Friday, January 8, 2016

Joie de Vivre - 2016, I'm Ready!

2015 is really over, wow, that was fast!

It's unbelievable to me to think that one year ago I was wrapping up work and about to set off on an adventure. An adventure that was planned as three weeks in South America, then back to the States, then to Europe, and ultimately come June 2015 I'd be back in San Francisco making a decision on life. A decision that would allow me to be in the position that I'm in today - feeling free and open to anything that comes my way. It's only when I really stop to think about it that I realize an entire year has passed, and what a fricken amazing year it's been. When I try to note all the places I've been, sights I've seen, and people I've encountered along the way it takes some serious concentration. Reflecting on the year I can say with 100% certainty that I never think twice* about my decision in July to leave Google. I know to my core that was the right move and that certainty gave me the chance to be much more open as 2015 went on.

*let's be honest... when I had to buy a new phone for the first time (ever!) I did wish I had a Google Christmas gift coming, but I decided to be a real adult and suck it up! 

Swinging free at Casa del Arbol, BaƱos, Ecuador

A lot has changed in the past year both for me personally and for the people and the world around me. Fear and sadness has crept into our lives. Tragedy is always around us in many forms and we must join together and love stronger to persevere through it. At the same time great hope and the thrill of life through new babies, new relationships, or a new found self emerge. I suppose this is indeed how the hand of life is dealt - with great joy comes great sadness, disappointment, struggle, etc. There have to be low moments to allow you to really appreciate the amazingness that one has.

In 2015 I learned that the world really does have so much to offer and while it's great to see so many things by myself and tell people about it after the fact there's an amazing joy in sharing the raw live moments with others. 'Others' doesn't have to be a pre-defined term it can be family, friends of many years, newly developed friends, or people I just met that day or the day before. Whoever it is, a real shared experience and conversation is so much more powerful than one that is perhaps contrived on Instagram, Facebook, or whatever your social media platform of choice is. Do I share on social media to get people a little jealous? Yeah, perhaps there's always a hint of that, but it's really to inspire and to get people intrigued and motivated to step outside whatever their comfort zone might be and see the world around them or even venture thousands of miles away. In 2016 I vow to see more and do more in this great big world of ours - whether I start the trip by myself or with someone else I will make a point to find others with whom to share the experience.

I still can't tell you that I've 'Discovered' what my plan for life is, but I'd say I have a fresh outlook on both life and the world around me. My list of mottos, for lack of a better word, would start something like take risks, go into the unknown, say 'yes' (assuming the situation isn't totally sketchy!), laugh at your mis-steps, and always take time to soak in your surroundings and the people near and far who are always there for you. The last is incredibly important - I always have a home, or perhaps a few homes, regardless of where my latest passport stamp indicates I may be at any given time. For those people and places I am forever thankful.

I think back and compare the first trip I took with the most recent one and see stark contrasts. I thoroughly enjoyed my initial trip, I mean come on, I did the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and the W Circuit in Torres del Paine - two of the most amazing treks in the world - but the travel was so prescribed, I was uptight, and there was little room for on the fly changes. I feel as though it was so 'American' - go somewhere for a short period if time, everything is pre-booked, never deviate from the structure, see all the major sights, come home. That's certainly a method of travel but not how I want to do it anymore, especially when I have no specific end date or looming deadline. I haven't become completely lax but allowing the days and weeks to lead you where they may (assuming it's possible) and not feeling like every single top ten item from the guidebook must be accomplished is both freeing and potentially much more satisfying. I still want to see the sights, don't get me wrong, but the pace and prescriptive nature is much more flexible. Not everything must live in a detailed spreadsheet.

So where does this leave me? What am I up to next you might ask.

There are loads more locations on the ever growing list of places (yes, I have a spreadsheet of locations and sights to see by region of the world) I want to go and after Ecuador I was seriously second guessing my previously determined 2016 plan. But I'm sticking with aforementioned previously determined plan and heading back to the South of France to spend at least two months on the sea attempting to immerse myself and learn a bit of French.

Somewhere between Cannes and Nice, April 2015
Since my April travels through France I've felt that I missed a calling from this lovely country and needed to somehow make up for lost time. I fell in love with the Cote d'Azur during the final days of April and have since been back three or four times - sea, mountains, coastal drives, and enough wine to make anyone happy drew me in.

So as of February I'll be using Cannes as a base with a Monday to Friday French language school commitment. This is a test; a test of French living, European living more broadly, and even more so living in one foreign place for likely a two month, potentially more, stretch. Given that it's been a year since I had any type of Monday to Friday commitment this should be interesting and potentially a rude awakening when I actually have to be somewhere at a specific time for a few hours every day.

I have no idea how the next few months will go but I can only hope for an adventure worthy of sharing (both the good and the bad of course). I successfully convinced the French Consulate to give me a year long visa so my options are hopefully pretty wide open, or at least longer than 90 days open throughout France and continental Europe. For this flexibility I am incredibly excited. I may hate Cannes, I may decide I don't want to be in France or Europe at all, but it's worth giving it a go and challenging myself to both learn a language and find people to share the adventure.

If you find yourself (or want to be) in Europe, France, or better yet the South of France over the next few months definitely let me know!

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