Today is my 41st Birthday. I pushed this column to Thursday this week so it would coincide with my day of passing from 40 years old to 41 years. As you can see below – 40 was a great year. I have so much to be happy about in my life and I’m sure that my 41st year will be even better! Just 60 years to go by my reckoning….
It’s been a hell of a year. Wow. When I say that, I mean it in a good way – mostly. As I look at the year 2012, I find that my site traffic increased 230%, the amount of money I earned went up a whopping 350% and I managed to travel to more than fifty cities in ten different countries in just 366 days while taking care of business, building relationships, and taking care of my wife and daughter. Add to that that I published a new novel, wrote another new novel, and published nearly 400 new stories here on Vagobond.com in addition to publishing on other sites, I incorporated Vagobond Travel Media, LLC, and continuously worked on getting my wife’s visa to the USA and taking care of my student loans – and it adds up – but wait, there’s more!
I improved my Turkish, French, and Arabic over 2012, though not to the fluent level I had hoped for, I bought more than 30 new websites, and I didn’t get hugely fat from sitting in front of the computer. Wow.
There were some failures…I didn’t end up buying a house in either Turkey or Morocco, my above mentioned fluency failed to materialize, and I didn’t manage to kick sugar out of my diet or become incredibly physically fit. I also didn’t manage to get my wife and my family to the USA during this year, which is disappointing, but we are getting closer all the time – I hope.
In terms of travel – it was far from my most adventurous year but it made up for it in terms of comfort and luxury. I only visited three new countries this year – Malta, San Marino, and Egypt. Most of my time was spent exploring and getting to know Mediterranean countries I’ve already visited – Morocco, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Spain, France, and (non-Mediterranean) England. In fact, it was a pleasure to get to know these countries even better and in every one of them I managed to stay in super high end hotels and eat meals prepared by world renowned chefs.
In fact, I even got to cook with a few of them with instruction in the art of national and regional cuisines. I got to ride around the pyramids on horseback when there were almost no other tourists there and to explore Florence on foot then get up close and personal with the famous foods of Modena and Bologna. I sailed around the Aegean, rode a motorcycle through massive fires on the island of Chios, and visited the world at the World Travel Market in London which was actually like going to a score of new countries.
For our second anniversary, my wife and I had a champagne hot air balloon ride followed by a day exploring the largest underground city in the world and ending with a meal in a Michelin starred restaurant. I touched the leaning tower of Pisa, visited the tomb of Rumi, stayed in tree houses next to ancient Greek ruins, and crossed from Europe to Asia and Europe to Africa and Africa to Europe and Asia to Europe. I snow sledded in Africa, bought a deck of tarot in Marseilles (where they were re-invented), bird watched in Italy, and took long beer soaked walks in London. I sunned on African, Asian, and European beaches – and all in all – had a kick ass year.
Admittedly – it wasn’t as far ranging as last year since I stayed in the Med region for the most part, but I feel like my travels in 2012 were more fulfilling in scope rather than geography. The truth is, this year, I didn’t want to go so far from my little daughter – a couple of weeks felt like ages. I’m so thankful I didn’t miss her first words, her first steps, her first crawl, her first laugh, or her first anything – as far as I can tell. I was there for it all and able to bring her back presents that most Moroccan kids don’t seem to have which makes me feel a mixture of pride and shame at the world. Not her fault, not my fault, the world’s fault. Still, I’m happy she gets to have nice things from all over the world and happier that I can provide them for her.
2012 was the continuation of another ongoing goal. Once again, I was not a smoker – quitting smoking was one of the best decisions I made in 2011 and I’m happy to have continued on the healthy path.
It’s funny because there is a part of me that wishes that I could bring my wife and daughter with me on all of these trips but my wife’s visa issues (her being Moroccan) makes every trip four times as complicated as it should be and for some reason, even though she is tiny – whenever I bring my wife, a trip costs 4x as much….besides, I like traveling alone and having time to think and dream and put things together. Although someday, I hope to bring Sophia on trips with me and of course, I want to bring Hanane (on some trips) too. So, there is a blessing in every hardship- that’s for sure.
For 2013 – I have a funny message to give you. I love writing about my travel. I enjoy most of my travel, but the truth is, I have to tell you I think that travel is overrated. Mostly I think that is because people want to sell you trips, tours, flights, and hotels. The truth is – everything you get from travel, you can get from where you already are. I don’t really want to travel very much in 2013. I want to take my family to the USA, dig in, and begin putting my energy fully into my passions – writing, food, art, gardening. I think that is where it is at for me and for you…I recommend you focus on the things that bring you joy at home and enhancing those…for example…I love gardening so taking part in a permaculture workshop in 2013 is one of my goals. I love art so doing some sort of artist retreat in 2013 is a goal. I love writing so doing a writing retreat in 2013 is a goal. And I love food so doing food retreats, foodie travel, learning about wild foods, or taking cooking classes is where it’s at for me.
Ah, this is also the conclusion of another goal. I made a resolution to write a new column every week during 2012 and this is the final one for the year. I did it! On that same note – there was at least one story published on Vagobond (and sometimes two or three) every day this year. Let’s see if we can do even better on everything in 2013!
Happy New Year Everyone (because today is MY new year.)