In previous years I’ve done year-end compilation posts highlighting my favorite foods, experiences, photos and so on of the year. I’ve done a couple for 2014 but instead of producing a mind-numbingly boring array of posts along every possible subject line I decided to just put a few things that I liked about 2014 into one post. It’s random, it’s odd but I hope it’s entertaining and maybe just a little bit inspirational.
1. I actually liked 2014
The past few years have been hard, from losing my 9-5 job and trying to create a new career to losing family members. While 2014 sadly saw yet more loss, on the whole this has been an otherwise great year. Professionally it’s never been better and I finally saw everything come together for me. Creating a profession out of thin air and somehow making it work isn’t easy, but because it’s my true passion I somehow made it work. This year I also made a commitment to better health and have never felt better. I have more energy and am more optimistic than I think I’ve ever been. So while 2014 definitely took its shots at me, on the whole I enjoyed it.
2. Life is fleeting
I mentioned personal loss and sadly it’s not the first time it’s happened and it won’t be the last. But it has taught me a valuable lesson, that life is very temporary. If I get hit by a car tomorrow I want to be able to say that I lived life to its fullest. What that means differs for everyone, but no matter what it means to you it’s important you lead a meaningful life. We’re given a very short amount of time on this planet so don’t waste a second of it, it’s far too precious for that nonsense.
3. Food is so important to travel
This is obvious and I have written about it many, many times, but I think that it bears repeating. Food is the one commonality in travel, it’s something we all have to do and because of that I think it’s what people find most interesting to learn about. Food is also the fastest way to understand a new culture. Eating a traditional meal or even wandering through a foreign grocery store tells me more about what that society values than a tour could ever do. It’s how we connect with a local people and it’s also how we briefly pretend to be a part of that culture. That’s ultimately a big part of travel, giving us a few moments of being part of something new, alien and infinitely fascinating.
4. THIS Photo (Siem Reap, Cambodia)
I traveled halfway around the world to Siem Reap for one reason – to finally see the unusual Khmer ruins of Angkor Wat in person. I love history and archeology and had long tried to visited this legendary site, so that when the chance finally arose I couldn’t say no. I was surprised though; I thought that the main building of Angkor Wat would impress me the most, but that wasn’t the case. Instead it was another nearby temple, Angkor Thom that really wowed me. The feeling is undeniably eerie as you walk amongst the many stone towers of Bayon, the massive faces staring straight through you. They’re said to be of the god-king Jayavarman VII, the monarch responsible for the massive temple. It was a special experience for me, a beautiful one that I know I will never forget.
5. I REALLY like Australia
Last January I traveled to Australia for the second time and more than anything that trip confirmed what I long suspected – that I love the country. I’m not sure what it is exactly, whether it’s the beautiful natural escapes, the cities or the people, but whatever it is it appeals to me on a very base level. It’s also massive, deceptively so, which means I could spend the rest of my days exploring it and still not see everything that makes it special. I really do hope I get another chance to visit in 2015 and to further deepen my knowledge of the Land Down Under.
6. I’m too hard on myself
This is something most of us can relate to, but I am absolutely too hard on myself. I’m always pushing to do more and be more to other people, but that can’t go on forever. I also never give myself a break, I rarely acknowledge a job well done and instead find the ways I could have done better. That’s not fair and it’s not healthy. In my daily life I really need to give myself more time to relax and recharge or I run the very real risk of burning out, something I left my old job to avoid.
7. Europe is my favorite continent
This shouldn’t really come as any shock to anyone, but although I love almost every place I visit there is nothing like Europe. In such a compact space you can find dozens of separate and unique cultures and enough to see and do to last many lifetimes. I have yet to find a destination that stimulates as much wanderlust in my soul as Europe and I know it’s a continent I will never ever get tired of visiting and with any luck I would love to one day call it home.
8. THIS Photo (Badlands, Alberta Canada)
One of the best parks in the world, and one of the least well known, Dinosaur Provincial Park should be at the top of everyone’s bucket lists. A UNESCO World heritage Site as well, Dinosaur Provincial Park is home to the richest deposit of dinosaur fossils in the world. 40 different species have been found here and a ranger led hike takes visitors to see some of these finds as they lay in the ground. It was also of my very favorite travel experiences of the year. I traveled to Alberta just to see the Badlands and was thrilled that they were even more brilliant than all the photos promised. It’s a beautiful part of the world and I can’t stress enough how important it is for everyone to try to visit at least once in their lives.
9. Eating London Food Tour
I love a well-done tour and the best one this year for me was easily the Eating London food tour. The 4-hour walking tour takes guests through a culinary exploration of London’s East End, a suddenly trendy and up and coming area of the city. What makes it different from other food tours I’ve been on is how very thorough it is. The guides are entertaining and knowledgeable and the foods themselves are delicious and given out in huge portions. Everything about this tour is done expertly and it’s my top recommendation for anyone visiting the city.
10. South Africa is always amazing
My first visit to South Africa essentially happened by accident, but it was one of the happiest accidents I’ve ever experienced. I fell deeply in love almost immediately – it does that to you. In two successive trips I’ve seen more of this beautiful country and more importantly gotten to know her people much better. Safari and amazing coastlines are great, but it’s the people who call South Africa home that make it so very special and it’s their own fierce love of their country that is so infectious. If you haven’t visited, plan a trip now and if you have visited then you know exactly what I’m talking about.
11. Power of outrageous ideas
We all see insanely successful people like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates and think they must be inherently different from us in ways we can’t change. Part of that may be true, but more than anything what helped propel people like them to extreme success is having the courage to be daring. No one ever succeeded by sitting on the sidelines and hoping that something good will one day happen to them. No, instead you have to get out there and make it happen, you have to dare to be outrageous and must not fear failure. That’s the only way in my opinion to be successful and happy, no matter what you’re trying to do.
12. THIS Photo (Budapest, Hungary)
Maybe I’m too close to the experience to be truly fair in my assessment, but my recent river cruise through some of the best Christmas Market towns in Europe was a personal favorite trip. One of the many highlights came at the start of the trip with our visit to Budapest. We arrived a day early so that we could have some more time in this beautiful capital and I’m glad that we did. I knew I’d like it but I didn’t realize just how much and I also wasn’t prepared for it to be so very beautiful. It’s a place though that will require another visit, which I hope will happen sooner rather than later.
13. Pushing limits in Wales
I like adventure travel, but not necessarily all adventure travel. When I first learned I’d be trying my hand at coasteering in Wales I wasn’t sure how I’d do but it turned out to be one of the most important experiences of the year. Coasteering is a fancy way to describe scampering along rugged coastlines and involves swimming, climbing and whatever else is necessary to navigate the rocky terrain. Wales was freezing cold when I tried coasteering and even through two wet suits the frigid waters seeped through. But that simply energized me and although by the end of the experience I was wiped out physically, I was glowing from a sense of accomplishment. I pushed my travel envelope once again and in the process I think became a better person for it.
14. Lighten up, chill out and relax
This isn’t easy for me, but I have always been tightly wound and my friends would say that description is a massive understatement. In 2014 I learned my lesson though I hope and I now understand the extreme importance of slowing down and taking things at a more leisurely pace. When traveling this is especially important as it has made the overall experience more fun and ultimately more enjoyable. But chilling out is also key at home and while it took a few decades, I think I finally now have come to grips that I can’t do it all and instead need to prioritize what exactly in my life is important and to concentrate on those things above all else.
These were some of the notable moments and lessons I took away from 2014. What did the year mean to you?