New Year's Eve at Rainbo Club in Chicago

On floundering and finding my way. Hello 2014.

My New Year's Resolutions for 2014.

Happy New Year - New Year's Eve at Rainbo Club in Chicago, IL

New Year’s Eve at Rainbo Club.

It’s not that 2013 wasn’t a good year for me. By any standards, it was amazing. I spent six months backpacking from Guatemala to Colombia. I spent two months traveling around Ireland, England and, briefly, Scotland. In the US I made it to Hawaii (where I saw plenty of waterfalls and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park), Seattle, and Memphis. I’m doing good.

But, even though spent most of the year moving around, I felt like I was at a standstill.

I got lazy traveling last year, picking places not because they were where I necessarily wanted to go most but because they were convenient or cheap. I hardly worked, choosing instead to squander my savings. I went to two big travel blogging conferences and felt sort of out of place. I still have all the bad habits I had pledged to work on at the beginning of 2013.

I’m floundering.

In 2014 I hope to get my life back on track, stop feeling like I’m just drifting, have a bigger purpose. I want to feel self-sufficient again.

I’ve been writing down lists of things I want to accomplish in this new year, focusing on four main areas: travel, my blog, work, and my life. They’re mostly big picture goals, where I want to feel more fulfilled in this year, in my life. I don’t have all of the answers to how I am going to get there. But, I pledge to work a little every day in improving my life in every area.



I got lazy in 2013 and don’t feel like I did anything too monumental. It’s not to say I didn’t have a good time. I did. But I wasn’t as fulfilled with my traveling as I could have been. This was partially because I spent so much time in Central America and never really felt right there. But also, I didn’t use my time for the best. I spent so much time near surfing beaches and didn’t even try, despite the fact that learning to surf is one of my biggest goals. I spent a month learning Spanish but then pretty much forgot it all. I didn’t go diving even though it would have been really cheap to learn in Honduras. I spent three weeks in Ireland thinking about how I will rent a car when I return, road trip the island and see everything, instead of just going forth and doing it then, when I was already there. I put things off for “next time” instead of doing them now.

The one time I felt most alive last year, most on track, was in Cali, Colombia when I spent two and a half weeks learning to salsa dance. In Cali, everything clicked for me and for the first time in a long time, everything felt right. I had a huge group of friends there. I had a routine there. I had a passion to pursue there. I was rediscovering who I was. I was constantly active. I was pushing myself and challenging myself every day. It made me reexamine how I was traveling and why.

I want to travel slower and use my time to not only see the world but do things I’ve always wanted to do. Learn things I’ve always wanted to learn.

I am sick of only seeing most places for a few days. Outside of a couple of places I didn’t spend more than a week anywhere in 2013. And Antigua was the only place I spent a month in. I want to get to know places. I want to learn things. I want to volunteer. I want to take classes. I want to be a regular.

And I’m not going to accomplish any of those things by constantly bouncing from place to place.

I’m still not sure exactly where I am going this year. I plan to go back to South America in February. Part of me wants to return to Cali and study salsa longer. Though, I am worried that it is one of those places that won’t feel the same under different circumstances. I want to learn to surf this year. I want to really learn Spanish. I want to learn to dance, no matter where I am: salsa in Colombia, tango in Argentina, flamenco in Spain.

I want to go places that I’ve always wanted to go. To not put things off because I don’t feel prepared. I will never feel prepared.

I want to volunteer. I’ve learned that I’m just not good with teaching or kids but maybe I can find a place with animals. I can get along with animals. As long as they don’t bite.

I want to feel like I’m working towards something. Doing good for both myself and the world.

I want to keep traveling, but I don’t want to drift anymore.


The Blog

After TBEX in Dublin and World Travel Market in London I felt both a newfound enthusiasm to grow my blog and confusion over how I would do it. Of course I’d love to be one of those people who is paid to travel, paid to write, who is offered press trips and opportunities. Who wouldn’t? But, at the same time, nothing makes me happier than when someone tells me that they love my blog because I am honest. And I never want to compromise myself for money. And I’m not sure if those can completely co-exist.

I want to grow my readership this year. Whether that involves making money or not I want more people to read what I have to say. More people to comment and discuss things I write.

You may see some changes around here, I plan to introduce some different types of content as I experiment with new ideas. I’m also launching a monthly newsletter (sign up for it please with a cherry on top????).

Most importantly, while I’m going to continue to keep my content personal, take you on my emotional journey, I’m going to find ways to make everything I post more useful to you: whether through inspiration or information or…something…

This year I also hope to spend some time on a couple of other blogs. I have plans to re-launch my old Silly America website that has been dreadfully neglected for too long. And I plan to launch a European version too.

I’m also working on a super secret side project with a friend that I’m hoping we can launch later this year. I’m going to warn you now: this project may involve me telling you a massive lie that I hope you can forgive me for (at least I’m being honest about that, right?).



Spending a month and a half without a laptop made me realize how much I crave productivity. I felt useless, constantly writing to-do lists for when I once again had regular access to a computer but not being able to work on anything.

A year ago I promised my financial panther that if I left again to travel, if I took out more money from my savings account, I would work on a way to be self-sufficient.

But, I didn’t. I didn’t work in 2013 after the first couple of months as a consultant at my old job.

You see, I can be lazy. Not with doing work. I am great at doing work. But finding work, that’s another story. Truth be told, I have no idea how to find freelance work. The work I’ve done so far has always just fallen into my lap by someone I know. I’ve tried freelance websites but always feel like I lose out to someone in India who is willing to work for way less than I could.

Now I am coming down to a crunch: I need to become self-sufficient by the end of the year or else I will have to settle down and find a full-time job again. And, right now, that is not something I want.

So this year I am concentrating more on finding freelance work — website development, e-mail marketing, content management, writing, photography — whatever it takes.



I’m about to turn 33 and my life is no where near where I feel like it should be at 33 (prepare yourself for an upcoming post on why I am freaking out a bit about that).

I need more self-confident: it’s one of those things people tell me, a lot. My Spanish teacher said it. My salsa teacher said it. And it’s true. I just automatically think I’m not good enough and shy away from a lot of opportunities because of it. I’m afraid to speak my mind or be honest with my feelings. I’m afraid of a lot of things I’ve gotten better through the years. I have way more confidence than I ever have had before. But I am still lightyears away from where I’d like to be.

At the same time I fear “being wrong.” Maybe it’s kind of the same thing. It’s not even just things with actual right answers, it’s everything. Ask me if I want beef or chicken and I will panic. Because of this, I have this tendency to not answer for myself. I wait for others and just agree. I say I don’t care even if I kind of do. I feel like I have to get someone’s permission. I want to stop asking permission.

On a slightly more tangible note I want to read more books this year. I’d like to do more yoga and/or zumba or something that could get me in shape. I want to write more outside of this blog. I want to get that tattoo I’ve been putting off for over a year. I want to start learning to paint or play the guitar or something artistic like that.

I want love and romance and not just one night stands (but don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll still make plenty of bad decisions…).


That was kind of rambly. I suppose it was just a bunch of random mishmashed thoughts. But, in any case, 2014 is the year I hope to get myself back on track. To take advantage of all of the opportunities that come my way. To become self sufficient. To feel like I have a place. To be that a mix of the person I am and the person I always wanted to be. And I’ll figure out some way to get there.

Happy New Year - New Year's Eve at Rainbo Club in Chicago, IL

Happy New Year - New Year's Eve at Rainbo Club in Chicago, IL

Happy New Year - New Year's Eve at Rainbo Club in Chicago, IL

Happy New Year - New Year's Eve at Rainbo Club in Chicago, IL

Happy New Year - New Year's Eve at Rainbo Club in Chicago, IL

Happy New Year - New Year's Eve at Rainbo Club in Chicago, IL

Happy New Year - New Year's Eve at Rainbo Club in Chicago, IL

Happy New Year - New Year's Eve at Rainbo Club in Chicago, IL

Happy New Year - New Year's Eve at Rainbo Club in Chicago, IL

Happy New Year - New Year's Eve at Rainbo Club in Chicago, IL

Happy New Year - New Year's Eve at Rainbo Club in Chicago, IL


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Hi, I'm Val. I spent most of my 20s in a standstill, unable to pick which path in life I wanted to take. I wanted the nomadic life of a traveler but also wanted the husband, the condo, and the kitten. Unable to decide which life I wanted more, I did nothing. When I turned 30 I’d had enough of putting my life on hold and decided to start “choosing my figs.” So, I quit my job, bought a one-way ticket to Europe, and traveled for three years. Now I'm back in Chicago, decorating my apartment in all the teal, petting my cats, and planning my next adventure.

  • Tom @ Waegook Tom
    January 1, 2014at5:38 pm

    Oh, the blog thing…if travel conferences have taught me anything, it’s that I don’t want to be a blogger who travels purely based on where they can get sponsorship, or where everything is comped/paid for them – I’ve stopped reading a lot of blogs recently, because I can’t remember when they last travelled independently, without someone covering their costs. SO STAY TRUE TO YOU. As a reader (and fellow blogger), I’d say I’d have no problem reading some sponsored stuff from you, but only if it made sense to your blog, and as long as you don’t lose your voice, because I love your voice.

    As for the other things, I’ve made it my resolution to read books this year, too, but have also vowed NOT to date, due to the move to Taiwan. I’ll only date there if I decide that it’s somewhere I’d like to live long-term, otherwise what’s the point? I’d rather have one-night stands or friends with benefits than a relationship with a pre-determined expiry date.

    As for freelancing, I somehow have one regular gig, one sort-of-regular-ish gig, and the rest are hit and miss. I have no idea how to go about it and, like you, always seem to have people (folk in India, other bloggers…) undercutting me.

    Also, COME AND SEE ME IN TAIPEI and we can eat ALL THE FOOD, go to gay bars, eat more food, drink bubble tea, visit a themed toilet restaurant, and then watch terrible reality television. And maybe a beach.

  • Jen
    January 1, 2014at11:02 pm

    I wish you luck. You did seem to be in a funk a good chunk of the year. I’m trying to get my life back on track in 2014 as well.

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