I hope you’re enjoying the new year (and new decade!) so far. A couple of weeks ago, I read a post from Clazz of An Orcadian Abroad in which she recounts her years of travel and personal growth throughout the 2010’s. I was especially moved by her story of her shop business and exploring the world, and I’ve been inspired to do the same with my travel experiences, too!
The 2010’s were very formative years for me. I started the decade on the brink of adulthood before ending in my now mid-twenties. Much of the first half of the decade was still spent in school, but I still had the opportunities to travel during school breaks with my family and friends. It wasn’t until 2015 and onward that I traveled extensively, and that’s where the bulk of my travel posts on this blog comes from.
In some ways, I’ve changed a lot and not so much. I’ve always been a very shy and introverted person, and to this day, I’ve remained the same. But I will say that I’m much more self-assured and clearer about my life goals: I’ve become more assertive, especially after spending so much of my late teens to early twenties trying to please people, instead of pleasing myself. Things don’t faze me as much anymore, thanks to experiencing hardships in French immigration, difficult clients and students, and annoying traffic in Los Angeles. I’m more realistic, independent, and confident: I’m not as afraid to talk to people, and I enjoy more the things I can do on my own time as an adult.
I’d spent all of my childhood until 22 living in the bubble of Los Angeles, and it wasn’t until I moved away to France for a few years that I expanded beyond my knowledge not just of Californian culture, but also that of the US. Living in France for four years gave me a very different perspective on cultures and people, and experiencing both culture and reverse culture shocks between the two countries has given me a lot to think about with all types of people in the world. Open-mindedness was a product of my time spent overseas, along with the intense travel that came along with it. Seeing many different countries, and making friends from all nationalities was a rewarding experience that I wouldn’t change for the world (literally).
That said, I will break down the travels I’ve done year by year in this post, as means of sharing with you what I’ve done throughout the 2010’s, and to serve as a reminder for me and just how far I’ve come. To reminisce is to be inspired for the future, and I’m excited for what the 2020’s have to offer in travel and personal growth. Enjoy!
A Decade of Travel: My Experiences
I was in my junior and senior years of high school. It was pretty stressful in the beginning of the year, as I was preoccupied with preparing for AP exams, looking into colleges, and overall getting good grades. My family and I did a “college road trip” in the summer to different schools in California, from San Diego to the Bay area. Not only did I check out a ton of prospective colleges, but I also got to enjoy the wide variety of beauty of my home state.
My 2010 ended with finishing my last race for cross-country (a bittersweet send-off after four years; the sport really shaped me in high school, and I still enjoy running to this day), applied to colleges, and tried to enjoy my final year with friends. Although I was still a young and insecured teenager, I felt more at peace that I would get into a good school, and that I would graduate high school with solid grades.
High school graduation was in June, and I wasted no time traveling internationally with my family to China afterwards. We’d gone two years prior, and we would be visiting different spots in the massive country: Shanghai, Wuzhen, Suzhou, etc. It was a hot and humid summer, and we saw a lot of natural and architectural sites before hopping to Taiwan to see family. It was a culturally-enriching trip, as I was able to see my ancestral roots first-handed.
I began my first year of college in September; I spent the first quarter getting adjusted to being away from home, doing well in classes, and trying to make friends. Admittedly, it was low-key difficult, as I was working through my extreme shyness and anxiety in interacting with people, which is something that I still am in the process of working through to this day. Things have gotten a lot better since then, though!
Ended my first year of college, and I went with my family for our “annual vacation,” this time to Scandinavia in the summer. It’d been six years since our last trip to Europe, and this time, we were heading north. From Copenhagen to Saint Petersburg, we spent two weeks cruising along the Baltic Sea and seeing more of what the continent has to offer.
I returned for my second year of college. I continued working hard in school, and I admit I spent the year (along with my first year) rather hermetic, just studying and trying to get through my science major. I was really struggling in my biology and chemistry classes, and I was starting to doubt whether the science major career was the right fit for me.
2013 was one of my least-favorite years of the decade. I discovered that I had cartilage deterioration in my knees, caused by self-infliction (i.e. over-training in running), a cancer diagnosis in my family, and a mid-college crisis with my major. The stress was too much, and I ended up having a breakdown in the middle of Physics class. After much reflection, I ended up making the switch to English, as I realized that science was not for me. I finished my second year slightly happier in my studies and mental state.
I didn’t travel a lot in the year, as I only did a brief trip in the summer with my family back to central California. We checked out the “Little Copenhagen” town of Solvang, before returning to the beach town of Cambria, which is one of my favorite places in California, let alone the US. Considering that I was too preoccupied with a lot of not-so-great events happening around me, it was wise that I didn’t travel too much in 2013, so as to have time to take care of myself.
I started my third year of college with my new English major, as well as officially making French my minor and taking on a second minor in Society and Genetics. I enjoyed my studies more, and I played catch-up with “college social life” by joining more clubs and making new friends along the way. Also took the leap and got a tattoo for my 21st birthday, which I still cherish to this day.
Spring Break was spent back in Cambria, as well as a scenic trip along the 17-Mile Drive. I went to Paris for the first time in the summer for Study Abroad, and that was when I really got into French culture and travel. There were plenty of moments outside of class where I went out on my own to explore the City of Lights, and the time spent there inspired me to return to France sometime again.
Right before starting my final year of college, I went with my family for a week-and-a-half to Florida and the Caribbeans. We got our fill of Universal Studios in Orlando, as well as the tropical beauty of Saint Martin and Turks & Caicos. Also did winter break in Taiwan, where we rang in 2015 in Taipei. It was a good amount of travel throughout the year, and it would foreshadow what I would be doing in the next five years after that.
My final year of college was pretty tranquil, as I just finishing up class credits for graduation. I continued to stay active in clubs on-campus, as well as figuring out my next steps following graduation. I applied to TAPIF and an internship at a New York publishing house as my “future jobs:” I got accepted into TAPIF, but not the internship, so evidently, I went with the former. Things would’ve been very different if I’d gotten into and chosen the publishing internship in New York– I probably wouldn’t have been able to be where I am today!
2015 marked my first year of extensive travel. I started with a Spring Break conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico before returning to Cambria (with family) for the second half of Spring Break. We also did a week in Paris before I started TAPIF, and then I spent the vacances de la Toussaint/vacances de Noël all over Europe on my own (Belgium, Czech Republic, northern France, UK and Ireland). Also did struggle to integrate into French culture, learning how to teach as an assistante, and overall figuring out how to live independently in a foreign country.
2016 was one of the two most-productive years of travel I had in the decade. The schools I taught at for TAPIF were super lenient with my hours, so more often than not, I was away for most of the time. Visited Lyon, Annecy, and Switzerland in January, Spain and Portugal for vacances d’hiver, the south of France and Brittany in March, Amsterdam and countries along the Danube (Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary) for vacances de Pâques, and the Cinque Terre in Italy upon completing my first year as an assistante.
Summer was spent visiting Japan for the first time with family, as well as seeing relatives in Taiwan after two years. After some complications with my dossiers, I started my second year of TAPIF: I lived in a building with eight other assistant.es, and we had an absolute blast that year. Also started my online Master’s in Education, which I juggled along with teaching, freelance writing (as a second job), and traveling.
I spent my vacances de la Toussaint staying local in Normandy (where I lived), and later went to Lyon to experience the fête des Lumières for the first time. My family flew over to see me, and we spent about a week visiting the Andalusian region of Spain. Absolutely loved Seville, along with Marbella and Granada. Returned to Normandy to ring in the New Year back in my flat with another flatmate. What a whirlwind of a year!
I was still in the midst of juggling grad school, TAPIF, and my freelance writing that I didn’t travel as much as I would’ve liked in 2017. However, I still did quite a bit, as I made brief jaunts back to Paris and Marseille, as well as celebrating my birthday with my dear flatmates in Dijon. Also ventured to Poland and Morocco for the first time and had a great time in both places.
Ended my second (and final) year of TAPIF in May, only to receive news that I was accepted to be a lectrice d’anglais in the Lyon region for the upcoming year! Definitely in good spirits, as I spent my summer with a short, week-long road trip with family in the Pacific Northwest, and I really came to enjoy the green beauty in-and-around Portland and Seattle.
Began my first year as a lectrice in September. It was a bit challenging adjusting not only to being a university lecturer, but also a new city. I had some issues with roommates and students alike, but I made it through and had a wonderful, two-and-a-half-month break following the end of first semester. Went to Germany for the Christmas Markets, as well as seeing the fête des Lumières in Lyon for the second time. My family came over again to see me, and we did a two-week cruise along the Mediterranean, hitting Italy and Spain. Also graduated from grad school in December, and received my diploma a month later. Overall, 2017 was a relatively-tranquil year, with a solid amount of travel mixed in.
2018 was the second most-productive year of travel. I began the year with trips back to the Czech Republic and Hungary– partied hard and pushed myself out of my comfort zone. Had a lull in February and March, as I returned for my spring semester of teaching, which proved a challenge with first-year students. I still managed to have time to explore more of the Lyon region, and I spent my birthday weekend celebrating in Avignon with a friend.
I ended my first year of lectrice teaching in May, and I went on a three-week trip all over Europe, from Iceland to the Balkans to Venice. Attended my first Pride Parade in Lyon, returned home to the US for the summer while also doing a two-week trip to South America for the first time with family: we had a pleasant time visiting Chile and Peru, and I hope to see more of the continent in the future. Also went to Colorado in August to see my best friend, and I returned to France for my second year as a lectrice.
Teaching was a lot easier second-time around, as I knew what to expect better. Took some time off to see the Grenoble region, and I ended my fall semester with a week in Malta, another week in Strasbourg/the Alsace region, and my third (and final) fête des Lumières in Lyon. Returned home to Los Angeles for winter break, a first since 2014, and it was a calm Christmas spent at home with family.
Much of my travels were almost-exclusively during the first half of 2019. I started the New Year with a two-week cruise with family along the Gulf of Mexico, hitting the Central American countries of Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. We crossed the Panama Canal for a brief stint in Colombia before returning home to Los Angeles.
I returned to France for my final semester of lectrice teaching. Likewise with fall semester, it went relatively smoothly, although I did push myself a bit too much with the curriculum. Had an unexpectedly-wonderful time in Romania during the vacances d’hiver, and it has since become my number-one favorite country in Europe I’ve visited. Visited Milan and Lake Como for the vacances de Pâques, where I ate plenty of delicious Italian food, and following the end of teaching in May, I gallivanted east to Poland, the Baltic countries (Lithuania and Latvia) before an adventurous week in the country of Georgia. Went to Turkey for 10 days with a friend, traveled solo to northern Spain, southwest and south of France (where I got to see the Provence lavender fields!). Celebrated le 14 juillet in Paris before leaving France for good, after a four-year run.
The second half of 2019 (July-December) was pretty quiet. Was in the process of job searching and getting readjusted to life back in the US. Had to take care of my family while figuring out my future, and the quarter-life crisis was a real thing. Got a job in October (and a second one in December), and I’ve been doing them ever since. A close family member passed away at the end of the year, which is also something my family and I are coping with. Overall, though, I remain optimistic, and I hope for 2020 to be a better, more forgiving year.
That’s my decade in review! So much has happened in these short ten years, and I can look back and say that I’ve changed incredibly. Lots of hardships and challenges have happened along the way, but I’ve learned from them and have become more confident and certain about what I’d like to do in life. I’m still young, and I have time to continue improving myself, my career, and my passions for more enriching decades to come.
How have you changed in these ten years? Let me know!