2019 travel and personal recap

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Seeing the Western Wall in Jerusalem for the first time.

Biggest milestone: Took the plunge and moved to Switzerland, a new country that I had never been to before, unless you count a layover in Zurich where I ate a pretzel and was searched rigorously by Israeli security.

Firsts: Living in Geneva! Starting French classes. Visiting the Middle East and eating shakshouka, now one of my favorite dishes. Seeing plays on and off Broadway. Being a landlord. Attending a UN conference. Visiting Thailand and soaking in an onsen. Heart issues.

New places visited: Israel. Palestine. In Switzerland: Bern, Interlaken, Zurich, Montreux, and Zermatt. Milan. In France: Lyon, Morzine, and Ferney-Voltaire. Amsterdam. Brussels. Bangkok.

Number of train trips: 16-ish.

Favorite Swiss things: Yogurettes (chocolates stuffed with strawberry yogurt). Zalando for affordable online shopping. Toilets and bathtubs being in separate rooms. Recycling infrastructure. Freshly baked croissants and baguettes. Butter. Snow-capped mountains.

Things that still frighten/confuse me: Fondue. People saying “bon appetit” before digging into their meal. Swiss triple cheek kisses. The weird prevalence of Soviet-style concrete buildings everywhere in Geneva.

Things/people from America I miss the most: Gummy fruit snacks from Target. Melatonin and other medications sold over the counter. Former teammates L and L. Hector, the Salvadoran guy who cut my hair for six years. Doritos. My favorite Thai restaurant in DC, Siam House. Trader Joe’s. Living in downtown DC and being a 20-minute walk from free museums. Free arts and culture events every day. Insurance coverage for mental health.

Things I do not miss: People playing music without headphones on buses. Insane politics. Apartment buildings and houses on my block frequently and inexplicably catching on fire. The DC metro catching on fire. Tipping 20 percent. The smell of weed.

Lowest moments: The worst and second worst things that happened this year are too hard to write about here. The third worst thing was going through a list of therapists who take my insurance, calling them one by one, and learning that no one had any availability to see me for at least a month.

Biggest challenges: Setting up a Swiss bank account. Setting up health insurance. Navigating a francophone part of the world with very little French. Arguing with the post office whenever they lose my packages. Explaining the value of diversity and inclusion to bewildered Europeans. Missing friends and places back in the States.

Achievements: Took the train for all Europe travel except for one trip to Amsterdam. (Greta, are you proud of me yet?) Made several short videos about inspiring indigenous leaders. Greatly improved my Spanish speaking skills and vocabulary.

Most important lesson learned: To be a source of positivity and solutions, not cynicism. As Conan O’Brien, my favorite comedian, put it when he left the Tonight Show: “I’m asking this particularly of young people that watch: Please do not be cynical. I hate cynicism. For the record, it’s my least favorite quality. It doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.”

New skills: French (meager). Doing a mail merge in Microsoft Outlook. Composting.

Best purchases: Apple rooibos tea from Carrefour. A toaster oven. A stuffed shiba inu from a Japanese store in Thailand.

Best conversation: The guy who met up with me for Spanish language exchange and ended up delving into a deep conversation about how his wife had just gotten out of prison for murder. Beats small talk about the weather any day of the week.

Aspirations for 2020: More than anything else, to keep traveling. To take care of my health in a more conscious and intentional way. To be kind with people I know and with strangers.

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