Writing from 3.387° S, 36.683° E
Four days ago, I turned 23, and it was the first birthday I’ve ever spent outside of the US. The day had a very different feel from the last 22, and I think it all comes down to one reason.
This is the first time that the next year is not planned out for me.
Every other year, I knew what was coming next: another nine months of school, a summer break, maybe an internship or a few trips. This time, I have the freedom to choose how I want to spend this year, and the ambiguity is exhilarating.
While a lot is still up in the air for my upcoming year, I have some tentative plans that I could not be more excited for. Here’s a preview of 2018.
Where I’m starting:
Tanzania. New Year’s was spent with my friends and brother in Zanzibar, followed by a much needed solo trip. I have about five more weeks of volunteering in Arusha with the Widows Encouragement & HIV/AIDS Foundation.
Where I’m going:
As most of my close friends and family know, I always have a new idea of where I should go next, and often it changes (a lot) before I finally settle on a plan. My friends here in Arusha like to tease me whenever I bring up my latest potential trip, because they know that it will probably change the next day. That being said, this section has two parts: the definite and the probable. (I’ll leave the “maybes” out, because that list is endless.)
- South Africa – I’ll be spending about two months exploring this beautiful country, including two weeks with my family in Cape Town and Kruger National Park.
- Europe – After I’ve gotten my fill of Africa (for now), I’ll be heading to Europe to visit some friends as well as meet up with some of my favorite people from back home. I plan on traveling around for at least 3 months or so, so a lot of locations are still up in the air. Confirmed so far: Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany, and Hungary.
- USA – I’m coming home! Not permanently (sorry parents), but at least for a few months at the end of summer/beginning of fall. I want to see EVERYONE — let’s hang!
- Namibia – I’m so pumped to possibly get to do an overland tour through Namibia and part of South Africa with my cousin! If you’ve never heard of an overland, it’s basically a giant truck/bus that drives you through parts of Africa and stops to camp every night. Fingers crossed that my budget permits this one!
- More Europe – Other countries that I am hoping to visit (but no set plans yet) include Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Czech Republic, and Austria.
- New Zealand – As of now, I am planning on heading to NZ for 9-12 months after I come back to the US. I’ve always been drawn to the breathtaking landscapes there (and endless hiking opportunities), and I’d like to take advantage of the work holiday visa before that option expires.
How I’m funding everything:
The same way I did in 2017: making money (and saving money) wherever possible. I’ve been taking on new freelance work for small marketing, web design, and content creation projects. If you or anyone you know is looking for some help in these areas, please let me know!
Things I want to start learning:
- Coding: No explanation necessary. Beyond useful in a million ways.
- A new language: TBD on which one!
- Sustainable international development: While in Tanzania I’ve become fascinated with learning about why certain types of charity and volunteering are effective but others are not. If you know of any books on this topic or something similar, I’d love to hear about them!
2018 intentions (which I prefer to resolutions):
- Approach each day with a positive mindset, and be flexible when things go wrong.
- Decide what is right for me and do it without asking for permission (or forgiveness).
- Find ways to incorporate volunteering and service into my daily life, rather than allowing it to just be “that thing I did after graduation.”
Websites I want to use more:
- Kiva.org: I am OBSESSED with Kiva (dream job alert!) and hope to use them even more in the New Year. If you’ve never heard of them, Kiva’s mission is “to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty” via microfinance loans for borrowers in 82 countries. Rather than just donating money to a charity and maybe never knowing how the money is spent, you can loan money (in amounts as small as $25) to borrowers all around the world for very specific goals (e.g. people looking to grow businesses, go to school, switch to clean energy and more). Plus, there’s a 98% payback rate. This is truly an amazing organization.
- EscapeTheCity.org: This site has postings for jobs all around the world. They can help with career changes, a search for something exciting and unconventional, or just people wanting to work somewhere awesome. They are based in the UK and used by expats everywhere.
- Couchsurfing.com: My friend Cody recently went on a 3 month trip through Europe and never spent a dime on accommodation because of this site. It’s a great way to meet people and see a city from the local point of view. I will definitely be using this a lot in 2018.
Books I want to read:
- Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty – by Daron Acemoğlu
- Body Love | Food Peace – by Terri Leichty (re-read) (shameless plug for my mom’s book — available on Amazon and iTunes!)
- Born a Crime – by Trevor Noah
- Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is A Better Way For Africa – by Dambisa Moyo
Things I want to do:
- Continue journaling at least a few times per week
- Visit at least 5 new countries
- Go in a hot air balloon
- Complete a one-week complete technology cleanse
- Go on a yoga retreat
- Buy a legit camera (anyone selling?)
- Get sick less
- Read more
- Get a tattoo (check!)
My first 22 years were great, but I have a feeling that 2018 just might top them all. I’m looking forward to seeing where this year takes each of us — hopefully, to lots of new places with lots of great food. Fingers crossed.