2016 has been a year of many lessons. Most have come cloaked as something else: loss or pain, resentment, anger, fear, turmoil, happiness and deep, absolute joy. Some have come disguised as just pure, hard work, and even embarrassment or shame. The truth is, lessons, the big ones anyway, rarely come looking like lessons. They look instead like the things you do every day, like the obstacles you face, and like the pathways you choose in response.
This has been my first full year without my Dad. Travels he would have been a part of historically have been tougher. Obstacles we’ve faced as a family – and there have been many this year – have been more challenging without his insights, his encouragement, his seemingly bottomless reserve of love and support. He was always the one, in tough times, who would be first to ask if someone needed help. First to write a check. First to open his home to those in need. For me, this year was a lesson in how important it is to not allow the loss of someone like my father to become an unanswered vacuum. It’s a lesson for all of us to be that person–not wait for someone else to step up. 2016 was a lesson in how we all have the power to be the answer to someone’s prayer, bolster someone’s hope, or make someone’s silent dream come true.
This has been a year when I elected to leave the corporate world and continue to build my client base as an independent contractor. I’ve faced a lot of lessons about how clients operate, about my ability or inability to absorb new information, about my resilience and my need to remain humble and focused. I’ve learned lessons about myself, about who I truly am at my core, and about what I’m willing to do, or not do, in the name of earning a paycheck. I’ve learned to believe in my worth as a professional and an individual, and to let any projects, people or clients who do not see that worth fall away without struggle. What a powerful lesson to learn at 44! Most of all, I’ve learned this year how important it is to seek out opportunities to partner with causes and people I believe in, and how that dramatically shifts the success and satisfaction gleaned from any venture.
This has been a year of travel, where I’ve learned my limits, and where I’ve tested my boundaries. I will never again try to see eight countries in four weeks; it wiped me out for months. And I will never compromise myself to stay with someone who is disrespectful, threatening or overtly cruel (as was my Hungarian AirBnB host) nor will I ever stay at an AirBnB and put myself in a position where I have no other options. That is a vital, but difficult lesson I learned, and one that is essential for any solo traveler.
On the road in 2016, I met people who changed my perspective on life, on my career, on the world. I met Tone in Lujbjliana, Slovenia, who GAVE me his beautiful apartment for a week, at no charge, and showed me unparalleled hospitality. I met a train conductor in Romania who raised goats and who was so incredibly sweet to me, though we didn’t speak a word of one another’s language. I met Balazs in Vienna, with whom I laughed so hard my stomach hurt. I met Miriam in Berlin, who taught me what it meant to be a child on one side of the Berlin Wall, and an adult in the post-wall world. I met a husband and wife team who owned a production company and produced programs for the Travel Channel, and I learned that dreaming about telling stories–great stories–about travel is still one of my most cherished aspirations.
And, I had the chance to reconnect with friends abroad, through experiences I’ll never forget, like taking the autobahn at 215 kilometers per hour in a Mercedes, with Jeff, aka, Toes. Like driving from Germany to The Netherlands just to reconnect with PinkFish. Like hanging out with Rachel in Berlin, laughing and gorging on Turkish food. Incredible experiences with incredible people. The lesson: seek out more of this in 2017.
More than anything, in a year of so much turmoil, where it seems there is a universal license to be cruel, or to gutlessly voice your hatefulness through anonymous online posts or spiteful letters mailed without a return address, I have learned the incredibly healing power of kindness. I have always known I have the best friends and family in the world, but an amazing outpouring of support from them in 2016 made all the difference. Dear friends, and you know who you are, your kindness makes me want to be a better person. Your empathy, even and especially toward those you’ve never met, gives me hope for our collective future. Let’s create more of this; more love, more understanding, and more empathy in 2017.
If you pay attention, everything is a lesson, and everyone you meet along life’s road is a teacher. To more great lessons, and more transformational travel for all of us, in the coming year.
May we all show up, ready to learn.
Charish Badzinski is an explorer and award-winning travel and food writer. When she isn’t working to build her blog: Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World, she applies her worldview to her small business, providing strategic communications, media relations and writing support to individuals and organizations.
Find Charish on Twitter: @charishb
Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World by Charish Badzinski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.