2016 was an interesting year for better or worse. And yes, I am alluding to all the crazy sh*t that happened on a larger scale this year *cough* U.S. elections *cough* but I’m also referring to my personal life.
2016 was the first time in four years that I actually spent the entire year living in the U.S. It was the first time since 2008 that I lived with my parents full-time. It was the first time that I had to build a life almost completely from scratch without a job or school to help me meet people. It was the first time in a while that I didn’t have a super clear idea or path for what I wanted to do in life, and it all left me feeling so weird to give up the identity that I thought gave me most of my cool points. To everyone I knew I was that one crazy friend/family member who lived in Spain, didn’t have a “regular adult” job, did travel blogging and traveled ALL the time. Spending a full year in the U.S. felt like betraying that.
At least it did at first. But 2016 was a year of huge growth for me… Some things never change, though, like my procrastination habit as evidenced by the fact that I’m posting about 2016 at the beginning of February 2017, but still, I really did learn a lot this year.
I found a way to balance my itchy feet and wanderlusting heart with my desires for a home base and some financial/career stability. It took me a while, but I’ve learned and am still learning how to keep up with my blogging without allowing it to drive me crazy and strip away the joy of traveling.
And most importantly, I realized that I still have tons of cool points despite my change in home base and career choice. *insert emoji with sunglasses here*
So from all the ups and downs of 2016, here are 16 of the many things I am grateful for:
1. Starting the year with a cousins reunion
There is a lot of estrogen in my family… seriously… A LOT. And although I have tons of first cousins, the ones I’m closest to are all girls who I was lucky enough to grow up with. Over the last few years it’s been tough to get us all in one place at the same time, but in 2016 we made it happen for New Year’s. My 2016 started with sleepovers fully equipped with junk food and matching pajamas. Yep, we’re cheesy like that.
2. Visiting my best friend in South Carolina
My first trip of 2016 was to visit my best friend in South Carolina, and after years of not living in the same city (we were college roommates), I am so grateful anytime we get to see each other. The fact that she was living in a state I had never visited before was just a plus.
3. Going to New Orleans Mardi Gras
New Orleans is already an incredible city on any given day of the year, but I’ve always wanted to check out the Big Easy’s Mardi Gras festivities. Thanks to a dear friend/long time NOLA resident who housed me and showed me the ropes, I finally got to experience my first Mardi Gras . It’s a miracle I’m not still recovering from the massive hangovers.
4. Having my high school best friend come to visit me
After moving around so much, I’ve unfortunately lost contact with a lot of people who were once my close friends. Luckily that’s not the case with my best friend from high school who I still speak with on a regular basis. She’s my oldest friend, and after years of not seeing each other in person, I was ECSTATIC to finally hang out with her again! I can’t wait to grow old and wrinkly with this girl
5. Spending time with my brother and niece in Atlanta
I became an aunt at the end of 2015, and in 2016, I finally got to meet my adorable little niece. She’s the coolest baby in the world, and I absolutely loved spending quality time with her and my brother in such a great city like Atlanta.
6. Working the flexible schedule of a substitute teacher
As a substitute teacher you never know what your schedule is going to be like from week to week. While some people might not enjoy that kind of uncertainty, it also gave me the flexibility to say when I wanted to work. If it weren’t for that schedule, I wouldn’t have been able to travel as much as I did.
7. Getting to be present for almost all aspects of my best friend’s wedding planning process
I came back from Spain just in time to be a part of my best friend’s wedding planning, and I am so grateful I was around for that special time in her life. Sure, I could’ve Skyped with her all the time from Spain, but actually being there in person when she picked her wedding dress, visited her venue and stuffed the invitations in their envelopes was so much better.
8. Going one full year with completely natural hair
For about 16 years of my life, I chemically straightened my hair, but in 2013 I finally decided that enough was enough. It was time to let my natural hair flow! For a while, it was tough dealing with the curly hair growing from my roots and the straight hair dangling at the end of it. In 2016, I chopped off those last remaining strands of straight hair and went full on curly. BEST. DECISION. EVER.
9. Going back to Spain for a month and sharing that experience with my little sister
Spain is my second home country as far as I’m concerned, but while I was living there my family never got the chance to visit me. It was like they didn’t know about this whole other half of me and my life. Having the opportunity to go to Spain with my sister and show her why I love it so much was the best way to spend a good chunk of my summer.
10. Living with my family again
Yea I know I borderline complained about living with my family again at the beginning of this post, but the truth is that between my four years of college and two years in Spain I’ve been living away from them for a long time so it’s pretty nice to see their faces every day now
11. The much-needed break I took from blogging
That break was exactly what I needed to recharge my batteries. I was feeling drained. I had no inspiration or direction for blogging or my career. The time away gave me some clarity about who I am and how I want to live my life. Thanks to that break I’m back and ready to blog regularly again!
12. The full time study abroad job I started in August
I spent a lot of 2016 trying to figure out what career path I wanted to take moving forward in my life. About halfway through my break from blogging I had somewhat of an epiphany that made me realize working in the study abroad field was the right step for me. It involved education, travel and helping people; all things that I love. I was lucky enough to find a position at a university close to home, and now six months into the job I can tell you now that I love being a study abroad adviser even if I am incredibly jealous of the students I help go abroad.
13. The mini weekend-long road trips I took with my fabulous friends that reminded me you don’t have to go far in order to travel
These are my closest friends in south Florida, and they are some of the most incredible people I know. I honestly don’t think I would’ve survived the transition back to Florida life without the support and fabulously deep conversations I get to have with these two. And as if that weren’t enough, there spirits are just adventurous as mine. I’ve already discovered new towns and cities in Florida thanks to trips we did together, and 2017 will be a year of even more exploration of Florida and beyond! I need to get to know my own backyard a little more.
14.Having one more year of a beautiful, classy, intelligent black family in the White House
I’m gonna miss the Obamas so much… Actually… I already do :'(
15. Ending the year with a solo trip to D.C.
I spent the last few days of 2016 in Washington D.C., and I absolutely loved it. The city itself was amazing, but more than that it just felt good– the deep in my soul kinda good– to end my year doing a solo trip. I reconnected with my adventurous traveler side in a new way because it was actually my first solo trip in the U.S. The trip just reconfirmed for me that I can travel around this country, and that living here full time does not mean giving up that traveler part of my identity.
16. Having the opportunity of a lifetime just fall in my lap completely out of nowhere.
Out of fear of jinxing myself, that is all I will say for now. You’ll just have to keep up with my shenanigans to find out what this opportunity is once it all comes to fruition 😉
How was your 2016?!