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A Little Reflection … To 2012, and the Case for Making No Plans

Who can really know what a year will bring? If you had told me last year at this time, as I was packing my bags back in 2011 to move to Chiang Mai the first time around, that I would start 2012 with an 11-year-old in tow and once again in this same city, I would have raised an eyebrow at the very least, and most likely let out an unladylike guffaw. I just didn’t see it happening in my fit of random pre-travel euphoria a year ago.

Last January, I wrote about abandoning plans and embracing whatever life threw in my direction in fact, I exactly wrote:

“I also have no attachment to a plan this time around.”

Perhaps I tempted the universe with this. I put myself out there as open and willing to see what new came my way, and truly some new paths opened before me.

The longboats and aqua waters of Railay Beach in the Thai islands

This time last year, I moved to Thailand to hang out with the ever-so-lovely Jodi for a couple of months in a pretty, low-key city. That downtime included an unexpected whirlwind trip/visa-run to Malaysia with a new friend, Paddy, then she dragged me along with her to the Thai islands for a couple of weeks of sun (which I strongly avoid on my own accord, but I admit were fun weeks once I went and enjoyed). And a year later, although Paddy now lives in the islands, she flew up to spend Christmas in Chiang Mai and was one of the first expats to bond with Ana here–that’s Paddy’s smiling face you saw last week in our 10K Christmas Marathon run!

Funny how things come around full circle in even the smallest ways. :)

Biking through the rural rice paddies outside of Yangshuo, China.

Fast forward a bit, and my close friends from back home traveled this way (and by “this way,” I mean Asia). We met up for a quick two weeks in China (not nearly enough time to really see China), but it was pretty great to have friends I’ve known since my high school days come travel with me…in fact, it was a highlight of the year because it completely changed the dynamics in such a neat way.  :)

The mountains around the Dead Sea in Jordan

By late spring, I was packing my bags again for an unexpected and wholly unplanned, but beautiful, 10 days in Jordan with the Jordan Tourism Board. The days spent eating and simply experiencing rather than handling all the planning details easily made Jordan one of my most memorable countries.

In the background though, at this point, a new plan was forming that would shape the rest of my 2011; around Easter my family and I began plotting how we could use my current travel/internet-work lifestyle to empower my niece and send her on a journey of her own. Because I am a mad puppet master (and because everything was tentative) I kept this under wraps while we figured out the logistics and I returned to Florida for my annual break spent back home–which is essentially my long-term plan for travel, some months back home, some time on the road…and a bit of life and otherness between.

An obligatory food photo, I tucked into this huge slice of tart key lime pie at Blue Heaven in Key West, Florida

Speaking of logistics though, it turns out there is a lot to figure out when you take a child who isn’t actually yours outside the country! I spent the summer in Florida visiting with friends and engaged in some furious hand-wringing as I gathered up documents, applied for my niece’s passport, found vaccines, and shoved my head full of everything I thought I might need to school Ana here in Thailand (far more freaking out and hand-wringing than was necessary now that we’re here, honestly, but there was no convincing me of that back then!).

We left, and let me assure you, that transition month last November is one of those things I never saw coming. November was the adjustment period and there were days I thought this travel homeschooling plan was an utter failure (this is where I learned to sing myself the mantra “she’s a child, she is still just a child” — a phrase many parents of preteens have used before me…). But I grew up, and Ana grew (perhaps not up, but grow she did). And we hit our groove over the past six weeks; I figured out the projects, tasks, and things I need to do to keep Ana actively interested in our traveling plans, and she’s become more enthused and excited about the people we meet and places we visit.

Ana enjoys a hands-on weaving class in Luang Prabang, Laos (more on that soon!)

It’s January once again, and although I have this niggling weariness about what’s in store (admit it, most of us are worrying about something!), I know 2012 will have its way with me (the hussy) no matter what I actually “plan.” Instead, I once again welcome the New Year with a blank slate because you know, the surprises given to me in 2011 have all worked out pretty well this far, though some threw me for a loop once or twice!

Also of note though, is the business side of things. I have several volunteer projects I hope come to fruition this year (you’ll be hearing more about that soon!). Many have been in development in the past weeks and months, but out of some internal fears I’ve kept them fairly secret. So, soon they will launch.

Though my closet type-A personality gets anxious sometimes, all this time in Buddhist countries this year is wearing off on me. I can’t possibly know what is in store for me, so the anxiety, planning, and fear does no good. Instead, I eagerly open my arms to what awaits. In the past I was a planner—I spent several years creating poster-sized vision boards with my full-year goals. Other times I wrote out epic lists of resolutions and five-year-plans. And I even spent time in morose futility once or twice.

Like last year though, I will quote Joseph Campbell, because unlike any guru’s message I’ve jived with in my various fits of fancy, I truly believe if we’re doing something right now that brings us happiness, then we’re heading in our own “right” directions.

Follow your bliss. If you do follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while waiting for you, and the life you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in the field of your bliss, and they open the doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.

If you’ve made it this far in the post, I’d love to know what do you think of Campbell’s message, and do you find it true in your own life as you begin 2012? 

This post was last modified on July 22, 2013, 3:27 am