Lessons Learned in 2012

More than any other year of my life, 2012 has been a year of change, self discovery and extreme highs and lows. At 24, I traveled independently for the first time, finally opened my heart to the man I love, and realized that happiness comes from within, not from the amount of stuff you own.

Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned this year:

I can travel.

That probably sounds odd coming from someone writing a travel blog but a few years ago, flying to another continent on my own for longer than two weeks seemed unfathomable. I feel the complete opposite now. I feel like I could set sail on a boat to anywhere and still be able to find my way. I love myself the most when I’m traveling and I am determined to make it an essential part of my life.

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I can find beauty anywhere. 

This year I stopped wishing I was somewhere else and decided to live in the present moment and start noticing the beauty around me. I discovered that I was surrounded by old farmhouses, cotton fields, sparkling lakes, and even friendly cows. Sure it’s nothing exotic, but it’s still worthy of my attention.

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 I can be happy with less.

A long time ago, I used to think that the more stuff I had, the happier I would be. I loved to shop and before I knew it I had a closet overflowing with clothes and shoes that I never wore. I took me years to figure out that I didn’t own my stuff, my stuffed owned me. After donating or selling most of it, I’ve learned that living with less makes me a lot happier and has given me a new sense of freedom.

I can live on my own.

A month ago, I finally moved out of my parents’ toxic home and into my own apartment. I cried the first night but now I couldn’t imagine it any other way. I’ve turned my tiny 500 sq foot apartment into a cozy home filled with plants and artwork and I feel stronger than ever.

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 I can overcome grief and sadness.

In September, I had to put my 14 year old cat George to sleep. For more than half of my life, George was my constant companion. He slept on my bed every night and I loved him like a best friend. Losing him broke my heart but getting over it taught me that I have the strength to overcome anything.

I can open my heart.

For six years I’ve been dating Luke, but this year was the first year that I really opened my heart and let him in. We traveled together, moved in together and I’ve never been happier sharing my life, and my heart with someone.

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I can choose to be happy.

More than anything, I’ve learned that happiness is a choice. I can choose to ignore the criticism from others and do what I what I love, regardless if I go against the “status quo”. Just because the people around me are miserable and stressed out all the time doesn’t mean I have to be too. I can choose to be happy, rather than let others decide it for me.

I can’t wait to see what 2013 has in store. I can only hope that it’s a year filled with travel, new experiences, new friends, and more self-discovery.

What do you think? What is the biggest lesson you learned in 2012?

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