. I was less certain of how to embody it and I didn’t get as many cosmic reminders about it, but it was still a powerful word. It showed up in the names of the women I donated to on Kiva, on book covers, as the last unit in an online course, in dozens of podcast episodes, and of course in my mind whenever I tried to be the very best version of myself I could be.
As I looked back on the year, I realized that one thing that was missing was reflection on my word. When abundance was my word, I wrote a couple blog posts (see them here and here) about the ways abundance had influenced me and come up in my life. Remembering to notice and record my word was proportional to how much I got out of it. I’ll be keeping this idea in mind for 2016’s word.
It feels good to be wrapping up one year and looking ahead to the next. Every new year seems so full of possibility and hope, and it’s always nice to have a fresh start. I’m so excited to start making progress on new goals.
If you’re curious, you can see more of my year-end reviews here: