Reflections on 2014

I cannot believe how much has happened this year, and how my life is almost unrecognisable from this time last year! January started with a party in Waterbeach that took us about 3 days to recover from, followed by a spontaneous (and very cold!) trip to Budapest with my St Bede’s ladies! Now I am in Guatemala on a trip of a lifetime. But still with my Alex one year on

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New Years 2013-14

This year, I/we have…
-visited Budapest with my lovely friends Caroline, Rebecca and Natasha
-helped my year 11 classes achieved top notch GCSE and AS results
-dressed up as a medieval maiden for my cousin Alice’s 21st (where Alex won a prize for his amazing acting skills!)
-seen Maddie (Alex’s sister) and Bid marry
-taken and not lost about 60 teenagers to the Peak District for DofE and survived (with the help of team DofE, especially Jo, Rebecca and Helen!)
-welcomed into the world little Chester Osborne, gorgeous son of my lovely friend Claire (among loads of others, some of whom I am yet to meet!)
-gone punting in the river Cam with Alex, Caroline and Sam (a memorable experience wasn’t it Sam!)
-cruised on the cramped but legendary Pink Champagne with my homies around the Norfolk Broads (after the boat was fixed…!)
-got drunk in a car park at Wembley and thrown powder paint around with the vague association with the Hindu festival of Holi (slightly dubious and perhaps even an offensive link to some, but was fun!)
-moved back to St. Albans and back to my old job at Cotswolds
-then travelled to Mexico, Belize and Guatemala with my Alex
-released baby turtles into the wild and snorkelled with big ones, and fishies
-attempted to salsa dance on the streets of Mexico on day of the dead
-had my first desert island experience
-caught and eaten a fish in Belize
-ridden on a Chicken Bus
-been mugged at knifepoint 😦
-but survived it
-visited ancient Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza and Tikal
-swam in a cave holding a candle
-learned Spanish in Antigua
-seen countless beautiful sunsets
-drank locally grown coffee in Guatemala
-eaten lots of pineapple (seriously! There’s loads here!)

…and much more!

When Alex and I first met, it was our love of travel that initially brought us together. We spent the first few months of our relationship dreaming about different far-flung ideas about what adventures we could have together, from sailing around Europe, to buying a house in Baldock (!), to running a bar/hostel/surf school in Ecuador, and everything in between. Our talk of our Latin American Adventure began as one of these dreams, initially with my long held idea of driving from Chile to Canada. At the time it began as another pipe dream, but when my brother David and his wife Lucy then went ahead and bought me the Lonely Planet guide to South America on a Shoestring for my birthday last December, we figured we couldn’t let the book just sit on the shelf! So really, guys, it’s all your doing! 😝

This time last year both Alex and I were doing fairly well at continuing along our perspective career paths; Alex managing the bars and catering at Watford FC and me teaching in Cambridge. For me, being my second year of teaching, it was a great change from my first year, my NQT, where I felt so stressed most of the year, it was great to be enjoying teaching again and my classes achieved some excellent results in their GCSEs and AS exams! For some, it might have seemed like an odd time for us to up and leave these lives as we were doing pretty well. However, we knew that one of us was going to have to move jobs at least if our relationship was going to grow, and it seemed like the right time before we did buy that house and have those “grown up” responsibilities. We both managed to save a fairly good amount of money just in the year leading up to us leaving, but we did torture ourselves a bit by looking at what properties we were not far off being able to put a deposit on, knowing that when we come back we will be financially set back quite a bit!

As the time came to handing in our notices at our jobs, and for me to move back to the nest in St. Albans and even back to my old job at Cotswolds Outdoor shop, there were probably times when we had to remind ourselves of what the hell we were doing as we had both worked very hard to get where we were. Alex even sold his car, which gave his friends a bit of a laugh as they had always said it was the type of car a young woman hairdresser would drive! However, as I sit in a cafe in San Marcos, by Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, I believe it was definitely the right choice for us.

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Shambala Cafe, San Marcos.

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Lake Atitlan, from the viewpoint in the national park at San Marcos

It’s the circle of life…
Another thing that seems to be going on in (or around, really) our lives is that EVERYONE is having babies! I guess we are at this stage of our lives really so it is unsurprising as a lot of the people we know are between mid 20s-early 30s. However, we have a few important lives joining us in 2015, in fact one of Alex’s best friends, James, and his fiancée Katie just welcomed their new baby girl Jessie into the world at 11.52pm on New Years Eve! (Congratulations again guys!) It has struck me that these lives who we haven’t even met yet, will be really important to us and we will probably (hopefully) know them for the rest of ours! How crazy is THAT! Of course, we are not quite there yet, as it wouldn’t be very practical trying to lug my backpack around Latin America with a preggie belly, but all of these new lives are very exciting, and watching those grow who were born recently too just reinforces that!

On the opposite scale, I was talking to my mum recently on Skype and she told me some sad news of a family friend who sadly died on Christmas Day. I remember a few years ago my Nanny and Grampy remarked that they were at the stage where they were being invited to so many funerals that they almost had to be selective as to which ones to attend! I guess this is a bit of a morbid thought at this time, and not really something to dwell on except to reflect upon the fact that we are not here forever so it really is best, in my view, to enjoy life and get the most out of it that you can.

The ethics of travelling
I do sometimes wonder, however, if I am being selfish in my desire to travel and see the world. Most of the local people we encounter will never be able to afford the tablet I write this on, let alone a trip like ours. Yes, we are bringing business and money to these communities, but it is difficult to know really whether this is ultimately always beneficial in the long run, particularly when there are cultural clashes or problems that arise as a result. I feel I have always tried to be conscious of what I am bringing to the world, but even in teaching I was often left more with the feeling of “phew, that lesson with year 8 is finished now and we just about managed to get it all done” rather than “I inspired some young minds today”. Maybe it is just me being pessimistic, or hard on myself, but that’s true. So on the plus side I thought by travelling some more I could at least learn more about myself, the world, and share some amazing experiences with Alex. Then afterwards it might help to work out those Big Questions…?! If that is even possible! In some ways, is it equally as materialistic as buying fancy clothes and unnecessary gadgets, if you are getting a “cultural experience” out of it?! Not that there is necessarily anything wrong with materialism as long as it does not control your happiness if you don’t have the latest/best/most expensive thing. I hope you know what I mean; I’m not trying to be a snob. Everyone has different priorities in life, time and money, and I guess it’s not up to anyone else to judge.

Well, that’s it really for these ponderings. A bit different from the usual update, which I will put in another post to make things simpler. Feel free to add your own thoughts below, I would be interested to know what people think.

Happy New Year everyone! Let’s hope 2015 brings yet more adventure and excitement, whether that is in the form of travel, family, love, career, or whatever!

¡Disfruta, and Eat the Pineapple! (Or your fruit of preference!)

Some photo highlights of 2014

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