With one day left to go in 2014, I have been relishing the chance to slow down and reflect. The last few months have been a whirlwind of activity and I really haven’t had a chance to just stop and think. At all.
Last January I wrote about 2014 being a year of yes and living in the moment. I pledged to stop looking ahead constantly and to continue saying yes to opportunities as they arise. I also had some more conventional resolutions: to lose weight, to read one book a month, to do yoga daily and to save more money. While I did read a few books and did yoga at least a few times a week, those other resolutions fell by the wayside.
Overall, it was kind of a weird year– and a physically difficult year. Last winter in Chicago was unbearable, even for a Minnesota native (may I never hear the words “polar vortex” again!). Somehow, I managed to train for the Georgia Marathon despite the never ending cold and snow, but it wasn’t at an optimal level (I even did a very frozen half marathon in January!). I limped my way across the finish line in Atlanta after more than five hours – my slowest marathon time since my first one back in 2008. My hip flexor hurt, my knee hurt, my calf hurt. But being the stubborn person that I am, I jumped right back into training for my Grand Canyon hike and leading a pace group with Chicago Endurance Sports. At some point in late April, I ran nine miles and that would be the longest I would run the rest of 2014.
My rim-to-rim Grand Canyon hike over Memorial Day weekend was amazing and left me longing to spend more time exploring the natural beauty of the United States. More hikes are definitely in store for 2015! On the downside, I broke my big toe the second day of the hike. While it didn’t affect me too much while hiking out of the Canyon, it did force me to stop running for a month afterwards.
In mid-July, I headed home to Minnesota for my 20th high school reunion. It was bittersweet, as it was great to reconnect with old friends and realize we can pick up where we left off more than a decade ago. But it also brought back old insecurities and some not-so-great memories – all of which I would like to keep in the past.
September kicked off an incredibly busy four months. I spent my 38th birthday in Bulgaria, a country that I would love to explore some more. That week-long trip also gave me the chance to reflect on travel and life a bit, which led to me taking a step back from travel writing and blogging and pledging to myself to throw myself more whole-heartedly into my life in Chicago.
That would be great, but I didn’t really do it. Instead, I delved into a big project at work that took up almost all of my free time in September and October. I spent a weekend in New York speaking at a Meet, Plan, Go event and went to Washington, DC for work and then stayed through the weekend to see friends. I also hosted an exchange fellow from Tbilisi, Georgia for a month. At the same time, I developed Achilles tendinitis that derailed my plans to run the Madison Half Marathon in early November. That led to a doctor-ordered rest period of pretty much no physical activity from mid-October to after I returned from my trip to West Africa in early December. Hello, an extra ten pounds!
I spent Thanksgiving in Mali after visiting the schools that Passports with Purpose partnered with buildOn to build last year and then spent a week in Burkina Faso before heading back to chilly Chicago (more on that coming soon!). My time in Africa was incredible and eye-opening and definitely gave me the travel bug again – visions of taking a year off to travel overland throughout the continent were flashing through my head by the time I left! And of course, when I returned, I was subject to two weeks of monitoring due to the presence of Ebola in Mali.
As I look ahead to 2015, I hope it will be a year of bouncing back and moving forward. More on that later, but for now, I’ll leave you with some of my favorite pictures from 2014:
How was your 2014? What were your highlights?