It’s that time again. January. A month marked by crap weather and Blue Monday, a day described as ‘officially’ the most depressing day of the year, but really it’s just one big marketing ploy.
I said it last year, but how the time has flown! It feels like little time has passed since I wrote about 2015 yet so much has changed.
January is also the time for self-reflection. Even if you’re not one of those people who make New Year’s resolutions, I think it’s human nature to spend some time shedding the proverbial skin by thinking about the year that ended and the one that’s beginning. I have generally fallen into the the latter category.
I prefer setting myself goals for the year ahead, and none of them need to begin in January either. For example, I start one goal in February and another in April or June. Staggering my goals this way makes fulfilling them more manageable. If I try too much too fast, I’ll crash and burn all before February.
So, if you hadn’t already guessed, this post is a summary of 2016 and also a few things I wish to aim for in 2017. Quite a few changes happened in my life and what’s surprising is that whilst I feel more fulfilled than I have in a while, I’m also travelling less. What this means is I’ve (somehow) managed to cut loose the cord that holds fulfilment and travelling so tightly together. In the process I’ve found new interests that have taken precedent in my life.
Looking at the bigger picture, what I can say about 2016 that hasn’t already been said, shouted and screamed about? I don’t think I’ll live to see another year like it. Humanity took an epic nose-dive with the call for Brexit and then Trump being elected for President of the world, despite not receiving the majority vote. Sad times, eh? (And for the record, I do see valid reasons for voting Brexit, and I wasn’t pegging for Hillary either. After listening to Zizek’s views on Trump, a part of me is hoping there might be a silver lining. But I’m not convinced).
You might be wondering what global politics has to do with my personal life, and I apologise if you’re sick to death of reading about the woes of the world, or even my opinion on the matter, but many of these events account for my new direction in life. Last September I went back to university to start a MA in Human Rights and Social Justice.
I had no idea at the beginning of the year that I would be going back to uni, but it’s the best decision I’ve made in years. Going to Calais in May and helping with the refugee crisis was the catalyst for this new change. I was only there for a week, but it was enough time to realise that I wanted to acquire new skills. I want to help the plight of those who are discriminated against in any sense – gender, sexuality, religion, race. As part of the course next year I’ll get to experience working for an NGO so I’ll need to start applying for the ones which interest me the most. I find work done by Reprieve, Redress, Survival and many more organisations incredibly inspiring and would love to be part of their work in some capacity.
Upon looking back at my year, what becomes strikingly obvious is that my personal life preceded my travel goals. For the first time in 10 years I felt happy to stay in England for longer periods at a time in order to settle down some roots. I moved back to London last February. So far I’m happy with that decision even though anyone will tell you it’s not a cheap place to live.
With all this talk about personal goals over travel goals, let me be totally honest. I haven’t had a complete brain transplant. For there wasn’t a day that went by in which I didn’t wistfully dream about rushing off to Delhi and revelling in the chaos before jumping on a train to the rose-coloured city of Jaipur. What I discovered in 2016, was greater self-control (some of my friends might contest that though!). Travel isn’t always compatible with everything, least of all time, finances, and studying. Of course I’ve always known this, but I was never able to resist the possibility of travel. Until now.
That’s not to say I didn’t travel in 2016. I managed to squeeze in a few trips but not for longer than 10 days at a time. In the springtime I travelled to Iceland, Berlin, Norway and France, then during the summer I went on a wonderful solo train journey between Budapest, Bratislava and Vienna. During the autumn I started uni so I stayed put in London until December when I visited Athens and Valencia.
What left the biggest impression? Meeting other volunteers and listening to the stories told by refugees left an indelible mark in shaping what matters to me. Whilst upsetting to see and hear the effects of war and tragedy, I was also left with a sense of deep respect for the human condition and its resilience.
The destination which I enjoyed the most was Valencia. It was more beautiful than I imagined it to be, the food delicious, the architecture sublime, and I had a really nice time there. True to form, I ensured that Ruchi and I, my perpetual travel buddy, had a few trips of our own. We went to Berlin at the start of the year with some of our other friends which was really fun. Then at the end of the year we went to Athens but it rained the entire time. However, we compensated by pigging out on mouth-watering Greek food at every conceivable hour of the day.
My goals will be a continuation of what I set out for myself last year – an emphasis on personal goals. At the beginning of January, I joined a chess club (if you love chess too, come join me at Tottenham Court!) in hope of improving my skills and making some friends along the way. I’m on a losing streak at the moment which I need to dig my way out from before I start throwing my toys out of the pram. I’m a sore loser.
I still haven’t learnt another language, and I’m beginning to think I never will because every time I try, I quit within a month. If there’s one thing I really need to work on, this is it. It’s getting beyond a joke now.
Finally, 2017 is the year I turn thirty! Thirty, I say! I can barely believe it myself. It only seemed like yesterday that I was too scared to go to bed by myself. How times have changed. Luckily by this age, I hadn’t subscribed to the idea of being married with children, otherwise I might have to start writing ads on the Rush Hour Crush column in the Metro.
Instead, I’m going to celebrate the occasion my spending a few weeks in South America with Ruchi if all goes to plan. Hopefully, I’ll sneak off to a few other destinations in the meanwhile, otherwise this blog is going to start running thin on material.
Let’s see how this all goes…
And may you all have a wonderful and productive year too.
Love Shing xx