Looking Back on a Remarkable 2017
I'm still not sure how to classify 2017 for me, but I do know that it could very well end of being one of the most important years of my life. I accomplished a lot of things this year that I wasn't sure I could, and one goal for myself heading in to 2018 is to, occasionally, cut myself a bit of slack. I'm horrible at relishing in success because mentally I'm already on to the next thing. In a sense, it's what fuels my drive and ambition, but I also know myself well enough to understand that, if unchecked, that mentality can also break you.
I'll go through each month of the year in the following paragraphs, but a lot changed from 2017 to 2018. At the turn of 2017, Istanbul was the city I called home, and at the turn of 2018, it's Toronto once again. I've taking things to another level with my travel writing, blogging, and photography, and decided to make that primary focus. That means that I've had to take teaching off the fire for a little bit, but I certainly haven't turned my back on a profession that I adore. I've also come to understand that teaching takes many forms, and that's something I'll explore in 2018.
I'm engaged now, so that's easily got to be the most exciting and important news. It's funny, I usually am so wrapped up in a topic nowadays when writing that I don't always share what I'm up to or going through on my blog anymore. In light of that, I'm loving this opportunity to speak from the heart, and not worry so much about how it performs on Google and respective social media.
Anyway, I'll be getting into more detail about specific months moving forward, so I won't go into too much detail here, but I can truly say that the door is wide open as far as possibilities in 2018. It's incredibly exciting when I think about it, though I will admit that it's a fine line between excitement and anxiety when it comes to building out revenue streams. That being said, I'm exactly where I want to be and where I set out to be heading in 2018 - and taking my own advice from paragraph one, perhaps I should celebrate that.
It was a tumultuous start to the year for me to say the least. After a succession of bombings that shook me up pretty badly, there was a nightclub shooting on New Years Eve that, for a few weeks, changed the feeling of the city. There were less people on the streets, and my friends and I were less able to confront what was or wasn't happening in our beloved home. It was my love for the city of Istanbul itself that made this all so hard. I can't tell you the relief I feel looking back at this moment in time and knowing that things didn't spiral into chaos. Certainly, people have their feelings about what has happened since, but at least the bombings and shootings didn't continue to intensify. For that, I'm thankful.
Not long after this, snow came down upon the city and brightened everyone's spirits a little (though, maybe not the taxi drivers who weren't used to driving in snow). The snow wasn't to plague us for too long though, as we were off at the end of the month to Tanzania, which ended up being one of best trips Bri and I ever planned.
Tanzania was what we thought it was going to be - absolutely sensational. The safari that we took through the Serengeti (which I still need to put a video together on now that I think about it) was a dream come true. For a week we were roughing it, then we headed to Zanzibar where the waters were so blue you could swear you were in a painting. The waters were warm, the cocktails were cold, and it was also nice to be on the road few weeks and dive into the culture.
I also launched a little mini-series podcast entitled "Into Istanbul" , with my pal and fellow travel blogger Dave Jacques, known as "A Man Without a Continent." Ironically, he's now moved back to America, so it turns out he does indeed have a continent, at least for the time being. We only put together a handful of episodes, but it was a tremendous learning experience for us both. On that note, I'm actually launching a new podcast in the coming weeks with my friend Stephanie Craig, known as History Fan Girl, so stay tuned for that.
I finished off the month by heading to Belgrade with six of my closest friends from Istanbul, so that one was hell of a way to close out the month. I still snicker at some of the jokes we were cracking during that little weekend foray in Serbia. One thing that remains a constant in my life regardless of the year, is that I love to laugh.
The first thing I notice from this photo is that I must have gotten my haircut in March. That barber was a gem, I'll tell you. The conversations over homemade rakı, while feasting on delicious, honey covered baklava --- well you can't make that stuff up.
I also went to my very first TBEX, (Travel Blog Exchange) where I met people in blogging left, right, and centre. I firmly I believe I met some lifelong friends there, and, believe it or not, I actually have a few people I met there coming to my wedding taking place in 2018. I had also always wanted to explore Tel Aviv, and I was able to do that. In some ways, attending this conference changed my life, if only because I realized what I had to do to take my game to the next level, something I believe I've done (though I'm far from where I want to be).
Representing Canada over here in Switzlerland with the Predators. So far, we've played three games and logged a win, a loss and tie, but we're playing well, and we've got a shot to win the Zurich Cup tomorrow! Wishing everyone a fine weekend, this experience has been simply incredible, and I'm feeling super lucky to be a part of it.
April started off with a bang. On the one hand, I badly injured my ankle on the first day of the month while out with friends late one fine evening. On the other hand, one week later I was playing hockey with said injured ankle in Switzerland. It took a fair bit of ibuprofen and will, but I made it through, and I cherish the memories of spending time in Zurich with my Canadian hockey team.
Bri and I then shot off to Sarajevo a week later, just because we both hadn't been to Bosnia and Herzegovina before, which was a good enough reason for both of us. I've said this before on many occasions, but I love going to a place where people raise an eye when you mention you're going there. It's nearly always worth it, which is what I discovered when we arrived in nearby Mostar, and just generally from our time in Sarajevo.
If the month wasn't good enough already, we headed off to Morocco in the last week of April. We spent time in Marrakech, Fez, Chefchaouen, and Essaouira, and adored it there. For posterity sake, and really just to ensure that this post didn't extend forever, I had promised myself that I'd just include one Instagram post per month, but I've got to include this little video that was taken at a Riad as I was pouring my tea.
In early May, I had my first exhibition to showcase my travel photography, and the experience was downright humbling. It's a nerve-racking experience to put yourself so out there, even for a travel blogger who is used to such things. Thankfully, it was a smashing success. For most of the show, I sat with a beer in hand towards the back and watched people's natural reactions, and I just smiled.
Bri and I attended our first Turkish wedding in Izmir, and after a few years in Turkey, it was nice to cross that one off the list. I'm not sure about how I am currently, but at that time I was more or less fluent in Turkish, so I could chat with most folks at the wedding regardless of their nationality. I also busted out a Turkish inspired dance move or two, which I'm still rather proud of to be frank.
We went to Kaş in the south of Turkey, and it was as beautiful as we had reckoned it would be. Naturally, we took the boat across to Greece for a few hours - because, why not? I distinctly remember eating dinner that night at quaint restaurant in a backside of Kas and being overwhelmed with happiness by the notion that I'd lived there for almost three years, though my time was almost up. It was a vivid moment that I cherish, as I took a moment to appreciate all I'd seen and done, and tried to ensure I soaked up everything heading in the final month or so in Turkey.
To finish off the month, Steph came and visited Istanbul, and I again recalled why I loved the place so dearly.
Now this was quite the month, and one that hard far reaching ramifications if I do say so myself. We started the month of with another side-trip and this time we found ourselves in Brussels, Belgium. There are, as it turns out, many worse places to spend a weekend. They've got excellent seafood, top-notch beer, and it wasn't nearly as expensive as I thought it might be.
We said goodbye to our beloved Istanbul. After three years, we packed up and took off, but the memories are as clear today as they were in June. I'm hoping to get back soon, one way or another. Of course, before departing, I made an even bigger life move than simply moving away, and I asked Bri to marry me. She said yes! And it all happened among close friends on a boat out on the Bosphorus. In retrospect, it all worked out perfectly, and for that I'm eternally grateful.
July. What can I say about July? The month was spent housesitting in Mijas, Spain, but visiting all parts of southern Spain. The food, and more specifically tapas, were out of this world, and the weather was idyllic. We had a little rental car with which we sped everywhere we could - Malaga, Marbella, Ronda, Seville, Cordoba, Granada. and the list goes on and on. We also visited Gibraltar during that time to visit friends, and that turned into quite the day as well.
If I get started talking too much about Spain, then I'll never stop, so I'll save that for another time. I should actually have some freelance articles coming out in the near future on some of my experiences in Spain, so I suppose you'll just have to stay tuned.
August was a wild one, but in the very best of ways. Bri and I wrapped up our travels in France, as well as Andorra, and headed on back to North America. Almost immediately after landing, I went to visit one of my best buddies Jon in New York City, and we did some lobster fishing in Maine as well for his bachelor party. Talk about hitting the ground running.
It was actually really rejuvenating to be home again, even though Toronto didn't necessarily feel like home quite yet. The most remarkable thing, at least in my humble opinion, was that I found the culture shock of moving back to Toronto more intense than the culture shock of initially moving to Turkey. Life in North America is so fast paced, with little room for reflection, and that was intimidating to me at first, even though I'm born of that culture. I've certainly had to make a conscious effort to create space for contemplation and reflection in fast paced Toronto, though I'm now very much appreciating the city.
September was all about diving even further into what Ontario had on offer, and especially from a culinary perspective. It was also about building out a foothold for myself career wise in Toronto. I began working with a number of brands and companies looking to work with bloggers and influencers, and spent a lot of time cultivating relationships that have since come to fruition.
Bri and I also headed to Philadelphia to witness the gorgeous union of our friends Jamie and Jon, and it made for one of the best weekends of the year. If you haven't gathered, I'm a sentimental man, and there's no question I shed a tear or two at the ceremony, and gave a hug or two on the dance floor.
September was all about settling back into life in Toronto, but also gearing up for the October and November, which, somewhat unbeknownst to me, would be spent in countries decidedly not named Canada.
October takes the prize for the month that ended up being the most spontaneous, or at the very least, it didn't resemble what I thought it might look like when October 1st rolled around. What was planned was my trip to TBEX (Travel Blog Exchange) in Killarney, Ireland. This time, I knew a fair amount of people, so ended up sharing a cottage with Steph, Chris, and Carol. The conference was a big success for me, I felt, if only because I finally felt that I belonged. I didn't attend a session that was over my head (and, in some cases, quite the opposite), but Steph and I spent a lot of time joking that it felt good to be "medium blogs." Either way, it changed my aspirations for what I could accomplish.
The big shift here that I didn't expect was that I would be offered the opportunity to be a part of Experience Bucharest, as well as Experience Romania. Experience Bucharest took place towards the end of October, and it was a conference laid out for about 100 bloggers from around the world, with a focus on exploring what Bucharest had on offer. Leading up to both of those conferences, I spent some downtime in Bratislava, Slovakia, as well as Sofia, Bulgaria. I literally had no idea heading into October that I would be stepping food in Slovakia, Bulgaria, or Romania, but all three countries offered something special.
Oh it was also my birthday in the middle of October which I celebrated with Steph and her partner and Sofia, so that was an added bonus.
The first part of November was also spent exploring Romania with about 45 other bloggers from around the world. This was a time when I was utterly focused on improving my photography even further. I'd like to think that over the past year I've come leaps and bounds when it comes to my photography. The exhibit near the start of the year certainly didn't hurt my confidence, but beyond that, if you've been following me closely, you'll likely have noted that my instagram feed is a lot more curated now. I used to post more on the fly, whereas now I spend at least half an hour working on any photo I even think of throwing up there. It seems to have resulted in more engagement, so I'm sticking with that approach for the time being. I figure that people can see the "behind the scenes" through Instagram stories, but that my instagram feed serves more as a professional archive.
When I landed back in Toronto, Bri and I headed up north to the lake, and then swung through Algonquin Park to get to a friend's cottage. I also published my 1000th photo on Instagram, which I felt was a bit of a milestone.
Another opportunity came up which I hadn't expected, I flew off to Japan! That is truly what has been marvellous about this career shift. It's not even that I'm not working the 9-5, it's that I literally don't know what country I'll be in during that month depending on what opportunities arise!
I had thought that I could expect what Japan would be like in the midst of autumn, but I was wrong. The reds were deeper than I could have imagined, and yet there were plenty of deep greens and yellows to spare as well. At this time of year, nature just popped, and it made it a joy to walk through and reflect upon. I’m not at all surprised by the amount of brilliant philosophy and deep thinking that has come from this nation throughout its history. ••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• #visitjapanjp #gocentraljapan #visitchubu #jtb #shoryudo #okada #japaneseculture #japan_of_insta #japanfocus #japantrip #japan2017 #visitjapan #japan🇯🇵 #japanlife #japanphoto #autumn🍁 #autumnleaves #autumn2017 #autumntime #autumnday #tbscommunity #autumn🍂 #autumnfeels #autumncolors #autumncolors🍁 #reflectiontime #walkingtrail #walkingtime #travelasia #travelporn
I kicked off the month in Japan! Since then, I've actually written a lot about Japan, primarily for Go Backpacking. I've written about my time in Asuke, visiting Nagoya Castle, as well as the Toyokawa Inari Shrine! I absolutely loved revisiting Japan, and exploring the Chubu Region, and area I'd yet to truly discover, seeing as I'd only visited Tokyo and Kyoto prior. Japan was exactly where I wanted to be heading in to the last month of the year.
I then came back to Toronto to spend a little time soaking up the city, and doing a little work in the process, while finding time to see friends and family. My brother, his partner Katie, Bri and I went up north to spend some quality time together as well, and I couldn't have asked for a better few days.
To top it all over, I got to ring in the new year in London! I hadn't been here for about 8 years, which is a fact that blows my mind a little bit. I got to catch up with old friends I hadn't seen in a while, and tonight I'll actually be meeting up with some friends in the blogging world to eat some Peruvian food in SOHO.
2017, in Sum
So, what did I think about the year? This post started off as an idea just to really share one instagram post that highlighted the month, but turned into so much more. That's largely because I'm blessed in that most of my months in 2017 just couldn't be summed up with one picture - there was just too much going on. When I look back, I'm not sure there was a single month this year where I didn't visit another country, and that blows my mind a bit.
I also didn't expect this post to be so therapeutic for me. Over the past few months I've had some health challenges related to my stomach, and I'm now on this strict diet (called low FODMAP for anyone who is interested), and it's had this effect of dampening my mood just a touch. I'd spent the latter part of the year feeling sorry for myself in a sense, and I feel like writing this was the strongest reminder I've had that I'm absurdly lucky to live the life I have over the past year.
It's also a reminder that there is so much in 2018 I'm sure I will appreciate, but don't necessarily even know exists quite yet.
Mainly, in 2017, my philosophy on life itself came to fruition. I took leaps of faith where I always wanted to, and learned to appreciate success but also gracefully accept criticism and defeat. I learned that, yes, I have talent when it comes to writing and photography and so on, but there's so much I can improve on. That, to me, is what 2018 is all about, taking everything to the next level from a health, career, and mental and personal standpoint.
You'll have to excuse me now though, as I'm off to explore London, which you can follow live on all my respective social media if you so choose. It feels good that this year is a continuation of the last in some sense, but also contains so many doors that I've yet to open, for which I'm sure that somewhere I hold the key.