2021 travel and personal recap

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Browsing the bookstore at Galeries Lafayette Haussmann in Paris yesterday.

2020 version here.

Well, I guess it’s been another year.

Biggest milestone: Got a new job and a contract to stay in Geneva until at least 2023, taking part in the “Great Resignation”. I’m proud of myself for finally landing a role with an organization that I’d always aspired to work for. I am content with where my life is currently.

Firsts: Finding a long-term therapist in Switzerland. Finding a private French teacher to study with in person. Studying Russian and German (and fizzling out, oops). Seeing a dentist in Switzerland. Visiting the US after nearly two years away. Taking a pizza-making class in Bologna, Italy.

New places visited: The Republic of San Marino. Granada, Sevilla and Málaga in Spain. Bologna and Rimini in Italy. Yvoire in France. And in Switzerland: Chur, Le Prese, Morcote, Locarno, Lungern, Bulle, Gruyeres, and Spiez.

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San Marino was my favorite destination this year.

Places I returned to: Brienz. Atlanta. Savannah. Lugano. Milan. Lyon. Paris.

Number of train trips: I want to say 10-ish?

Number of plane trips: two (not counting individual flights, just the overall trips)

Number of boat trips: two

Number of Covid tests: four (two PCR, one antigen, one at-home self test)

Favorite Swiss things: When I come back from a chaotic trip and the calmness of Geneva just envelops me, absorbs and soothes my stress. Efficiency, politeness and speed in nearly everything. An armful of fresh flowers from the local florist. How most people here don’t care about fashion and just walk around in a dark puffer jacket, dark jeans, and sneakers.

Things that still frighten/confuse me: Muesli. It doesn’t frighten me, but I just don’t get it. It’s like eating the feed that they give to barnyard animals. What?

Things/people from America I miss the most: Seeing my favorite comedians on tour; some people are starting to tour again, but few are coming to cities across the pond, and hardly anyone’s coming to Switzerland. All kinds of candy, from Sour Patch Kids to Nerds ropes to Warheads to Target fruit snacks. Trader Joe’s, of course. The sense of buzzy excitement I feel when I’m walking down the street in Midtown Manhattan, on my way to an authentic Chinese restaurant or a work conference or a Broadway show.

Things I do not miss about America: The politics. As much as I can help it, I no longer actively seek out news about American politics. I’m not tuning it out completely: I’m still exposed to a lot of information just through browsing Twitter, listening to podcasts and reading the New York Times. I still donate to causes and vote according to my political beliefs. I just don’t want to be an active consumer of breaking news and political gossip anymore.

Lowest moments: In March and April this year, I went through a major depressive episode. I could barely keep my head above water, and the misery was so bad that it physically hurt. During that time, my grandfather also passed away. I came out of that dark period with more maturity and kindness, for which I’m grateful.

Then in June, I started a new job, and that was hard at first, too. Since it was the summer holidays, and most people were semi-permanently teleworking, I found it challenging to meet people and form working relationships. The isolation was very intense and made me feel physically cold inside. For months, every time I went to the office, I would walk to a park nearby, eat lunch on a bench, and just stare at trees and space out under the sun. I remember thinking, at least it’s summer and nice out. But what am I going to do when it’s autumn and winter and it becomes too cold to sit outside? Luckily, by the time the weather got cooler, things had improved. I had found my footing.

Biggest challenges: Learning to navigate a workplace that is functionally francophone. Regularly taking meetings in French, writing emails in French, chatting with colleagues in French. I have been living in Geneva for about two-and-a-half years, but this was the first time I really felt the pressure to step up my French from “I can string short sentences together” to “I can have a clear, fluid conversation with purpose”. To my repertoire, I added Pimsleur audio lessons; another two French conversation tutors; a private French teacher; group French classes for one semester; and a grammar book by Assimil. By the end of the year, I was able to bump my level up from a low B1 to a veeeery low B2.

Achievements: Becoming much better at French, as I’ve just mentioned. Making new friends and strengthening existing friendships in Geneva; even after leaving my old job, I’ve been able to keep in touch with many friends who work there, and we text and meet up regularly. Also, just becoming a more emotionally mature person as a result of all the self-reflection that I did during the first few waves of the pandemic. (Which wave are we on now? Five? I honestly don’t know anymore.)

Lastly, I’m proud of the monthly social meetups that I’ve hosted on-and-off in Geneva since January 2020. I’ve had the chance to meet so many people from around the world and provide a space for strangers and newcomers to have earnest, empathetic conversations. We’re currently on pause due to the holidays and omicron, but I hope to bring these back by next spring.

Most important lesson learned: I recently went back into the archives of this blog and edited out some questionable content from past posts, dumb stuff like cultural stereotypes or petty complaints that missed the mark. I was really immature, even as recently as 2019, and I can sense that I’ve changed a lot in the past two years. It also helps that I’ve met a lot of 40- and 50-year-olds in the past few years who were absolutely miserable human beings, both in how they feel and how they treat others. I don’t want to be like that: a grown-ass adult with no concept of how other people see me and how much pain I cause other people.

Most popular content on this blog: I don’t do any sort of SEO or marketing for this blog because I’m not an influencer and just enjoy writing as a creative outlet. There are about 10 people who know me in real life and occasionally read this blog, and the rest of the traffic is always a happy surprise. This year, the most read posts were:

  1. My exhausting search for a new apartment in Geneva – I shared this link in a WhatsApp group for people who were moving to Geneva to work for my organization to warn them about red flags in the rental market here
  2. 13 delightful shiba inu accounts to follow on Instagram – when Instagram is extremely toxic but all the best Japanese shiba accounts are on here
  3. Best way to learn French? My experience with immersion vs. in-person classes vs. italki vs. Lingoda – suspect this came from Google keyword searches; I should update this soon with even more info
  4. Home tour! My cozy, utilitarian apartment in Geneva, Switzerland – also a bit out-of-date at this point
  5. The 1.5-hour boat cruise of Lake Brienz is extremely worth it
  6. 5 things about working in Switzerland that surprised me as an American
  7. 2 more years in Switzerland – in which I announce my new job
  8. A solo, snowy Christmas in Grindelwald – last year’s sad solo Christmas
  9. What “Emily in Paris” gets right about American expat life in Europe – controversial take but I still stand by it
  10. Personal reflections after two years of living abroad – I sounded very sad here. I was still emotionally traumatized by the abuse that I had witnessed at my old job.

In 2022, some things I want to do are…

  • Go to Singapore. I booked a hotel and bought plane tickets on a VTL (Vaccinated Travel Lane) flight. I’m prepared to do 9 COVID tests as required. As long as Singapore will let me in, I’ll be going. Hoping for the best.
  • Start making vlogs. I love watching personal vlogs on YouTube made by other expats, and I’ve always wanted to make my own. I’m trained in video editing and production: I took a documentary filmmaking course a few years ago, and am now a professional video editor in my day job, among many other responsibilities. But I just lack the motivation and discipline to actually get it done.
  • Pick up some things that I let fall by the wayside this year, like studying Russian and painting. Oh, and working out regularly. I fell and hurt myself a few weeks ago and was out of commission for a while, but am now fully recovered and ready to get back to it.
  • Take another cooking class. Friend G and I were trying to book a class in Lyon, but they were full for the rest of December. I’d also be interested in taking another cooking class in Italy again.
  • And finally, get to a high B2 in French. (I think C1 would be pushing it.)

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