Life Abroad,  Thoughts,  Yearly Recap

Looking Back On Last Year, 2021

Alright, look, I’m embarrassed how late this post is coming out, but when you’ve just come home from a fifteen day trip abroad, dropped your bag and started a full work week (ew), there are a lot of other things to manage.

So already, we’re not doing it the traditional way as the typical happy “Year of Life and Travels” year-end re-caps.

2021 was one of the hardest years I’ve experienced, but I can’t tell if it’s only the beginning of more to come or just a fluke of a year. I admit, I can only think of a couple years or times of my life that reached the same par as life is usually sunshine and rainbows for me, I guess. I’m still unclear if this is going to be the new normal or not, and in some ways, I do think there is The Before and After – for me, that time of life “perfectly” synced up with the pandemic.

There were some really good things that happened (which I’ll get to soon!) but also some real shit that went down, which it seems disingenuous not to mention at all here… then what’s the point of a re-cap post, right? I’m just going to give the quick and dirty version, not getting too much into really personal details (iykyk). Nearly the first entire half of the year was spent in a strict lockdown. From the end of January until the end of May were basically a blur. I was not in a good place mentally. I haven’t struggled much with anxiety and and all with depression since I lived in Seattle nearly ten years ago, but the depression portion came back to me in fits and starts that winter/spring, especially as I tried to be happy for the U.S. and the amount of people who were being vaccinated, the news was looking more and more hopeless for us in the Czech Republic. We were told by our doctor to expect August for vaccination. For the first time, I just wanted to leave the Czech Republic. Get out. Run away. I didn’t feel anything for the future. I felt so bad that I did hardly anything for Alex’s birthday in early April, which was the worst of my gloom cloud. I started questioning if I could ever feel the emotion of joy again (and sometimes, to be honest, I don’t think I’ll ever get back to what it used to be, but I hope so).

Quick side-note: I just want to quickly note that in mentioning anxiety and depression, I would never wish this feeling on anyone, for any length of time and my heart goes out to anyone reading this who struggles regularly with depression. At it’s worst, it feels like living in hell. I was glad to see the end of it and lucky that it’s rare; not a chronic situation for me. Being really open about it is the most helpful and healing thing for me, personally.

My saving grace during these months was definitely Alex, who would watch Ally McBeal episodes with me (even though he doesn’t even love it). Being an active member of my book club and our meetings throughout the winter. Starting a brand-new job (then, part-time) in February, even though it was teaching all online with software I’d never used, students I’d never met and and nobody turned their cameras on! It was wonderful, but very stressful getting the hang of it. Weekly online game nights with friends were the only things I looked forward to… that and obsessively studying philosophy. I read a lot of Plato that winter. (This winter, Aristotle!)

The spring weather was icy… not a big mood-lifter! It snowed in the middle of April. I took some hikes, a Spring Retreat (which was lovely). I went on one jog… after which my body hurt for four entire days afterwards…. and called it good ’til next year. I celebrated my birthday quietly by the river with sushi and a bottle of sparkling apple cider in such delicate and mild spring weather. I scrambled and fought like hell for the right to get vaccinated as soon as I possibly could. I am so thankful to the three individuals who exercised their power and also fought for me when I seemingly wasn’t being allowed to do so. The people I know here in Budejovice are some of the best I’ve ever met.

On the very last day of May, I watched Bo Burnham’s Inside and it was a completely cathartic experience. Although very emotional, I felt it helped me reconcile and begin to let go over the past five months. A gigantic release. Coming out of lockdown is never easy, of course. I remember attending an outdoor function in mid-June and I was sofreakedout over all the maskless people around. (To be honest, I still am freaked out about people with an unknown-to-me vaccination status and I kind of hate it)

Eventually this year got better and late June was the beginning of feeling happiness again. After a beautiful celebration of our wedding anniversary in Krumlov and then a beautiful “Hello, Summer” weekend in Prague with warm days, Euro Cup, friends and delicious food in June (I smiled! I laughed and had fun! This is what fun feels like!), we chose Vienna as our European summer destination for early July as it was an overland journey and only three hours by train. We spent nearly a week in a gorgeous summer house on the outskirts of the city and really getting to know the Austrian capital much better than before. It had always seemed like a bit of an enigma but now I think we both have a better grasp on it. Krumlov, Prague and Vienna in such short succession brightened my spirits so much!

We went exclusively to Washington (okay, and a wee bit of Oregon) for over five weeks at the end of July, which was far more overwhelming than I had hoped it would be. For those who don’t live away from their hometowns, it’s hard to properly put into words how exhausting trips homes can easily be if not mitigated, and still, I am not perfect at this. There were some really nice things about the time back home. Clamming on Whidbey Island, finally being crowned pub trivia champs at the hometown pub, lots of camping and lake time, going to a poetry slam on Lopez Island, eating as much seafood and Mexican food as possible, seeing good friends, any time spent in a boat – these are among my favorite moments. I know the next trip home will be even better. It’s an ever-evolving learning process.

Although the pandemic worsened again in the autumn, really great things happened at the end of summer — much needed good news for this year: I accepted a full-time job position in October and said goodbye to freelance life and dove in to in-person teaching in classrooms (vs. online with Zoom). As far as job things go, it was what I had long really wanted to do, so I am so happy to be an employee, for the first time since I moved to the Czech Republic. In a way, it feels like all my work here for the past nine years had led up to this, and having just finished my first successful in-person semester, I’m feeling great about it. I was pretty stringent about mask-wearing in my lessons and made it through 2021 unscathed!

Another thing which I have not yet mentioned (but have several times drafted a post about): we finally finished paying off our not-insignificant debt which we owed to our insurance company since 2018 (remember our visa crisis of 2018? yep, it’s related). How we got into debt accidentally (and how this could happen to anyone) is a whole blog post which I’ll probably write somewhat soon-ish now that the whole terrible affair is over with. If anyone would be interested in reading how a careful expat can suddenly find themselves in this terrible situation, let me know, because boy, is it a cautionary tale.

This, plus avoiding the coronavirus enough to manage a successful Christmas trip with both of our mothers in England this year? Well, I’d say the second half of the year really wasn’t too shabby at all.

Looking forward to talking about our wonderful English countryside trip very soon. So thankful the year wasn’t a bust. There are such sweet times that I take with and hold close to me and am so thankful for as we move firmly into 2022.

2021 Favorites

GLOW ON by Turnstile was my Folklore of 2021. It’s a flawless record. Of other albums that came out this year in my top five, I also deeply enjoyed ULTRAPOP by The Armed, Tawny EP by Drug Church, Fuck Art by The Dirty Nil and SKA DREAM by Jeff Rosenstock. Ska is my happy music, and 2021 sure needed it! Although lame-sounding, I have to admit that finding Below Deck was my favorite TV find of the year. We had so much fun watching it this summer in the States! It’s truly fascinating and the cast is hilarious. Books of the year soon to come!

Lessons Learned

Phew, so many learning experiences were had. My biggest one is to surrender control – something particularly difficult for me to accept. Sometimes there are things that happen that you cannot do a damn thing about. Let go, and let God, as they say, or however you want to look at it. This is a great one for getting through this never-ending pandemic and is going to be one of my main mantras for 2022.

I also learned that, as it seems this whole ~pandemic situation~ isn’t going to end anytime in the near future, to go for what you want and make it happen, somehow. Life is too short to wait. The caveat to that being as long as you are taking every possible precaution and your decisions do not endanger others’ lives. I am sincerely glad we went on our two-and-a-half-year planned Christmas holiday, even though the risks were there – everyone is doing well and continues to be healthy after our time in the UK, even though, I did pick up a cold, full-disclosure.

State of the Blog Address

At this point, we’re just happy the blog is still up and running. It would be sad not to have a place to record things so I foresee not much changing regarding this space in the next year. I feel called to continue writing about the things I’d like to and connecting with readers in this space.

My 3 Favorite Posts This Year…

Usually I do five posts, but it is actually painful for me to go back and read most of my posts from this year, especially the first half. These ones make me happy, though.

My Winter Joys, Goals & Other Things – A classic Adventurings post for feelin’ good in the wintertime. This one makes me smile.

Das Sommerhaus (Getting to Know Vienna) – Another really feel-good post for me – this was such a happy time this summer. The future looked bright, life felt really good. This was a great time getting to know this city.

A Little Post About Olomouc, Czech Republic – Freshly back from the USA and with barely any crowns in our pocket, we decided… to go to Olomouc. Best financial decision it was not but it was fantastic to finally see this Moravian jewel of a city!

Most Popular Posts This Year…

Is Czech Republic the Dog-Friendliest Country in Europe? – A post from last year about taking Ferdinand to the Prague Zoo got a lot of love.

7 Things to Do When You Really Miss a Place – Nice to see this older post getting some love, too! I am an expert misser of places, but also I know how to mitigate it quite well.

Growing a Tiny Garden Anywhere – This post, seemingly unloved when I posted it a few years ago continues to get love elsewhere on the internet. Here’s to our tiny gardens in 2022!

The Books of 2021 – Oddly, the most popular post I wrote in 2021. Much luv to my book club, I think they may have been the culprits! 2022 edition coming soon.

Recipe: Chaga Masala Tea – What is wintertime without making some of this delicious non-caffeinated tea? I think I need to go back some as soon as possible!

As for plans for this year, 2022, it’s hard to say other than I know we’ll be sticking closer to “home” this year (no long flights planned) and I that I’d really like to go to Italy this year! I’ve had a hankering for awhile now and I hope the situation is good enough this spring or summer that we can visit. I haven’t been since 2008 (!!) so I’m very much looking forward to returning and having a luxurious trip there. I will also be studying very hard this winter in hopes to complete my herbalism course by the end of April, and keep up on my other subjects as well.

Happy New Year, friends, and thanks for sticking around in the past year. It’s sincerely nice to know you’re still around. Wishing you all the best for this year and hope it’s off to a great start so far.

PS, There’s always last year’s year-end re-cap 2020 if you wanna keep the nostalgia train going!