Things I learned in 2014 – the good, the bad and the ugly

things i learned from living abroad

I’ve spent the past few days racking my brain looking for some way to round off 2014. Struggle city over here.

As per usual, I am not ready to leave 2014 behind. As much as a look forward to the future, I’ve always been one of those people who struggles to let things go, in all aspects of my life.

2014 was the year I was meant to do this, this and that. Some of which I accomplished, some of which I totally forgot about, while the rest got shoved into that big deep dark corner of “I’ll get to you when I freaking get to you” – I’m sure you know what I mean. Sigh, some things never change, and my ability to procrastinate is one of them.

things i learned from living abroad

As much as I try to have goals and make them happen, I don’t like for my life to feel so structured or linear, or worse, feel like I’ve failed at something. I like to keep things positive. I also don’t like to measure out my year in countries, photos, numbers, or ticking things off a bucketlist. Travel mean so much more to me than that. It’s my lifestyle.

I believe in the transformative power of travel. How travel can help shape you, make you a better person. To quantify it so much almost belittles it to me.

On that note, instead of recapping how many stamps in my passport or how many miles I flew (too goddamn many that’s what), I thought I would get a little more personal and share some of the things I learned over the course of the year; the good, the bad, and the ugly.

What’s something you’ve learned in 2014? 

things i learned from living abroad

1. My travel style has totally changed. Again. But I’m cool with that. 

I’ve talked about this before, about a year ago when I realized that I couldn’t really deal with being on the road 24/7. Don’t get me wrong, my wanderlust is still as strong as ever, and the list of places I want to explore are longer than my arm.

That being said, I’ve accepted that I just can’t be one of those nomads moving from place to place. It’s exhausting and to be honest, it was getting to the point where I was starting to hate travel. I’ve finally started to say no to things that I am not 100% into and focus on enjoying New Zealand and the few trips a year I plan on making abroad.

I also have written about how Mongolia changed my life, including what I want out of travel. Trips like that one, getting out and doing something very difficult, hands-on, and challenging is what I’m looking for in the future.

things i learned from living abroad

Often people ask me things like what’s my favorite country or what’s the coolest thing I’ve ever done, only to be rewarded with the sound of crickets while I actually have to sit down and *really* think about it.

Hmm, Liz what IS the coolest thing you’ve ever done? I CAN’T EVEN REMEMBER. I actually have to sit and think about where I went this year, and you know what? I fucking hate that. I hate that I can’t just say this or that off the top of my head. I feel like I’ve gotten to do so many cool things I can’t even remember them all! I mean, jesus, who says things like that?!

That’s really bad. I hate myself even just writing that out publicly, by here we are. I’m determined to be much more specific and focused on my trips in the future. I want them all to be special, and for me, that means doing less of them.

things i learned from living abroad

2. I’m tougher than I thought I was.

For me, 2014 was a year of pushing my boundaries, stepping out of my comfort zone and overcoming specific fears.

So many times I found myself saying god, I don’t want to do this, I’m scared, but then I did it anyways.

That euphoria, that joy that comes from accomplishing something you weren’t sure you were capable of doing is my drug of choice. I love it, and I want to keep doing striving for moments like that in the future.

things i learned from living abroad

3. Diving is my new favorite activity.

In early 2014 I was invited to Australia on the most epic trip of all-time that included sleeping out on a pontoon on the Great Barrier Reef and getting to do an intro dive there.

I was hooked!

On my trip back to the Whitsundays, the same region of Queensland, a few months later learning to sail, I had a week at the end where I stuck around Airlie Beach and did my PADI open water scuba diving course.

I was all Jasmine-a-whole-new-world, totally agog at this new way to explore the world.

things i learned from living abroad

Since then I’ve managed to squeeze in a diving trip at the end of work trips in Asia, once in Bali and again in Thailand, where I did my advanced course with Roctopus Dive on Koh Tao.

I thought I would not enjoy diving; getting your ears to pop as you go down, wearing a wetsuit in front of other people who have eyes, you know, drowning, and also SHARKS. All legitimate fears.

But somehow when I get underwater, none of that matters anymore and all those fears float away. Instead I am left with just pure wonder and joy of getting to see so many cool things I’ve never seen before. It’s such an incredible feeling! I’m so addicted! I am already thinking about when I can go back to Koh Tao and become a divemaster!

things i learned from living abroad

4. But snowboarding is also up there.

My whole life I’ve wanted to learn to ski or to snowboard but I never had an opportunity as a kid. Growing up, I gravitated towards different activities when I was traveling and somehow 26 years went by where I never did something as iconic as ride a chairlift.

Then I moved to Wanaka, New Zealand, you know, the other hemisphere where summer is winter and winter is summer, not really a place where you’d think this would be an activity. But the reality is that Wanaka is a ski town in winter, with two big fields nearby. I was determined to learn this year.

things i learned from living abroad

Then I put it off and went to Mongolia as soon as the season started. Oops, and when I came back I had one week before they closed. So I got my butt into gear and headed up to Treble Cone, New Zealand’s iconic mountain every single day determined to learn to snowboard.

And you know what? I did it.

Similar to diving, though I am way less graceful and a much slower learner, I am still hooked, and I am already thinking about where I can go and get better in the northern hemisphere this winter on my way home to visit my family in DC. Canada? The US? Help!

things i learned from living abroad

5. Public speaking is terrifying and rewarding.

One thing I was determined to get better at in 2014 was public speaking and learn to be comfortable on camera. I don’t like it. I don’t like hearing my own voice or seeing myself on video. That being said, I have a lot thoughts and big ideas I believe are worth sharing with other people (hello blog!) and I really really love inspiring people, so I figured it was high time to be a grown up and get over my fear of talking in front of more than 3 people.

My first step was filming an episode of House Hunters International in Wellington. It wasn’t fun at first but I got over it quickly. I still haven’t seen it though.

things i learned from living abroad

When I found out that there was going to be TEDx conference in Wanaka, I wanted in. Badly. I pestered the organizers until they agreed to let me speak which was when I realized the full magnitude of the hole I dug for myself. I would have to get up in front of hundreds of people and talk about something with no notes, no powerpoints, nothing. Just me and my ideas.

My worst nightmare!

Can you even imagine how terrifying that is? I was close to barfing in fear all morning but somehow managed to get up there and deliver my talk and not royally screw it up. Well, I don’t think I did because I am still too nervous to watch the video.

things i learned from living abroad

6. Love hurts. Like really really hurts.

More on this coming soon, but let’s just say I got burned this year. Badly.

things i learned from living abroad

7. I really need to work on my self-discipline. 

Um yeah. Working from home in Wanaka isn’t really working out for me. I wish I was one of those people who had a lot of discipline, but I’m not. I’m more like one of those people who wakes up at 9, stays in my pajamas all day, binges on TV shows like the Walking Dead and Game of Thrones until the afternoon when I realize I didn’t get jack-shit done, in which I stay up late actually trying to finish all my work. Repeat.

It really is not the most productive schedule, as you can imagine. Also this is not a lifestyle that’s conducive with making friends and being social since I am on my computer 24/7 and never really stop.

Unfortunately, Wanaka is not exactly a bustling hub of fun cafes with free wifi and cool hip coworking spaces, but I’m working on that. I am determined to have more of a regimen in 2015, specifically building in days off and time for fun.

things i learned from living abroad

8. Happiness and positivity are connected.

I’ve been thinking about this for a long, long time, but somehow over the past few years, I’ve learned that happiness can come from having a positive view on the world.

Of course this is super easy to say and incredibly difficult to achieve.

Do I consider myself to be a happy person? Mostly I suppose. But this year I’ve worked very very hard at trying to maintain a positive outlook on life. When you look happy, you feel happy, right?

Especially when I’m stressed out on the road, I’ve decided to focus on the positive instead of the negative, and things tend to look sunnier. It’s really weird to write this all down, but trust me, it works. Here’s to hoping that 2015 will be even happier!

Oh and cuddling lambs also helps!

things i learned from living abroad

9. I can’t do it all, and that’s ok.

I definitely stretched myself too thin in 2014; I felt like I was constantly pulled in a million different directions which made focusing on things I really wanted to accomplish really hard. I said yes to too many things when I should have prioritized better.

This is a tough lesson to learn but I’ve decided I am going to really sit down and only do the things that I really want to do. More specifically, I am also going to focus on making real money and stop doing too many things for free. It’s not that I really care about being rich or whatever, but living in New Zealand is really really expensive (I want to be able to afford it) and I also wanted to start seriously saving – I don’t know for what. Oh wait, yes I do. I want a car that works. And maybe an espresso machine.

Time to be a grown-up Liz!

things i learned from living abroad

10. New Zealand is where I want to stay.

Ok, are you ready? Here’s a doozy. I really want to stay in New Zealand. I don’t know for how long, but definitely longer than a year. If you’ve been following my journey here, then you know I moved to Wellington on a working holiday visa in August of 2013, which expired in August of 2014. I came back after Mongolia as a tourist because I wasn’t ready to say goodbye yet, and to tick a few things more off my bucketlist.

But I’ve realized, this is where I want to be. I need to have a base not go completely crazy, and no place has ever tugged at my heart or made me feel like I’m home quite like New Zealand has.

I love it here more than anywhere else, and it feels like I’ve found where I belong.

things i learned from living abroad

Three weeks ago I submitted a visa application that will let me stay here for 3 years and work around the country and not be tied to a specific contract. It’s a really obscure visa called a talent visa, and it’s the perfect fit for me.

I haven’t talked about it publicly mostly because I hate talking about these sorts of things, and the uncertainty is actually killing me. What if I don’t get it? Does that mean I’m not talented? Does it mean all the work, the writing and photographer, mean nothing? I didn’t want to jinx myself or my chances.

I’m terrified. Wish me luck!

Also, if you are interested in becoming a featured blogger on Young Adventuress, be sure to check out my new opportunities here! Cheers!

things i learned from living abroad

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141 Comments on “Things I learned in 2014 – the good, the bad and the ugly

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  1. Ohh good luck!!! Fingers crossed for you! I often stumble across your blog, when researching for my solo trips and find you and your writing soo inspiring!! So thank you, and hope 2015 is kind to you! X naomi

  2. You’ll for sure get the talent visa! NZ has you to thank for promoting their country so positively and bringing in many tourists. Keep up the great work and can’t wait to read about your 2015 adventures!

  3. What a wonderfully honest summing up of your year. I love that you’d faced your fears, especially with the Ted talk, oh my god, it makes me stressed just thinking about it! Well done!
    I definitely need to apply #7, I’m absolutely terrible at self displine – let me know if you discover and good tips!
    I really hope you get the visa, which sounds amazing!
    Happy 2015!

  4. It sounds like despite it’s ups and downs 2014 was a really great year full of growth and awesome experiences for you.

    It was wonderful meeting you earlier this year and I really hope your visa comes through so you can stay in New Zealand forever! Or until you find another equally amazing country to call home. *fingers crossed*

      1. I know! We kept hoping to make it down to the South Island, but it just wasn’t in the cards. Maybe our paths will cross again this year.

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