2018 was a tumultuous year for me. It was the first full year I’ve spent in the United States since 2011. As such, it has been quite a year of transitions. I have had days and weeks where I questioned my decisions and worried about the future. I’ve struggled with depression, with physical injuries, and with anxiety.
The transition back from living abroad surprised me in its intensity. Living abroad is a constant adventure where your mind is learning every day. Whether you’re adapting to the new cultural norms, learning the language, or exploring some new area of your foreign home, living abroad is thrilling. The transition back to living at home can be jarring. Suddenly all that mental energy that went towards your day-to-day has nowhere to go. For me, that resulted in, at first, a lot of tension and emotional confusion, and eventually, in a lot of activity. I had to throw all that mental energy into learning new things and finding new challenges, or else get lost in a mire of confusion.
For all that I miss my life abroad, I’ve also had some really fun adventures since moving back to New England. I’ve explored the absolute heck out of the White Mountains, taken several trips to Vermont, and I did get to take one really special trip abroad at the beginning of the year. So, instead of focusing on the hard times of 2018, I want to take a moment to reflect on the year that was, review some of my favorite adventures, and talk a bit about some of my hopes and plans for 2019.
My Top 3 Highlights of 2018
Most of my 2018 adventures were undertaken solo, but some of them featured my boyfriend and best friend Erich and some other seriously awesome women who have come into my life this year. It was the support of these people that really gave me the energy to accomplish all that I did in the past year.
1. Skiing at Whistler
This year kicked off strong with a week-long trip to Whistler, one of Canada’s premier ski resorts. I’d never visited this part of the world before and the sheer magnificence of the place shocked me.
On our first day, the summit was wreathed in fog. I did my best to explore the terrain—skiing off-piste for the first time in my life and navigating a field of bumps larger than most east coast mountains—but it was on day two that I really discovered Whistler. That day I woke up to crystal blue skies and saw for the first time the majesty of the Canadian Rockies. From the summit of Whistler, a wonderland of snow-capped peaks stretched as far as the eye could see in every direction. For the whole day, I skied in a kind of blissful dream state. Every dip and curve of the slope revealed some new magnificent vista of mountain wilderness. I was in heaven.
I realize Whistler and the sport of skiing are not accessible to everyone. It’s extraordinarily expensive and requires years of practice to get to a level capable of skiing on a mountain such as Whistler. On top of that, it requires a level of wealth and privilege just to take a trip and spend a week there. So, I realize this isn’t accessible to everyone and doesn’t really fit into my usual approach of extreme budget solo travel. That said, if you do get the opportunity to ski at Whistler, take it.
2. Completing 2 Century Rides (My first!)
For those not in the world of cycling, a century ride is a 100-mile bike ride. This year, I completed my first and second century rides and I couldn’t be prouder of myself. The first I did solo, training in the cold, wet New England March and April, trying desperately to get into shape for my May 20th ride, terrified I wouldn’t be able to finish it.
The night before that first ride I could barely sleep. As the sun rose that morning, I took off with no fanfare. The ride had no official start so I started riding by myself. I feared I would ride the entire century solo, struggling in vain against a ferocious headwind. But my fears were unfounded. Before I’d even ridden 10 miles I was picked up by a group of friendly but competitive riders from south of Boston who encouraged me to “hop on!” their peloton. I kept pace with them for the next 20 miles, adrenaline coursing through my veins. When I got to the first rest stop I pulled out my phone and checked Strava to find my speed. Though I hoped to average 16 mph for the whole century, I was shocked beyond belief to see I’d averaged 18.9mph over the first 30 miles. To my knowledge, that was the fastest I’d ever ridden. By the end of the ride, my average speed was just above 18 mph.
I learned that day that I am capable of so much more than I give myself credit for.
Hiking My First Presidential Traverse
The crowning achievement of my year, by far, was my first Presi Traverse. This hike, known as one of the toughest in New England, spans roughly 23 miles and crosses several of the tallest peaks in the region. For me, this hike was yet another example of my tendency to underestimate myself. In the days leading up to my hike, I was terrified I wouldn’t be able to complete it. And yet when the day came I flew along the trail, covering the main section, 15 miles, before 5pm, nearly 2 hours ahead of schedule.
What really makes the Presi Traverse stand out as my top adventure of 2018 is the amazing community of hikers that exists in the White Mountains. Over the three days that I spent on the trail, my fellow Presi hikers became my companions, almost friends, though we were all strangers at dawn. As I saw the same people, peak after peak, we started to look out for one another, checking in, offering tips, giving each other a heads up about the weather. The people I met were the backbone of my Presi Traverse experience.
My Adventure Plans for 2019
There were so many more adventures that peppered my 2018: riding my bike to the top of Smuggler’s Notch in Vermont, beginning my journey into rock climbing with the baddest group of women around, spending three days hiking in the Pemigewasset Wilderness by myself, and taking Erich up for his first ever backcountry camping trip. But enough about 2018. Here are some of my (as of yet, tentative) adventure plans for 2019:
As of this moment, Erich and I are planning to head to Colorado at the end of the summer. His favorite band, Phish, plays an annual three-day show at the Dick’s Sporting Goods Arena out there. So we are using that as an opportunity to take a full week and explore the Rockies, drink some awesome craft beer, and see one of the most exciting bands around. If you have any recommendations for hiking spots or mountain biking routes we should check out, let me know!
Oh yeah, did I mention that in 2018 I also fell a little bit in love with the band Phish? Because that happened.
Bike Tour of Vermont
I’m not sure how many days I’ll get to do this, but at some point, during the summer of 2019, I’d like to do a bike tour of either just Vermont or of Northern New England. I’ve seen some trail maps floating around of a Vermont tour that can be done on dirt single track and dirt roads, so if I get my hands on a mountain bike, I’d love to check that out. Otherwise, I’ll probably be planning a road bike trip, hopefully crossing several of the steep gaps that cut through the Green Mountains.
A Single Day Presi
After completing my first Presidential Traverse in three days, it seems only obvious that I need to up the ante a little and challenge myself to complete the entire hike in a single day. It might require me to even pick up a bit of trail running.
I’m planning to take at least one trip in 2019 that requires me to use my passport and Colombia is close to the top of my list. Not so far away, and with a thriving South American culture that I’m just dying to return to, my imagination is alive with thoughts of Colombia. I want to immerse myself in her cities and lose myself in her mountains. It may happen even this February.
But if I’m being totally honest, the trip I really want to make in 2019 is
This is currently just a dream, but if I can make it work I might (that’s a big MIGHT) try to tackle Patagonia as a solo traveler. Patagonia sits at the top of every outdoor adventure traveler’s list. How can it not? With so much wild beauty, such a mystique, and being positioned at the very end of the earth… Patagonia is my dream destination for 2019. Now, I just need to make it happen.
That’s a Wrap
So that’s a wrap on 2018. Honestly, when I take a step back I have to admit it was a really good year. Emotionally, mentally, I’ve had my ups and downs. More often than not I’ve been struggling. But at the same time, I accomplished some amazing things.
What did you do this year that you’re most proud of? What plans do you have for 2019 that excite you? Let me know in the comments!