After all the best nine of 2018 have been posted, and the insta stories that showcase all the highs of 2018 are finally tapped through… I had planned to jump on both bandwagons and share all the highs that made my 2018 great – but then I thought of all the struggles, the tears, the lowest lows and thought that sharing the full picture is more accurate than only glazing over the stress that happened in 2018. It is because of all the shitty moments that the sweet moments were made even sweeter. If I hadn’t gone through all that crap, I would never have savoured all the joy 2018 did eventually bring. So here is my recap – the good, the bad and the out-right stressful life that was this past year.
At the end of 2017 we visited Edinburgh, as a way to end the year on a bit of high since 2017 was the year when literally all the wheels fell off most of our big plans. We went into 2018 hopeful that things would work out, and they did… spoiler alert – it just took 6 months for it to all work out.
In January we headed to Sligo for my birthday, and while it was a great weekend away, my birthday is always a difficult start of the year for me. Partly because I have in the past put heavy expectations on what birthdays should be like, and all the goals I wanted to achieve but didn’t get round to often leave me feeling a bit defeated. 2018’s birthday was no different for me. I was left wondering what I had achieved in 36 years of life, no matter how I look at it, it never feels as though its enough. So while instagram was showing all the exploring we did in Sligo, I was secretly battling with my own demons.
If you live in a country that has winter in February, you know that what is the shortest month of the year, ends up feeling like the longest month – it felt like spring was never going to arrive. And for a while, it didn’t, in fact, the Beast from the East arrived instead and we were snowed in for 3 days. Our first snow day as a family, and Jack’s first experience of snow. It ended up being a great break, and we used the time for loads of walks in the snow together.
In March we had our first visitors for the year, Jane and Nic arrived from SA and we spent time showing them around Dublin. We spent our second St Patrick’s day in Ireland in Dublin. Then after they left, I got a chance to head to Lisbon, Portugal for work – it was a busy 3 days in Lisbon but I still managed to fit so much in and I really was grateful for the trip, even if the stress of work was hard.
We ended the month visiting London and our dear friends, Kristy and Kirsten. They pulled out all the stops with a surprise birthday cake for Rob, tickets to watch an Arsenal match, street art hunting, gin and wine drinking, and just spending time with these two on their couch talking till the wee hours of the morning was so good for both our souls. Honestly, through all the uncertainty that we had going on in our life, their friendship has been there for us no matter what. The infinite voice notes from Kristy throughout the whole year was honestly one of the reasons I think I made it through the year.
April started off well with an interview on a podcast about our life as expats in Ireland – it was kinda surreal that someone wanted to listen to our story. You can listen to it here. But with all the stress that followed us from 2017 still left uncertain, I hit breaking point and suffered my first of many panic attacks this year. Anxiety and stress all bubbled to the surface and I was left making some heavy decisions about who my friends were, and how I planned to recover and get back up. I am grateful that looking back, I can see that I did eventually get back up – but at the time, April was honestly one of the hardest months for me. At the end of this month we decided to make a few changes, and started looking at moving out of the city and somewhere closer for me to travel to work.
At the beginning of May we visited more friends in the UK, Derek and Candi and they showed us around their new home. We visited a lot of places with them including Manchester, Liverpool, Chester, York and even dipped into Wales for a day.
Even though we had no idea what was happening with our expat lives, we decided to take a huge risk and move to our dream home out of the city – it was a move that at the time seemed crazy to do, since we had no idea what the future had in store for us but it is one I am happy we made because in the end, things did work out and this new home has meant new friendships have blossomed and we have better life balance and a place that we can truly feel at home.
In fact things worked out just 2 weeks after we had moved in… Rob’s work permit came through and it meant that he could start his new job. We found this out the day we landed in Glasgow, and were about to start our road trip through Scottish Highlands to Inverness. It was the relief we needed to truly enjoy our second trip to Scotland. Scotland will always hold a special place in my heart because of this. Looking back we went to Edinburgh in December 2017 unsure if it would be our last trip abroad, and ended up opening the future for us and extending our stay indefinitely in June 2018. Life really does have a way of working out in the end.
As a way to start anew, in July we did a road trip just the three of us to explore West Cork and the Beara Peninsula. It’s a part of the country that is so wild and untamed, possibly one of my favourite trips of all time. I also started yoga twice a week, and it had life changing effects to my mental head space.
In August, we saw our family after nearly 2 years after leaving South Africa, Rob’s parents came to visit us. We spent just under two weeks doing an epic Irish road trip starting with a trip up to Northern Ireland visiting places like Belfast, Giant’s Causeway, Castlerock, Coleraine, Derry, and ending the North of Ireland adventure in my now favourite visited county, county Donegal.
We continued the Irish roadtrip with Rob’s parents into September, this time heading to Leitrim, then heading south to Cobh, Waterford, then Dungarvan, then along the copper coast, all the way down to Kinsale. September saw the final end to our immigration stress, with my work permit renewal being processed after 15 weeks of waiting.
In October I decided to invest in myself, and I started the unselfishly me 8 week course. It instilled some more good habits like listening to inspiring podcasts, journaling, and daily meditation. The course uncovered a lot of what I had failed to work through mentally in previous months and I learnt a lot about myself and the kind of life I want to live. Including letting go of toxic relationships and forgiving myself. I did a lot soul-searching and honestly can’t recommend meditation or this self love course enough. At the end of October we did a road trip as a family and explored Hook Peninsula, in Wexford. Another great part of the country, even though this trip was slightly less run around and see all the things – we perfected the art of slow travel and fully rested that long weekend. We came home feeling recharged and rested.
In November I had to travel to Killarney for a work event, Rob joined me and we had a great trip with my work friends. For the rest of the month I continued to practice yoga, journal, meditate and finally felt the anxiety and panic attacks ease a bit. I am learning that its best to take life day by day and to stop worrying about the future so much, rather focus on being present and mindful in the moment.
We ended 2018 with a trip of a lifetime visiting my whole family in Mauritius. My brother and his family live in Mauritius and my parents made the trip out from South Africa so that we could all spend Christmas together as a family. It was a lot of sun, sea, drinks, swimming with dolphins, running and screaming with my niece and nephew, simple moments with my family in their home, pushing my niece and nephew on the swing, playing hide and seek, cuddles, tears, laughter… it was indescribable all the joy and sadness I felt in that holiday. The joy of spending time with family and loved ones, and the sadness in not knowing when the next time will be.
So there you have it. The highs and the very lows of 2018. And when I look at it all set out in this blog post – I realise how much we have done; we visited 6 countries and explored 21 of 32 counties in Ireland. We did a lot of local travel and 2019 will be no different – we plan to see more of this beautiful country we are fortunate enough to live in. We plan to continue to face the struggles and admin that surrounds living away from home and in a foreign country – hopefully with a little more grace, and with a lot of deep breaths.
HAPPY NEW YEAR, WISHING YOU AND YOURS THE VERY BEST IN 2019!
Live Simply & Travel Slow,
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