As I look back on the year that was, I can’t help but feel mixed emotions. 2016 has been a bumpy ride, and I went through a very broad range of feelings in the past 12 months; from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to post this, considering that it is full of personal thoughts and experiences. However, from where I now stand nearing the end of 2016, I realise that I needed to have the experiences that I had, and I want to share them with you…
IN THE BEGINNING
I began 2016 on the highest of highs; I’d just quit a job that I disliked immensely, I was enjoying a summer of freedom, and was about to head off on a three-month travel adventure across Asia and the South Pacific. The world was my oyster, and I knew that I had to take advantage of it. My excitement for 2016 may have been the beginning of the descent into my low point, as I frivolously spent money I couldn’t afford to spend before my travels. I was oblivious to the position I would put my future self in, and truly lived for the moment. Usually, I’m all for living in the moment, but I wasn’t living within my means, and this was something I’d come to regret later.
THE SUMMER OF TRAVEL
My summer of travel began in Bali in January, a place I’d never been before. I spent two incredible weeks with three of my girlfriends, exploring the beautiful Indonesian country as much as we could in the time we had. I experienced the bustling, touristy Seminyak, full of beach bars and yummy cafes, noisy streets and stray dogs aplenty. I experienced quiet Ubud, full of geckos, yogis and the stifling humidity. I experienced Canggu, full of beach bums looking for surf and lazy days by the pool. I came home from Bali feeling invigorated, with sun kissed skin and wavy hair, completely transitioned into the life of a nomad and ready for my next adventure.
Three days after my return from Bali, I boarded another plane and jetted off to Japan, swapping the hot, humid sun for the cold, dry winter. Here, I spent two weeks exploring the wild and wacky city of Tokyo, drinking my body weight in cheap beer and singing my heart out to karaoke. I experienced the bright lights of the big city and drinking chuhai at the Robot Restaurant, laughing with joy at the madness of it all. I experienced language barriers when making new friends, and trying to order vegetarian meals. Then I left the city for the mountains, and tried my hand at snowboarding in Hakuba, before having a meltdown and trading in my board for some trusty skis. I caught up with old friends and made new ones, all while heading up and down the snowy mountain each day. I experienced freezing temperatures and icy snow, and bluebird days with fresh powder. I came home from Japan feeling tired, but happy, with a faded tan and a sore head full of amazing memories.
A week later, it was time for the Cook Islands. I spent three unbelievable weeks with my love in our favourite place in the whole world – Rarotonga. Here, I experienced true nirvana, finding it all too easy to settle into the peaceful island life. I fell in love with the dog who lived at our Airbnb apartment, crying on the plane home after we’d left him. I experienced sunny days on the beach and plenty of rainy days stuck inside, trying to do yoga and drinking green tea. I ate a burger almost every day, and enjoyed sunset cocktails almost every night. It was heaven on earth, but still bittersweet, as I knew my adventure was coming to an end.
WHEN REALITY HITS
I returned from Rarotonga feeling energised, with three months of incredible experiences under my belt, and enough memories to last a lifetime. It was now time to head back down to earth, and assimilate back into the real world. I needed to get a job, replenish my almost empty bank account, and settle into life as a regular person once again.
Oh, if only it had been that simple. It was here that I began my descent into one of the lowest points of my life. Finding a job, especially one in my field located in the town where I live, was near impossible. I faced rejection on a regular basis, and spent my days applying for jobs that I was severely underqualified for, desperate for anything that gave me a regular pay check. I cried on an almost daily basis, finding it hard to get out of bed and face another impossible day. I applied for a few jobs I wanted desperately, yet didn’t even make it to an interview; causing more sleepless nights and teary days. It was dark, and I couldn’t see the light.
Finally, I had some luck. I’d secured three promising second interviews, and the prospect of finally having a regular income again after nearly six months was almost too good to be true. The only downside, however, was that all three potential job opportunities were Sydney-based, meaning that I would have to become a commuter. I was in no position to be picky, so I went to all the interviews and finally got myself a job.
THE LIFE OF A COMMUTER
I began my new job just days after getting it. At first, I thought the commute would be fine. 90 minutes each way on a train would be fine; I could read all the books I’d wanted but never seemed to find time for. Boy, did I find the time. I managed to get through 26 books in the first three months of commuter life, a feat impressive even for someone who reads as fast as I do. However, the novelty wore off soon enough, and I found myself sinking again.
The conflicting emotions I felt during this time were hard to interpret. I struggled to get myself out of bed each morning; eating, dressing and heading to the train. Once I got to the office, despite my constant state of tiredness, I truly enjoyed the work I was doing. It was the travel industry, a perfect fit for a wanderluster like me. Those who surrounded me in the workplace were fun, motivating and pleasures to work with, but as soon as I left the office bound for the train station at the end of each day, the darkness started to set in once again.
I started to loathe the working week, and my weekends were gone in a flash. The house was constantly messy, and I was falling behind on my freelance job. I felt as though my time was wasting away, and I had nothing to show for it. The half hour I spent exercising during my lunch break was doing nothing, and I felt my health slipping too. I had no time for my friends, and all I did when I was with them was complain about my lifestyle, which I’m sure was riveting conversation. I knew I had to change something; I knew I had to find the light.
A NEW BEGINNING
It was then when I heard from a friend about a job opportunity in my home city, and on a whim, I decided to apply for it. Long story short, I got the job. Despite my elation at the change of lifestyle, I realised that I had to quit my Sydney job, and with that came letting down all the people whom I had come to know and love. Again, conflicting emotions set upon me; I felt joy and relief as I knew I would regain all the time I had lost during my commuter days, but also guilt and sadness at having to leave my job after only six months, and the great people I had formed such strong bonds with. Quitting that job was one of the hardest things I’ve done, and I felt sick with guilt for weeks.
One of my best mates and travel buddies, Carlee, was a saviour during this time. She gave me reassurance in my moments of need, and made me realise that I didn’t have to sacrifice my happiness for the happiness of others. Sure, I felt awful about letting others down, but at the end of the day, it was just a job, and my own mental and physical health had to be my priority. “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live” quoted Carlee from the great Albus Dumbledore. Truer words have never been spoken; at least, more relevant words in my situation. I was dwelling on impossible dreams, and forgetting that I had a life to live.
It has been almost six weeks since I started my new job, and the change in my mental and physical health couldn’t be more apparent. I went from 12-hour days spent primarily sitting down and feeling sorry for myself, to having such flexible hours that I am able to work only a 4-day week. I’m going to the gym for longer than 30 minutes a day. I’m sleeping better. I’m eating better. I have found myself in a situation where I can be truly happy in all aspects of my life, and moving forward, this is the perfect place to be. For the first time in my working career, I feel content.
As 2016 draws to a close, and I look back on the roller-coaster that it was, I can’t help but be grateful for everything that has happened. It may seem to you that I’m complaining about nothing, and trust me, I get it. This was one of the things I struggled with; I felt guilty for resenting my lifestyle, when I was still afforded more luxuries than so many people will ever get to enjoy. For that, I am grateful. I’m grateful for the incredible opportunity I had to travel for three months; something that some people will never get to experience in their lifetime. I’m grateful for the working opportunities I’ve had, despite struggling through some of it, because some people can never find work. I’m grateful that I have people to support me; to put up with me during my low points, and to celebrate with me during the high ones, because some people have no-one. I’m grateful for getting my life back, even though it was pretty great to begin with.
2017 is already looking to be an incredible year, and already I have so much to look forward to. I’m excited for the travel experiences I have already planned, like Samoa in March, and Cairns in May. I’m excited for the travel experiences I am yet to plan, like a possible European summer and a 50th birthday trip for my mum with my family. I’m excited to celebrate the wedding of one of my best friends and his beautiful bride-to-be, whom I will stand next to as a bridesmaid on their special day.
Who knows what else 2017 will have in store for me, but I know that I’ll be ready for it. Maybe I’ll finally win the lotto and retire before I turn 28. Hey, one can dream, right?
Happy holidays, everyone!