It’s been a mosaic of a year.
I started the year by selling my car and renting my flat in the UK, leaving myself untethered and free to travel and work wherever I willed. I had limited expectations, and many questions – would I be able to get employment in SE Asia? Would I earn enough to live on? How would my blog and website evolve into an income stream? Where would I live? Would I travel or base myself in one place?
What did I really want to do?
It was a year of experimentation, and one that’s gone better than I could have hoped.
I began the year in the UK, having spent Christmas and New Year with family and friends. Much of the time was spent selling or re-homing my possessions (including my lovely car), putting my things into storage, and getting my flat ready to rent out.
My reflections on 2013 reminded me that in order to have a new life, I had to let go of some of the aspects of my previous life. That hasn’t been easy. Sometimes I feel like I play in so many worlds I get confused about who I am.
But what I didn’t expect was for the year to help me to crystallise quite so clearly what I enjoy doing, and what my ‘perfect world’ might look like.
I wanted 2014 to focus on optimum health. I would say this has been moderately successful. I’ve played around with what I eat and have found that the Asian diet suits me well. I’ve managed to understand how different food affects me, and what to eat and not to eat depending on what I’m doing. I’ve been surprised, in all honesty, by the extent to which food does affect my performance and how I feel, emotionally and physically.
A major building block in my health this year has been the time spent at Agama Yoga, on Koh Phangan an island in the south of Thailand. There I made many friends, and did four ‘levels’ of the yoga programme, passing my Level 8 exam (which won’t make much sense to most of you, but has both theory and a practical including a 15-minute shoulder stand, which I was pretty proud of given I’d been to two other countries for work that week!). I’m not so great at practising yoga away from the school – I like the structure of the classes and the support of having others around me who are also focused on yoga – but it’s still part of my life here in Chiang Mai.
Homes, Hotels and Aer0planes
I’ve lived in a lot of homes this year (at least 10 in Thailand alone), stayed in countless hotels, and to my count, been on more than 30 planes. That’s a lot of travel. A lot of different beds.
One thing I feel has changed in me this year is my tolerance of change and ambiguity. My entire life has become flexible – travelling to another country at a moment’s notice for work, not being sure where I’ll be next week, let alone next month. Working as a freelancer also means a lot of ambiguity – I get asked to do work and then it disappears fairly frequently, so I’ve learned not to get attached to or worry about engagements until they’re closer.
As well as starting the year in the UK, I was also there over the summer, in Wensleydale and the area the Tour de France was visiting, as well as going to see the tennis at Wimbledon, several National Trust properties and having lots of scones and tea. Keeping up with family and friends continues to be something where I have to put the work in, especially as my network of friends grows and expands across the world. Having Christmas in Thailand on my own was reviving, though I missed the sparkle and warmth of Christmas at home. But I needed the space and time to catch my breath before 2015 starts.
I feel very lucky to have been able to work as a freelancer this year and have plenty of work. I’m now at the point where I can start to say no to engagements, although I’m still loathe to do this unless I have do. I think this is a constant balance, and something I’ll be reflecting on as I set my goals for 2015 – how to do ‘enough’ work; what is ‘enough’; when to turn something down; how to maintain relationships with my key clients even when I say no; and how to ensure I balance all my various activities and still have ‘play time’.
I’ve worked in Shenzhen, China, Malaysia and Macau, China, as well as Egypt and the UAE. These have all been freelance consulting engagements as a Chartered Occupational Psychologist, a professional qualification that although took many years of training, has served me well as I work in new countries. It helps to demonstrate my credibility quickly and effectively. Work engagements have included training, coaching, executive and group assessment, data analysis, writing psychometric test items, and being a keynote speaker at a conference with 200 people.
That’s all been a whirlwind, and a brilliant learning experience. I’m so proud of my lovely website (thanks to the amazing FurtherBound for helping me to realise my vision), and have been thrilled by the number of people who’ve joined me there already.
The free 10-Day Self-Care Challenge has proved really successful, and has led to my first product, The Complete Self-Care Toolkit (on special offer at the moment if you’re interested – the perfect New Year’s gift to yourself! – 60 detailed actions, tips and strategies to be kind to yourself).
The website is firmly into my goals for 2015. As any new business, it will grow and evolve over time, but 2014 has given me a strong foundation on which to build. Expect to see useful, informative and engaging new products and writing as I continue to build my audience and customer base in 2015.
A Love of Writing
The discovery that I really enjoyed writing started with whereverthewindtakesme.com, this personal travel blog, all the way back in 2013 when I left the UK. This blog continues to astonish me – heading for 60k views in 2014 alone, I’ve published about 26 posts this year, and enjoyed having a little space on the internet where I can write whatever takes my fancy. I have plans for a fresher look and feel for the site in 2015, and no plans to stop writing.
I’ve also started writing for other sites. I’ve had two posts accepted and published this year by the popular blog ‘Tiny Buddha’:
- Managing Chronic Pain: 5 Lessons on Being Hit By a Truck
- How to be Sure External Factors Aren’t Affecting Your Decision
The latter has a sense of whimsy and a sense of playfulness, while the former tells a very personal story, and got me recognised by the blog ‘Boost Blog Traffic’ in their ’23 Posts to Model if You Want to Get the Respect You Deserve in 2015’
I was very happy when a piece I wrote was accepted for a book that’s coming out in Autumn 2015: ‘365 Tiny Love Challenges’ by Tiny Buddha. I’ll let you know when it’s out!
I love writing for both my websites, here on travel and at EllenBard.com on personal and professional development, where posts on Happiness and Perfectionism have been the most popular. I have plans for lots more lovely warm and helpful content there in 2015!
Looking Ahead to 2015
When I started 2014, I intended to focus on health and continue experimenting with this different lifestyle, where I live and work in a more flexible way. I’ve managed that, and the experiments have borne fruit.
I now know I have four key interests I want to pursue in 2015. I will continue: my consulting work; renting out my flat in the UK; generating revenue from my website; and writing (more on this latter in 2015 – watch this space!).
2015 personal priorities include the following:
- Health and wellness. I’m ending the year with bacterial tonsillitis (’strep throat’), which is very frustrating, as I seem to have had it on and off for five months. Once I kick that fully, I’ll be keeping an eye on myself, and ensuring I have sufficient rest and chill time as well as working on my passions.
- Relationships with friends and family. I’m lucky to have many people who love me, and sometimes in my little introverted bubble I forget that.
- Keep enjoying writing. By my reckoning, on all my personal projects this year, I’ve written about 250k words in 2014, as well as another 350k on my morning pages, which I write pretty much every day, 1000 words a day. My aim is to write more guest posts for other websites and blogs, and spread my wings a little further in this area. But to make sure I have fun doing it!
- Balance. In all things. In food, in travel, in time spent alone and with others, in work and play, in exercise. I’m a passionate person, and sometimes get absorbed by one thing at the expense of other parts of my life. The very purpose of creating this much more flexible life was to have a life that encompassed the many aspects of me, in harmony. I can’t, and I won’t forget that as I continue my adventures in 2015.
Finally, thanks to you all for reading, and I hope you all get a chance to do your own reflections over this holiday period. Let me know in the comments what your own highlights and reflections are for 2014!