2017: a year of saying 'yes' + finding 'no'

 *also, a year of “why the hell not” sprinkled with “so this is how I die...”

 *also, a year that had a great start, a fantastic middle, and ended with unanswered {and unasked} questions

I could list the places I worked hard/was lucky enough to visit/revisit this year {Cuba, England, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Laos, Myanmar, Indonesia, South Korea, China}. I could recap some of the things I accomplished in the last 365 days {completing my full TEFL, obtaining my Global Yoga Instructor Certification, finishing a course in French}. But all of that seems a bit obvious, aye? It reads more like a resume or ticks off my personal bucket list {which is always growing}, than a post summing up another year lived. 

Of course, I traveled. It's one of the only things you can truly count on. There isn't much by way of predictability in my life, but you can know with absolute certainty that I have a boarding pass booked, I am constantly feeling too many things, and that I will write a birthday post and this annual essay. 

Every year seems defined tidily by the theme of the lessons I learned throughout it. Regardless of how untidy the year actually was. 

2016 was a year I made hard choices and big decisions.  I also traveled to  England, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Malaysia, LaosThe year before, 2015, was a massive year of travel. And, honestly, I was living out of a suitcase for so much of the year that my end of the year essay was a shambles of a worn out girl who had been robbed, received a proposal of sorts, and didn't know up from down by the end of it. It's the year I'll always regard as the year of ultimate adventure and the ultimate romantic gesture. 2014 was a year of recovery and refresh...mostly from the heartache of leaving New Zealand {again} and rebooting the bank account for new travel goals. The first 5 months of 2014 were spent in New Zealand making wonderful memories with my favourite people. I kicked off the year in Queenstown eating Indian food surrounded by love and lovely views. I visited Greece and Las Vegas and got Poppy. But the year was mostly spent attempting to overcome the immeasurable heartbreak of leaving New Zealand once more somewhere I could hike around the Black Hills while saving for 2015's adventures.

So, what ties this year's experiences together?

In every year previous, I've said 'yes' to travel and trying new things. But in 2017, I said 'yes' in a far more reckless manner. I threw full caution to the wind with every 3-letter answer. 

For me, 2017 has been a year of saying 'yes' to wild + wonderful + stupid things alike.

I've always been a yes kind of girl, but in 2017 I went fully for it. Even when it wasn't convenient or easy or even smart. Sometimes, I’d end up saying yes to an adventure and think, “so this is how it ends...me on the front of Taylor’s bicycle falling into dark waters off a bridge...” Or, “this train is most certainly the young death the shaman warned me about.”

Like saying 'yes' to China, knowing that going to South Korea would have been easier and everything lined up much more seamlessly. When offered an internship in London, I said 'yes,' despite the timing and it being unpaid {in one of the most expensive cities in the world}. I said 'yes' to earning certifications I've wanted for ages, regardless of the fact that it was extra work at a time when I was stretched all too thin. I said 'yes' to a Chinese fire facial and to smoking a Cuban cigar with a cowboy whose English is on par with my Spanish. I said 'yes' to trying on a Korean Hanbok, to tea in a Burmese night market, and to that second gin {despite having finished a bottle of red} with Taylor on the canals in Amsterdam. I said yes to hikes in crisp Washington air, despite not being able to start a campfire afterwards. 

I learned a lot from being so reckless with that tiny word. One of those lessons is that sticking with every 'yes' often means persevering through unexpected obstacles. Obstacle that force you to fight your hardest for the things that matter, the people you love most, and the places you want to go. And then there’s the big perk people living a “yes lifestyle” don’t mention often— boundaries. 

In saying 'yes' without over-analyzing it, I also found my hard 'no.' 

Finally. About two months too late, but we’ll take it, aye?  

There is this funny thing that happens when you start saying 'yes' as a full-time affair. You gain stunning clarity regarding when to say 'no.' You align with your values, understanding when saying 'yes' sits right with who you are and when it hasn't. You recognize the times when saying 'yes' didn't fill up your cup. You start saying 'no' and you feel less bad about it because, in the process of 'yes'-ing, you've refigured your worth. 

"No, I won't be donating to the alumni foundation this year."

"No, I'm not wearing clothes I don’t feel like myself in."

"No, that salary isn't a reflection of my work." 

"No, I don't want to endorse any random product thrown my way."

"No, I deserve more than that and better of you, especially since I give you more than that and I've experienced the better of you."

”No, I need consistency.”  

The ‘no’s have come towards the end of the year, but I finally felt it click the other day. Crystal fucking clear, guys. The message has been received, and just in time for a new year. A year I’m sure I’ll say yes a lot during, but also a year I’m bringing boundaries into. I deserve respect and kindness reciprocated. I’m no longer afraid to ask for more when I know I give more. So, thank you, 2017, for that nugget of wisdom. I’ll pocket it.

The last 7 years, I've experienced the blossoming of a life more rich with love and full of adventure than anything I could have hoped for. I continue to be surrounded by the best, most kind and brave, unconditionally loving people, the most breathtaking views, and the wildest experiences. Very rarely am I not in the midst of laughter. Even more rarely do I not feel immense gratitude.   

I'm grateful for every 'yes’ and ‘no’ that brought me here. To this time in my life and the people sharing it with me. I'm grateful for every eye that reads this space and I look forward to the changes behind the scenes being made to its design {stay tuned!}. I'm grateful for the many 'yes's I've said to new press trips and travels in 2018, including my trip to New Zealand in just two short weeks and a visit back to South Korea where I’ll be getting up to trouble with a blogger friend. And I'm more than a little grateful to have my first visitor in China...who won't actually be "visiting" at all {eek, yay, can it be March already?}

See you in 2018, it’s looking good to me xx