I hope you all had a great Nouvel An, and I hope you’re all geared up for what 2020 (and the new decade) has to bring for us. As it has been for the past now-four years on this blog, I dedicate a post each January to a review of the previous year. This year is no exception, as I’ll be recounting the travels and adventures I did in 2019.
2019 was a year of extremes. All of my travels were concentrated in the first half of the year (January to July), while the rest of the year (August to December) had none at all. This was because I was still in France for the first half of 2019, and upon leaving for good in July, I returned to the US where I got a new job, and I’ve been working since then. Unlike my teaching gig in France, my job back home is what you would consider a “normal” job, as in regular hours and pay, along with less paid time off.
Along with extremes with travel, I also experienced a lot of highs and lows. I was very happy during my trips around Europe, but at the same time, there was the lingering sense of dread that it would all be over soon. My work contract was coming to an end, and I would be unemployed. Not only that, but I also was dealing with personal family issues, which required me to return to the US earlier than anticipated. The second half of the year was filled with a lot of stress, anxiety, and sadness– while it’s better now, I’m still in the process of recovering from it all.
In any case, I’m glad that I got to do a lot of travel this year. While it might not be as crazy as it was in 2016 and 2018, I’m impressed at how much I managed to do, especially in a shorter time frame. I hit 11 new countries within six to seven months, and I saw so much beauty in the places I visited. Although I’m sad that I’m not traveling extensively anymore, the adventures I had abroad have inspired me to work hard, save up, and travel once more.
That said, I’m giving you a breakdown month-by-month of my travels in 2019. This will be a long one, so sit back, have a cup of coffee or tea, and enjoy!
2019: A Year in Review
My family and I started 2019 with a bang– we took a two-week cruise along the coast of Mexico before heading in and around the Panama Canal, with stops at Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia along the way. It was my first time visiting Mexico and the Central American countries, as well as Colombia. Weather was warm and beautiful in the wintry month, and it was a fun time before I had to return to France later in the month for my second semester of lectrice teaching.
I started my spring semester of teaching, and I was about three weeks in before les vacances d’hiver arrived. Soon enough, I was off to Romania for a week; it was my first time in the country, and I didn’t expect to be blown away by just how much I enjoyed it. Romania was absolutely stunning, with hilly landscapes, charming Old Town architecture, cheap and delicious food, and friendly people. It has since become my number-one favorite country I’ve visited in Europe, and I highly encourage anyone to go.
March is my birthday month, but I spent most of it super busy teaching. Lots of classroom instruction, lots of testing and grading to be done. I was putting too much on my plate, and I was on my way to burn-out. It was to the point that, even when I took a long weekend to celebrate my birthday in Paris, I still ended up doing grading then! Regardless, though, I had a good time back in one of my favorite French cities, and I rung in my 26th year in happiness.
Les vacances de printemps came, and I spent a short, three-night getaway in Milan. Even after living in the Lyon for nearly two years (and with Milan only a few hours away by train), I finally got around to visiting the fashionable Italian city. I also spent an intense, packed day in Lake Como, where I took in the jaw-dropping beauty of the azure lakes and snowy Alps. Rounded off my Italian weekend getaway with Bergamo, and it was soon back to France to finish off the rest of my semester.
I was officially done with my semester during the first week of May– that, and I was done with my lectrice contract. Technically, I would still get paid until the end of August, so I still had expendable income to fund my travels for the next two-and-a-half months, which was exactly what I did. I spent May heading east of Europe, first visiting Warsaw before crossing over to the Baltic countries of Lithuania and Latvia.
It was then a skip over to the country of Georgia, probably the most far-east I’ve gone in Europe: the week-long visit was incredibly enriching, as I learned about its rough past, met super-hospitable people, and had plenty of delicious Georgian food to boot. It was one of the most-memorable trips I had in 2019, that’s for sure!
The month of June was also a packed month of travel. I began with Turkey with a friend, and we spent a whirlwind of 10 days going all over the highlights of the country (Istanbul, Cappadocia, Pamukkale, Ephesus…). Stunning architecture, and we ate our entire weight in incredible Turkish food (and tea!).
I returned to France for a total of 48 hours before I then headed solo to Madrid where I revisited the Spanish capital and also did a few day trips there. I hit the Basque Country afterwards (Bilbao, San Sebastian) before hopping back to France where I revisited my friend in Toulouse and did day trips there as well. Posts on my trips to Spain and southwest France will be trickling in later this month!
July was the very last month of travel that I did in 2019. In fact, my trips were focused in the first two weeks, as I left France in the middle of the month. I spent a week in the south of France visiting my friend in Avignon, as well as taking numerous day trips around Provence (including the gorgeous lavender fields).
I returned to my flat in the Lyon region, where I moved out and took myself to Paris once more. It would be my last stop before I returned home to the US for good, and I was there to celebrate le 14 juillet fireworks in five years. A bittersweet, but beautiful ending to my four years abroad.
I ended up having a weird month in August. It’s something that I’d rather not talk about on this particular blog, but basically, it’s something that affected me negatively, and it put me in a funk until the end of October. Not only that, but I was also missing France while trying to get readjusted to life back in the US. Reverse culture shock was absolutely rough, and it took me about three months to get back to any sense of normalcy here. Technically, I spent a night in Santa Barbara as “travel,” but otherwise, that was about it.
Job hunt stress, which really had been going on since May, carried into September. Applying to easily 100 jobs and receiving only a handful of interviews and no job offers was putting a damper on my morale, as I spent most of my time at home with family, exercising, and otherwise browsing the Internet all day.
I was probably at my lowest point in September, but despite being unhappy, I did my best to keep myself active: I continued to work out and run every day, and I read up on politics, philosophy, and social issues to stimulate my brain. While unemployment sucked, it also came with a lot of free time to pursue my interests and try new things.
October was the transition month, in which a job I’d interviewed for in late-September came into fruition: I was given the offer to work at the airport, and I took the job. Much of the month was spent on job training and background checks, and I officially started my first day on Halloween. Getting a job made a huge difference in my mood and confidence, as I was no longer stressed about being unemployed and had something to do while getting paid for it.
Thanksgiving month was filled with work at my new job, as I was getting the hang of what I was to be doing. I was still learning and getting readjusted to a regular work schedule, so I didn’t have as much free time as I had in September and October anymore. I did, however, spend the last day of November at a “Friendsgiving” party, where I ate, drank, and enjoyed the company of my friends.
I continued to work at my airport job, and I also took up a second job in the second half of the month. The second job is only temporary, but it’s a government position that I hope can bolster my chances of getting into a full-time gig in the sector, which is what I plan to do. I started in mid-December, and this job will take me until February– along with juggling my airport job, I won’t have much of a life for a couple of months, but I’ll have more money and get experience for future job prospects down the line.
The last month of 2019 was difficult. Not just with balancing two jobs, but also in personal life: I experienced a death in the family just after Christmas, and I ended 2019 in a somber state. At the same time, though, it was quiet and peaceful when I was at home, as I spent my free moments with family and counted my blessings for what I had in life…
That’s my year in review! Once again, a lot happened in 2019. This past year was, to be honest, a pretty difficult one, as I experienced lots of major events: leaving France, a career change, death in the family… I would say that it’s not been the best year for me, to be honest. Yet, despite these hardships, I managed to live through it, and I believe that they’ve made me stronger. With this new strength, I hope to venture into a new year, a new decade, with force and confidence in spite of the difficulties. I want to try new things, see new places, and I’ll work hard at my job to save up and make it all happen. Let’s see where this year goes!
Thanks for reading, and more coming on the way! Take care.