Happy 2014!

As promised, I am back to add to my list of 13 things I’ve learned in 33 years. Before I start, I’d like to share a couple fortunes I’ve kept from fortune cookies over the years. These are the two staring at me right now.

“You will make a change for the better within the year.”

“Welcome the change coming soon into your life.”

May your 2014 be filled with changes for the better!

*****

4. Holidays are best spent with friends.

I love my family, but my best Christmases and New Years have been spent in foreign countries with friends. Christmases free of cooking and family drama are pure bliss. I’ll take silver sands and blue waters over Christmas presents and home cooking any day. And ringing in the New Year on the beach can’t be beat!

Koh Samet, Thailand
Koh Samet, Thailand

Throw off the expectations, and enjoy your holidays! 

5. Staying in touch is easier said than done. 

Stay in touch is my mantra. I can’t even count all the farewells I’ve been through. Living abroad is an incredible experience that is filled with many goodbyes. Just thinking about the friends I’ve made along the way, brings a smile to my face and fills me with gratitude. Upon departures, mine and their’s, we’d exchange our best intentions for keeping the friendship alive. It’s tough; we’re all playing out our lives in different time zones. And sometimes, we just become silent witnesses, with the odd ‘like’ or comment, to our friends’ successes and failures. I hope they know that wherever they are, whatever they are doing, they have touched my life, and that I wish only happiness for them.

Dobongsan, Uijeongbu 2011
Dobongsan, Uijeongbu 2011

When we meet again, even though we haven’t stayed in touch like we said we would, let’s just pick up where we left off. 

6. New places give us new perspectives.

Before I turned eighteen, my travels were limited to an Amish quilt auction in Montana, and a band trip to Hawaii. In 1999, I spent two months in Southeast Asia, and my life changed forever.  At the time, I didn’t realize there would be ripple effects, but over the years, I’ve seen them in my everyday life, and this has prompted me to go somewhere new each and every year. It’s the people I meet, the stories I hear, and the customs I observe, that give me a new way to look at life. And traveling and living abroad have helped me understand myself and others better.

Ubud, Bali
Ubud, Bali

Before I went on exchange in 2002, I read Karen Connelly’s Dream of a Thousand Lives: A Sojourn in Thailand. It spoke to me then, and much more now after studying and living in Thailand. So, what do we gain by exploring other places? Connelly puts it beautifully in the following excerpt(preface) from her book.

“To slow down, to listen more carefully, to watch the surface until we glimpse what is underneath, to learn from people who know well what we do not know at all: these are choices, steps towards dismantling the barriers that separate not only nations and strangers, but neighbours, too.”

*****

Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow with 3 more things I’ve learned in 33 years. So, what have your learned over the years? Would love to hear your thoughts and perspectives!

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