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It's hard to know where to begin; I've had an amazing, kind of unexpected year and looking back at everything I got to experience has really put it into perspective how lucky I've been. Today I'm reflecting back on the year I've had and the year I want to have in 2024...
I guess the biggest thing that happened this year in addition to my usual European travel (my best friend lives in Paris, I had a destination wedding, my partner is originally from Cyprus + 'true' holiday trips to Porto and Malta), I spend the best part of a month in Southeast Asia around my 30th birthday! This was a big thing for me; I have some level of anxiety around being in unfamiliar places and worry a lot about not being comfortable, not having access to amenities, not being in control of certain situations... you get the idea! Many of us do, and usually I am able to overcome these feelings to do the things I want to do. But, this trip was going way, way out of my comfort zone. And it's been amazing to see that I wasn't only able to survive, but I loved it! By the end, I was neither craving home nor desperate to continue; it was this kind of neutral headspace where I would've been perfectly happy to have stayed there for another few weeks but also perfectly fine with going home.
We saw Indonesia (Bali, the Gili Islands and Lombok), Singapore, the largely-untouched Brunei portion of the Borneo rainforest and Sarawak, Malaysia. We went down bumpy island roads in vehicles that apparently don't come with seatbelts, climbed up a suspiciously-swaying scaffold to see the top of the rainforest, snorkelled, took the tiniest plane ever, climbed mountains, jumped onto a makeshift raft with a bunch of strangers. And it was amazing! We saw so much and had such incredible variation and we met some fun and fascinating people just by walking into the right bars at the right moments. From visiting pretty much every major temple in Bali to stopping at every coffee plantation, to walking around barefoot on the motorless Gili islands and riding our bikes to see the sunsets, to top-of-the-mountain views, to experiencing Singapore (the most perfectly-designed city) to exploring the jungles and caves of the Borneo national parks; every day was a 'pinch me' moment I feel so fortunate to have been given. Doing this for my 30th birthday meant we'd shed some of the travel naivety, which is probably a good thing, and it meant we weren't out partying hard so weren't too much in the 'talking to other Western tourists' bubble. So, if you didn't do a gap year and think you'll never be able to get a 'big trip' in now; don't be so sure! It wasn't easy, and I took some unpaid leave, but I'm really happy that by a completely chance chain of events: I managed to do this.
I also got promoted this year into a new role, which is one of the reasons I've not been as active as I'd have liked on the content creation front here. I wasn't feeling stale per se in my old role, but sometimes making that move is the re-injection of energy you need and in hindsight, I now have that! The other reason is that I honestly love spending as much time as possible with my partner, which is soppy but true. It's been amazing to have gone from uncertain if logistically we could continue dating after having met last September (due to outside forces), to having such a deep relationship. It's gone from two people who really like each other to being one another's grounding force, support and most important person, which has been both amazing and a little scary for someone as pathologically-independent as me!
I'm also really still loving creating food content over on Instagram and my new food blog. Whilst I'm not banging the drum too much and am currently focused on building my domain authority and getting a nice little back catalogue, it's been so much fun to share the other side of my creativity and to have so many ideas I want to try! And in turn, I think it's made me feel more inspired to write about beauty on my new, slightly-reduced schedule, because it's not 100% of my content-creation output.
None of the above is to say that everything's rainbows and butterflies! There have been difficult times too during 2023, but I guess the good news is that I feel as though I understand them and have a kind of 'plan' to help improve these areas of my life, and I think that has to be my focus for 2024 (even if you're getting on fine with life, there's always room for improvement). I want to be more financially stable, which should be possible on paper, but living alone means I have pretty high set costs. However, I hope that with smarter choices, now I'm moving up in my career, I will be able to better set myself up for the future. Additionally, 2023 was a year of realising how I'd like to improve as a person. It's very easy to keep 'getting by' and to not really address head-on the things that can make life, relationship and everything else difficult at times. I've really had to face up to some of the ways in which I tend to not give this stuff enough attention, because it's not 'bad enough' that I can't keep carrying on as I am if I want to. Things can be better and I want them so be, so it's time to start looking after myself and improving myself; it's going to be a difficult, long road, but I feel like I'm taking the first steps to become a healthier version of me.
I will still be travelling in 2024; it won't be as much as I have done this year, but it will still be amazing! As this goes up, I'll be in Cyprus for New Year's Eve and I'm heading to Iceland in February and on an Italian road trip at the end of April, along with what other opportunities come up. Overall, I want 2024 to be a year for strengthening what I have; my own wellbeing, my new-ish relationship, my job role, my finances and so on. It's not as inherently exciting as jetting off to the other side of the world for a month, but creating that safe, secure base is something that's important and now I'm 30, I'm starting to feel a little more drive towards locking things down!
Let me know - what have you learned from 2023? Did you have any special experiences? And, what are your intentions for 2024?