2011 – Or The Year I Stayed Out of My Comfort Zone

I remember being younger and thinking that in the year 2000 I would be sixteen, and how awesome and mature I would probably be. Then 2000 came and I was a 16 year old – you know, the kind who thinks they are awesome and mature (read: every 16 year old).

Fast forward 6 years to when I was 22 years old. In those 6 years I’d started working as a waitress, moved out of my parents house, in with a boyfriend, broken up with said boyfriend, moved in with a friend, got involved with another guy who I then moved in with, started working in the Oil & Gas industry and then broken up with that boyfriend and moved in by my lonesome.

Six years.

Now, 6 years later, I’ve gone to school for Oil & Gas stuff, quit working for Oil & Gas, worked as a bartender/waitress (again), dated some interesting guys, dated some losers, met actual amazing fellow bloggers, gone to school for teaching English, traveled to 12 new countries – teaching English in 3 of them, been in the weddings of two of my sisters and seen the birth of two beautiful nieces.

Six years.

A lot can happen in 6 years. In fact, a lot can happen in one year. Case in point: I began 2011 in Costa Rica, and now here I am in the Republic of Georgia (don’t feel bad if you have to Google it. I did too).

Yeah, random. I know. My point is, you absolutely never know where life will take you. So with that, here’s my year in review:2010: I quit my job and went back to school for teaching English. I highly recommend this course: CELTA, expensive, but so worth it. After being in my beautiful sisters wedding in the summer, I moved to Vegas with my dad for a few months and then left on the first leg of my travels: Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua. An amazing year where I stopped planning and started doing.

January 2011: New Years Eve found me in Costa Rica, I’d spent the last few months traveling through Central America – one of the best experiences of my life. I had never felt so happy and so free. I spent January traveling back through Central America, volunteered in an elementary school in Nicaragua and meeting new people.

Near the end of the month I got mugged with 3 friends and had pretty much everything of value stolen (thankfully not my passport). I had some tough decisions to make: could I last with what I had left? Would I find a job?February 2011: After a week of panicking, looking for jobs, interviewing, living off my last savings before having to dip into RRSPs, I finally found a beautiful little eco-tourism centre looking for an EFL Coordinator. I interviewed over Skype and left the very next day for my new home.

February was spent getting adjusted to life in a little town in the rainforest, teaching adult learners and getting to know my new host family.

March 2011: Finally beginning to speak Spanish, spending lots of quality time with my fellow volunteers, getting into the groove of teaching adults (so much fun), learning how to write exams, learning to salsa, eating way too much rice and beans and tortillas, swimming in the river, cold showers, many nights dancing in our local ‘bar’. A great month.April 2011: One of me besties came to visit and volunteer for a week, then we went to Panama for my birthday – secret island parties, turtles laying eggs, lots of snorkeling, relaxing, laughing and eating.

Volcan Arenal

May 2011: More teaching, relaxing, loving the rain-forest.

June 2011: Final preparation of exams, pizza nights with my students, dancing at the bar with co-workers, karaoke nights, weekend trips around the country.

July 2011: Sad to head home but excited to see my family and friends after almost a year of being away. I started working right away at the bar and spent as much time catching up with people as I could. The funny part of being away is that when you come home, so many things are exactly the way you left them. Comforting yet strange…

August 2011: Preparations for a new adventure – this time in Eastern Europe. They offer short contracts, a host family to stay with, co-teaching, and a small stipend. I spent a lot of time this month getting rid of things, spending time with family and friends and enjoying Canadian food and wine.

September 2011: I packed my bags yet again to head to the very unknown – The Republic of Georgia. I met 3 fun Canadian girls in the airport; all of us unsure of what to expect, but ready for anything. We spent a day in Warsaw, getting to know each other over perogies and photo ops. We started a week of intense orientation once we got to Georgia – learning the language, customs, idiosyncrasies and mannerisms, basically what to expect for the next few months.

October 2011: I moved into a very, VERY remote village in the Georgian countryside, close to Azerbaijan, on a farm, in a town where no one spoke English (not really even the English teachers at the school). This whole month was a huge learning curve. I had to adjust to some pretty weird situations, very quickly.

A common sight on my walk to school

November 2011: After a bad incident with my host family (more on this later) I switched homes, and cities. I found myself in Tbilisi with a wonderful new family who made me feel very welcome. The new school had 4 English teachers, all of whom spoke English relatively well. I felt less useful, but was content to settle in and enjoy city life for a change. I also took a trip to Armenia – where I had a blast with 8 other English teachers.

December 2011: I spent this month enjoying my new surroundings, getting used to the Georgian way of life, learning new teaching methods, and spending lots of time with my new fellow EFL teacher friends. The Christmas plays at my school were hilarious (more so because I understood almost nothing they were saying so could only guess as to why red riding hood, a bride, an elf, Zorro and Aladdin all made it into the same play).

Just some of the intriguing costumes

Christmas was spent in Istanbul, Turkey with 2 of the funniest people I’ve met, having a blast couch-surfing, sight-seeing and playing card games. New Years Eve, 4 of us spent at a traditional Turkish party and then stayed in a cave hotel in Pamukkale.

Beautiful Hagia Sophia; Istanbul, Turkey

Now, back in Georgia, I have 3 days left to take in as much as I can before heading back to Canada. I had an amazing year with so many awesome people. My plans and resolution for 2012 is to start writing again. I have so many stories to tell, and am hoping 2012 will be just as amazing and eye-opening as 2011…Hope everyone had a great year, and Happy New Year!! 

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5 responses

  1. wow omg! Great post I found it really inspiring, thanks so much for sharing the last few years in a nutshell! I wandered over here from 20 something bloggers, glad I did! now following.-Sarah from http://www.bravedays.com

  2. wow! what an interesting year! you should write a book about it, for real!!!

  3. Thanks Sarah! Mich, if I could only organize my thoughts enough to write them coherently… 🙂

  4. um, your year sounds incredible! let's see…in 2011 i stayed in utah….stayed in utah…went to vegas….returned to utah….haha. love your wanderlust!

  5. I mean, I'm not even HOME yet and I want to go somewhere again! 🙂

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