It feels almost sacrilegious to have enjoyed 2018. Politically, environmentally, socially; it was bad. Trump put children in cages, Brazil elected its first fascist government in decades and Brexit chaos took over the news – and Westminster – for weeks. The climate is warming. The Earth is fucked. Just this week, news reports of the number of migrants trying to reach the UK was reported as a problem for the UK, rather than all the people crossing dangerous seas in dinghies to try and escape their home countries in order to claim asylum, something which is totally legal. There were mass shootings in the US every week.
For the world, it was bad. But for me, 2018 was… good. It was great, actually. Politically tumultuous but personally tremendous.
2018 was the first full year I spent out of education, working, living independently, finding my way as an adult. A real adult. One who pays council tax and understands, however sadly, that pesto pasta alone does not constitute a balanced diet.
I’ve found that I like it. Not the council tax paying (though, that being said, I like roads without pot holes and street lights that work so I probably do like paying council tax even if it doesn’t feel like it when the direct debit leaves my bank account), nor the reduced pesto pasta eating, but the opportunity to start choosing what I want my life to look like and how to spend my time and money.
The challenges have been limited and far and few between, something which I am endlessly lucky to be able to say. This has mostly been a year of choice, independence and fun. After an exhausting and stressful final year at Cambridge, graduating with no plans, finding a job, moving to London and starting a new relationship, I dubbed 2018 the ‘year of fun’ in my head. No more ergo workouts, academic inadequacy and 4.50am alarms.
This year, I have travelled, I have read many books and written many thousand of words, both at work and at home, and taken thousands of photos. I have spent hours with friends, I have baked cakes and cookies and a few lemon tarts and I have drunk a lot of cocktails, though at £10 a pop it’s usually one per evening, thanks London. I have worked, hard, at a job I am good at, even though it is a serious job in a serious industry and I sometimes wear LK Bennett dresses, a universal sign that what I am doing is serious business. I have learned so much about the economy and politics and what’s really going on in the forces that underpin the world, beyond what comes up on Twitter or the BBC News.
Jake and I have spent over a whole year living together and still like each other. Our house remains vaguely tidy and we have a joint bank account for shared expenses. I have killed every basil plant he has brought into our home.
It hasn’t all been flights and fruity cocktails, though. The chronic UTI problem that began at the tail end of 2017 continues to require management – though it is worlds better than a year ago – through a steady stream of antibiotics, many gallons of water and the ongoing denial, from both myself and my consultant, that antibiotic resistance is a thing.
The start of the summer was defined by ultrasounds and MRIs, after a particularly large haemorrhagic ovarian cyst (9cm!) was misdiagnosed as a teratoma and a surgery was booked and then cancelled on the conflicting advice of numerous specialists. Bloating, painful sex and abdominal pain characterised the month of May, because I am the worst kind of hypochondriac who always worries something is wrong but never actually goes to the doctor. Fortunately this is all resolved now but I am constantly grateful for my overall good health, never more so than after it is temporarily compromised.
In terms of travel, which is, er, the focus of this blog, I am so lucky to have travelled widely. I have explored 10 countries, including parts of the UK I haven’t seen before. It’s hard to hate on a year that took me to Lithuania, Austria, Australia, Italy, France, Denmark, the Czech Republic, the Seychelles, Poland and around the UK.
Lots of these trips were short weekend breaks, because that’s often the time you have available when you work 9-5 Monday to Friday – for everyone who says “are you ever at work?!”, the hours spent at my desk in the office are a lot less Instagrammable than my Sunday morning in the Alps – but annual leave is a great thing so I also got to spend extended time with my family in Australia, a great week of fun and games with family and friends in the sunny south of France and exploring a whole new place with Jake in the Seychelles after spotting an obscenely cheap and convenient flight deal. I’m not joking when I say that perusing Skyscanner for flights constitutes a legitimate hobby of mine.
I love travel. I love change and new experiences, which can sometimes be hard to come by when you’re living in the same place, doing the same job, for a long time. Travel makes me feel like I am having new experiences all the time – attempting to speak a new language, eating new food, seeing new places, meeting new people and dealing with new situations. I’ve realised that, once you’re firmly settled in your day-to-day routine, the opportunities to be pushed out of your comfort zone can be few and far between. At university, especially because I was rowing, I was pushed out of my comfort zone all the time. This wasn’t always enjoyable – understatement of the century – but it meant that I was always challenged. I was always proving my capabilities to myself, which made me more confident and independent. I carry that feeling with me every day.
Travel does that too, just with less sweat and more desserts – communicating with no shared language; using unfamiliar transport in an area with poor infrastructure to find somewhere based on word of mouth; seeing a massive stingray as you’re being pushed out to sea by strong currents when there’s no one on the beach to help. You’ve got to figure things out for yourself, and when you succeed, the feeling of confidence is almost intoxicating.
(I get this at home too, when I went for job interviews, gave a presentation at work and shared this blog with everyone. But I get this sense of challenge more often when I’m travelling. Though, in the interest of honesty, sometimes travel is just about sun, sand, snorkeling and eating baked items. That’s okay too.)
The other great thing about 2018 has been this blog, particularly taking the leap and sharing it. I felt so scared sharing it with everyone. What if people think it’s lame? What if I’m a bad writer? What if I’m just so boring that no one but my parents ever reads it? After I shared the link with everyone I had to go and sit in the bathroom at work because my heart was beating so fast from nerves.
I’m sure some people think these things, but those people are kind enough to keep those thoughts to themselves. The crazy thing is, even after just a few months, people read this blog. Not that many, not yet, but every day people turn up here to read my new post or look through my ramblings about travel and body positivity and terrible Netflix Christmas films.
I have spent hours toward the end of 2018 on this little project, writing, taking and editing photographs, sharing it around. I want to be a better writer and photographer and posting regularly on this blog gives me the practise and discipline I need to improve. It also lets me connect with my family and friends around the world and will allow me to better remember these experiences in the future. I wish I had written about the totally bonkers all-expenses-paid rowing trip to China hosted by the Chinese government I went on with the squad in 2016. I’m glad that, going forward, all my notable experiences at home and abroad will be chronicled here.
I am so grateful for every single person who has read a blog, left a comment, liked an Instagram or a tweet or followed me somewhere (on the internet, not in person. That would be alarming). It means the world that people are interested in what I have to share. Thank you to everyone who has spent part of their day on Endlessly Restless with me. I hope 2018 was as kind to you as it was to me and that 2019 has great things in store for all of us.
See you next year!