For me, 2014 was a year packed with new experiences and endless opportunities to learn about myself and this crazy beautiful world. In my first complete year of living abroad I swam in two different oceans, visited Thailand, Japan, and Taiwan, went on some truly crazy adventures, made life long friends, and of course, I launched this website. Since my very first months of living in Korea, I have been convinced that travel teaches you so much more than school. Rather than filling my head with the prosaic, albeit interesting information taught in university, travel has led me to acquire meaningful knowledge. Sitting here considering the past year I now, more than ever, know this to be true. So, without further ado, here we go! The fourteen vital lesson I learned in the year 2014. (I swear it just worked out that there were fourteen, it must be fate!)
1. I don't want to be an ESL teacher in the long-term - The life of an ESL teacher in Korea is, without question a pretty cushy lifestyle: I travel a lot, pay my bills, service my loans, and work a job that is relatively easy. This being said, I've learned that I definitely don't want to teach ESL for the rest of my life. My heart just isn't in it, and I have felt on more than one occasion that it is stifling my ability to move forward as the most honest version of myself.
2. But I do enjoy teaching more than I thought I would - All of that aside, most days I really do enjoy my life here. Teaching is tougher than I imagined and I definitely never gave my teachers enough credit as a kid. This being said, teaching also has the potential to be hugely rewarding, and I feel it has made me a better person overall. Earning the trust, respect, and friendship of my tiny Koreans gives me the good feels in a way that I did not expect.
3. I remembered that I want to be a writer - Ever since I was young I wanted to write a novel, and it is still something I think about today. But despite my desire, something has always held me back. It bamboozles me a little that some people can just sit down and churn out a novel. Though I have had plenty of ideas, and even started writing some down, I always end up fizzling out. I get to a certain point and then run out of things to say. I keep thinking: So what next? And then I never get past that point. Now though, I think I finally know what needs to be done - So, I hope to have a full draft written by the end of 2015. Fingers crossed!!
4. But I often question my future in travel blogging - I am so glad I started this website, and though I do plan on continuing it into the foreseeable future, I have to be honest when I say it's a significant source of stress for me. It is time consuming and often involves some very tedious work. Also, I'm also unsure about how to proceed in terms of content. People were more interested when I said I might be going crazy, than they were in my trip to Koh Phi Phi, Thailand. And my post about the man who left me got triple the views than any other post ever. So, while these successes make me very happy, they do make me think: This is a travel blog, right? And yet, my personal life seems to be far more interesting...
5. A negative inner monologue is ultimately more detrimental to happiness and growth than anything someone else can say or do - I've mentioned this before, but as it is one of the most important things I have learned this year, I think it is worth mentioning again. For years, my main source of internal motivation was the voice in my head that consistently told me I wasn't good enough. I was a huge bully - to myself. I won't lie, it did work in that I've excelled at pretty much everything I put my mind to, and achieved all the goals I set for myself. This being said, that kind of relationship with yourself is not without consequences: it's caustic to self-esteem, corrosive to overall happiness, and it's honestly just not worth it. There is a better way.
6. People see me differently than I see myself - I have this problem with thinking that because something is obvious in my own head, it's also obvious to everyone else. As it turns out, unless you state something explicitly most people don't know what's going on. In many ways, I still see myself as I was in Middle and High School: extremely awkward and socially anxious to the point that I physically incapable of having a conversation with a stranger. I was quiet one, the weird one, the permanent outsider. But when I express these thoughts to my friends, they are always surprised that I see myself that way. I guess somewhere along the line I learned walk, talk, and act like I'm less crazy and weird than I feel inside my head.
7. I have a little (HUGE) problem with negatively comparing my successes with others - As of right now, this mostly applies to blogging. I really do want this website to be successful, and it is happening... but it's definitely a slow process. I'll be having a good day, feeling awesome about my accomplishments, and then I'll see someone else's site and be like: Damn. Look at that person! Look at what they're doing! It's so much more than you! Self, you suck.
8. I have a trust issue, in part with other people, but mostly with myself - For a long time I assumed that my biggest problem when it comes to romance is not trusting other people. I've been lied to and manipulated too many times to not have my guard up. It really is kind of astounding what some people will say and do if they think sex is on the table. Putting all of that aside, I have begun to realize that my biggest problem is actually that I no longer trust myself. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice... I don't trust myself to make the right decisions: to choose the right people. To choose the people who make it easy to love them, rather than the ones who always pose another complication or opportunity for drama.
9. Giving into anger is never the best option - If teaching Korean middle schoolers has taught me anything (besides limitless patience), it's that getting angry just makes things worse, pretty much no matter what. The energy and actions you put into the world defines what comes back to you, except when it comes back I find that it's usually amplified. If a student is mouthing off or being bad and I get visibly perturbed, their bad behavior just gets worse. This is true 100% of the time. If they are mouthing off and I treat them fairly and calmly, more often than not the behavior gets better.
10. My instincts are right about 99.9% of the time - Not to toot my own horn, but it's just the truth! And as it applies to me, it probably applies to you too. Our brains take in so much more information than we can consciously process or be aware of - this information comes together below the surface to create that instinct, otherwise known as a gut feeling. If your gut is telling you something is off, don't do it. On the flip side, if your gut is telling you that everything will go swimmingly, it probably will.
11. But I have a serious problem with listening to said instincts - Knowing something is one thing. Using that knowledge constructively is something else. There has been more than one occasion this year (and about a million more in life generally) where my gut told me not to do something, and I went and did it anyways. Then, of course, I got all sad and dreary when it didn't go my way. Listening to your instincts is just as important, if not more important than understanding that they are usually right.
12. Silence is golden - My life in Korea is full of silence. Well, kind of. The world outside my head is actually really loud, but being the foreigner who only has a tenuous grasp of the language gets me off the hook in a lot of social situations - it's easy to tune out the conversations of others, and I'm not expected to engage in small talk (or really any talk) with most people that I meet. Moving to Korea set me up for two years of relative mental quiet, which has given me the space and time to untangle the massive knot I worked myself into during my teenage years.
13. It's important to try, even if you aren't sure of the outcome - Time and time again, I'm surprised by the things that people enjoy, especially when it comes to the blog and my related social media. There are certain posts and pictures that I think: Wow this is awesome. Everyone will love this! And then the reception is lukewarm at best. Then there are other posts and pictures that I think: Ehhhh. This is alright, but it's not great. And on those posts I get double or triple the views I got for the post I thought was super awesome. The point is that you have no idea how something will actually turn out until you try it for yourself, so open your mind and give everything a go.
14. I'm not going home (anytime soon) - Sorry family! Love you guys, but uhhhhh I'll see you someday... It's not that I hate my home! I don't! Colorado is the bomb-diggity. It's just that now that I've finally made the leap, I know that I can't just stop now. I would regret it for the the rest of my life. There is so much to see and do in this world, it just seems wrong to settle down right now. I'm at a stage in my life where I have enough courage, and essentially no commitments. If not now, then when?
Do you feel you learned something important about yourself this year? What was it? Keep your eyes open for my posts next week - I'll be looking at the main travel highlights of 2014, my New Years resolutions, and a sneak peak of my travel plans for 2015. For more awesome travel pictures find me on Instagram! For just about everything else, hit me up on the Facebook. Wishing everyone the happiest of holidays, and the best of luck now and in the future!
Enjoy the beautiful view!