Lifestyle, Czech Republic, Florida, Germany, LARP, Philippines, Poland, Travel, United States

2015: My Gap Year of Adventure

When last year was drawing to a close, I did not write a reflection post like I did in 2013 and I’m not entirely sure why. However, I did want to do one this year and can hopefully keep it consecutive with the years going forward. I think that taking time to look back on the year that’s gone by is an important part of looking forward to the new year ahead.

I’m going to start with some notes about 2014, since I did not reflect on it in writing last year and there are factors that affected my 2015 a great deal: 2014 was a year not unlike 2013, full of change—some forced and some of choice—and growth. I ended a relationship that had lasted almost a year, where my partner was emotionally unavailable and subtly mentally abusive. About six months after that, in August, I started a new, much more healthy relationship with my current partner, Rob. But in that same month I was also laid off from my job, after an incredibly rough year at the company. I was, thankfully, offered a few months severance. I also had stock, which I sold, and some savings, so I was okay financially. In September 2014 my great-aunt passed away and while it was a difficult time emotionally, she did leave me a small inheritance.

Thus, with my bank account fairly stable, I ended up being able to take what I refer to as my “Gap Year” from full-time employment. Between August 2014 and November 2015, I was technically unemployed, and this was mostly by choice. I did some freelance work, which coupled with all the aforementioned had enabled me to still live comfortably and afforded me the opportunity to travel without having to worry about taking vacation days. And seize this opportunity, I did!

Me in Astrology Class at College of WizardryIn April 2015 I ventured to Europe, visiting Poland, Germany, and the Czech Republic. In Poland I participated in the amazing College of Wizardry LARP, a nordic-style game held at a magical medieval castle called Czocha, and was able to do so with my boyfriend. I met some amazing new people from all over the world whom I’m very happy to now call my friends and whom I attempt to keep up with on Facebook. College of Wizardry had players representing over 13 countries! I also got to met two LARPers from the NYC area in person that are friends with my college friend, Shoshana. (One of whom just started a blog. Hi, Tina! Go check her out, she writes about LARP and the SCA.) It was, to say the least, an epic experience that I had intended—and still do, eventually, please bug me to do so—to write posts about. (Let me know if you have questions about or are interested in hearing about specific aspects of the game in the comments. I will try to touch those topics when I write the post(s)!) Following the LARP in Poland, Tina and I stayed in Europe for an extra 10 days to explore Berlin and Prague. We spent about 5 days in each, traveling between them by train. I believe it was Tina’s first time in Europe, and we had an amazing time.

Me posing on the main bridge in SulanganIn July, I traveled to the Philippines to build a preschool and daycare center in Sulangan, a rural town in Eastern Samar. I went with Rob and a few of my other friends, all organized through Surf for Life. We were the last week of volunteers, so we did a lot of leveling dirt, painting, and sanding. At the end of the week we had a hand-off ceremony for the locals to officially open the new building to them! This is the second time I’ve done a volunteer trip like this and each time has been a humbling and inspirational experience. I also intend to write posts about this trip, as well as the one I took in 2014 to Nicaragua, in future blog posts. (I know, I have a lot of catching up to do here!)

The Mine Train at the Magic KingdomIn August my mom invited us to join her and my sister in Walt Disney World for 2 weeks. We stayed at the Polynesian Village in one of their Disney Vacation Club studios and it was the first time that Rob was introduced to any of my family members and the first time he’s been to Disney World (vs Disneyland). Overall the trip was very fun, despite the wicked heat! Rob and I also celebrated our one-year anniversary there by drinking around the world at Epcot, ending the day with a delicious dinner at the steakhouse in Canada and watching the Magic Kingdom fireworks from our hotel room’s balcony. Rob unfortunately had to fly home earlier than me because of work, but I was able to stay an extra few days with just my mom and sister and it was great. We went to Universal Studios and thoroughly explored the new Diagon Alley section of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. (My favorite, obviously. I was basically bouncing around there with happiness like a child.)

My boyfriend and I on the High Roller Observation Wheel in Las Vegas, NVIn September we went to Las Vegas for a LARP convention called “Vegas by Night,” where we got to role-play as vampires and werewolves in Vegas night clubs. It was honestly the perfect backdrop for the games (especially since one of the nightclubs is called Moon!) and was my first time participating in national events from MES, which is the organization I play in regularly. We were able to explore some of Las Vegas outside the convention, too, walking down the Strip, riding the High Roller observation wheel (the highest in the world currently), and seeing a Cirque du Soleil show.

Through all this traveling I discovered more about myself, what I love, and what my priorities are. I’m kind of addicted to traveling and exploring, and I hope to continue to do more of it in the years to come and meet more amazing people along the way.

In late October I got a job offer for a full-time position at a company that I felt was, overall, a good fit. It came at the perfect time, because I was really ready to start working again. (Not working apparently makes me stir crazy, who knew?) I started in early November and I’m very, very happy so far! My coworkers are great, very welcoming, and fun people and the work environment is not as stressful as some startup jobs I have worked in the past. I also feel trusted, both in my decisions and opinions about my work and the work we’re doing but also in my own time management and how I choose to complete my tasks, which is a feeling I’ve not had in a workplace for a disturbingly long time. The only thing I don’t like about my new job has nothing to do with the team I’m on, and that’s the vacation policy. Unfortunately I only have 10 days that I must accrue over time, so I’m going to have to get creative about ways to continue to travel and adventure without going over that allotment. I think I can do it, though!

Don’t get me wrong—some not great things happened in 2015, too. I was without health insurance for a period of time, which was really stressful for me as a Type-1 Diabetic. I had to be really frugal with spending to make all the traveling work, but still did accrue some debt that I’m now paying off. It’s not too bad, it’s manageable and I should be able afford to pay it all off in 2016 as long as nothing major goes wrong, but it’s there. Having debt is not a norm for me so that gives me a bit of anxiety. There were some other things, too, that I won’t get into here because they’re more personal. (Despite having a blog and all that social-media-overshare we do here on the internet, I do like to keep some things to myself.) But, in any case, I choose to focus on all the good aspects of the past year! You always have a choice on what to bring into the new year with you.

Overall 2015 was a kick-ass year for me, I hope it was for you, too! I’ve had some really rough years in the past (look at 2013, that was a tough one, and 2014 was as well) but just know that even if this past year was a little bleak, there’s a whole blank, clean slate ahead of you full of possibilities for the future and you can do anything with that. Anything!

Here’s to more adventure in 2016! Cheers.

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