This is part of the Best of Travel 2011 series started by Jeremy at Budget Travel Adventures. Thank you to Family on Bikes for the nomination. If you don’t know their story, it’s quite something– it includes going from the top of North America all the way to the bottom of South America with kids. And oh yeah, they went BY BIKE.
To begin my round-up of 2011, let’s play a little word game.
At the end of 2010, I participated in a month-long series of writing prompts called Reverb10. One of the first prompts asked me to think of a word to describe the past year and another word to reflect how I would like the following year to be.
My word for 2010 was challenging. Due to a very complicated pregnancy that almost ended at 5 months and involved countless appointments with specialists and a blood transfusion, I endured months of stress and uncertainty. The word I hoped would describe 2011 was beautiful simply because everything, in the end, is part of this beautiful life. Plus, the birth of my son was just around the corner, and the birth of a baby is a beautiful thing.
What words would describe your 2011?
Now that 2011 is over, was it indeed beautiful? Yes and no. What words would I use to describe 2011 now that it’s over? Busy. Rewarding. And here’s why:
Travel (and related lessons):
Having two children is hard work, and the reality of taking care of them every day combined with the financial strain of two day care bills meant that there was very little room for travel this year. Lesson learned: having children means that my life isn’t as carefree as I’d like it to be.
January-June: Baby G was born in late January, after which followed a few months of more unexpected medical issues and chaos as I tried to go back to work. In June, my husband and older son went for our annual trip to Brazil, but for various reasons, we decided it was better for me to stay home with the baby. I did not want to miss this trip, but it ended up being just the right decision– we saved money, and I caught up with friends and family, spent quality time with the baby, and worked on my blog at night while he slept. Lesson learned: I missed my older son but learned that it is OK for us to be separated sometimes.
July: California’s Monterey Peninsula: Although I had been here a few times before, I fell in love with California’s central coast this year and spent both of my longer vacations there. The variety of things to do and its natural beauty made it the perfect destination for one curious child and parents who needed some travel excitement. This famously foggy, cool area treated us to sunny, warm weather, and we loved every minute of it.
My time away from travel had also given me a more sensitive perspective, so even the drive there through valleys and low mountains seemed like a trip in itself. Lesson learned: beauty is all around us.
August: Another semester began, and oh man, I experienced the busiest time of my life so far. Lesson learned: busy is not fun for me, but it’s really not the end of the world, either.
November: A quick get-away to Napa Valley, and it was just me and my husband. Fall there is SO beautiful. Lesson learned: although we like to travel with our kids, traveling without them is wonderful!
December: As the semester finished, my in-laws from Brazil arrived, and we went to the Central California coast again. We made the over-the-top cute Carmel our home base. It was perfect. Lesson learned: travel to nearby places can be just as rewarding as places far away.
All in all, was it a rewarding year of travel? Yes! Being “forced” to travel closer to home ended up being a blessing since I explored more of my home state and appreciated even little details of local beauty.
My students (and more related lessons):
I often think that I have one of best jobs in the world. In case you don’t know, I teach English as a Second Language at a wonderful community college; the program is academic and includes a diverse curriculum, so I teach a great variety of classes.
It’s my students who are the main reason for my love of teaching. Every semester I have about 80-100 of them, and being around their smiles and enthusiasm gives me a lot of happiness. However, this year, they really shone. They were more diverse than ever, which is saying a lot because my classrooms are always filled with young and old, from many different countries and backgrounds. Inquisitive, talented, funny, sensitive, playful, intelligent, unexpected, traditional, cosmopolitan… these are some of the words I could use to describe them, and I am grateful for their presence in my life. There were many unforgettable people in my classes this year– here are just a couple of them:
Lesson learned: Even though it’s hard for me to juggle work with family, I am very fortunate. Work this year was busy but oh-so-rewarding.
Well, there may be some things for me to improve on my site (mainly that my e-mail subscription doesn’t work, but I’ll be fixing that very, very soon!), but this year has been a big year for my blog. I went self-hosted, started active Facebook and Google+ pages, learned a lot about travel blogging, and participated in the new and very awesome ArtSmart Roundtable of monthly artsy posts. Lesson learned: I can’t compete with the big bloggers out there, but if I stay true to myself, blogging is a rewarding means of expression that I am committed to for the long-haul.
And now what?
2011 was indeed beautiful yet busy and rewarding. Who knows what 2012 will bring, but I must admit that I am in the mood to have some fun with it. More travel, more time with friends, more growth with blogging, and more fun with my sweet children. Check back for intentions for 2012 soon.
In the meantime, don’t be shy! What about YOU? What word would you choose to describe 2011? What word do you hope will reflect 2012? What are some rewarding experiences or lessons learned from your year?