A Year in Review

In a GIF:

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2015 has been a wild ride and a half.

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I started the year burned-out, cynical, bitter, and generally miserable with life.

I had a dream my life would be so different from this hell I'm living

I knew I would have to do something drastic in order to change the highway to hell I was on. Otherwise, it was only a matter of time before I shut down mentally, emotionally, socially, and in just about every other conceivable way.

Tick tick boom time bomb

So I ditched everything to start living a life I actually wanted to live.

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First, I went to Disney World with one of my best friends. It was my first real vacation in as long as I could remember, and it reminded me what it’s like to have fun. I’d completely forgotten.

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Then, I moved back home to live with my parents while I saved for graduate school.

I immediately regret this decision

It had its ups and downs, sure, but most importantly, it got me to September, when I left the world as I knew it behind to study history in Scotland.

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It wasn’t all fun and games. I’d never really traveled – certainly not alone – or understood what I was getting into in graduate school. I was wholly unprepared for the adventure ahead of me.

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But none of my fears ever eclipsed my excitement to be outside of the painfully predictable, boring world I’d wrapped myself up in.

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And by the end of my first semester, I got the hang of things and emerged virtually unscathed.

Oh, I survived

I even got to visit two new countries!
Breathe that sweet, sexy European air

All in all, I conclude 2015 happy

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And surprised with myself.

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I’m tempted to be sad to leave 2015

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But I’m too excited to see what happens next.

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I’m learning how to be fearless.

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I’m learning not to give a shit.

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Most importantly, I’m learning to love myself.

I like myself, I wouldn't want to be anyone else

So I wish you a very happy New Year from Scotland.

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Goodbye to 2015

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And a warm hello to 2016.

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Haben Sie Gehört Die Deutschebahn?

Iceland was great, but I still wanted to go somewhere for Christmas. All my friends went home for winter break. All my flatmates were away for one reason or another too, and I really didn’t want to wake up Christmas morning in a virtual ghost town.

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I wanted to feel active and take advantage of the fact that I could do something nontraditional, but I still wanted to participate in Christmas festivities, so I decided to go to Nuremberg, Germany. It had history, beauty, a small-town feel, and a large Christmas market. It was one of the most Christmasy places I could find.

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I left less than a week after returning for Iceland, making me feel like some kind of super jetsetter.

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Of course, the only problem with this schedule is that I couldn’t account for the fact that I returned to Scotland with a busted ankle. There was no way I was cancelling and losing all that money, though, so I R.I.C.E.d that bitch like no tomorrow and pumped myself full of as much ibuprofen as I could. By the time I left for Germany, I could walk well enough to get me from point A to point B, and that’s all I needed.

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Of course, it would have been helpful to have a good ankle to kick the PDA couples with.

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I don’t know what it was, but everywhere I went getting to and from Nuremberg, I encountered couples that were very much attached to each other. Hand-holding, cuddling, and kissing is all fine and dandy, but the couples I’m talking about were doing gross tongue things and nonstop make out sessions.

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To make it even more awkward, each of these interactions seemed mostly one-sided. And all of them were within two feet of me – across from me on the subway, in front of me in line, next to me on the train, etc.

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What is it about me that makes people so horny? And why doesn’t it work in my favor?

I'm hopeless and awkward and desperate for love

Anyway, the trip itself didn’t get complicated until I arrived in Berlin. To save costs, I decided to take a train from Berlin to Nuremberg, but because of the way those two trips lined up, I had two hours to get from one unfamiliar location to another with a sprained ankle and a terrible sense of direction.

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Fortunately, I got where I needed to go

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And successfully navigated the intimidating-as-hell Berlin Haubtbahnhof

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In order to make my train to Nuremberg

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With only one hiccup.

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About halfway to Nuremberg, the train stopped and a bunch of people got off. This happened at every other stop, so I didn’t think anything of it until the woman who had been sitting in front of me asked, “Aren’t you getting off too?” (in German, of course). She seemed very concerned when I shook my head, and then she proceeded to explain something to me in rapid German that I didn’t understand but got the message: the train was no longer going to Nuremberg. I looked around and saw that all other passengers were gone and the train number on the screen had changed.

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I panicked. I was sure that I hadn’t missed my stop, but I was also sure that I didn’t have a connection. My train was direct, so what was I missing?

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I decided to shadow the woman who had warned me. She walked over to another platform that had a sign for a train to Nuremberg. I figured I would stow away if I had to.

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It wasn’t necessary, as it turned out, because the new train arrived and had the same number as the one I’d just gotten off of. Sure enough, it took me to Nuremberg and I was home free.

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I still don’t know what happened with the first train. I couldn’t understand anything the voice over the intercom said (in German or English), and my return trip took me directly from Nuremberg to Berlin without issue.

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The next day, I took on the crowds of the Christmas market

We need a new plague

The food

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And the language.

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I’m terrible with languages.

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I don’t have an excuse. I took three years of French and four years of German. I learned a tiny amount of Russian and Japanese as a kid, and I can’t really carry on a conversation in any of those languages. And that’s not acceptable to me. I hate it. Especially considering how many years I’ve worked with international tourists.

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But I tried anyway. I was determined to speak as little English as possible…except that the people I encountered weren’t as encouraging.

Just-stop

They all knew more English than I knew German, so even if I addressed them in German, they responded in English. It was a little humiliating.

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I don’t even know why I put so much effort into words in the first place. I got through so many years in tourism because neither the customer nor I focused much on the languages we spoke. We used gestures and numbers, and it was easy.

Don't underestimate the power of body language

Oh well. Next time I’ll be ready.

BePrepared

I also won’t go during Christmas. Not only was everything closed, but I was slightly unprepared for the emotional hit of spending Christmas alone.

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I didn’t want to go home for Christmas for a lot of reasons. Mostly, I didn’t want to waste any time I could be spending traveling or simply being away from the norm. But, honestly, I also didn’t want the family drama that I just got away from. I wanted one holiday season where I could do what I wanted to do.

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And I was 100% okay with this plan until Christmas Eve as I walked around town and saw everyone with their families – no one else wandering around alone – and everyone online posting their “Merry Christmas from our family” pictures. Suddenly, I felt a small stab of…well, homesickness isn’t the right word for it. Being with family is just what you do on Christmas.

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This isn’t to say I didn’t have the Christmas spirit. Quite the contrary. Since the beginning of November I’d been singing Christmas songs and even got a little tree for my desk. I was the merriest of all my friends.

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But I started getting a little cranky as I walked around alone in a city I knew some of my friends and family back home would love.

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not easy

I started remembering all the good things about Christmastime at home and all the ideals that Christmas is supposed to live up to. I wanted the Hallmark Channel perfect family holiday.

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That is, until my parents called from the big family dinner on Christmas Day, and I remembered why I wanted to spend the holidays alone.

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My grandmother fretted over the fact that I was on the phone with them at nearly 1 am my time. My brother was disappointed that he couldn’t ruin Star Wars for me with spoilers since I saw the movie before I left. And my aunt’s father-in-law monopolized the time trying to school me on Nuremberg based on the little time he spent stationed there in the 1950s.

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Yeah…you know what? I’m good now. Thanks for curing my moment of sentimentality.

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I’ll go back to my time alone.

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I’ll see you in a year.

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