In one of my conversation clubs in school here in Ukraine, I asked my students what the best year of their life has been. Questions like these, followed with a simple, “Why?”, are a great way to get them all to talk (my main goal for my classes), while also killing a ton of class time. However, a lot of the time they like to turn it around and ask me the same thing, so after thinking for just a few seconds, I confidently answered:
“It has definitely been 2008.”
“Why?” they asked (They also probably thought this was a good way to kill class time!).
I felt kind of odd answering their question. Imagine trying to explain to people in Ukraine, most of whom have never even left their own country, that travel has been the most amazing thing you have ever done. Instead of rambling on about my travel lust, I tried to keep it short and sweet and save all the details for my lovely readers (that’s you!). So, here are some of the wonderful reasons why 2008 was so great!
1. I got to travel… A lot!
In 2008, I saw many different countries: Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras, Poland, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Hungary.
In the grand scheme of things, that probably doesn’t seem like much. It was a whole year, afterall! But, I like to think my approach to travel is still just as interesting as those people who are taking on the whole world in a single year. Don’t get me wrong – I love to be on the move (I miss it right now actually!), but hitting up a major site for just one long weekend doesn’t quite give you the perspective I’m looking for. What happens when people go back to work and all the tourists go back home? How does life look then?
2. I did some interesting things!
- I learned Spanish from a booger-picking Guatemalan.
- I survived an earthquake… ok a tremor.
- I watched the sun rise over Mayan temples.
- I dealt with the kindness and unkindness of strangers in Poland.
- I learned about, and laughed at, Ukrainian myths.
- I learned Russian in a country that no one knows exists.
- I slept in a yurt at Lake Issyk-Kul.
- I drank some nasty drinks on Sovietskaya.
- I gained a Kyrgyz family, and then left it.
- I became enemies with marshrutkas in Bishkek.
- I got stuck at the Kazakh border.
- I shot some heavy artillery in Lithuania.
- I built up a tolerance to vodka in the baltics, and then lost it when I got to Ukraine.
- I got a job!
- I tasted some traditional, Ukrainian food.
- I made a weekend escape to Budapest.
- I almost froze to death, and begged Russia for mercy in the process.
3. I met some amazing people!
The people you meet on the road really make it something special – they set the tone, and even shape the memories of a place forever. Travel with someone for a few weeks, or few days even, and you feel like you’ve known them forever. I would say I’ve been lucky to have encountered such interesting and wonderful friends from my travels – all the way from my Bishkek Crew and my Baltic Gang to my now Ukraine Posse. Yup, lucky. Last year will forever be shaped by the people I’ve laughed with, cried with, smiled at, hid from, been annoyed with, been surpised by, dreamed with, dreamed about, hated, and loved.
4. I learned a lot about myself!
As cheesy as it sounds, I did learn a lot about myself during my year of travels. Well, maybe learned isn’t quite the word I’m looking for. Perhaps notions about myself, and the way I am and deal with life, became fact in my mind. No, there were no life-changing, earth-shaking discoveries, but I would say I have a better understanding of where I stand.
Cheers to the good and the bad! Nothing is perfect. In spite of all its amazingness, 2008 still had its breaking points. Oh, I’ve been all over the place. I’ve been up, down, left, right – happy, sad, you name it. Maybe I’ve been good at times at hiding such things from my blogging life, but maybe other times I haven’t. Heck, I sometimes even forget that people are actually reading this! But, what else can I say? I wouldn’t change any of those experiences or decisions in 2008 because without them, where would I be now?
What about you? What has been the best year of your life? I’d love to hear back from my readers!