Reverb 10 - Photo





I'm participating in Reverb10, a daily writing prompt throughout the month of December related to reflecting on the previous year and planning for the next. You can read more about why I'm doing it here. Or read all my Reverb posts here.
Sift through all the photos of you from the past year. Choose one that best captures you; either who you are, or who you strive to be. Find the shot of you that is worth a thousand words. Share the image, who shot it, where, and what it best reveals about you.
I like this photo because I look happy in a caught off guard sort of way. There's no contrived smile or posing (apart from the Japanese peace sign thing they always do in photos) and I feel like it captures a moment of real happiness. And yes, of course I want to loose myself more and more in moments of unabashed smiling happiness!

Dan took the photo and I think we were at the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo, Japan.

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The Merry Christmas Edition - Reverb 10 - Everything's Okay



I'm participating in Reverb10, a daily writing prompt throughout the month of December related to reflecting on the previous year and planning for the next. You can read more about why I'm doing it here. Or read all my Reverb posts here.
What was the best moment that could serve as proof that everything is going to be alright? And how will you incorporate that discovery into the year ahead?
Now.

It's Christmas morning and I am sitting in a little coffee shop in Vientiane, Laos. A gigantic faux fireplace has been built up the wall and cheesy holiday music is blasting out of the speakers. The sun is shining, we slept well last night, my bug bites are healing, I have enough to eat, Die Hard I and II are on the television later tonight (yippie kai aye!), I'm excited about my life, I count a group of wonderful people as friends and family, we've actually found a pub that is doing a 'real' Christmas dinner where we'll be heading later today, and I feel such gratitude.

I am a lucky girl and as I spend more time in this beautiful country, with people who have very little but who are still so warm and joyful, it's hard not to realize that this notion of 'alrightness' is a bit of a luxury. Most of the people here are too busy trying to find enough to eat, working insanely long days, trying to support their families and trying to overcome the health problems that are intertwined with poverty. And I'm sitting in a Western style coffee house pondering the degree to which I think everything is going to be alright for me.

All I can hope is that I never become someone who forgets my incredible fortune: I am healthy, I have resources at my disposal, I have love. I don't know what will happen tomorrow, but in this moment, on Christmas morning, everything is beautifully, perfectly alright.



As I child, I used to cry my eyes out on Christmas night, grieving because the day was over and because even though I knew it would come around again in a year, it would never, ever be exactly the same. Even as a five or six year old, I felt time slipping away too quickly and it broke my heart. I still feel that way sometimes. Every time we leave a place, I find myself wondering if we'll ever be there again and if we are, what it will feel like. I think the holidays must make a lot of people feel this way - so many Christmas shows and songs are so sad and wistful. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Judy Garland, Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer stop motion cartoon (poor misfit toys!), Miracle on 34th Street, It's A Beautiful Life ... Frosty the Snowman is basically a symbol for our mortality... and let's not forget the Peanuts Christmas special, which always makes me cry.

This is all to say that I think it's important to do less crying over the passage of time and spend more time feeling grateful for every moment. And that's what I'm going to carry with me into the next year.



Merry Christmas everyone!

x

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Happy Holidays!



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Reverb 10 - Travel



I'm participating in Reverb10, a daily writing prompt throughout the month of December related to reflecting on the previous year and planning for the next. You can read more about why I'm doing it here. Or read all my Reverb posts here.
How did you travel in 2010? How and/or where would you like to travel next year?
I am on an around the world trip and have been living like a gypsy since May 1st. London - Scottsdale - Las Vegas - Puerto Vallarta - San Blas - Los Angeles - Vancouver - Ucluelet - Vancouver - Whistler - Revelstoke - Calgary - Regina - Calgary - Revelstoke - Vancouver - Sydney - Melbourne - Great Ocean Road - Melbourne - Sydney - Tokyo - Osaka - Bangkok - Vientiane ....

Next up: Louang Prabang - Hanoi - Halong Bay - maybe Southern Vietnam - Bangkok - Koh Lanta and the Southern Thai islands - Chiang Mai - Chiang Rai and maybe back to Laos.

You can read more about my travels on my other website, A Tramp Abroad.

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Reverb 10 - Future Self


I'm participating in Reverb10, a daily writing prompt throughout the month of December related to reflecting on the previous year and planning for the next. You can read more about why I'm doing it here. Or read all my Reverb posts here.
Imagine yourself five years from now. What advice would you give your current self for the year ahead?
  • Trust your instincts.
  • Make time for books, films, kissing, swimming, hand holding and sunset watching. Contrary to what some people might tell you, these things are priority. 
  • Try to get better at sleeping. It's important and you really need to work on improving your skill set in this area. 
  • Stop obsessing about circumstances outside of your control. Learn how to be better at letting things go. 
  • Laugh more and stop taking yourself quite so seriously.
  • Make time for play. 
  • Complain less and be better at really acknowledging how lucky you are.
  • There is no such thing as being too nice. Be mindful of kindness and how transformative small actions can be. 
  • Wear bug spray when you are outside, unless you're in Iceland, Antarctica or Saskatchewan during the winter time. 
  • Keep it light enough to travel. 


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Reverb 10 - Avoidance


I'm participating in Reverb10, a daily writing prompt throughout the month of December related to reflecting on the previous year and planning for the next. You can read more about why I'm doing it here. Or read all my Reverb posts here.
What should you have done this year but didn’t because you were too scared, worried, unsure, busy or otherwise deterred from doing? (Bonus: will you do it?)
Coulda, shoulda, woulda. Whatever.

Now if the heart of this question is about procrastination then I'd answer that I'd like to do less avoiding of writing, reading and moving my body around the world with purpose (also known as exercise). But I don't regret one wasted moment this year.

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Best Reads of 2010 List



Inspired by the brilliant AYear in Reading Series on The Millions, I thought I'd make my own list of the reading that captured me most this year.

Best Reads
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters | Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower | Cool Water by Dianne Warren | One Room in a Castle by Karen Connelly | Last Night in Montreal by Emily St John Mandel |

Books I Most Wanted to Read But They Weren't Available on my Kindle (or were ridiculously priced)
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan | The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Sloot | Memento Mori by Muriel Sparks | February by Lisa Moore | The Gang the Wouldn't Write Straight: Wolfe, Thompson, Didion, Capote and the New Journalism Revolution by Marc Weingarten | The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery | Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol.1 by Mark Twain |

Blogs I Discovered (and subsequently fell in love with)
Frances Farmer is My Sister | What Possessed Me | Italics Mine | Isak | Collection A Day | Maud Newton | Notes from Somewhere Bizarre | Style Rookie |  The Rumpus | Samimi Extremie Is Boss | A Lot of Wind |

Favorite Book Related Technology
Although it will never replace the experience of a real book (and I have some issues with quality and book pricing), the Kindle has made it infinitely easier for me to read while traveling | Runner up is without a doubt Instapaper. It has single handedly made me fall in love with reading long from journalism again.

What were your favorite reads and new discoveries from 2010?


Image from Wet Behind the Ears

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Reverb 10 - Lessons Learned, Try and Healing





I'm participating in Reverb10, a daily writing prompt throughout the month of December related to reflecting on the previous year and planning for the next. You can read more about why I'm doing it here. Or read all my Reverb posts here.

Three posts in one today. Efficient or lazy?
Lesson Learned: What was the best thing you learned about yourself this past year? And how will you apply that lesson going forward?
When you spend an entire year traveling, when you have no real home, when all your earthly possessions fit inside one suitcase, when you have no nine to five job or office politics to contend with, when you're relatively healthy, when you learn words in a new language every few month in order to communicate in your new country, when you go from summer to spring to winter and back to summer again in a matter of a few months, when your friends and family are continents away: you learn that you can't blame unhappiness on anything apart from yourself and that it's up to you to deal with the ghosts that follow you across the world. You learn that its okay to be sad one minute and happy the next and that life is always challenging but that there are rewards that you never dreamed were possible. You are reminded that stuff matters very little in life and that you probably didn't need all the dresses, kitchen appliances or Ikea furniture. You learn about self-sufficiency and wonder and loneliness and gratitude.

I will never forget this year or the lessons I've learned. They're a part of me and it would be impossible for me to push forward into the next year without continuing to hold them very close.
Try: What do you want to try next year? Is there something you wanted to try in 2010? What happened when you did / didn’t go for it? 
Eat street food in Vietnam | Visit Halong Bay | Sit on an abandoned tropical beach and swim in the ocean | Write more stories | Go scuba diving | See elephants and monkeys in the wild | Get married | Write more | Read more | Snowboarding or Skiing | Visit Nepal | Spend time at a cabin with no Internet | Develop more technical photography skills | Doodle and draw | Get back into running | Swim. A lot. |

I wanted to do a lot in 2010. I did some of the things I'd hoped - an astonishing number of the things I'd hoped actually. The biggest thing was quitting our jobs, selling our stuff and setting out to travel for a year. It was a bit scary - especially the idea of rootlessness - and entering 2010, I'm not sure if I believed we'd actually do it. But we did and it's been the most transforming experience of my life.
Healing: What healed you this year? Was it sudden, or a drip-by-drip evolution? How would you like to be healed in 2011?
I've had the space and time this year to think about how I feel about things and why and to explore all of this through writing, photography and in a number of other personal ways. I've always been a fast moving person - always planning for the next thing, always thinking, always doing and worrying. This year, with so many variables outside of my control, I been forced into a quieter space. I feel like I'm leaving this year with a much stronger sense of who I am than when I entered it.

As for how I want to be healed in 2011? I'm not great at letting things go and I hold onto bad experiences and hurts for a long time. I'd like to be able to let some of that baggage go and to learn to filter out the negativity much earlier in the process.

Oh, and I'd also like to avoid any kind of bug biting interactions if at all possible. Amen.

Photo by me - Vientiane, Laos River Construction

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Reverb 10 - Friendship


I'm participating in Reverb10, a daily writing prompt throughout the month of December related to reflecting on the previous year and planning for the next. You can read more about why I'm doing it here. Or read all my Reverb posts here.

How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst?
  • My oldest friend Vanessa, who sends me hilarious email updates from her adventures working in the non-profit sector and traveling in South America and Cuba, has taught me that sometimes laughing in the face of intolerable circumstances is the best approach to a problem. 
  • My closest lady friend Jackie teaches me that you don't have to be in the same city (or continent) as someone to keep in touch and let them know that you care. She's also an amazing writer, insightful reader and just about my favorite person to have drinks with. 
  • My newest friends Stacie and Scott teach me how nice it is to have people in your life who take the time to be supportive and encouraging. They are two of the most generous people I've met. 
  • My friend Carrie taught me that I need to do a better job keeping in touch with people who matter to me. We hadn't seen each other in years until this summer and I was struck by how much I missed her.
  • My friend Ali reminds me of the importance of making time for girl dates - particularly if they involve tea and cake. 
  • My mother, who in her 50s found the courage to completely transform her life, teaches me that it's never too late to take back your life and make it wonderful; and her sister, my Auntie Denise, who always manages to send me encouraging notes when I need them the most, reminds me that small acts of kindness can mean an awful lot.
  • Though I haven't seen my friends Miranda and Lindsay for years, the crazy funny Facebook updates about their adventures in higher education make me realize that some friendships can sustain years of distance. If we were ever in the same city, I think we'd have drinks, laugh our faces off and it wouldn't feel like there'd been a gap. 
  • My friend Kate who passed away suddenly this year reminds me to appreciate every fleeting moment of my life. 
  • My friend Gaynor reminds me of how cathartic it is to have a good, long catch up talk. 
  • My friend Michelle teaches me that sometimes the best way to show strength is to have a soft heart and allow yourself to cry until you can't cry anymore. 
  • My friend Crystal reminds me that sometimes, even though it hurts, the only thing left to do is to let go. 
  • My best friend and fiance Dan reminds me that we don't have to enact the same male/female relationships and structures we were raised with. We can do something different and better and we can actually be happy. 
xo


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Reverb 10 - 5 Minutes

I'm participating in Reverb10, a daily writing prompt throughout the month of December related to reflecting on the previous year and planning for the next. You can read more about why I'm doing it here. Or read all my Reverb posts here.
Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010.  
The realization that there are multiple ways to live my life and to not let fear stop me from choosing an unconventional path. 
 What it is like to live in physical discomfort and to use it as a reminder for being empathetic to others who will likely always live their lives feeling hungry, too cold, too hot, sick, bitten by bugs and afraid.

How warm and salty the ocean was in San Blas and how the pelicans flying overhead looked prehistoric.

Our beautiful afternoon in Manly, Australia and how, if I was ever wealthy, I would want a cottage there, overlooking the sea.

Seeing penguins, koalas, kangaroos and wallabies in the wild.

The stunning and solitary drive through the rocky mountains between Whistler and Lake Louise and imagining how hard it must have been for people to build the highway that runs through it.

Paco.

Kate.

Carrie May and Michael's wedding - and all the new and different ways it made me think about marriage.

Playing with my nephew Seth and hearing him talk for the first time.

The freedom and exhilaration I felt on May 1st, as we were leaving London to begin our journey.

My happiness with Dan.

The view from the Tokyo Hyatt at night.

Feeding the wild deer in Nara, Japan.

What it was like living in a house for a month with two kids under the age of three - and the recognition of how hard it must be to deal with that every day.

The sun setting over the Mekong.

Cooking in our impossibly tiny Japanese kitchen in Tokyo.

The Arizona desert and the way the sky looked at night.

The relief of writing a complete short story after a long dry spell.

The Buddhist monks in their bright orange robes, riding around Vientiane in tuk tuks.

Photo of my and a kitten, taken in Vientiane by Dan.


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Mekong Sunset

Last night we sat on a roof top bar and watched the sun set over the Mekong River. I suppose I have pollution to thank for it, but it was stunning.

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Reverb 10 - Appreciate



I'm participating in Reverb10, a daily writing prompt throughout the month of December related to reflecting on the previous year and planning for the next. You can read more about why I'm doing it here. Or read all my Reverb posts here.
What’s the one thing you have come to appreciate most in the past year? How do you express gratitude for it?
The problem with this and so many other questions like this is that it assumes that we can sort our experiences into neat little packages. While the obsessive compulsive in me likes the idea, it's an arbitrary exercise. Life is not like a logic problem in high school and to try to pretend that it is possible to roll the complex, nuanced experiences of our lives into "the one things you have come to appreciate" is kind of ridiculous.

I've had an amazing year and I'm not willing to single out one thing. But here's a sampling:

  • soft sheets
  • the ability to travel the world relatively cheaply
  • laap, vegetable pakora, garlic naan, gyoza, nachos, summer rolls, good cheese and bread, fresh vegetables and fruit, and Trifon's Pizza
  • an internet connection
  • air conditioning
  • the kindness of strangers
  • the love and encouragement of friends and family
  • that my suitcase has wheels
  • that I have the ability to mostly choose the course of my life, unlike millions and millions of other women in the world
  • calamine lotion and tea tree oil 
  • life changing great books like Wells Tower's Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned
  • being able to work on projects I'm excited about with people who respect me
  • not being in a city that is creatively, physically or emotionally stifling
  • bug spray and bug proof lodgings
  • that creative work still fulfills me and that I have the luxury of making time for it
  • relative good health
  • cold beer on hot days
  • overnight flights that don't have screaming babies
  • the smell of a campfire or barbecue
  • Japanese politeness
  • the Mekong River at sunset
  • my partner who is infinitely patient, kind, generous and who brings out the best in me; and who I still like kissing
  • the smell of rain and clean laundry
  • wild horses running down the beach in Mexico
  • strange desert creatures  - like Javalinas  - and the night sky in rural areas of Arizona
  • a quiet, cool, dark room to sleep
  • swimming
  • flushing toilets
  • cool night prairie air
  • people like Maggie Doyne who are saving lives every single say
  • 'magic hour' light
  • the distinct lack of divas in my life at the moment
I express gratitude for these things by trying my best to say 'please' and 'thank you' and by trying to take moments out to breath deeply and recognize how lucky I continue to be.

Photo of me in Vientiane, Laos taken by Dan.


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Reverb 10 - Action

I'm participating in Reverb10, a daily writing prompt throughout the month of December related to reflecting on the previous year and planning for the next. You can read more about why I'm doing it here. Or read all my Reverb posts here.
When it comes to aspirations, it’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen. What’s your next step?
The lovely Friday Films answered this prompt more cleverly and thoughtfully then I could. I totally agree with her. So instead of making more noise over here, just head on over and read her post:
What is this new obsession with ideas and making things happen? When did a nice way of delving into the hearts and minds of regular people turn into a rat race for some hazy, distant prize of...what? I’m still trying to figure this out. Is it money? Fame? Recognition? It’s not enough that we get to live a life largely without constant hunger, pain, grief or hopelessness – we want our big fat future reward too. We want a trophy that will prove to ourselves, and to those around us, that this life of ours really means something.
Photos: Friday and me, last new years. 

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Reverb 10 - Body Integration


I'm participating in Reverb10, a daily writing prompt throughout the month of December related to reflecting on the previous year and planning for the next. You can read more about why I'm doing it here. Or read all my Reverb posts here.
This year, when did you feel the most integrated with your body? Did you have a moment where there wasn’t mind and body, but simply a cohesive YOU, alive and present?
Well, given that I've not yet reached nirvana (cough!) I don't know that I can pin point a moment when I felt like  "a cohesive me, alive and present." Ignoring the poncey assumptions and language in this prompt ... which is hard ... the most integrated I've felt with my body this year was in Mexico. We spent six weeks there during the height of summer in a small, buggy, hot bungalow in San Blas. Bugs were feeding on us day and night, the heat was like being trapped under a wet blanket - with a hot steamer blowing underneath - and the rains were intense, flooding the little road we were located on so that for days we had to wade ankle deep through muddy water to get out of our little compound. I can remember washing out laundry by hand, dripping in sweat; I can remember being itchy; I can remember wanting to take the two hour bus journey to Tepic just because it was air conditioned and despite the motion sickness the bad roads would cause, at least I would feel cool for a few hours. I remember not being able to properly fall asleep until sunrise because I was so afraid of the giant spiders, millipedes and cockroaches crawling on me in the darkness. And I remember the few wonderful nights when the wind would pick up and cooler breeze would come in off the sea, and we would lay there on top of our sheets, feeling finally, mercilessly like we weren't crawling out of our skin.

It sounds horrible but it was actually wonderful to be so present, to have my anxieties reduced to worrying about the heat, my bad stomach and the bugs. I could sense the slightest breeze picking up, the most subtle drop or rise in temperature ... I was grateful when an itchy mosquito bite would suddenly feel cool under the tea tree oil I'd applied. Although I would never want to experience it again, I recognize that the luxuries of my life are designed to keep me apart from physical experiences. I put up barriers between myself and discomfort and sickness so that I can ignore my physicality.

I would be reluctant to trade away my physical comforts, but I learned a lot about myself during those long hot weeks in San Blas.

Image: San Blas Palm Trees by me.

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Reverb 10 - 11 Things

I'm participating in Reverb10, a daily writing prompt throughout the month of December related to reflecting on the previous year and planning for the next. You can read more about why I'm doing it here. Or read all my Reverb posts here.
What are 11 things your life doesn’t need in 2011? How will you go about eliminating them? How will getting rid of these 11 things change your life? 
1. Passive aggressive behavior. Seriously, let's call shit out rather than beat around the bush. Things are much simpler that way.  
2. Bug bites. Something about me is like sweet candy to all flesh eating insects. Given that I'm likely spending the next five months in tropical (read: buggy) South East Asia, it might be hard to eliminate this without destroying the ecosystem of the region, but I do intend to invest heavily in DEET.  
3. Excessive procrastination. I don't know why I'm so tempted to put off doing things that I love. Like writing. I've got dozens of story ideas swimming around in my head and while I note them down, I rarely make the necessary time to actually write. I don't know why I'm so inclined to do this but I am going to try schedule time in to do the things that matter to me as I've realized that I work best with a bit of structure. 
4. Doing work that I don't love. Yes, there are bills to be paid (or guesthouse rooms to be rented in our case) but I've been lucky this year. I've found that it is possible to achieve a really lovely balance between doing the things I'm passionate about and getting paid for it. We spend so much of our lives working - I want to do work that motivates me with people who are excited and talented. Whether I'm working in a bakery or continuing with the web consulting work I've been doing, I vow to love it or leave it.  
5. Frenemies and people who make me feel sad, inadequate or overly competitive. This year I'm going to invest more time taking care of the relationships that are encouraging, positive and mutual and a bit less time worrying about the other people. I wish them well, but I am also officially letting them go.  
6. My addiction to technology and obsession with always being connected. As I wrote about here, I love technology and as someone who is location independent I rely on it to keep in touch with friends, family and clients. But I want to do a better job of managing the time I devote to it so that I feel more in control and less like I'm obsessed.  
7. Physical lethargy. Although I've done and seen more this year then in any other year of my life, I've felt physically quite tired and rather unmotivated to move my body. I live in my head and I have trouble pulling myself out to go for a run, do yoga, or swim. I've been healthy and have had no more than one cold all year, but I feel tired and my muscles are tense from not being used enough. I want to use this body more.  
8. People pleasing. It's not that I don't want to make people happy in 2011, but I want to stop worrying about making people happy.  
9. The intense desire to control 'what's next'. I've gotten better in this regard during 2010 in part because when traveling you quickly learn that there are a number of things you can do absolutely nothing about. The bus might be late, the tuk tuk driver might rip you off, the dinner your received may not be the one your ordered, the mosquitos swarm, the temperature rises and falls, lightening may or may not strike the small house you're living in ... In my childhood home everything - every single detail of every moment - was planned and I've carried some of that tendency into my adult life. I want to continue to work on letting go a bit more and accept that the world will not end when things don't go as planned.  
10. Stress and worrying. From September until about two weeks ago, we were intensely busy with freelance projects and although we balanced everything and came out in a really good place, I found myself feeling intense panic on occasion. It usually came on most abruptly when I would go to bed - instead of sleeping, my heart would pump and I would consider every possible outcome until I felt like I couldn't breath. This is a new development for me - I've always been someone who thrived under stress, particularly work-related stress. But I'm aware of my family history of stress disorders and am determined to keep a better handle on these symptoms if and when they arise, and to deal with them accordingly.  
11. Soda. I shall not drink Pepsi Next, Fanta or Sprite. It's bad for me. I must stop. 
Image by me, Kamakura, Japan


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Wild Geese



You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

By Mary Oliver

Image by me, taken with my Holga in Toronto's Eaton Centre

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Reverb 10 - Wisdom

I'm participating in Reverb10, a daily writing prompt throughout the month of December related to reflecting on the previous year and planning for the next. You can read more about why I'm doing it here. Or read all my Reverb posts here.

(I've skipped prompts December 7th through 9th because I've been in transit from Osaka, Japan to Vientiane, Laos and I'm busy and mostly because I can.)

December 10th Prompt - Wisdom
Wisdom. Wisdom. What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out?
Hands down. This year I decided to quit my full time job to travel around the world and let life take me somewhere I couldn't possibly have planned for. I am currently sitting in a lovely guesthouse in Vientiane, Laos - a city of strange contradictions - and I don't regret one single moment of the last six and a half months*. How many people can say that?

* Okay, I do regret going outside three nights ago without bug spray on.

Strange photo by me, originally posted on my now mostly defunct Lost and Looking website. 

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Reverb 10 - Make

I'm participating in Reverb10, a daily writing prompt throughout the month of December related to reflecting on the previous year and planning for the next. You can read more about why I'm doing it here. Or read all my Reverb posts here.


December 6th Prompt - Make
What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it?
I am always making things - there's almost always a short story or an essay half written or just completed (whatever that means). I get to make interesting web projects as part of my job, I constantly make photographs and recently I even made a pillow case into a dress.

If I want to make something bad enough, I generally clear time for it.

Super 8 Girl image, by me. 

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Reverb 10 - Let Go

I'm participating in Reverb10, a daily writing prompt throughout the month of December related to reflecting on the previous year and planning for the next. You can read more about why I'm doing it here. Or read all my Reverb posts here.

December 5th Prompt - Let Go

What or whom did you let go of this year? Why?
Since taking on a location independent life, where we are traveling to a new place every month or so, I feel like I've let go of a lot of things. By necessity I've gotten rid of most of my 'stuff' and can now fit almost everything I own into one standard size suitcase. Although I still consider London my home base, in some ways I feel like we're homeless - we've learned to adapt to new cities, new beds, new surroundings, new social rules in a way that I would never have believed myself capable of.

Stripping away everything has also forced me to get rid of excuses. I am living this amazing traveling life and if I'm not happy, there's very little I can blame it on but myself so I'm forced to be a lot more self-reflective than I used to be.

Finally, I've let go of the idea that I have to be anyone other than who I am. Some people aren't going to like me and I'm pretty okay with that these days. I've also learned that sometimes friendships run their course and by letting go of old relationships, I'm not devaluing them or what they meant to me, just recognizing that not everything was meant to last forever.

Photo by me, taken in Yoyogi Park, Tokyo, Japan

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Reverb 10 - Wonder



I'm participating in Reverb10, a daily writing prompt throughout the month of December related to reflecting on the previous year and planning for the next. You can read more about why I'm doing it here.


December 4th Prompt - Wonder
How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?
In some ways this entire year has been about creating opportunities for wonder. Feeling weighed down by a life that was not fulfilling me, we changed everything, risked everything, sold our stuff, and set out for a year of travel and exploring the world.

Now half way through our adventure, we've explored the deserts of Arizona; drank too much under the Vegas fluorescents; been eaten by bugs and stung by jelly fish in a sleepy sea-side Mexican town; wandered the cobbled streets of Puerto Vallarta; spent a glorious month in Vancouver; drove through the mountains from Vancouver to Saskatchewan; explored Sydney, Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road; and have spent the last two months falling in love with the strangeness of Japan. Every new place brings with it a sense of being lost woven with an overwhelming sense of amazement. There have been countless moments where I've the words "Look at where I am!" surprise and root me to the place and moment and for a short time I am completely and happily where I am.

The image above was taken in Wilson's Promontory in Australia. The water is brown because there is a plant in it that actually turns the fresh water to tea. Yes, tea! I think that's wonderful.

Photo by me, taken in Wilson's Promontory, Australia

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Reverb 10 - Moment

I'm participating in Reverb10, a daily writing prompt throughout the month of December related to reflecting on the previous year and planning for the next. You can read more about why I'm doing it here.


December 3rd Prompt - Moment
Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).
Early on the morning of May 1st, Dan and I strapped on our backpacks, did one final walk through around our London flat and locked the door for the last time. It was a beautiful, bright spring morning in London and everything looked and smelled clean because the night before it had absolutely poured. We'd gotten stuck in the storm on our way home from seeing a movie; as we ran the few blocks from the cinema to our flat, jumping over puddles, getting absolutely soaked, I remember feeling the weight that had become permanently wedged in the pit of my stomach begin to lighten and it occurred to me that the biggest thing I had to worry about was how I was going to get our clothes dry enough to pack before we left to catch our flight in the morning.

For the first time in our lives, we were almost completely unencumbered, on the brink of a year of travel and possibility. My gigantic 80 liter backpack was heavy and I was tired - we'd slept on the floor the night before and because of that and the buzz of anticipation, neither of us slept particularly well. As we walked towards the underground station near our house (the same one we'd used for our daily commute to work) to go to Heathrow airport, I felt something nearing pure hope. The train was almost empty because it was early on a Saturday morning and I tried to soak up the smells and sounds of the life I was leaving behind. I can remember us making an audio tape of the noises of the train as a way of bringing a little piece of London with us, and I held Dan's hand.

Photo by Dan, taken at Kawagoe, Japan

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Reverb 10 - Writing

I'm participating in Reverb10, a daily writing prompt throughout the month of December related to reflecting on the previous year and planning for the next. You can read more about why I'm doing it here.


December 2nd Prompt - Writing 
Writing. What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it? 
I spend way to much time getting distracted by the noise of the Internet: Facebook, Twitter, email, my RSS feeder. Recently I wrote about some measures I'm taking to deal with some of these distractions and it's going alright - though I still check the RSS way too often.

It's challenging to eliminate these distractions altogether because I work in the web space and because I'm location independent and the web is also where I do most of my networking and where I keep in touch with loved ones. But I can do a better job of managing the amount of time I'm spending there so that it's less of a compulsion.

On December 10th Dan and I are heading into South East Asia for three and a half months - starting with Vientiane, Laos, then Hanoi, Vietnam and then Chiang Mai and other parts of Thailand. Although I need a certain amount of access to the Internet to work, I am genuinely hoping to try and schedule one or two days a week where it's mostly inaccessible to me so that I can try to find my way into a deeper practice of writing and thinking. We are also looking at renting some remote accommodations, which I'm hoping to be able to use as a retreat of sorts.

Image by me, Imperial Palace Grounds, Tokyo, Japan

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Reverb 10 - One Word



I'm participating in Reverb10, a daily writing prompt throughout the month of December related to reflecting on the previous year and planning for the next. You can read more about why I'm doing it here

December 1st Prompt - One Word
Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you?
My word for 2010 is: flux. Flux because it encapsulates not just 'change' in a calm, easy way but also the struggle inherent in change - the acknowledgment that it can be hard. Flux is also appropriate because it doesn't imply complete control; although I've made a lot of conscious decisions this year about travel and career, I've come to realize that I can't plan or control every detail of my life (though I do try!). Synonyms for flux include: flow, to purge, to make fluid. While many people my age are working hard at making their lives more tangible, for me this year has been about deconstructing what I think I should want and allowing myself to move into something that actually leaves me feeling fulfilled.

My word for 2011 is: reconcile. In many ways I'm living the life that I want but I still feel this tug towards the past and I know I'm holding onto things that it would be better to let go of: certain anxieties, self-doubt, friendships that may have run their course and to some extent anger about unkindnesses and slights. I want to work on putting some of those feelings to bed to make room for better things - more travel, more creativity, and more space to give attention to the people in my life who are supportive, generous and challenging in all the right ways.

Photo by me, Kamakura, Japan

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Tying Up Loose Ends and Planning for a New Year


Making New Years resolutions can feel a bit cliche and forced. If you need to do something, why wait until New Years to do it? How many of us make these resolutions every year only to forget about them by the end of the first week in January? 

Despite this, I think there's something to be said about the importance of creating routines or rituals that can tie up loose ends and help us to move forward. I like scheduling in times to take account of where I am with my life and what I've been doing recently that either adds to or detracts from my happiness. Didn't someone wise say something about madness being the process of doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different outcomes (anyone know who said it?). How can we really know if we're caught up in same patterns without some reflection? We do this in business all the time - review our annual results and then set achievable and tangible goals for the next year - so why does it seem so silly to devote the same amount of space and time to do it in our personal lives? 

This brings me to Reverb10, which I found through one of my favorite bloggers Susannah Conway. The idea is that every day in the month of December you get a prompt that makes you think about how the previous year went and to try and nail down where you want your path to go over the next twelve months. I like the idea of a structured accounting of where I am, especially because this year has been so full of change for me. I'm a few days behind, but I'm going to be posting these daily here (or at least for as long as I have an Internet connection - not sure how reliable the wifi is in Laos, which is where we're heading to next). 

If any of you are participating in Reverb10, please let me know. I'd love to read your entries if you're making them public. 

Image by me taken in Kamakura, Japan


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I Hope This Gets to You



The story: a girl moves across the country for grad school and her boyfriend writes her this song and makes this video for her. But he isn't going to tell her about it, he's going to see if by the magic of the internet and serendipity, it will find it's way to her.

My inner cynic tells me this is just a marketing ploy and that the quality of the video and track mean that we're going to shortly find out that Sony is behind it or that it's the new theme song for Toyota or something. But I'm going to turn that off for a few minutes and pretend that this guy might really be trying to do something sweet for someone he loves with no other self-serving force motivating him.

And if my inner cynic is right and this is all about making something viral, well, at least the song is good.

x

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