Okay, it’s the 9th of January, so I’m a little delayed. But technically, I was on vacation until the 6th, so I’m really only 3 days late!
I go back and forth about the value of resolutions. On the one hand, I love the start of a new year. It’s a chance to restart, to refresh, to take stock of what you did in the last 12 months and to figure out how you can tweak them and make life better in the coming months.
Whenever Luke and I talk about new year’s resolutions, we always come back to the fact that if you want to change your life for the better, you shouldn’t wait until Jaunary 1st, you should do it on that very day. And I do agree with that.
But I also like the idea that there’s a start date, a time to look forward to; a day that marks the start of something better.
So here I am, outlining how I’m going to tweak my life, tweak my attitude and my actions to make my business and my personal life a little bit better in 2019.
1. Take better care of myself, both at home and on the road
This is something that I really started to focus on last year. I’ve always been interested in health when it comes to food and for most of my life I’ve been a pretty active person. I loved sports growing up, I played lacrosse in college, I loved going to the gym when I was home for summers and back when I lived in Sydney I trained for and ran a marathon.
Since I left my job in Korea, travel sort of took hold and exercise and regular healthy eating sort of took a back seat. Even now, when I’m home I love my morning routine. I exercise 5 days a week, I drink green smoothies, I cook everything from scratch, I only drink once or twice a week at most. But then I head off on travels and moderation is completely out the window. I have at least one or two drinks every night, I eat fatty, unhealthy foods, I’m too tired in the mornings to have any motivation to exercise. And when I’m traveling upwards of half the year at a time, this ends up ruining anything good I do when I’m back at home.
So this year, I am really, and I mean really, going to put in a huge effort to take care of myself both at home and while I travel. I’ll definitely be keeping you posted on how that goes!
2. Really learn Spanish
Last year I wrote an article that resonated with a lot of fellow expats around the world about how simply moving abroad does not make you fluent in a language.
I promised myself that 2018 would be different. I would actually study, I would put myself out of my comfort zone and speak Spanish more, I would get a tutor. Well, I did all of those things. I found a free online course that I love and managed to do once or twice a week. I spoke Spanish in Colombia and Chiapas and even hired a car in Spanish in Tijuana. Then I hired a tutor who promptly quit before our first lesson.
I’ve put in about 50% effort.
This year I am committed to putting in 100%. I’ve resumed my course which I am trying to do four days a week. I got an online tutor who doesn’t have to make the trek from the city center out to where I live in the suburbs. I have massive plans to spend the entire summer with a one-on-one Spanish teacher living in a Spanish-speaking country (by the beach obviously).
3. Travel with more intention
This is something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. This has a lot of meanings for me. By “intentional travel,” I mean I want to plan my trips with more in mind then just “the food is supposed to be amazing!” or “the flights here are so cheap!”
This is sort of two-fold. I want to make better travel choices for myself – I want to travel to improve my Spanish, to perhaps learn a new skill like yoga, to find off-the-beaten-path places that other people aren’t writing about.
But I also want to travel with the intention of showing you alternative options to the places that are getting way too crowded.
Last year, we went to Venice and I saw firsthand what over tourism looks like. I hadn’t really ever had Venice on my radar and only started my Italy tour there because I wanted to go to Bologna and the flights to Venice were cheaper. Then I read this article from National Geographic Traveler about over tourism and it got me thinking more and more about the responsibility I have as a travel writer to spread the wealth, to help people make better travel choices.
4. Be greener both at home and while I travel
I made a lot of changes in 2018 to be greener. I eat an almost completely plant-based diet from Monday-Friday for both my health and the environmental impacts of eating meat. I have cut my plastic use WAY down. I am so much more aware of the waste I create.
I always have the best of intentions. I have reusable grocery bags, reusable produce bags for the farmer’s market, reusable freezer bags to avoid using ziplock bags. Then I head to the market and forget them or I forget to use the freezer bag or I can’t find them. It’s lazy and annoying.
There’s a lot I can’t control here in Mexico. So many things come in plastic packaging and while I buy in bulk when I can and look for things that are packaged in recyclable materials, sometimes it just isn’t possible to find where I live.
But often, the problem isn’t the waste that I create when I’m at home, it’s when I travel. It’s when I have my Lifestraw bottle with me, but there isn’t anywhere to fill it up and I’m crazy thirsty and I buy a plastic water bottle. It’s when I get a street taco and it’s served on a styrofoam plate or on a plate wrapped in plastic. It’s when I’m at a cafe and even though I order my coffee to stay it comes in a disposable cup with a plastic lid.
It can be embarrassing to ask for things in a reusable cup or to try to avoid using a plate that is given to you or to ask for your fresh juice in your own glass jar rather than in that styrofoam cup, especially in Mexico where most parts of the country have much bigger concerns than using too much plastic. But it’s something that I want to be better at this year.
5. Write more creatively both here on the blog and for my own private projects
I want to write more posts like this, more personal posts about life as an expat, life on the road, things that upset me or make me ridiculously happy. Last year, I was hyper-focused on writing SEO-targeted articles to really boost the traffic on this site and it worked. In December, Eternal Expat had over 80,000 pageviews, which sort of blows my mind.
This year I want to find a balance of continuing to help people with specific travel-related articles, but I also want to get back to writing more stories on here.
As for writing creatively offline, I want to do even more of that. Last year I started writing again in a way that I haven’t done for years. I started sitting down for about 30 minutes a day and just writing stories. I’ve slowly but surely begun to put together a collection of stories from when Luke and I first started traveling and it’s something that I’ve truly enjoyed. I forgot how good it feels to write creatively, to tell stories, to read them back and smile at the memories.
I don’t know if this project will go anywhere other than my hard-drive, but I’m going to keep writing and see what happens.
6. Finish the projects that I start
Man oh, man. Last year I started a third blog, I was trying to figure out what to do with my original blog (remember Collecting Labels?). I started a second Youtube channel. Guess how well all of those projects are doing? Notice how I haven’t linked to any of them? It’s not that I didn’t have the time, because I totally do have the time, but I don’t have the passion for those projects like I do for Eternal Expat, I didn’t have the mental energy to write an article on here and then switch gears and write about something completely different.
I’ll keep using the word intentional this year I think. It’s a good word for pretty much everything I want to accomplish. I want to be so much more intentional with the projects that I start because I want to make sure that I finish them. I have two pretty big projects in the works at the moment and I’m focusing a lot of my energy on them in addition to this blog, its social media channels, and my Youtube channel. I want to see them completed before I start other projects.
7. Less social media
I worry about saying this because when I read or hear other people I say it my eyes roll so far to the back fo my head, but I really am getting tired of the pressures of social media. I have moments where I really enjoy it. I get to connect with so many more travelers. I get to help more people who want to visit Mexico City or who have general travel questions.
But that is only a small part of the time I spend on social media. It often feels forced. I edit a picture and then I watch the cursor blink as I think about a caption. How can I describe this place or what do I want to say that can actually add value to those that scroll past it? Am I interesting enough, is this photo colorful enough? Does it look good with the rest of my feed? What can I ask to get people engaged? It’s all so trivial and sometimes I just can’t be bothered.
Here’s that word again, but I want to post with intention. I want to be helpful or entertaining or thought-provoking, otherwise, what’s the point?
8. Manage my time/distractions better
I read something recently that made fun of that quote “we all have the same hours in the day as Beyonce.” It was basically saying yea we might all have the same hours in a day, but we don’t all have Beyonce’s expendable income or her team of stylists or personal assistants or nannies etc.
I’m only one person and often I try to do the tasks of three or four different people at once. I keep my emails on and while I’m writing a blog post I’ll stop it to reply to a request that’s just come through. I’ll then switch over to Facebook because I’ve just realized I haven’t scheduled anything to post on there for the day, then I’ll come back to the blog post 20 minutes later having sort of lost my train of thought, so I’ll pick up my phone and scroll Instagram and then 2 hours have passed and all I’ve done it post one link on Facebook and answer one email and I wonder where the heck the day has gone.
This year I’m going to really attempt to focus on only one task at a time. When I first started freelancing a few years ago, I used to use a timer. I would work on one project for 25 minutes without stopping. Then if I felt like I was on a roll, I would reset the timer and work for another 25 minutes. Otherwise, I would switch to another task and do just that for 25 minutes. I got SO much more done.
While I don’t plan on setting a timer, I am going to try to have some self-discipline (and maybe get one of those tools that block you from certain websites for a few hours at a time) and try to complete one task at a time. I’ve been doing it since Monday and so far so good! I’ve created more content in the last three days than I did for the entire month of December!
9. When work is over, turn off
This is something that I’ve gotten worse with during the last 12 months. I finish working for the night, but I’ll leave my laptop on, which means my emails are still on. I’ll look up recipes for dinner and then I’ll get distracted by what someone commented over on Facebook or I’ll start replying to emails that came in. It’s a really bad habit that I want to get out of.
My goal is to close my laptop once I’m done working. This week I’ve been doing really well at creating a task list for the day and once that’s complete, I move onto something else that is completely unrelated to work. When I have other hobbies lined up and ready like reading, studying Spanish, listening to podcasts, or writing creatively, then I become really focused and completely forget about emails and social media. It’s a beautiful thing.
What are some of your resolutions for the year? Do you think I’ll achieve any of these things for more than a month or two? I think numbers 6 and 7 are going to be the hardest for me!
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