I didn’t start 2012 with the expectation that I would leave my job and travel. Evidence: I signed on to a two-year cell phone plan and “invested” in my first smart phone, since, after all, I’d have the job and the time to pay for it and use it all the time.

I love window seats. This is why.

As 2013 approaches, along with another birthday (what up, Capricorns!), I look back on 2012 and realize it was probably one of the best years of my life. While there are big things and small that make it so, here are a few important things I want to share with you about the things I’ve learned and what I’m glad I did in the past year, in no particular order of importance.

I didn’t buy a fixed plane ticket.  One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned through travel is to be flexible. My old boss used to quote a yoga phrase often, which was “Flexibility is strength,” and my yoga instructors at home would always say we need to “strengthen what we stretch.” The ideas are a little different, but what is the same is that being flexible is key in getting the most out of an experience. When I first started planning for this trip, I wasn’t sure if I should do a RTW ticket with a company or just buy as I went. I did a very cursory few searches and it looked to be about the same, financially (at least, for what I wanted to do). I am so glad now that I didn’t fix myself to a certain itinerary; if I had, I wouldn’t have seen some of the places I ended up in, and I wouldn’t have let myself be available for other professional opportunities that have arisen because I’m able to be somewhere when I want to be there.

Kind of along those lines of “flexibility is strength,” this year I let go of a lot of planning. In the past when I’ve traveled, I”ve been pretty careful about booking XYZ lodging, knowing exactly which train I’m getting on and when, the works. But traveling with Kat in Scotland this summer really freed me of a lot of expectations; there were a few days where we showed up to towns and we hadn’t figured out where we were sleeping for the night. Luckily it always worked out, but we cut it close a couple times. Had we stuck to the original itinerary we had concocted, though, we wouldn’t have gone to an Olympic soccer match or spent as much time in the Isle of Skye, both things I am so happy to have done.

Remember these sheep from the Isle of Skye?

Traveling alone really isn’t so bad! When I was in Greece, I had a great time, and although the first day or so was a little rough, I ended up having a beautiful experience exploring the Peloponnese on my own. Nafplio was a huge highlight, and I had arrived without any idea of attractions, all I knew was that it was a beautiful city with great gelato. I didn’t mind being on my own; I read my Kindle along the waterfront and enjoyed iced lattes, people-watched, and saw the things I wanted to see without being on anyone else’s schedule. Not too shabby!

Traveling through Greece alone was a fantastic experience! See how happy I am?

I’m glad I started writing for Go! Girl Guides: Although I don’t always prefer traveling alone, I think travel is formative and women shouldn’t be afraid to travel just because they’re women–or just because they’re alone! I really support the mission of Go! Girl Guides, and I’m so glad that such a fine group of adventurous, interesting ladies take the time and effort to work on developing books for gals who want to see the world. I’m honored to be part of their team, and I hope that my work with them continues for a long time.

It’s okay to be away from home (especially when you have technology). I was admittedly apprehensive about celebrating Christmas away from home this year. I’m a creature of habit and tradition, and I wasn’t sure how well I would take having to create new experiences and traditions myself. However, I had a really great Christmas, and thanks to Google, I was able to “hang out” with a huge chunk of my family and take part in their celebrations, too!

Credit cards are important! I didn’t have a credit card until I started planning for this trip. The goal was to have it a) to rack up points for flights/hotels/whatever, which I’ve been excitedly doing and will be using these well earned miles to buy a round trip flight to Central America in 2013 and b) for emergencies. What I’ve learned is that as long as you’re responsible with them, they’re very handy.

I love my bag. Remember when I first took off, I had a whole dilemma about what kind of bag to bring? My boyfriend and I had lots of arguments discussions about it (he’s a loyal backpacker; we both love Osprey), I consulted with friends and scoured the blogs of other travelers about this issue. After all, I’d be living out of my back for the foreseeable future. So far, I have really liked having the Osprey Meridian. I’ve only used the backpack part of it a couple of times, and it’s been honestly really nice not having to lug it on my back everywhere. I won’t forget what one of the Aussies I met said to me while waiting in line for a flight check-in at the airport in Athens: “I can’t wait to get home and burn this backpack.” He had been traveling for 9 months, and was tired of having to port it around, and he was not a weak, unfit dude!

Again, along the same lines, I’m grateful I’m a staunch packer. Yes, I’ve gotten tired of the wardrobe I packed six months ago, but I was able to carry on for most flights, overall the attire I chose has served me really well, and the process of purging my wardrobe at home in preparation for my packing was super liberating.

Obviously I can’t assess all the lessons I’ve learned yet, or how valuable this trip will prove for my life. It’s not over yet, and even though I officially have my ticket back to the States (more on that later), my travels are absolutely not over (more on that later, too)! I’m so grateful to my family and friends for their ongoing support of this whole endeavor, and I can’t wait to see what adventures 2013 has in store.

Happy New Year!

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