And so another winter vacation ends. A full twenty-four hours later than expected, I arrived back in Aomori late last night from a two-week journey across northern India and Nepal. It was nothing short of amazing and I’m sure I’ll be spamming you, dear readers, with tales of my adventures for at least a month or two to come. (A giant middle finger to China Southern, though, for canceling my first flight without any sort of explanation, which made me miss my flight back to Japan. Were I part of the Targaryen clan, I would lay siege to you with my dragons in grim satisfaction.)
Between jetlag and sheer laziness, I almost let this Thursday slip by without a throwback post…until I read an awesome post by one of my favorite fellow travel bloggers, Sally, who runs A Breath of Foreign Air. Her post about the defining moments of her 2013 made me think of my own highlights of this past year. So without further ado, here are the experiences that made 2013 a year to remember.
Fulfilling my BFF duty. In May, I made the trek back home to be maid of honor in my best friend’s wedding. I’ve never seen her happier and I was so thrilled and proud to be part of her day. (It also might be the first and last time I have willingly and happily worn a pink dress.)
Bye bye, student loans! In April of this year, I finally made the last payment on the student loans I incurred while at Washington & Jefferson. My goal was to have them all paid off by the two-year anniversary of my graduation, and I scraped under that deadline with a week or two to spare. I have never been more excited to pay a bill in my life (and probably never will be again). It is such a relief to have that weight off my shoulders and that money available to put towards other ventures.
Looking toward the future. It’s no secret that I love my job. This year, though, I came to the realization that I don’t want my time teaching English in Japan to be just a blip on my life story. It was a pretty major “Eureka!” moment for me, and it felt like something essential had fallen into place. In the next week or so, I will hopefully be signing papers to secure my position at Aomori High School through July of 2015, and at this point, I’ll be surprised if I’m not here through 2016 as well. Originally, I’d planned to head to Europe for grad school, but now it’s become a priority for me to make teaching EFL a more long-term, concrete career. Now I’m working towards getting my TEFL certification, which will hopefully help me secure my (second) dream job post-JET. To put it simply, I have found my passion.
Bring me that horizon. Even by my standards, 2013 was a banner year for traveling and crossing off items from my bucket list. I climbed Mount Fuji in July, headed to the unbelievably gorgeous island of Lombok in Indonesia in September, and trotted off to the Subcontinent in late December. I’ve an ongoing resolution to travel to a new country every year…and 2013 kept that tradition continuing in fine fashion.
Oh god, my legs. Despite professing that I loathe running with the fire of a thousand burning suns, in October, I competed in my first 10K. (And without fainting, even!) Against all expectations, running has become a major part of my life, and I hope it’ll stay that way. Here’s to more miles and races in the year to come.
Branching out. This past year, I’ve had my writing appear in more separate publications than ever before. My alma mater reproduced a shortened version of this post in their biannual College magazine. I also joined the writing staffs of Mind Equals Blown (a music blog whose editors let me wax poetic as often as I want about how much I love Muse) and Dead Screen (where I get to let my fangirl flag fly and gush over Doctor Who). Additionally, I had posts published intermittently on Matador Network, an opportunity for which I’m incredibly thankful.
Gettin’ fancy with the spices. Mostly inspired by the combination a close friend who might be the next Thomas Keller and my own desire to eat delicious food at home, 2013 was the year that I made it a priority to make cooking a major hobby of mine. My pantry and cupboards have grown by leaps and bounds, and cooking, once a chore, is now one of my favorite things to do. Major successes of the past year include cardamom and pistachio pancakes with orange blossom syrup, gorgonzola-pumpkin sauce over rotini, mushrooms, and scallops, and gnocchi mushroom sugo. Given my recent return from India, I see myself tackling as many different varieties of curry as I can manage in the coming month.
As for 2014, I already can’t wait to see what this new year brings. The first week of the new year was spent gallivanting around Nepal, and I already have trips to Turkey and (hopefully) Vietnam and Singapore in the books.
- Countries visited via airport layover: China, Malaysia
- New countries visited: Indonesia, India, Nepal
- Distance traveled: 22,246 miles / 35,802 kilometers
- Mountains climbed: 2 (Mount Fuji and Mount Chokai)
- Miles run: roughly 250 (Considering that Aomori’s snow prevents me from running from January to April and for most of December, I consider that number a success.)
- New tattoos: 2
- New dishes cooked: around 100
- New dishes cooked that catastrophically failed: 1 (a lentil soup that was so sludgy and inedible it went straight in the trash)
- New experiences: far too many to count