In a few days I’ll leave my mid twenties and enter my late. I feel like I just wrote my 25th year post, and the past two years have been an absolute whirlwind. It’s been an incredible year, and so much has happened. So, what did 26 look like for me?
It was a year of new, and firsts, and constant change. And probably far too much time spent in airports.
I celebrated turning 26 here in Dublin, it was my first birthday abroad after a weekend trip to Brussels where we spent most of our time bundled up eating seafood and drinking wine at Nordzee; it was the perfect sort of weekend city break.
From there I went on my first girls trip to Barcelona where we wandered the streets, ate so many tapas and drank plenty of cava. The Dublin weather had taken it’s final turn towards winter dreariness, much as it has now, with short cold days and many a night spend cuddled in blankets in our drafty apartment. Heading to Barcelona was in part, a way to spend time with new friends, but also a much needed break for our thin North American skins. As it would turn out, it was last bit of warmth we’d experience in months as Dublin entered one of the coldest winter’s it’s had in years. The trip was the start of a friendship between us all that would prove the single best part of moving to Dublin, as travel always does, it broke down barriers and forced a new bond between us all.
I hadn’t been to Spain since I was eighteen, which now feels like a lifetime ago. Back then I had just graduated high school and set off for my first international trip. I never would have guessed eight years later I’d be in the same country as an expat grad student with newfound friends. It felt a bit like my life had come full circle, I could have never imagined the wonderful adventures my life would take me on.
After finishing my first semester of graduate school Alex and I met my Mom and sister in central Europe. We spent a few weeks seeing Budapest, Vienna, Bratislava, Prague, and Munich. All places I had never been. I had never been to central Europe and found myself loving it, far more than Western Europe. It was wonderful spending Christmas and New Years in foreign places I had never been, a tradition that’s now running on 5 years this Christmas, and certainly one I’d love to continue.
The winter in Dublin dragged on as we started classes back up. The omnipresent cold mixed with humidity meant a constant cold, damp feeling perforated everything. But we made the most of it with nights out in warm pubs surrounded by the rest of Dublin waiting out the winter.
Because we never travel in season (mostly, on accident) we spent ten days in February in Scandinavia and Iceland, though it was brief visit, but one of my favorite trips to date. We fulfilled a life time dream of eating at Noma in Copenhagen. When we flew in, we also went from airport to Mikkeller for the closing hours and a few delicious beers and appetizers. Our 24hours in Denmark were filled almost entirely with food adventures, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
From there we headed to Iceland, another bucket list destination. Though it was cold, it was truly an incredible place. When reading about Iceland we read it was like another planet, and true enough, the landscape was like nothing we’d ever seen. We also got Norovirus. Which, we didn’t know at the time, and instead of staying in and resting despite flu-like symptoms we soaked in thermal pools and climbed glaciers. Even though by the time I scaled my first ice wall I thought I might collapse, it was more than worth it. Iceland is certainly a country I’d love to return to, ideally, minus norovirus.
We headed home with a brief stop over in Stockholm, or “the home country.” Though we spent most of the time curled up recovering in our hotel room we did manage a walk around the snowy city and a stop at the market for gravlax and wine.
For spring break the girls and I headed back to Spain; the Canary Islands. We based this trip on two things: cheap flights and warmth. I remember distinctly standing ocean side the day we arrived, sun shinning, warmth absorbing into my skin and feeling insanely happy. I had forgotten what it felt like to be warm. I felt giddy I could walk around in a t-shirt. The trip was lazy, as spring break ought to be, shifting from beaches to cafes, to dunes, and back again.
I had never been to Italy. Which given my propensity to travel for the sake of eating, this seemed wrong. So when one of my friends invited me to spend a week in Rome I jumped at the opportunity. Though it was chilly, and rained quite a bit the lack of tourists, plus delicious food meant it was a throughly enjoyable trip.
For Alex’s spring break we went to California. I had never expected to miss the US as much as I did, and felt a strange happiness when seeing generally boring things like Target. Traveling for the past several years I never really missed the US, but living full-time in Europe made me miss it so much. Really, it was the little things, like opening hours, recognizable brands, and decent weather. Hitting US soil never felt so good.
We finished up our second semester of grad school. We celebrated St. Patrick’s day in Ireland, went to the Trinity Ball, and drove around the Wicklow Mountains. I realized I never spoke much to my experience at Trinity, and in part that’s because it seems so much less interesting than everything else we did. And in part, it wasn’t that hard. Sure, we had a lot of papers, and long days, but I never felt overwhelmed by any of it. I would still say culinary school was harder! But it was good, and I learned so much. For the most part I throughly enjoyed both semesters and can now speak competently on public health issues. Plus, it was so interesting to learn about the US PH issues from a European perspective. Of course, this mostly resulted in: “how not to do things.”
I then flew home to see my little sister graduate high school, I felt so blessed to be able to be there for that. And it was wonderful to be back in my hometown, watching my sister take her first steps into adulthood.
The summer was dominated by my thesis, and of course, projects to avoid working on my thesis.
We managed a short day trip to Big Sur.
And a few weeks in Nicaragua where we honed our travel preferences. It was our first trip we walked away with mixed feelings. In part, it was frustrating feeling disappointed about a much-anticipated trip, and while we had a great time overall, we would certainly do it much differently given the chance. It was however, an excellent learning process.
The summer ended with an absurd number of flights, to the east coast to visit a good friend, and finally see D.C., then a wedding, and back to Denver to help my sister move into college. Then it was back to Dublin for my final thesis submission (and acceptance!).
The fall was primarily practical, moving apartments, finishing thesis work, apply for graduation and a work visa. Though I was able to take a six-week wine course so that I feel less ridiculous ordering at restaurants! All of that done as of October 31st. Just in time to celebrate my birthday before heading home for Thanksgiving/Graduation.
What an incredible, incredible year. One of the best I’ve ever had. Looking back it’s simply astounding all that happened. I feel like I’ve packed years of adventure into a single calendar year, and got a Master’s degree too! And while this year won’t be nearly as exciting (job hunting!), it will be good in it’s own way. And perhaps, a bit more calm isn’t the worst thing. I have a solid community of friends and finally feel like Dublin is our home. And it’s hard to believe we’re already in our second year, pretty soon we’ll be stateside again (and turning 30!! eep!). So on to 27, I can’t wait! I already know it’s going to be a year of great change-but more on that later 🙂