Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2013 Reviewed

Okay, here goes:

Florence, Oregon: 5 months
Thailand: 3 weeks
Burma: 1 month
Malaysia: 1 week
Vietnam: 1 month
Laos: 3 weeks
China/Yunnan: 2 weeks
Sacramento: 2 days
Eureka/Santa Rosa/Redwoods campground: 1 night each (to and from aforementioned Sacramento wedding)
Klamath Falls, Oregon: 2 days
Napa: 1 week
China/Beijing: 3 days
Mongolia: 3 days
Russia: 2.5 weeks
Germany: 2 weeks
Austin: 2 months
McMinville, Oregon: 2 days

New Countries:

Things that happened:
Swam with elephants in Thailand
Threw up out of a bus window, had nice Burmese lady hand me a tissue
Scootered to a deserted beach every day, drank beer, ate fresh rolls, read books on Phu Quoc
Saw Ho Chi Minh and Lenin
Saw a dead guy in Laos
Saw millions of bats fly out of Mulu Caves on Borneo
Saw my friends get married
Rolled my eyes when a bald French lady said a Buddhist chant for a chicken meeting its death at the hands of a Tibetan villager
Talked to Tibetans about why they don't like the Chinese government
Had a boozy lunch with random Chinese businessmen in Yunnan
Watched my 5'3" brother jump 22'9" to become Oregon's state long jump champion
Started writing a novel like it was my job
Stopped writing a novel to work slavishly on article about North Korea
Went to a writing conference, people seemed to like what I wrote
Took my mom from Beijing to St Petersburg
Played 50+ games of Scrabble (Mom keeps track)
Ate pickled herring in Tomsk, got nauseous
Got bitten in the shoulder by icky Russian guy in overcrowded van outside Irkutsk
Visited two old friends in Germany, one from Alaska, one from USC
Loved Berlin
Kayaked Siltcoos outlet, twice
Moved to Austin
Had my first Thanksgiving at home in five years
Started shopping at Costco again
Assembled an adult-looking pantry of canned goods for maybe the first time in my life (thanks, Costco)
Happily started living with James again, after 17 months apart

A lot of other things happened too, but I think the above is a fairly accurate snapshot of my 2013.

While there are still places I'd like to go, I feel satisfied with where I've gone since 2008. A few years ago, I felt disappointed if I didn't add a new country to the list during a calendar year (which I did not do in 2012), and I had a sense of urgency about seeing a lot as soon as possible. That feeling has dissipated. I'm happy with what I've done. Now I am in the not-entirely-pleasant position of readjusting to life in the US. Trying to figure out a work situation is stressful, especially since I don't have the network here that I would had I not spent so much time overseas, but then I have to remind myself that a lot of people wait their whole lives to travel. I wouldn't change the way I've done things.

Of my giant travels, the best parts were the outdoorsy ones: hiking in northern Burmese hill country, two nights in a national park in Borneo, my Vietnamese island beach week (my snorkeling butt-burn tan line only really went away about a month ago), kayaking in Laos, hiking in the Himalayan foothills in China and then Tiger Leaping Gorge after that. On my way to two dear college friends' wedding in Sacramento, I saw an amazing sunset coming south down Highway 101 in the Redwoods. My favorite part of doing the Transsiberian with my mom was our stay on Olkhon island. Plus, spending summer here on the Oregon Coast allowed me to do a lot of beach walking. This was a great year for spending time in nature, something I didn't do nearly enough of in China. I have to remember to prioritize outdoor time since I enjoy it so much, but that isn't always easy as a city dweller.

In 2012 I earned the most money of my life thus far. This year I made less than I have since college, which wasn't a surprise -- I did what I planned to do this year, travel and write. The payoff was publication of my most widely-read story to date. Now I just need to figure out how to marry the two, make enough money and get published. If you've figured out how to do this, let me know!

I'm excited about 2014. I'm less sure about what will happen in the next 365 days than I was at this time last year. Figuring out work will be the hardest part, but I have to remind myself to be patient. Typing this blog, I feel kind of wistful, like I haven't spent enough time appreciating what an incredible year I've had, mostly because I've been concentrating on trying to get work since November. At present, I have just about enough freelance things going on to make things work, which is good considering I've only been back a couple months, but the formula needs tweaking, a couple things I need to finish are decidedly not worth the time I've put in.

So resolutions:

2013 Revisited - I just typed 2012 here on accident. Hard to believe a whole year goes by when you spend it doing whatever you want.

1. Lose 10 pounds. (What? I probably weighed more then, coming off a crazy six months of work + holiday eating. But 10 pounds? Lolz - maybe I was filling insecure, looking at too many glossy magazines.)

2. Read a lot of good modern things and a lot of classics. (I had the best reading year of my life, I read 30+ books. Highlights were Anna Karenina, which is the best book I've ever read, Atonement and Handmaid's Tale. I read a lot of other good books, but those are all new lifetime favorites.)

3. Write a novel (I'm over halfway through a first draft. I would've made more progress had I not been interrupted by the Buzzfeed assignment, which was a worthwhile detour. Writing a novel is hard and thankless, yo.)

4. Write 3-4 non-fiction essays (I wrote three. One was my North Korea piece, one is currently under consideration and one didn't find a home - not bad.)

5. Pay my respects to Lenin and Ho Chi Minh, cuz I love me some embalmed Communists (Yes! Finished!)

2014 Resolutions
1. Eat right and exercise (always worth renewing that one)
2. Curate what I read better: More great books, less magazine articles, less blog posts, less Twitter/Facebook/Internet. I'm not going to quit reading any of those things, but I could stand to be more selective and waste less time.
3. Finish the novel
4. Write diligently

No comments: