Since it’s now officially February, these are decidedly not New Years Resolutions, you hear? Because the second you slap those three words on it, that seemingly dooms them to a messy chocolate-/tear-stained failure. Nope. These are February life goals. Totally different.
Inspired by Lauren of Never Ending Footsteps‘ yearly goals, I’ve decided to
drown under the weight of hopelessly unrealistic ambitions hold myself accountable for once and say aloud my absurd life goals. After all, you’re supposed to speak it into existence, vision boards, etc., right?
So, here goes: my ridiculously lofty goals for 2018.
1. Slow down and live part-time out of a home base
Is it cheating to start off with a goal that I’m already in the process of accomplishing? Yes? Ah, well.
After coming up on two years of full-time travel, I’m beginning to find it unsustainable for a number of reasons, the first being my mental health. While I’ve recovered from some of my worst periods of depression and have done a good job at managing my anxiety, I’m still not really operating at peak capacity.
After a spate of fast-paced travel last year, I really burned myself out well and good, and even this most recent slow travel trip to Bali and Taiwan didn’t help. So, I’m resting in California for a bit to get my energy stores back up, then briefly stopping over in Barcelona and Andorra en route to my new home base in…
I spent a month living in the Bulgarian capital last year and promptly fell in love with it. The quality of life to price ratio there is pretty on par with digital nomad hotspots in Southeast Asia, but Bulgaria doesn’t cater exclusively to the expat community in a way that I felt a bit uncomfortable with in Bali. Plus, I love the Balkans so much and the fact that I’ll be close to some of my favorite places in the world (virtually everywhere in Albania, Belgrade, Istanbul) while based in a country that I also love is really exciting.
So, if you come on through these parts, give me a shout!
2. Visit every country in Eastern Europe
This shouldn’t be too hard, as I’m only missing a handful of countries in the region: Ukraine, Belarus, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Moldova. Russia, too, if you want to get real fancy.
I visited 5 new ones last year (Romania, Bulgaria & all the Baltics) and I don’t think 5 new ones will be exceedingly hard, although these are kind of jumbled across the map and not particularly convenient with the exception of combining Moldova/Ukraine/Slovakia into one extended trip. I prefer overlanding when possible because flying gives me such anxiety. The fact that I can visit three new-to-me countries in one trip, while only flying twice, is pretty exciting to me.
I was planning on visiting Russia during the World Cup due to the fact that I wouldn’t have to obtain a visa (I despise paperwork) but my hatred of crowds and paying a premium on hotels makes this a bit of a problem.
My travel plans do have me definitely in Georgia in June, though, which makes a border hop to visit of some of Russia’s smaller cities in the south (and maybe catching a game) quite tempting, so it’s something I’m definitely considering!
3. Get to 75 countries on the Traveler’s Century Club
As much as it’s cool to protest to the contrary, I’m a proud country counter. I have anxiety and making lists calms me down. Completing lists gives me no greater joy. I’ve struggled to determine which methodology to use, as what is considered a country is subject to geopolitical whims and who has more power. For example, is Kosovo a country? What about Taiwan?
I say yes on both counts, but the U.N. disagrees, largely because of the pressure of Russia/Serbia and China respectively. So I’m going with the Traveler’s Century Club as it’s the most complete list I can find, and I’m nothing if not a completionist.
The TCC list is a bit more attuned to political nuances, historically and ethnically distinct regions, etc. (for example, it counts the Faroes as separate from Denmark, and Republika Srpska as separate from Bosnia & Herzegovina) than the standard U.N. (+2, or 3, or 4) list.
For normal people, this is irrelevant, but I’ve been a geography geek since I was a little girl and first discovered an atlas at my day care center. Totally unrelated note, I seemed to never be that popular as a kid. I suspect it may have had something to do with the fact that I wanted to talk about Kyrgyzstan a lot.
Right here and now, I’m setting the ridiculously ambitious goal to join the Traveler’s Century Club before I’m 30. I’ve been to 59 countries as per this list (52 or 54 according to other lists) at the time of writing. Getting to 75 isn’t too ambitious, especially considering that I’d like to travel slower this year and give myself a bit of a break from constant movement. And then in my final year of my 20s, I can give it a bit of a push.
Wish me luck. And sanity, because I seem to have lost it somewhere along the way.
1. Do my taxes
OK, this is pathetic, but I’ve yet to claim my full tax refund from 2016 because I am terrified of phone calls and paperwork… in that order. Basically, I’m missing some necessary documents to complete it, and I’m emotionally about three years old when it comes time to dealing with it.
So, shame me, because now’s the time to finally stop being a baby about bureaucracy and getting my shit in order. Also, yeah, now it’s time to do 2017 taxes? UGH. Adulting is awful, 0/10, highly recommend avoiding.
2. Develop a healthier relationship with exercise
Confession alert: I did a 10-minute “ab and booty blaster” Pilates exercise on YouTube two days ago and have been in such agony since that as I laid in bed last night I was convinced that I had bruised my ribs.
So yeah, maybe I should start a little slower, but I do really need to incorporate exercise more into my daily routine. I’ve always loved hiking, but I hike so sporadically – maybe once every two months or so – that I don’t really see any crossover mental health benefits, which are the primary reason why I need to exercise.
I’m trying to find an exercise I enjoy that I can replicate both on the road and find classes to progress in. So, if you have any recommendations for exercise you’ve enjoyed, let me know, because I’m still not convinced it can be anything other than horrifying.
3. Become mildly conversational in Bulgarian and Russian
I am finally starting to make some progress in my Russian (though the judgy Duolingo owl would beg to differ). Which is good because I’m certain I’ll be using it on my upcoming trip to the Caucasus and my tentative trip to the Stans.
Russian is undoubtedly the hardest language I’ve ever tried to teach myself, so I’m not super optimistic. Still, I’d love to be able to tell people a bit about myself, ask basic questions, and understand most of what they say back.
Since I’ll be based in Sofia about half-time I want to also learn some Bulgarian. While younger Bulgarians have amazing English, I often found that I had trouble communicating with older people, and I don’t want to be a burden. So I’m going to seek out some language classes in Sofia and work on my Bulgarian bit by bit.
Luckily, because I’ve studied Czech/Serbian/Russian at some points in the past (and before you go thinking I’m some weird polyglot genius, I just have a really short attention span and get distracted by new and shiny languages all the time), picking up a Slavic language won’t be as hard. In theory.
4. Stop avoiding meditation and get a better bedtime routine
As someone with ADD, I find meditation almost painful, which is probably a sign that I need it especially badly. I don’t have any crazy goals for this, but it’d be nice to do 10 minutes of meditation 5 times a week by the end of the year. For now, though, I’m settling for 5 minutes at a time because it’s better than nothing.
In line with that, I also need to work on like, not going to bed at 5 AM, because nothing brings back my anxiety more than being nocturnal.
1. Improve my photography and video editing
I’ve really started to love photography and I’d love to further develop my skills. I paid $300 for a tutorial on Fstoppers and so far I honestly feel like with the skills I’ve learned I’ve already gotten my money’s worth.
I’m learning how to edit using a combination of Photoshop plus Lightroom, which is much-needed as I feel like I was reaching the limit to what I wanted to do using just Lightroom. While I don’t want to do crazy edited HDR style photos, the flexibility of Photoshop is really rewarding, and I like being able to see my photo edits progress by setting up layers. I also want to stop producing atrocities like this:
Honestly, I think the biggest thing keeping me from reaching my photography goals is my laziness to go out during the right lighting conditions, so I think I have to rework my priorities a bit. There’s only so much you can do without that nice golden hour lighting. So like, this might mean waking up for sunrise sometimes. GAH.
I also started to dive into video last year and want to keep up with learning about it, developing my filming and editing skill set, and maybe even getting over how weird I think my face looks to start producing some vlogs.
2. Improve my storytelling
As I’ve seen this blog grow its numbers, unfortunately, I feel like it’s lost a bit of its spark. And, since the only way I can cope with feelings of January-induced inadequacy is by blindly throwing money at courses, I’ve also enrolled in a storytelling course for bloggers.
I need to find a balance between search-engine friendly content *cough* please don’t read the post on Stockholm hostels just before this *cough* and the fun, exciting stories I enjoyed telling in the earlier blogging days (like that time I got stuck in a snow bank in Swedish Lapland and why I’m completely obsessed with Albania).
Working out a healthy balance of the two will take me most of 2018, I imagine, but finally arriving at a combination I’m happy with will be worthwhile. I’m also taking fewer sponsored trips this year (zero so far until August) and going more off the beaten path this year, so I’m hoping to bring you some really engaging stories once again.
On the docket? Andorra, the Caucasus, and a bit of Central Asia.
3. … yet still reach 100,000 pageviews a month by the end of 2018
’cause I still measure my worth by numbers and lists, and this blog has got to start making a bit more money — I’ve got cozy sweaters and fancy wine to buy.