Ok, so I may be a little late in getting this end of year review up, but I at least made it with a few hours to spare, right? Unless you’re reading this from Australia – then I guess I’m really overdue!
2010 was a bit of a rollercoaster. The first few months flew by quite quickly. To be honest, nothing really stands out aside from many dark evenings and many weekend mornings spent running in the wind and snow along the lakefront, training for the Minneapolis Marathon (held the first weekend in June). Since late May/early June, though, there’s been a lot going on. Here’s a look:
This has been a big theme since I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease at the end of May. After one last night out at D’Agostino’s for beer and pizza, I had to give up eating any foods containing gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Gluten is found in more things than you would think, so it hasn’t been easy. I pretty much can’t eat anything unless I prepare it myself or interrogate the person who did prepare it. This has made dining out or at friends’ houses much more difficult. Despite an increase in the number of restaurants offering gluten-free menus, many don’t take the necessary precautions to ensure that the food they serve doesn’t contain any gluten, so gluten-free doesn’t always mean gluten-free.
On the positive side, I continued running and did not one, but two marathons this year! I ran the Minneapolis Marathon in early June, which surprised me with the number and size of the hills on the course, but it was great to be able to run in front of my parents and to have my friend Mindy to meet up with at the end. In October, I ran the Chicago Marathon for the 3rd (and likely last) time. The weather did not cooperate and temperatures that soared above 80 degrees meant that I came nowhere close to hitting my goal time, which was a huge disappointment for me. I am quite competitive and, frankly, worked my butt off all summer to reach a certain goal time. When it became clear by the halfway point that I wasn’t going to get there, I came very close to quitting. But, knowing that friends and family had donated over $1,000 to the American Cancer Society in support of me running, I couldn’t give up. I was miserable, but I finished and I’m proud that I did.
Finally, in October and November, I embarked on a 30-day “unprocessed food” challenge – eating only unprocessed foods for a full month. It was easier than I thought it would be and I felt great. While I fell back into some bad habits over the holidays, I’m planning to go back to unprocessed starting January 1 and hopefully make it a permanent lifestyle change.
You won’t find me writing a lot about my professional life on my blog – in part because I like to just keep some things more private and in part because I have no idea who is reading this! Anyway, after three years of working in alumni relations at a university, I was promoted in July to do major gift fundraising. This was the next natural step in the career path that is university development/advancement and I was getting a bit burnt out on event planning, so it was a good change. On the downside, I have spent a lot of time the last few months not only learning a new job but also training my replacement in my old position. Taking a vacation was a no-no until the holidays finally rolled around.
I started 2010 with a big pledge to myself to get my finances in order and I think I have been fairly successful. I paid off my one credit card with a balance in June and have not carried a balance since. I switched bank accounts to Capital One, where I earn more interest and get my ATM fees refunded to me. When I do travel overseas, Capital One also doesn’t charge foreign currency fees – big bonus! I also started tracking every single expense I have and identified a lot of areas where I could cut back on spending – no more land line, magazines or cable TV (I can see almost anything I want for free online anyway) and no more daily Diet Cokes or vending machine snacks. I also set up direct deposit from my paycheck to my savings account – it’s been fun to finally see that balance start to grow!
This has been a tough year for my social life. I was definitely thrown for a loop by my Celiac diagnosis and for quite a while lost any desire to go out. My favorite summer pastime, going to Chicago street festivals, lost most of its luster as the drink of choice is typically beer, which I can no longer drink. I also dreaded having to explain myself over and over again (it’s amazing how concerned people can be with what other people eat and drink!). At the same time, I was making a conscious choice to cut back on my spending, which included not spending as much going out. I have found some friends to be very supportive on both fronts, but others not so much.
Added to that is I am finally to a point where I don’t feel the constant pressure to go out. When I first moved to Chicago, I felt like a huge loser if I didn’t have plans for a Friday night. Now, I just enjoy the time to myself to read a book or work on my blog or just watch What Not to Wear. And I don’t worry any more about being judged because I don’t have crazy plans for the weekend.
All that being said, I do hope to pick things up on the social front in 2011. I’m over my anxiety about eating out gluten free and, while I still need to keep my expenses down, I think I can do so and still enjoy a good social life – it’s just a matter of balance. More importantly, I’ve realized that I’ve been feeling some of my friendships starting to strain and I don’t want to lose those relationships that are so important to me. And of course, I still need to find my Mr. Right, which likely isn’t going to happen while I’m sitting on my couch on a Saturday night! (just kidding…well, maybe not totally kidding…)
For the first time in a long time, I did not take a major trip abroad in 2010. In fact, I think I spent a grand total of about three and a half days overseas. There were two major reasons for this. One, with my new promotion, I just didn’t feel like I could take a major vacation. Two, I was really focused on trying to get my finances in order and decided to forgo anything major this year in hopes of having more money to do something bigger down the road.
However, I did squeeze in a quick, whirlwind, initially unplanned trip to London in June for Wimbledon. I have dreamed of going to Wimbledon since I was a teenager so when I got an email in April telling me I had finally been selected in the ticket lottery to purchase Centre Court tickets, I couldn’t turn that down. I found the cheapest flight possible ($725 roundtrip, connecting through Dublin) and stayed with a friend who conveniently lived within walking distance of Wimbledon. You can read about the whole experience here, but I can seriously say it was one of the highlights of my life.
Looking ahead to 2011, I hope to have some big travel plans to share soon, but not quite yet…
Blogging and Other Projects
2010 was also a big year of trying new things. With an eye toward an eventual trip to Russia, I started Russian lessons last spring (I studied the language for 3 years in college but haven’t retained much). I thought I lucked out when my group class quickly came down to just me, but the instructor (and older gentleman from Belarus) turned out to give me the creeps, so I didn’t even finish my full session. I’m planning to work on it more on my own in the coming year.
I also started volunteering this fall, signing up to tutor English as a Second Language through an organization called Literacy Chicago. I have been paired with a woman from South Korea and so far, so good – at least I think she’s learning something (I hope!). I also volunteered for a mock interview program through Upwardly Global, an organization that aims to prepare professional immigrants in the United States to find jobs in their fields here in the U.S. I hope to get more involved with them next year as well.
Last, but certainly not least, is this blog. I started it on WordPress last February and then went ahead and got a domain name and signed up for a hosting service the day before by 34th birthday in August. I had several reasons behind starting it. For one, I wanted to have a single place to share all of my travel stories. I have kept journals on most of my trips in the past – some on Travelblog.org and some just in my own notebook or computer. This site is a way to bring all of that together. Second, going forward, I wanted to have an easy way to share future trips, not just with my friends and family, but hopefully with others interested in the same destinations. When I am planning a trip, I love to read about what others have seen and done there – I’m assuming I’m not alone in that! Third, I see it as a way to share my love of travel and hopefully inspire and encourage others, especially those similar to me. While I have never lived abroad or traveled long-term like a lot of travel bloggers, I think I have taken the route that most Americans do – using my vacation time the best I can to see as much as I can.
So there you have it – the rollercoaster that was 2010 for me! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading so far and I hope you’ll stay tuned for more in 2011. Happy New Year!