If you look anywhere online this week you will find a plethora of blog posts, podcast episodes, YouTube videos and Instagram posts looking back at the past twelve months, highlighting the best bits, reflecting on the challenges and making sense of it all. We are all getting ready to say goodbye to one more year and see the new one in, which is full of promise of new adventures, happiness, and also has some challenges ready for us.
I am no different and in that week in between Christmas and New Year I start reflecting on what I am grateful for and what lessons I have learned. Even though there has been a bit of everything, I can really sum up 2017 with one word: growth. I travelled solo to the other side of the world, I have met new amazing friends, have had failed relationships, tried new things and spent more time outside. It has been quite a glorious year, not without self doubt, worries about loved ones and heartache, but every single experience has taught me something and helped me grow. I can group all these lessons into these two:
HAVE LESS, LIVE MORE
It was back in 2015 that my curiosity for minimalism started when I read the world phenomenon The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo. What started as a quest for a tidier home has slowly transformed other areas of my life. My finances were the first to be affected in a positive way, because once you identify what you can do without, you stop wasting money on things that don't bring you that much enjoyment.
Money is only the by-product. The real benefit is to really know what is important to you and to let go of all the things that don't bring you enjoyment. I started with material possessions, but during the past twelve months I have cut down on digital clutter. I stopped religiously reading all sorts of blogs daily and instead I read a handful of posts a couple of times a month; I deleted Twitter, as keeping up with the constant stream of tweets was an impossible task; I also deleted the Facebook app from my phone, although I still check it too often. Right now I enjoy Instagram the most and regularly do a cull of the accounts I follow. If I don't find it interesting or inspiring, it goes, and I do the same with podcasts. Once I get what I need from them, I stop following them, which even includes The Minimalists podcast. I love them, I loved listening to them for a while, but their job with me is done for now.
As a result, I am richer in time and money, which I can spend on the things that matter to me the most, like a weekend on a yoga retreat, or a trip, or going to the gym with friends, which has been great for my body and for my mind and soul.
GO WITH THE FLOW
It all started with my first solo trip outside of Europe, which took me to the beautiful and magical Indonesia, where I spent two weeks in February. Because I was completely alone for the first week, I was able to do exactly what I wanted when I wanted. Sometimes that can be overwhelming - you have so many possibilities and choices! However, it was completely liberating, and I discovered that by listening to myself and doing what I felt like doing in that precise moment led me to the most magical experiences and the loveliest of people. I swam with turtles in the Gili islands, I smiled my way through a vinyasa class at The Yoga Barn in Ubud, enjoyed an evening chatting to a new friend while it poured with rain outside and ate in the healthiest way I had done for ages. Yes, swimming with turtles was pretty spectacular, but everything else was simple and not that different to what I could do at home, but I enjoyed it SO much that one day I was in my room, smiling so much and feeling SO happy that I took a selfie to never forget the joy I felt there.
Of course that joy didn't last forever since I came back and there have been plenty of moments that have been less than joyful, but during those two weeks I learned that when you leave rigid plans and goals behind and you are open to what the present moment brings, everything gets simpler, softer, easier. The world opens up and you can find so much more joy in each one of those moments.
Listening to The Lively Show has been a huge influence in this area and I plan to write a post in the coming months talking more about it for anyone who is interested.
BEST OF 2017
Here is a line up of the highlights of the past twelve months:
Best trip: Bali. I'd looked forward to it for so long and yet it surpassed all expectations. It was an experience I will remember forever.
Best book: The Untethered Soul, by Michael A Singer, which I heard about in Oprah's Super Soul Sundays podcast, and a book I have given as a present twice already. It takes being present to a new level, and I read it at the perfect time.
Best film: La La Land. I'm not sure it was the best film of the year, but it is the one I loved the most. It was so beautifully shot, the colours so vibrant and the music so catchy that I hummed, tapped my feet, smiled and cried as I sat at the cinema.
Best documentary: Tony Robins, I am not your guru. This fly on the wall documentary follows Tony Robins, a motivational coach, on a seven day seminar called A Date with Destiny. Whether you like him or not, just seeing the amount of preparation that goes on to put on an event like that and to hear some of the personal stories is incredible. I dare you not to cry when you listen to Sol, an amazing Brazilian woman.
Best show: The Sinner. Jessica Biel is Cora Tanetti, a woman who suddenly and brutally murders a guy while she is on the beach with her husband and son. Something doesn't add up and the 8 episodes in this Netflix show try to find out why she killed him. It is gripping and I watched it in a mere 3 days.
Best podcast: The Lively Show. This podcast has made an appearance in my favourites before, and this year it has opened up a new field for me. Jess Lively used to interview entrepreneurs on it until she sold everything she owned and decided to go travelling. It's all about self development but in a way that I haven't heard before. It is about finding the flow, what comes naturally in each moment, rather than have to hustle hard. This season has really focused on quantum mechanics and the Law of Attraction and I am loving learning more about it.
This new year looks like it is going to come full of incredible things and challenges in equal measure. I am starting Yoga Teacher Training in a few days to fulfill a dream I have had for a long time. It is not happening how I had first imagined, as part of a long stint of travelling in an exotic location. I will be learning in my own city for the next 9 months. This feels like the right moment and the right place for me, and I am beyond excited to start! In a couple of months I will also have the opportunity to go and see Oxfam's projects in Tanzania, of which I will write a lot when I finally go. I have been longing to go and see our work on the ground long before I started working there nearly 8 years ago, and I feel so grateful to finally have the chance to go.
There will be plenty that will test me, but having weathered a few storms before, I know that, as I read once, it is all ok in the end. If it's not ok, it is not the end. Happy New Year and may it be one full of health, happiness and love for everyone!