At one point during the year, I shared a meme that went, “Somehow I’m living my best life and worst life simultaneously.”
Honestly, that’s what 2019 felt like. While I feel like everything with my life has been the best it’s ever been (family, friendships, business), it’s also been one of the saddest and most sobering years. Without going into too many details, it started with my friend, Rachel’s sudden passing in May and ended with my great aunt’s passing right before Thanksgiving, with more deaths and losses in between. Let’s just say now I’m paranoid about my heart health.
But like I said, this was also one of the best years of my life. I visited three new countries, revisited many I’ve always loved, and I do feel like I’ve grown up a bit. So instead of reflecting on the sadder times (which I’ve been doing plenty of in private), I want to focus some energy on the things I’ve loved doing in 2019, both important and frivolous, big and small!
19 Things I Loved Doing in 2019
1. Spending time with family
Is this a sign I’m getting older? While I love my family, I’ve never been homesick. I distinctly remember being on my Italy & Greece trip in high school while a bunch of the other students were commiserating over missing their moms (or they had their moms with them), and all I could think was, “We’ve been gone like a week?”
However, this year and last year I’ve really enjoyed spending time with my family. This includes my immediate family as well as my cousins and second/third (IDK how it works) cousins. In May, we had my cousin, Kristen’s wedding and I think it was the first time ALL of us were in the same room in years. It was a blast, and it’s actually quite bittersweet looking back after losing my great aunt and aunt (my mom’s cousin) before Thanksgiving.
2. Finding a stride in traveling
I think I’ve found a nice rhythm with traveling and I’m getting better at it with each trip. If 2017 was the year of frantic travel, which resulted in credit card debt, and 2018 was a mix between doing next to nothing until September and then returning to frantic travel until Thanksgiving, 2019 was a LOT more organized and intentional. To review, I spent the year like this:
- January: Niagara Falls with Fran & Home
- February: Elissa Visited & Malaysia
- March: Settled in Kuala Lumpur with a weekend trip to Singapore before flying over to Korea
- April: Half in Korea, Half Home (very sick!)
- May: Last minute trip up to Portland, Maine for WITS, a trip to the Florida Keys with Fran, Home, and then a quick few days in NYC to hang out with Megan, Scott, and Elissa
- June: Madrid, Milan, Trento for Traverse, Verona and then 2 weeks around Morocco with Autumn
- July: Providence to hang with Corinne, Segun, & Mallory and then a trip to Cleveland with my mom
- August: Housesitting in Lake Tahoe
- September: Back to Korea!
- October: Home with a rainy Philly day with Ardelle and a weekend visit to Providence
- November: Home with a little trip to see Elissa in DC
- December: Quick trip up to NYC for Christmas fun with Megan, Scott, and Sher, a week or so in Providence where I convinced Corinne to see our friend in Boston for the afternoon, and the home
Not too shabby nor did I feel like I was drowning bouncing from place to place. 2020 is going to be even more slowed down as I spent longer in each place I want to go!
3. Discovering “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
This has easily been one of the funniest candy colored concoctions of a show I’ve found this year! I binge watched the first two seasons on my way to Malaysia and have been watching the third season since it came out. Can I just live in Midge’s wardrobe?!
Other movies or shows that made me unabashedly happy include “Brooklyn Nine Nine,” “Madam Secretary,” On the Basis of Sex, “Fruits Basket,” “The Last Empress,” and Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, and Yesterday. I also loved the new season of “The Handmaid Tale,” but not because it made me smile like Mamma Mia did.
While I do love a good crime show or drama (currently have on “Criminal Minds” in the background), I really, truly love movies and shows that are either fun or motivational.
4. Seeing my bank account rise
Should I talk about money? Shhh
I’m not going to give you my exact financial details, but I will say this is the first full year I’ve really felt stable since probably my first year in Korea. I got a credit card after that first year, and it’s been an, ahem, journey since.
But financially, I’m doing okay and next year should be an exciting year. It’s kind of nuts to feel like I’m not fudging my way financially through the year, just paying down debt as quickly as I can. I still have a little credit card debt and, of course, about $19,000+ in student loan debt, but it’s not as overwhelming as it once was.
I remember sitting down in Suncheon and forcing myself to write down all my debt and then having a bit of a panic attack looking at all of it. That doesn’t happen anymore!
Now, my reach goal is to pay everything off by the end of 2020 so that in 2021 I can look into saving for a downpayment on a home. I kind of tell everyone I’d like to think of having a kid around 31 or 32 and that’s not that far away!
5. Getting halfway through my book challenge
I know, this should be a fail right? But still, I read 26 books so far in 2019, which is still far more than I was reading or listening to regularly before I started this challenge last year. There are so many interesting stories in the world, I just want to try to read as many as I can. Any recommendations, let me know!
6. Going on my first campaign to Cleveland
So in the blogging and writing world, there are different types of sponsored trips and activities you can take. The waters get a little murky, but basically:
- Press Trip: A sponsored trip that’s comped but not paid otherwise. Traditionally, freelance writers or contracted writers will go on these trips and the tourism boards/companies hope the writers then can place a story in big newspapers or websites. The key is that there’s no guaranteed coverage, positive or negative, and a writer could walk away and be unable to place a piece.
- Brand Campaign: This is a sponsored trip that’s comped and paid. This means there are typically guaranteed returns, like X amount of social media posts or X amount of blog posts and the tourism board can have a final look at what goes out. While I’m sure there are tourism boards that have super strict, positive only messaging (ahem, Saudi Arabia), in most cases, tourism boards/companies give you freedom to write how and what you want.
I find brand campaigns vs. press trips and the whole business interesting, but that’s either for a coffee conversation or some other blogger with more experience to discuss!
However, I did want to note that I went on my first official campaign this year with Cleveland and had an absolute blast. Like, if every campaign could be like this, I’d pitch more often! I even got to take my mom and show her a little of what I do. Now most of my family kind of understands how I earn a living, except my sister who’s convinced I’m a secret toe model lol.
7. Returning home to Korea twice
I think it’s safe to say Korea is a second home to me, especially as it is right now. A lot of my friends live there (either they’ve settled down or moved back), and it’s where I feel like I became an adult. I love returning and finding a familiar stride I don’t really have in the US.
Funny enough, my friends in the US are SO spread out, Korea is actually where I’d consider it easiest to see as many friends as I can in a small amount of time. Like if I want to hang out with Corinne, it’s a 5 hour drive up to Providence. Meanwhile, I can hang out with Hallie in Seoul in the morning and then hop on a KTX and be ordering fried chicken for Stacey and me in 2 1/2 hours.
This year I’m finally working on my Korean some more so I can get better at conversing because it’s a little embarrassing how poor it still is. I’m also planning to return for 2 months from spring to summer (for my tour, hey hey!) and to do some major exploring. Time to return to Busan and see more of Gangwondo!
8. Speaking at a conference! In Europe!
Double exclamation points for that one. Can you believe I spoke at conference? Neither can I. Public speaking isn’t really my thing. I accidentally sounded angry when I was reading the Corinthians verse at my cousin’s wedding. Awkward.
But Milou is a pretty practiced public speaker and much better at these things than me, so we spoke about running our Facebook group, Female Digital Nomads at Traverse in Italy. It was a lot of fun, and it was actually really nice to sit down and just look at our group holistically. We also discussed FDN plans for the new year, so keep an eye out for that ;)
PS Traverse in general is just an awesome conference. It feels like one giant party with the most casual atmosphere of all the conferences I’ve been to this year. I also found the talks to be the most practical and helpful. Often, some talks at conferences are pure fluff or really shallow, but the ones I went to here were awesome.
9. Becoming more confident in my friendships
I mean aren’t we all a bit insecure about our relationships at times? I think friendships are one of the most important relationships we have and they’re also the easiest to fall apart when not cared for, moreso than romantic ones.
So, that’s all to say, I’ve never been super secure in my friendships. At my worst, I’m a bit petty and jealous. It’s hard to explain my feelings without sounding like that needy friend who people hang out with out of pity more than genuine enjoyment, but let’s just say I’ve had a lot of close friendships fail spectacularly.
Sometime in Korea (after being ghosted by THREE people I thought I’d grown close to), I kind of just decided that I would stick to the friends who I felt valued me and if they didn’t want to be my friend anymore, they would have to be blunt and tell me.
You know that quote, “We accept the love we think we deserve”? Well, I think we all deserve to be loved by our friends a lot. And if your friend is being flaky, ghosting you, or just being downright cruel and manipulative, cut. them. out. And do it sooner rather than later. It makes you appreciate the friends who do stick around even more.
I decided in my 20s that, you know what, I only have so much energy. And I’m not wasting a single bit of it wondering why a friend hasn’t answered me even after a follow up or two.
10. Focusing on being more eco-friendly
Let’s be honest, the world is dying. That sounds dramatic, but it’s the truth, and while it’s the big companies who are doing the most damage, it’s not like we can sit around with our thumbs up our bums doing nothing.
I kind of can’t wait to own my home and really go to work doing things like planting my own herb garden, setting up a proper composting system, and experimenting with DIY cleaning solutions! I’m obsessed with watching zero waste videos.
Anyway, one of the big things I want to focus on in 2020 is becoming more eco-friendly and finding ways to be more sustainable. Not only that, I want to learn more so I can be better educated when someone asks me about the why. Send me over your documentary and book recommendations!
11. Spending many days cuddling my dog
I mean, if you follow me on IG, you know I LOVE my dog. She’s the cutest thing in the world, and while I love cats way more than dogs, I love her more than cats. Being home more this year means I’ve spent a lot of time with my dog, and I’m her favorite person to sleep with at night. Seriously, she’s the best, and I love being able to spend more time with her. Especially because she’s not exactly young anymore.
12. Getting a second tattoo
I’ve been wanting to get another tattoo for a little while! I discovered these pretty watercolor tattoos on Instagram and started following the accounts to get ideas. I don’t know when, but at one point I realized I wanted a nice cherry blossom tattoo behind one of my ears, and viola!
I sent a Kakao message to Tattooist Ilwol and organized my appointment for my first week I was in Korea in March. You can probably guess, but my 3rd tattoo will be of the fall foliage behind my other ear!
I really like have these nice little tattoos. They’re fun little reminders, and they’re so hidden, most people, including me, forget they’re there most of the time.
13. Feeling like I have more of a plan for my future
Honestly, I haven’t really had a long term plan for my life in a while. I kind of have a vague idea that I want a kid, and I’d like a house somewhere, but there’s nothing really concrete. Plus the digital space is always changing, you really never know what to expect. However, this last year, I’ve really thought more about what I want to do and how to do it.
For example, I want a kid. I don’t know how exactly, but I do know I’d like to start thinking about it when I’m 31 or 32. So that means I need to seriously buckle down on paying off my loans and thinking about where I want to have a home base. It also makes me think of things like my finances and health and yadada. I’m really becoming an adult, aren’t I?!
14. Wearing lipstick more regularly
Guys, it’s been on my list for years to wear lipstick more. Like, when you see Taylor Swift in a red lip it seems like a normal event, not like she’s being extra fancy. I want to reach that lipstick level if it exists.
And now I’m starting to! Not like everyday when I’m slummin’ it in sweats, but when I go into the city or am out exploring, I swipe on some lipstick. My go to is Etude House’s lip mousses; I have four different shades! I also got two of Lisa Eldridge’s lipsticks this year. The summer pink one is pretty drying, and I just haven’t been able to make it work without looking like I have a million lines on my lips. However, the red velvet one I got for winter is my favorite thing ever. Such a bright, fun color.
15. Starting a business in the Netherlands
Random right? But we officially registered FDN into a business and since Milou is Dutch, we did it in the Netherlands! This means she’s handled more of the paperwork stuff since, you know, I don’t speak Dutch, but it’s been fun putting together a business plan together and getting it all official!
16. Working with really lovely people
That said, I’ve worked with some really lovely people this year. My blog is obviously not my main source of income, and I do a lot of other jobs (NOT involving toes, Mackenzie) from VA work to social media and more.
Just wanted to shout out to my clients because they’ve been lovely to work with. Some I’ve been with for well over a year at this point!
17. Hitting a stride with writing on my blog
Remember in August I was publishing something new multiple times a week? Wow, was I on a writing spree! I’ve gotten really comfortable writing for my blog and figuring out my voice. I definitely don’t think I’m a great writer here (my college professors are probably crying if they ever read here). However, I’m writing more than I’ve ever written in my life, which is all I’ve ever wanted to do.
18. Feeling more like a photographer
When do you feel like a photographer? I don’t really sell my photos nor do I do any traditional photography job like working for NatGeo, shooting weddings, or doing portraits. But I realized this year, I am a photographer. I know a thing or two about a camera and, my lord, I know how to compose a shot. I did not know this wasn’t an innate skill until I handed my camera over to strangers constantly. Even when framing the photo and showing them, I still got all sorts of crooked or weirdly cropped shots.
I don’t even necessarily want to focus on making money from my photos this next year. Rather I want to continue enjoying experimenting with shots, getting better, and trying different things (like my film camera!).
19. Just… becoming more confident in who I am and what I want
And to end this post on 2019 and this decade, I just want to say I’m loving becoming more confident in who I am and what I want. This definitely comes with age, doesn’t it? When I began this decade, I was a senior in high school and when I think of how I’ve changed since then, I’m pretty happy. Obviously, I’m not perfect nor do I think I’m the best thing since sliced bread, but, you know what, I do quite like being me. And really, isn’t that what we all strive for in the end?
Cheers to 2020! How was your 2019? What did you love doing? Let me know!
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