Frohes Neues Jahr! (Happy New Year)

Frohes Neues Jahr!  (Happy New Year)
NYE: Mango might as well have been in a Vietnamese rice paddy in 1968

NYE: Mango might as well have been in a Vietnamese rice paddy in 1968

I have learned that when one's mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.
-Rosa Parks


2016 was an interesting year, and 2017 may be even more interesting. Between the exhausting U.S. election, a surprise Brexit, Fidel Castro’s death, Turkey's uprisings, and so on, only the passage of time can answer the question on everyone’s mind, “Where do we go from here?”  In a show of some much-needed optimism, I raise my invisible champagne flute to a year of happiness, laughter, and memorable experiences.

Mango and I ushered in 2017 in Berlin, Germany, and it was quite the experience.  We arrived in the city in the afternoon, and the fireworks were already out of control.  We had a festive dinner around the corner from our apartment at Brasserie Lumières, where the kitchen staff kindly fed Mango a massive steak.  At midnight we headed outside for the quick walk home but were thwarted by fireworks going off in every direction; apparently this is a Berlin tradition with absolutely no regulation.  (This is a pretty funny Reddit thread on it from yesterday.)  As Mango went cowering back into the restaurant, I enjoyed the the show on the sidewalk.  After half an hour, the explosions showed no sign of letting up so we ran home as if under sniper fire.  By the time I fell asleep an hour later, the fireworks were still going off intensely, much to the chagrin of Mango shaking in his useless ThunderShirt.

For me, 2016 was a year rife with emotions and changes. I started the year settled into a ho-hum life: I owned a cute little condo in Raleigh in a great location, and I was working at a job I enjoyed with the State of North Carolina as a historic preservation planner, a job that allowed me to travel all over the state. I was quite the adult with my little routines and fiscal responsibility, and I happily thought to myself, “This is my life.” Then it hit me: This is my life, and it's not going to get any more exciting unless I majorly shake things up.  In February I surprised myself by getting involved in the U.S. election and traveled to various states to canvass for Bernie Sanders, visiting Philadelphia, Atlantic City, New York City, and West Virginia. I talked openly with all kinds of people, interactions that were mostly positive and always interesting. I learned a lot about the U.S., its citizens, and its cities. I heard about people’s hardships, I saw cities burdened by disinvestment, I experienced political corruption firsthand (becoming a North Carolina delegate at one point). The sum of these experiences opened my eyes and made me long to live in country with quality healthcare, education, childcare, public transit, and more. With this goal in mind, I decided to give up my life in the U.S. for a one-way ticket to Sweden in August and I haven’t looked back since. Now that Mango and I have been traveling around Europe for almost five months, visiting Sweden, Croatia, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Austria, and Germany, I’m ready to set goals and plan how to reach them.

Gretchen Rubin is one of my favorite authors and I love her concept of one-word themes for the year.  For my 2017 focus, I have chosen the word 'grow' as my theme, and this applies personally and professionally.  Here are some ways in which I would like to grow in 2017:

  • Professionally. I will continue to apply to urban planning jobs in New Zealand and other locations, but I’m also open to pursuing a freelance visa in Spain so I can grow this blog and do other independent work. I definitely want to stay in the field of urban planning, historic preservation, and car-free living, I just need to figure out how to do that and make a living off of it.
  • Culturally. As much as I’d love to visit Japan and other countries I’ve never been to, I’m realizing that travelling with a dog outside of Europe may be a bigger challenge than I realized. Although Mango is a small fellow, per my research so far he unfortunately isn’t small enough to travel on planes, trains, or public transit. Plus, there are complicated arrival permit issues to deal with, issues that make me wonder what I should do.  For now, after Germany I will visit Belgium, the Netherlands, the UK, Ireland, and Spain.
  • Artistically.  I'd like to continue working to improve my photography and writing.
  • Familiarly. I’ve given this one a lot of thought, and am ready to move forward with having children. This goal will definitely require more planning and stability, which is why Spain may be the best option at this point.


While I could list a bunch of other resolutions for 2017, like having more patience or sticking to a bedtime, I'll focus on these four (big) goals for now.  So cheers to 2017, a year of growth!