Where Am I Going, Where Have I Been?

Like a lot of people, every December I take a look back at what I’ve accomplished and set a long list of goals for the year ahead. Last year I did something a bit different. Instead of thinking of my life in terms of “what should I do/have/be?” I started thinking in terms of “what do I want to do/have/be” and that freed up a lot of mental space to do some really amazing things.

Travel More

On my to-do list every year is travel more and last spring, I took on a contract to contribute to a guidebook to Germany. One chapter turned into four and I spent the summer on tour in southern Germany. I wandered the Alps and the Black Forest, swam in mountain lakes, toured King Ludwig’s decadent Bavarian palaces, relaxed poolside at top resorts and lost my shirt at Baden-Baden’s infamous casino — you know, the one from Dostoyevsky’s “The Gambler,” which Marlene Dietrich once said was the greatest she’d ever been in — before hitting up the city’s century-old spa. I hadn’t been to most of these parts of Germany before and was pleasantly surprised to stumble upon some of the country’s gorgeous natural wonders, like a walled town nestled nicely into a meteor crater.

The book will be out in April so expect to see and hear more from these travels soon.

Staying in Germany though meant I had to put off travels further afield, making it now two years and counting since I’ve been back to the States, so 2016 is going to include more international trips. First up, the Danish island of Bornholm to see its intense artist’s community and soak up some inspiration.

Get Cultured

I spend a lot of my working life writing copy and one of my favorite long-term projects to be a part of is DHL In Motion, where I’m Fashion and Culture Editor. I interview musicians from Leipzig’s Gewandhaus Orchestra and feature fashion designers as part of their Fashion Week partnerships. The work last year turned me on to two womenswear labels slowly making their way into my closet: Nicholas K and Francesca Liberatore and this year has already kicked off with an interview with one of my favorite Danish designers, Anne Sofie Madsen.

I’m going to be doing a lot more culture reporting in 2016; the first article to go up (soon!) is a spotlight on five of my favorite designers in Denmark, which was great fun to write. It’s a follow-up to the New Antwerp Six article posted on Paper Mag, which had me drooling over both the pieces and their seriously talented creators.

I interviewed Platon about his iconic photographs from the Iraq War and “how important love is” and talked to Arlene Gottfried about the sexism she faced as a woman photographer in the late 70s, heard Wim Wenders speak about how the American landscape influences him creatively and got nostalgic for New York with Jamel Shabazz. Looking forward to more of the same connections with artists at the top of their game.

Do Good

Most of the writing and editing I do for foundations and NGOs that work in development is confidential so I can’t show you what I’ve done work-wise but my goal for 2016 is to do a lot more writing about the topics that are dear to my heart: conflict resolution, transitional justice, refugees, Afghanistan and women’s rights in war zones. Know anyone doing great work in these areas, I’d love to hear about them!

Like nearly everyone around the world, the refugee crisis has been hurting my heart all year long and I’ve searched for ways to help as best I can. Because of my work on peace topics, I had known this crisis was brewing and have felt paralyzed by it, sitting in meetings where people’s lives are being discussed in numbers and statistics and swore that I’d do more with my writing to humanize this. Writing doesn’t bring much but here’s a start. We also have done a lot as a community to help those who’ve arrived here in Cologne and I’ll write more about that this week, these small acts of kindness that are giving a nudge towards a better life for some. May the coming year be filled with less tragedy and hate and more acceptance of these people who have lost everything.

Write More (Personally)

Of course writing more is always on my to-do list but this year, I’m getting even more specific: more personal essays. I shut down my blog so that I can work on writing about myself less anonymously and maybe, finally finishing a book.

Get Cozy

The biggest thing I did in 2015 was move house, trading a too-small apartment for a turn-of-the-century railroad flat — the roomiest place I’ve ever called home and one where I finally got to set up a writing room. I’ll spend most of the next year making it cozy for a project I’m tentatively calling the Hygge Experiment — a mixture between the Year of Living Danishly and my very own Happiness Project,which you’ll be hearing more about soon.