Time isn’t linear, so viewing 2016 as a whole is a bit of a silly concept. None the less, it’s a marker, and whole lot has happened in the past 12 months.
At the start of 2016, I did the same thing as everyone else; I declared that it would be my year. That I was going to own it; I was going to be happy, and I was going to kick ass.
Cue January 3rd, and I was already making bad choices by deciding to go on a date with someone from Tinder. 6 months earlier had been a time that was… eventful… when it came to relationships - I was emotionally, mentally and financially abused by someone I thought loved me, or maybe once upon a time they had. I knew it wasn’t right; I did from the start, but I guess I was lonely. I’m not afraid to admit these things - they are normal human emotions, and talking about abuse should never be taboo or something to hide behind closed doors.
Regardless, I had my heart set on me. The Tinder thing was a tiny lapse in judgement.
I had a trip to America and Mexico planned, for 5 weeks. I hadn’t told my Editor at the magazine I worked for… and when I did, 5 weeks wasn’t going to work with my annual leave. So I did what any sane, responsible adult in an amazing full time job would do; I resigned (note: I was not sane and I’m cool with that) Due to this resignation, I actually forfeited my return flight from LAX, and chose to extend my time away.
I spent 3 weeks in Mexico, and 2 weeks in California with some of the best people I know. I laughed, hiked mountains, swam in cenotés, drank a lot of beer, took thousands of photos, melted in the heat of the Mexico sun and caught snowflakes on my tongue at the top of Yosemite falls.
Following this, I embarked on a solo adventure to Europe. Travelling alone was something I always wanted to do, and always admired in others, but was terrified to do myself. And you know what? It was absolutely terrifying, but absolutely incredible at the same time.
Although, I’m not going to feed you some story about how it was the best time of my life and I made so many unforgettable friends doing it. There was an evening where I sat in a gutter in the suburbs of Rome and cried in to a bottle of 1€ wine. And then there were the days where I walked 20km with a smile plastered to my face and a camera to my hand, just to experience everything detail that I could.
I spent 5 weeks in Rome, where I also visitied Tivoli and Fiuggi. I looked after a lovely lady’s 6 cats in exchange for accomodation. I visited the same cafe for “un espresso e cornetto, per favore” most mornings (who humored my tragic attempts at speaking Italian) and I bought watercolour paints and a bottle of wine and sat in the Villa Borghese, painting as I watched the world go by.
After this, I spent time in both Florence and Venice. I had my portrait drawn by an artist in Florence, because he wanted “something to do” and didn’t charge me (before proceeding to ask me on a date when he was done). It looked nothing like me. It rained nearly the whole time I was in Venice. I bailed on my plans of treating myself to a canal-side restaurant dinner, to get a slice of margarita pizza bigger than my head and a punnet of strawberries, and sat with my legs dangling over the edge of the Grand Canal.
I went to Paris and stayed with a girl I had seen only a handful of times. It grew in to a cherished friendship, and I will forever be appreciative of her for taking the time to show me around and include me in her life for the week I was there. We even got nicknames; she became Bug, I became Chestnut. Don’t ask.
From here I travelled to London. I had an AirBNB booked for 5 nights, I stayed there 2. I went to a club where you had to pedal a bike to charge your phone. I hung out with one of my closest friends, who coincidently happened to be traveling in London at the same time. I made a new friend, who I laughed and drank beer with, kicked his ass at Super Smash Bros at a video game bar, taught Aussie slang to (900 dollarydoos!?) and he showed me the most hauntingly beautiful and overgrown cemetery. If you’re reading this: I’m still waiting for you to send me some photos of this place, seeing I stupidly didn’t have my camera on me that day.
Norway was my next stop. I had always dreamed of traveling here, and I’m so glad I conquered my nerves of going alone, and made it a reality. I stayed in the cutest little city called Bergen. I caught boats out in to the fjords and stood in the freezing rain just to get better photos. I did my first long solo hike - a 15km trek along the Vidden trail between two of Bergans highest peaks; Mt Ulriken and Mt Fløyen. It should have taken me 5 hours, but I took a wrong turn and ended up hiking down the mountain and back to my accomodation. Not at all surprised this happened.
I had decided that after a quick stop over in Oslo, I would head back to America for a while. I wasn’t ready to go home, and I wanted to spend some time with some people I had previously met. I stayed for a while in Huntington Beach with a couple of the most amazing people - I spent 4th of July with them, went to Joshua Tree, drank too much and ate too much more, danced and sang and ran amok with them at Disneyland and at the OC Fair, amongst so many other memories. I’m so lucky to now call these two good friends.
With two weeks to go, I took a flight to Portland, Oregon, and cried the whole way there. I stayed at the Turn Up Arts Community with some incredible people, and again worked in exchange for accommodation. I met a beautiful girl from Chicago, a couple from Germany who were walking the Pacific Crest Trail, and a little sweetheart from Ireland (who I still need to write a letter to, oops). The ladies who ran the community were absolutely wonderful; kind, intelligent, independent and creative women who inspired me to continue chasing the things I love. I stayed in a tiny little cabin from a full moon to a new moon, and left the day after I saw an infinite number of stars from between the towering forest trees.
And I came home to Adelaide. To my family, to (some of) my friends, to no job but endless possibilities, to an empty bank account but a full heart. 2016 saw me face fears, including my depression, head on, and it taught me many lessons including to trust in uncertainty. After all, it’s the only thing that is truly certain. I faced a lot of heart ache followed by a lot of self-realisation. And in November my heart grew even fuller when I met a soul I never thought existed, let alone that I deserved.
The future is full of adventure, and thousands of more photos.
Thank you, to anyone who took the time to read this. You make my life brighter than the sun.