The days where I can say I've lived a quarter of a century have officially come and gone.
In the blink of a flippin' eye, 365 days have passed and I've somehow fallen over the hump and into the dreaded "upper twenties" category... Or is it dreaded?
I'm honestly not so sure... because my 26th birthday was pretty flippin' epic.
The past year has been filled with more than its fair share of ups and downs.
I came home from an incredible two month backpacking trip... almost immediately started working two jobs... and quickly realized that settling in North Carolina just wasn't in the cards for me... at least not yet.
I returned to Asia (perhaps a bit prematurely), spent Christmas at home with my family (after passing out on the plane) for the first time since 2015, then, at the start of the spring, moved from one horrible Korean private school to another (...though the one I moved to is probably worse... more on that later).
I attended the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, gained a new best friend, and fell in love with what might be the greatest human on the planet - (this is not an exaggeration... I'm tellin' ya... he's a gem).
As my 25th year of life came to a close, I dove headfirst into an attempt at vlogging, scored my first big name hotel partnership, and, early in the morning on the Eve of my birthday, headed to Malaysia with Andrew (the aforementioned gem) to explore Penang and write a review for the DoubleTree Resort (coming very soon).
Flash back a little over a year ago - I was in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the last leg of my Asia adventure before returning to the states indefinitely (lol). After weeks of hostels and cold showers, I splurged on a hotel with an epic view of the Petronas Towers (and hot water... and room service).
I decided to write a review on the property, despite my stay there not being sponsored - (I later would write several other unsponsored reviews... because practice makes perfect, ya know).
After posting one of my photos taken at the Kuala Lumpur hotel on Facebook (a good ole' GoPro, screen-grab selfie), an old high school classmate commented saying "I thought this was a Hilton ad."
I laughed then... but, flash forward... less than 13 months after my indefinite departure from Asia and, plot twist.... I'm still not making Hilton ads.... but I am back in Asia... and I did score a complimentary birthday weekend stay at a Hilton hotel in Penang, Malaysia.
The irony does not escape me.
Long, sentimental post short... life is unexpected. It's tough... rub some dirt in it... get a helmet... no pain no gain... or whatever motivational quote you can most easily identify with. Despite it's inevitable challenges, hard work eventually pays off. In all this hard work, I've found that the (aka my) key to a happy, fulfilled life (coming from a barely upper 20-something year old) is finding a challenge you enjoy... and to always, always, always keep going for it.
This time last year, when I was back home slaving away at two restaurant jobs, my dreams of travel writing (and Asia) seemed, again, like a far away pipe dream... over 7,000 miles away to be exact.
Looking back, somehow, the daily little baby steps have amounted to one big step in the right direction.
I'm not an expert or a professional (like.... at anything... honestly).
I do, however, have one thing... and lots of it. Passion.
My trip back to Malaysia was filled with a handful of brilliant, inspiring little creative sparks (and lots of much needed R&R)... and all together, this rekindled a fire - a burning desire to keep setting foot on new ground, to keep creating, keep meeting people, keep making mistakes
...to keep learning from them and getting better... becoming better at my hobbies and becoming a better person.
The great Albert Einstein supposedly once said, "Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving," and I couldn't agree more.
Now, I don't know exactly what the next year of life will bring... but I do know one thing... I cannot wait to find out.
A BIG thank you for all the birthday wishes, and an even bigger thank you to all the people who support and push me towards fulfilling my goals and dreams all the other days of the year.
Here's to another year of life, (albeit a year in my upper twenties)...
...365 days of experiences, changes, and growth... one baby step at a time.