This is it! Today is the last day of 2014 and I am just sitting here in my PJs, thinking what the actual hell. What a year!
I don’t like the word “life-changing”. It feels too hyperbolical, too full of itself. But I struggle to find a word that would describe this year better. I founded this blog less than a year ago and I am amazed by how fast it has grown, how many of you come here to listen to me rant about my life and how much it has altered my understanding of what life is… or at least can be.
Without getting too sentimental, I just want to take this moment to take the time to thank you. Yes, you specifically. You are the reason I spend countless hours in front of my laptop, furiously typing up stories, editing photos or cutting videos. You are the reason I push myself to step outside my comfort zone and to be the best me I possibly can. You are the reason I get up with a smile on my face. You are the reason I can confidently say that 2014 has been the best year of my life thus far and that 2015 will be even better.
Let’s have a look at the past twelve months and what made them so life-changing. Hold on – this will be a crazy ride.
I celebrated New Year’s Eve in Berlin in what is probably the worst club ever – this is especially depressing when you take into account that Berlin is widely considered one of the best party destinations in the world. Somehow my friends and I managed to locate the one place in the whole city which was both empty and suffocatingly terrible. But you know what? We made the best of a bad situation, which is how I have been trying to deal with all of my problems since then.
Despite the unfortunate club selection, the year started off as well as a year could – with me exploring a new place, surrounded by friends. Berlin proved a cool city with loads of layers to uncover and it gave me lots to write about, which was incredibly important. Why? You see, I only founded this blog less than a year ago – on 7 January 2014, to be precise! Are you beginning to understand why 2014 has been so life-changing? Good, let’s continue…
As the ultimate single girl, Valentine’s Day is not a day I cherish. “Do I want a serious something?” I always begin to doubt myself. Well, this year I did not. This year I had a proper meltdown, complete with lying on the frozen ground in the middle of the night. How did I get there?
After interning at RT in the fall of 2013, they decided to take me on as a permanent employee. Juggling a full-time job while also studying full time at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow was challenging, but I was determined to make it work. The fact that I was working night shifts definitely made it easier… in theory.
I was overjoyed to be working as a broadcast journalist for one of the biggest news networks in the world. “I have a great job, before even finishing my degree! I’m a statistical anomaly, a miraculous unicorn!” That’s what I should have been thinking. Instead, this was the inside of my head: . Nothing. Emptiness. I needed sleep, I needed to slow down – but I didn’t, because I’m a fighter.
It wasn’t until that cold night on Valentine’s Day that I realised just how tired and unhappy I was. I was way beyond physical exhaustion. I couldn’t think clearly. I thought I was going crazy. When I wasn’t at work or in class, I covered my eyes with a sleeping mask and buried my head underneath a pillow – and while this sentence is not a metaphor, it might as well be.
March was just as bad. It’s a motion blur of tiredness, big chunky sweaters and explosions. Researching major international stories day by day for eight hours numbs your heart to human suffering. Oh, seven people were killed in a crazy shootout? That won’t even make the news, because twenty died in a plane crash ten minutes after. In a world of “if it bleeds, it leads”, dead fathers become civilian casualties and murdered children are numbers in a spreadsheet.
Frankly, I’m not sure what would have happened had travel not saved me from myself. You can read more about my struggles in these two months in my post about how a trip to Morocco saved my life – whether you’ve battled depression yourself or not, it should make for a pretty insightful read.
Best post: My Life as a Berber
In my depressed state, I somehow managed to make one excellent decision. I applied for a spot on the Study China Programme – a three-week culture integration course funded by the British government. I knew I needed to get away from Moscow and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. When I got my acceptance email, I felt a faint glimmer of hope which kept growing stronger until it finally blinded me in the form of intense sunshine when I got off the plane in Beijing. Sunshine – I had not seen it in months!
My month in Beijing was intense, insane and incredible. I came away with very basic knowledge of Mandarin, a crazy lung infection (but on that later), amazing new friends and a deep love of Asia. A month in Beijing further convinced me that travel and exploration were vital ingredients to finding happiness in my life.
In May, I packed my bags and waved Russia goodbye after eight months of exhausting ups and downs. Looking back, I am glad I went through it all as it’s made me a much stronger person… Despite what it might sound like, I have many fond memories of my year in Moscow – the beautiful places I explored, the amazing friends I made there and the long nights we wasted away being young and stupid.
But at the time, I could not have been happier to leave. May was a month of intense rest and recuperation, of my mother’s cooking, of staying still, of revisiting my favourite places in Vienna. It might not sound very exciting, but it felt like paradise.
By the beginning of June, I’d regained all of my strength and I was ready to tackle the whole wide world again. I haven’t named this blog “Girl vs Globe” for nothing! The first month of summer was a traveller’s wet dream. I kicked it off by visiting my old friends in London. Seeing everyone’s faces after being gone for close to a year did me a lot of good – my life was slowly regaining some semblance of normalcy and it felt very comforting.
While I was in the UK, I also decided to explore Ireland with some new friends I made in Beijing. It was one of the most fun trips I’ve ever taken – I went rainbow hunting in Northern Ireland and took a short trip to Dublin, during which I consumed copious amounts of Guinness, listened to live Irish music and danced… too much.
After that I spent almost two weeks exploring the magical island of Santorini and catching the rays in preparation for my next adventure…
Best post: Santorini From a Bird’s Eye View
…namely sailing in Croatia! This was particularly exciting because a) I was going with my friend Lyna whom I’d met in Russia and hadn’t seen in ages and b) it was my first ever comped trip! I had an amazing time in Croatia, but unfortunately I felt a little cheated by the company – you can read my full review of Sailing.hr here. It was a good wakeup call though and it truly forced me to view travel blogging as a business… and that is an invaluable lesson!
I also took a few shorter trips in July – my favourite was visiting the city of Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic, a popular Hollywood star getaway and “Casino Royale” filming location. I felt like royalty walking around its cobbled streets!
Ever since my return from Beijing at the beginning of May, I’d been feeling a little ill. Nothing too crazy, at least not most of the time. I just had a really bad cough and felt kind of drowsy most of the time. There was that one day in Croatia when I thought I was going to die, but I just chalked it up to a really bad hangover and seasickness.
In August I went for a medical checkup and when my blood test results came back, the doctor called me sounding absolutely horrified. “Have you been experiencing any pain?” she asked. “Hm, maybe a little,” I replied. “But I’m twenty-one now, I assumed it was ageing.” Not only was she not amused – she looked at me as though I’d gone insane. Long story short, I had contracted a very serious lung infection while in China and I ended up taking antibiotics for more than a month.
As you can imagine, August was fairly uneventful as a result – I felt extremely week and the idea of going outside – or even leaving my bed on most days – was extremely unappealing. The photo above is from one of the few times I did, a visit to the Kunst Haus Wien. I poured all of my energy into this blog. I worked eight hour days, I ate at my computer, I woke up in the middle of the night to reply to new comments. It was insane but without all that hard work, Girl vs Globe would not be where it is today!
The first half of September was exactly the same as all of August – bed, antibiotics and social media. I did take a quick trip to Pilsen, but it was all very low key. But toward the end of the month, I was faced with a daunting task – moving back to London and starting my final year of university. I was excited to see all my friends again, but was I ready?
The answer is… yes and no. Getting back into academia was not nearly as difficult as I thought it would be, but my heart was no longer in it. Sitting in lectures about political theory no longer filled me with as much excitement as it used to. I realised I didn’t want to study anymore – I wanted to work, on my own terms, without a rigid schedule imposed upon me by my department.
Although I’ve been dealing with those feelings ever since, I don’t feel discouraged – I only have a few months of university left and after that I will be able to pursue my dreams, free but with a degree from one of the best universities in the world to fall back on. I really shouldn’t be complaining!
Best post: Party Girl Guide to Split, Croatia
October 4 marked my 21st birthday – if you’d like to take a trip down memory lane with me, check out my 20 years of travel neatly laid out in 20 photos. Celebrating my 21st birthday made me feel like I was truly becoming an adult, albeit not in the way most people understand it – I take not being an adult very seriously, which you will quickly become clear if you read my list of 99 things to do instead of growing up.
Still, I definitely felt more grown up than ever before. One of the main reasons for this was attending my first ever business conference – TBEX, a big gathering of travel bloggers and other industry specialists in Athens. It really opened my eyes to the fact that I could make a living doing what I love and inspired me to get a lot more serious about this blog. Meeting so many like-minded travellers, PR reps and business owners was overwhelming, but in the best way possible!
Best post: 10 Free Apps You Should Not Travel Without
November was… crazy. I had a million university deadlines coming up and when I wasn’t doing my reading or writing essays, I was doing shifts at a call centre. And that wasn’t all – I also attended another travel conference, this time WTM in London. If TBEX was overwhelming, then WTM was pure madness. A million travel industry insiders locked trapped in a casino-like building where you could never tell what time of day it was… Interesting concept.
That said, if the conference was insane, the parties were even more so. In case you hadn’t realised by now, knowing me, most travel bloggers are absolute party animals. Spending the night in a room with several dozen extroverts with a shared passion of travel is an experience like no other and it further solidified my decision to seriously pursue travel blogging.
Best post: Naughty Guide to Winter in London
Now, December. Like I said before I am just sitting here in my PJs, thinking what the actual hell. What a year! The fireworks are going off and the year is ending with a bang, just like it deserves. The sky is lit up and so is my future, which looks as bright as the ornaments colouring the sky purple and gold. Wild. Free. Dangerous. Unexplored. And it’s almost beginning…
Best post: 5 Types of Gifts for Female Travellers
Now, please keep holding tight as I take you on the journey of a lifetime. Who shall prevail in 2015, the girl or the globe? Stick around and let’s find out together!
Photo from October was taken by the incredible Laurence of “Finding the Universe” at TBEX.