Happy New Year amigos!
It seems so crazy that today starts a new year, it seems like just yesterday I was trying to figure out what I would do with myself in 2015. Now, I’m sitting and doing the same for 2016.
2016 initially looks like a grand adventure. The first week will be spent with an amazing group thousands of miles from “home,” then I’ll hop around the southern hemisphere for a while, and I’ll cap the year in the US with a real teaching job.
Then I look at 2014. It started as I finished a graduate program in education, then went to Brasil for two weeks with some amazing strangers (more on that here), then hopped around South America for six months. The more I think about it, the more 2016 doesn’t look like a new adventure. It might be a retread of 2014. It might even be the end of an adventure. And that scares me.
Here are five resolutions to avoid a mirror year and instead guide me into uncharted territory.
- Explore Africa.I’ll be in Kenya in just two weeks. The plan is to work in Mozambique and Malawi after Kenya and end my trip in South Africa, but informal work arrangements tend to fall apart pretty quickly. I’ve done my best to see the different regions of Africa (sorry, saharan countries) and definitely don’t want to see just the pyramids, South Africa, and then never step foot on the continent again.
But I don’t just want to go to Africa, work in Africa, or see Africa, I want to explore it. To understand it. The best way to do this, of course, is to wander without a map and talk to people who look as little like you as possible. Here’s to finding the weird, unexpected, and untold stories of the Dark Continent.
- Don’t be afraid to be a tourist.I lived in Brasil, Peru, and Jordan, yet have never seen Rio de Janeiro, Machu Picchu, or Petra. Why? Because I’m an iconoclast and an idiot. I’ve focused on sticking to a tight budget and not being an obnoxious tourist. What silly ideas! I’ve been on the road for 18 months and should be the last person in the world to bring up budgets as if I’m begging for every meal. And being a tourist? How silly is it not to see a wonder of the world if you’re in the area?
Expect more pictures like this next year.
No silliness this year. I’ll pick up a couple extra tutoring students so I can take the weekend trips to UNESCO sites.
- Maintain old friendships.Missing your family, your culture, or your favorite foods while on the road are all no fun. Being seen as an easy target by every robber and taxi driver in the world is no fun. But the worst part of travelling is knowing that you’ll never again see most of the amazing friends you’re meeting (more on that here).
Falling out of touch isn’t just because we’re apathetic, it’s because we’re human. We have jobs, hobbies, and family, and we can’t spend every waking hour on skype or facebook keeping up with each other. I will squeeze in some extra hours every week to keep up with old friends, and hope you all do the same for me. It should also go without saying that if we’ve crossed paths while travelling, you’ll always have a free couch and a tourguide wherever I’m living.
- Learn Portuguese without forgetting other languages.I used to think that my brain only had room for two languages: English, and whatever I’m learning. When I learned Farsi, I mixed in Mexican slang that I grew up with. When I was learning Portuguese, I mixed in Farsi words. When I was learning Spanish, Farsi and Portuguese words cluttered my conversations.
Now that I’m actually using Farsi, I mix in Spanish articles and prepositions. But! I’m actually using both Farsi and Spanish independently of each other. Farsi while working as an interpreter at a clothing tent for Afghani refugees, and Spanish while traveling and working with two Spanish dames that I met in Greece. I’m not great at either, but I’m conversational in both tongues and am mostly able to keep them apart. There is enough room!
I’ll be in Mozambique next year and will need to relearn some Portuguese, but I resolve to keep practicing Spanish and Farsi as I go. Tajikistan & Macau: see you soon?
- Settle down, but never stop exploring.At the end of next year, I’ll start adulting again. Owning appliances, working at a job with benefits, having a mailing address, the whole nine yards.
Boring routine will not be part of the new chapter. So many times I’ve fallen into the trap of working M-F, going out on Friday night, then taking a small trip within an hour of my apartment on Saturdays. Those things are great, but don’t alone make for an interesting life. Couchsurfing events, urban spelunking, and hole-in-the-wall restaurants will again fill my free time.
What are your resolutions? What did I miss?
Cover picture illustrated by Bill Watterson, with instagram account calhob_irl adding the Seattle background.
Comic strip illustrated by Bill Watterson.