I’ve been really tired these days. Between a full-time job that has recently gotten a lot more demanding, to maintaining my duties to fulfil the requirements for my Graduate Entrepreneur Visa in the UK, to freelance work, to running this blog and its social media, to social events, to, oh yeah, travelling, I find myself constantly wanting a nap and constantly wanting someone to crack my back for me (it feels so damn good). Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about these things; I’m learning a lot, earning a little, and still seeing the world and getting to hang out with some of my favourite people in it. My life at the moment, while busy and stressful, is a pretty great one.
But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t making plans for the future, too.
I’ve been lucky this summer, because it’s been a summer of near constant travel, more-so than usual for me. If we count May, I’ve visited Italy twice (Bologna and Cinque Terre), Spain (to Mallorca, where I stayed in a villa with my mum for a week), Sweden (for a travel blogging conference), and Prague (for a weekend holiday with a friend). I also have a weekend in Brighton coming up, as well as a few days in Paris at the end of the month. It’s been a spectacular string of travels, and I’ve loved every minute.
And, oh yeah, I also fell in love with a drink.
Yesterday was one of those jam-packed days in London that had me running all over East London, and it culminated in a really fun and random night of pub-hopping with amazing friends. I stayed in bed for a very long time, too comfortable and warm to get up despite the sun streaming in my windows, a welcome sight after some gloomy London weather.
When I finally got up, I made a coffee and sat on the couch. I live alone, and I relish these long and lazy mornings, especially on days when there are no pressing deadlines. I didn’t have plans until the afternoon, so I took the time to call my mum, read a few chapters of my current book, and then go online. I saw on Facebook that my blog’s page reached over 6,000 followers overnight, and part of me just can’t believe all the support and kindness that I’ve received through This Battered Suitcase.
I love this time of year, I really do. It’s not just the food and the decorations and the smell of the pine tree, it’s the time spent with family. This year, I feel incredibly blessed to be able to see all of my loved ones on Christmas day; my dad and sister Zalie, who both live in Winnipeg, my mum, who lives in Toronto, and my brother, who lives in Vancouver. We’ve already shared tons of laughs (and drinks) together, and the festivities will continue until I fly back to London on the 29th.
But OK, I’ll admit, I love the presents, too. Which brings me to the point of this blog post – I’d like to send ten gifts out to say thank you for another wonderful year of your comments, emails, messages, likes, and general support.
As I sat in the main square myself – I ordered my first glass of wine at 11 a.m., because when in Italy, you do as the Italians do – I was reminded of my first trip to Italy. It was 2006, nearly ten years ago. I was newly twenty-two years old. I had short, dark hair I had cut myself with my mother’s sewing scissors the night before I left my hometown in Canada. Italy was my sixth country on a huge, whirlwind backpacking trip through Europe: I had already been to the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and Germany. I was completely on my own, bouncing from one major city to the next, staying in hostels for a few days before strapping my backpack on and clutching my Eurorail pass to my chest to find another train to another city. When I think of that trip, I think of the click-clack of the destination board in the train station as it updates; I think of arriving in dark cities late at night, searching for a taxi; I think of staring out the window as the world whizzed past, watching green hills unfold in the distance, fairy-tale castles perched atop a few of them. I think of movement. And then, I think of Italy.
This year, I will say that I’m thankful for the things I normally list: my friends and family, my health, the health of those I love, my job, my flat, this blog and all of the amazing people who read it, and so on. But this year, I’m thankful for something else, too: for being present.
My mum has been saying this to me for years: be present. I’ve also thought that to be present is a key quality I want and need from the other important people in my life, whether they’re friends or romantic partners. So what do I mean by being present? I mean to be fully engaged and aware, to take in what’s going on around you, and to appreciate the life you’re living. To really listen when someone’s talking to you. To take some time to look around you when you walk somewhere. To actively seek new and fun experiences, even in your hometown. I’ve felt it a lot when I’ve travelled, but it’s not as easy to do when you’re living in the same city for a while, or living a more repetitive life.