Halfway through 2018 – Milestones and a Life Update
I’m writing this post towards the end of June, with pen and paper, sat on a white sand beach listening to unusually calm waves from the Atlantic roll gently onto the Côte d’Argent, the Silver Coast, in south-west France. I’m on day 3 of a digital detox, disconnected from the rest of the world and I’m spending my days with my family, strolling along the wide open beach, reading books I never have time for back in London, perusing the local market, swimming in the sea. It sounds idyllic and it really is – the weather is 28°C without a cloud in the sky, the sun doesn’t set until 10pm thanks to being so close to summer solstice, and I have zero notifications to bother me for a whole 5 days!
All the photos in this post are from this trip to south-west France by the way. I’ve also recently embraced the magic that is Instagram Stories, and plenty more can be found on my Instagram: @VStuartTaylor.
I love a good milestone. A date, a birthday, an anniversary, a turning point, an achievement – any excuse for a celebration. I also love reflecting on periods of time, compiling photos into blog posts or editing clips into mini-videos that sum up a significant moment in time. It being nearly the end of June, there are plenty of milestones to mark.
6 months into 2018
Firstly, we’re halfway through the year. That would sound daunting, but I’d been wishing away the winter and spring months to arrive at long last at my favourite time of year (summer), so I’m actually thrilled! Everyone is looking sunkissed and glowing, people are happier because they’re spending more time outside and getting more vitamin D, I’m loving my peaceful commute cycling along the River Thames from Wandsworth to Westminster, I’m back into playing tennis regularly and all is generally looking up thanks to the arrival of summer. Thinking about being halfway through the year obviously brings up questions about New Year’s Resolutions and the goals we set ourselves back on that dreadfully hungover wintery New Year’s Day. Looking at my travel goals for 2018, I’m so far on track to complete 11 of the 17, which I think isn’t bad considering this holiday to France is the first proper holiday I’ve had so far this year. Thinking about my personal life goals (which is a much longer list that I keep private), I’m on track with two-thirds of that list, so am also really happy with that.
In the last 6 months I’ve been kept busy working a lot, fitting in some studying and socialising – take a read of this blog post about the first few months of 2018. I have so far managed to travel abroad every month of 2018 – a goal that I managed in 2016 but didn’t quite manage in 2017. Fingers crossed I can manage it this year too.
9 months into my new job
Secondly, I’ve been working in my new job for 9 months! I had to abandon my plans to move to Mexico City for this job, so I’m relieved to say that it’s all been worth it. I’m doing my second grad scheme (the Civil Service Fast Stream) and in some regards I’m starting from scratch again after a career change, but in other senses I’m so much closer to my actual career goals than I ever was before, so it doesn’t feel like such a backwards step.
As part of this scheme, I will do a variety of postings in different government departments, which last either 6 or 12 months. My current posting has however been extended to 18 months, which is excellent news as I have the certainty of knowing what I’m working on right until March 2019. I really like the team I’m working with; I find the subject matter fascinating, as I’m working on an issue I’ve studied at great length during my Master’s; I happily passed my probation and mid-year review; and I feel like I’m learning a huge amount, while also being useful and making a decent contribution to the work of my department. I won’t write at length about my job, but if you’re curious about what I’m doing, then you can find out on my Linkedin.
There’s no doubt that it’s been a tiring and stretching 9 months, and I’m definitely looking forward to taking my annual leave at long last this summer, but it’s been a satisfying 9 months too.
6 years of blogging
Thirdly, the 13th June marked the 6th anniversary of The Well-Travelled Postcard. As my life has changed over the last couple of years (taking a sabbatical, studying a Master’s moving around Europe), my blog has changed too – but I’m proud that it hasn’t faded into the archives of history. I blog a lot less than before, and about different topics, but this blog is still a project I adore and it has grown up alongside me as I’ve also grown up. I still love to travel, explore new places and share my trips with the world, and I’m thrilled to see that my readership is still there with me too, and that my itinerary posts, destination guides, and tips for living abroad, taking sabbaticals and embarking on big adventures are still proving useful to people across the world, who somehow find themselves reading The Well-Travelled Postcard.
It’s true that I write less often and I work with fewer brands, tourist boards and travel companies than before, but that’s been a conscious decision. I love travel, but it’s not what I’m dedicating 100% of my life to, so I need to redirect some of my energy to other areas of my life: my studies, my not-so-new job, my long-term goals, and other grown-up things that would sound terribly boring to the 22-year-old Virginia who set up this blog back in 2012 (like house renovations for example!)
29 years of life
Fourthly, I’m only 2 weeks away from my 29th birthday – eek. The last year of my 20s. I’m personally really happy with everything I’ve done in my 28th year, although most of it doesn’t correspond to what an average 28-year-old would be doing. I imagine most 28-year-olds are climbing the career ladder, getting promotions and pay rises that mean more luxurious far-flung holidays, more disposable income for buying and decorating houses, settling down, etc. My 20s seem to be a bit back-to-front, as I did more of the extravagant far-flung holidays, exciting work opportunities, international assignments and property buying in my early 20s than I’m doing now in my late 20s.
In my 28th year, on the other hand, I started off as a full-time student, I spent two blissful months backpacking around the Balkans and Sicily last summer, I started a grad scheme alongside a mixture of people my own age and people fresh from university, I volunteered with homelessness charity Crisis, and I readjusted my lifestyle to a graduate salary lower than anything I’ve earned in the last 6 years.
Despite not following the path of an average 28-year-old, I do still feel I’ve had a great year. My sister and I finished the redecoration of our flat in November and I love it! Picture a blue-white fusion of Scandi and Greek interiors and that’s roughly how it looks. A lot of my spare time has been spent ploughing away at my studies alongside my job, and my travels last summer with my then-boyfriend were simply dreamy.
Not everything has been rosy of course: my boyfriend and I sadly split up; the break-up of others in my family weighed heavily on my mind; my back-and-forth between London and Groningen this spring sapped my energy levels; and more recently I found out that a friend my age died in a sudden accident. She was so active and full of life, and what happened is so sad and just so incredibly unfair. I’m lucky to have experienced very little death in my lifetime, but her passing away really shook me and left me feeling numb for a good while. It could have happened to anyone, it could have happened to me, and it was a horrible reminder that we all need to live in the moment. To not take life so seriously that it flies past us in the blink of an eye, to treasure and appreciate those around us, and not take anyone or anything for granted, because we never know what’s around the corner.
I’m often too harsh on myself and live by unrealistic expectations (I’m a hopeless optimist after all) and the various tough moments of the last year have taught me that there’s more to life than striving endlessly for goal after goal, that it’s important to live in the moment and prioritise happiness in the here-and-now over future outcomes that may or may not materialise. For example, I’m never going to live my 20s again, so I need to fully live the final year of this decade, rather than grow up too soon. There’s time for growing up in my 30s and beyond, which in a way validates the rather back-to-front turn my 28th year took.
I’ll be spending my actual birthday this July doing what I love most: travelling! My sister and I will be in Tallinn and Helsinki for a long weekend. I have a fair few other ideas and plans for the last year of my 20s, which I’ll write about nearer the time. To begin with it will involve a summer of travel around Europe and the Philippines and a big effort to finish my studies. Next spring I’ll also start a new posting at work, and I’ve already started planning the celebrations for my 30th birthday. There’s plenty to keep me busy!
For now though I’ll get back to the lapping waves on this stunning Atlantic beach in France, and head off for a swim into the glittering sea in front of me.