December 31, 2015

Today is the last day of what has been the most tumultuous, stressful and exciting year of my life. A year ago, I was waiting tables in a bar in Austin, having recently graduated from UT and with no idea what to do with my degree. Since then, I’ve left my job, my city and my country behind me, and moved to the other side of the planet. I’ve started a totally new career, to which I’m still in the process of adapting, and made friends who grew up on the far side of the world from me. That’s a hell of a thing.

“The Sunny Side of the Street” by The Pogues

That said, a lot of things didn’t work out this year, and making a change as drastic as this carries a cost. I’ve left many of my dearest friends — some old, some new — back across the ocean, and my main source of sadness these days is that I don’t know when I’ll see them again. A fair number of these people are on my mind every day, and I miss them like crazy.

There have been moments when I question whether this nomadic existence I’ve chosen is really the right path. If it’s true that “happiness is only real when shared,” then a lot of my experiences in the past few months wouldn’t meet that standard. Many of those people I’ve left behind mean the world to me, and I sometimes wonder if I’m missing out on a more fulfilling life if I’d stayed to cultivate further the possibilities for friendship, romance and camaraderie I had in America. Maybe.

I could mope about the solitude I occasionally deal with here, but I think that would mean overlooking all that I’ve gained from this experience. I’ve seen things and formed memories that will be mine and mine alone for the rest of my life. And I know now that I’m capable of adapting to extreme changes in scenery and circumstance. I’ve gone pretty damn far outside my comfort zone, and by doing so I’ve expanded it. I really enjoy walking down the tree-lined boulevards of Saigon now, happily obliging whenever locals want to practice their English with me (which happens pretty often). Considering how petrified I was to leave the hotel when I first got here, that’s nothing short of amazing.

And more importantly, I’m excited about the future. I’ve barely scratched the surface of Southeast Asia, and I can’t wait to explore it further. I’m already thinking about taking trips to Cambodia, other parts of Vietnam and a host of other places. Honestly, I could spin around three times, point in a random direction, and I’ll have aimed at least three or four places I’d love to visit while I’m here. And without giving too much away, there’s a chance I may even find myself in a totally different part of the world by this time next year. I can no more predict where I’ll be in a year than I could have predicted any of this a year ago.

So I think it’s safe to say 2015 was wildly successful. And I’m not entirely sure what 2016 will hold, but I know for damn sure that I won’t spend it sitting still. There’s too much left to see.

So Happy New Year, my friends. I hope the next 366 days make your lives richer, happier and more surprising than any of us could have imagined.

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