The other day I was sitting at home thinking about where the end of 2013 had taken me. Exactly two months before, I was wandering down Sepulveda Blvd in Los Angeles, jet-lagged and culture-shocked after a 12-hour flight from Auckland.
One month later, I was standing in Central Park in New York City, with snow on the ground and Christmas music in the air. In between was San Diego, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, home to South Jersey for Thanksgiving, up to Boston, New Hampshire and back home again. From October to this coming February I will have traveled from New Zealand to (and all across) the States and back down under—this time to Australia.
Is this real? I feel blessed and bewildered at all the turns my life has taken in the last few years. More than ever, I also realize the need to step back, be completely alone and reflect. That’s what the last month at home has been for me. It’s a new year and with it comes the hope of improvement and discovery. So as I look ahead to this next trip, here are some of my travel resolutions for 2014:
1. Worry less.
Should I be making another trip abroad? Have I used up my allotment? Do I really want to spend another year so far away from my family? Will I have enough money? How do I know what direction to go once I get to Australia? What happens after the year? Am I where I’m supposed to be in life?
They’re all big, anxiety-ridden questions. As much as I find it really, really hard to let go of worry, I also realize it’s pretty much a waste of time. Looking back after my past trips the journey is always much more extraordinary than I could have planned. I just need to have a little faith.
2. Pack lighter.
On my first big trip abroad, studying in Australia in 2009, I brought two large suitcases for a four-month semester. At the time it felt like deprivation. Now, it seems absurd. The next trip, my first year in New Zealand, I carried one suitcase and a backpack; getting better, but still unrealistic. For my second NZ trip, it was a backpack and a ski bag. This time I’m aiming for just the backpack! The satisfaction of finally mastering the art of traveling light will outweigh the sadness of all those left behind shoes. (Hopefully.)
3. Learn a new skill/follow a whim.
When I sometimes worry that I’m far off any specific career path, I look at the unique opportunities working abroad has provided me. I never imagined I’d add repelling off chairlifts, participating in a mock-avalanche, or learning to prune vines at a winery to my resume. Whether it’s through a new hobby, an off-the-wall job, or an adventurous vacation, a very important resolution is to continue testing my personal boundaries. I hope to embrace the serendipity that a working holiday can provide. It’s really the greatest environment to let things unfold as they will.
4. Be more responsible with money.
Making it a goal to live more spontaneously doesn’t mean throwing your budget out the window. I’ve gotten better about being thrifty in the last year, but there is still plenty of room for improvement.
5. Write letters.
The other day I came home to a handwritten note posted from a good friend back in New Zealand. What made it even more special was the fact that she’s spending several months living off the grid, working at a tramping hut along the South Island’s Milford Track. I knew that letter had been through a lot before it finally reached me on the East Coast of the United States. I’m very grateful for how easy modern technology makes it to keep in touch with loved ones, but snail mail is still a lot more romantic.
Simplify in a world where everything is always turned on. Enjoy conversations without glancing down at my phone. Be okay with spending a week out of touch with the rest of the world while embracing a new lifestyle, new friends and a new job. Once in a while, instead of trying to capture a perfect travel moment on camera or through social media, turn it all off and feel what it’s like to be completely present in the moment.
7. Don’t be prejudiced towards Australia.
I love New Zealand! Some of my best friends and happiest memories are on those two tiny islands where I lived for a year and a half. But there is so much of the world to see, yet. A lot of Kiwis have asked why on earth I’d want to jump over to their larger neighbor across the Tasman Sea. I’ll try my best not to hold anything New Zealand does better against Australia. One plus, after four back-to-back winters, I finally get to chase the summer sun for a while.
Here’s to diving head first into a brand new year of possibilities!