I know this is long, but you’ll be rewarded with a video at the end.
Before I get started on this post, I'm going to make it a little longer and start out with a quiz, of which I'm giving you a way to find the answer, with the map above. The winner of this quiz (the closest to the answer) will get a special personalized prize sent to them from yours truly...
The question is:
How many miles did I travel by airplane this year?
Leave your guess in the comments section of this post and I'll reveal the answer and the winner in next week's post.
P.S. The map will help you, but I did not travel to each of those places by plane... I traveled by bus, train and car to several of the destinations.
Okay, now on to the regularly scheduled post.
It’s the time of year when everyone looks back at the year that was and looks forward to the year that is to be. We reflect on what we learned, what we yearned for and how, hopefully, we’ve changed for the better. Then we take those learnings and yearnings and push them forward into the coming year – to become a better version of ourselves.
As I’ve said recently, I hope, too, that we don’t just wait until the end of the year to reflect on what a blessing life is, but that we live life to the fullest every day.
Honestly, the last couple weeks haven’t been lived to the fullest. I’ve been in a bit of a slump, and I’m not exactly sure why. The homesickness I experienced a few weeks ago has passed, but yet, it’s been harder and harder to stop having lazy days and instead getting out to explore life in Cork and in Ireland as a whole.
In trying to determine why this is, I do think it has to do with my wanderlust that I spoke of a few weeks ago. It’s been really hard to not have a new place to visit on the horizon. I do have to book a trip soon. I did eye a few volunteer programs today, but those won’t be until later in the year and I need to figure out if they’d actually work.
Anyway, I’m rambling. But speaking of wanderlust, this year was the quintessential travel year and I could not have asked for anything more. I do hope you realize that I know my life is crazy and I’m so, so, so blessed in all that has transpired over the last two years, but this 2014 year in particular.
If you’re one who likes lists, here are a few numbers for you about my year:
9 countries visitedxx,xxx miles airplane travel (comment on this post with your guess!) 34 beds slept in 100+ days lived out of a suitcase 2 cars driven--safely--in Ireland
I was looking back at my pictures and I still can’t believe the places I went, people I met, and experiences I experienced. And I lived to tell about it! I fully realize that 2014 was special. As much as I want to travel more and live a life of fulfilling my constant wanderlust, I don’t think I’ll be able to see and experience as much as I did this year.
Believe me, I’m going to try, but it won’t be quite as special. As I reflect back at 2014, here are a few things I learned:
I am okay being on my own. Once a homebody, things changed when I moved to Seattle in 2006. Going to a place where I knew only a few people, I forced myself to ‘put myself out there’ and I kind of took that to an extreme. I had plans every single night of the week and often times only had one or two nights home a month. I just didn’t want to be alone. That was an uncomfort I wasn't willing to face.
However, going to a country where I knew absolutely no one and where friends seemed hard to come by, I forced myself to be okay being on my own. I said more than once (to myself, sometimes aloud, because I do talk to myself more often than I should admit) ‘All right, God. It’s me and you.’ And it was. I became okay going into a strange city where I had no clue as to the culture and being completely lost. I became okay with the unknown, and exploring on my own, sometimes I actually prefer it.
I am okay with short-term friendships. As much as I didn’t mind being on my own, I also relished the times where I met people and spent a few hours or days with them. Whether it was at a hostel, on a tour, or in a pub, I realized that I’d most likely never see these people again. At first I had the feeling of ‘why even bother?’ but then grasped the situation and met people from all over the world. Thankfully some of whom I’ll see again, but many, I wouldn’t be able to tell you their names. And that’s okay. I kind of like it actually. I, also, made long-term relationships, which, of course, I'll treasure.
I am more grounded in my faith than ever before. As mentioned above, there were many times I felt that it was just me and God in this together. And that’s not a ‘crazy Christian’ thing, but a security in my faith that I’m not sure was there before. While before I may have waffled on my beliefs, now, I am sure in them and am not afraid to give God the praise in various situations. I learned and experienced first hand that He is my Provider and Sustainer. I wouldn't have been able to learn that if I had stayed in my life in Seattle where things were comfortable and neatly laid out.
I don’t need things or money. I lived out of a suitcase for more than 100 days last year – almost a third of the year! With that, I’ve learned to live with less. My income isn’t stellar these days (kind of my choice deciding how much I want to work), but it’s okay. I don’t need money beyond my basic needs. And with shops like Penneys, I can get cheap clothes if I feel the need. More and more, it's the experiences rather than the stuff. It's quality over quantity.
Actually, this summer I had a garage sale where I sold (or gave away) the majority of my stuff. So, I have two large-ish suitcases worth of stuff here and then about 8 boxes or bins at my aunt and uncle’s place in Seattle. Those are my worldly possessions, folks! And how freeing that is!!
I’m a confident person. I grew up the shy girl. My grandma once gave me a book called ‘When I Feel Shy…’ and was full of poems and stories about being shy. I was definitely the kid hanging on to my mom’s leg for as long as possible in any situation. And any sort of situation in which I was the center of attention, oh how I loathed it! I have gotten better over the years, especially after my time in Seattle, but I did notice too, that I am more confident now that I was.
And yes, while I still hate being center of attention, the confidence in who I am (and who God created me to be) has risen exponentially. I’m not sure of the exact reason, but I have noticed the shift. And I like it!
I may never have a ‘traditional’ life again. Seriously, God only knows (literally) where this life I call mine will end up. I have no clue right now. And I know my mom will chime in here and say, ‘well, Rae, none of us has an idea of where our lives will end up’ – and yes, I agree. But I think a lot of the world, or at least the western world, would say, ‘yeah, in September, I have some idea of what my life will look like.’ I definitely don’t. My visa runs out in September. I can renew to extend my time in Ireland. I could go back to the States, I could start saving up loads of money again and make 2016 another epic year of travel and experience.
The world is my oyster, once again. God also only knows that I may meet someone, decide I want to ‘settle down’ and enjoy the conventional life. Who knows – that may happen. But God really does know… and right now he's the only one and he'll reveal it to me in due time. I have no idea, and I am 100% okay with that.
I love to travel. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I have an intense bout of wanderlust right now. It’s hard to describe – but it’s there and unfortunately I can’t quench it for a while. But if there is one thing I learned this year, it’s that I adore traveling. And I know I’m blessed to have been able to do so much of it these past months and to learn that I love it. It’s where I feel comfortable – having a trip planned, to look forward to, is the best feeling in the world. Just below actually boarding the plane and arriving in an unknown city!
While I knew I always had an affinity for travel, I didn’t realize just how much until I actually left and did it. And I’m so happy I took the opportunity to do it. I wrote once 'my wandering spirit is at rest when I’m experiencing something new in a culture that’s oh so different from mine.' And that about sums it up.
So … that’s a little bit of what I learned in 2014. It was an incredible year and my heart swells when I think of all I experienced and how I am truly changed for the better because of it.
I wrote the poem(?) after I got back to the States, and I wanted to share it again as it's how I still feel regarding how I feel when people say I'm brave or courageous when I share what I did this past year, but I really just followed a dream. And maybe that does make me brave, because following a dream can be one of the scariest things of all.
I’m not brave, or courageous, or inspirational.
But if you want to call me those things, don’t say it because I booked the ticket.
Or because I boarded the plane. Or because I went on an adventure.
Say it because I said Yes. I said yes to a dream.
And by the grace of God, I followed through.
Not to get all preachy now, because Lord knows, this post is already too long, but I do want to say that if you've been following my journey this year, you'll know that I had ups and definite downs. It wasn't easy, but it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be.
But that's the thing with dreams, isn't it? You build it up in your head that it's this impossible, unreachable feat, when really, the impossible seems to be the starting. Not the going. Because once you've started, you can't help but keep going.
Okay, so enough of the serious stuff... on to some fun...
An Instagram Recap – here’s a quick video of what I was up to on Instagram this year. The music is by Josh Garrels.
As I shared a bit ago, I do have to go through all my pictures from my 'real' camera and sort, edit, and post them. I started with Ireland... more will come, I promise. (Just no promise as to when that will actually happen.)
I hope and pray you've had a lovely 2014 and an even better 2015 ahead of you. All my love to you as you embark on the New Year.