2017 has been an incredible year! I learned to ski, swam with turtles, watched the sunset over the Stockholm Archipelago, filmed two television commercials, wrote for CNN and CNBC and learned to line dance at a caravan park in country Queensland. We ate amazing food, met incredible people and, on many occasions, laughed until we cried. We also overcame some big challenges and negativity, taking something positive out of each experience. To pay tribute to an amazing year, here are 16 really important things I learned this year and some of my favourite photos from 2017 to go with them.
What did you learn this year? I’d love to know, so share your 2017 lessons in the comments.
1. There’s a lot of power in the truth
I’ve written quite a few personal posts this year and there were a few I nearly didn’t publish because I was scared people would think I was weird. But, each time, those posts have had more comments than any others, with many saying, “I feel the same way.” It’s pushed me to share the truth more and, each time I do, I’m overwhelmed with the truth it brings out in others. In turn, I feel like I’m finding the power to be myself and not be scared or ashamed of any parts of myself.
2. Don’t let anyone tell you what you are
As always, this year presented a fresh set of challenges. One of the biggest was having a few people tell me they didn’t like something I was doing, writing or creating. In one instance, I became really sad and shut off for a few days, totally defeated. It’s easy to take the negativity on board and change what you do out of sadness and shame. It’s harder and infinitely more rewarding to say, “No. I like what I’m doing and I know it’s right,” and keep doing it with your head held high. It took me a few goes to learn this one, but now, I’m more confident than ever that what I’m doing is right for me.
3. Cats are truly magical creatures
This year we lost our lovely older cat, P. It was a really sad time for Matt and I but it gave us the chance to take a moment to appreciate just how special pets are and let our little Peanut know how much we love and appreciate her.
4. Trust what you know to be true
The challenges of this year have helped me connect more with my inner voice. Now, more than ever, I feel in tune with my heart and the goals and dreams it whispers to me. I’m not afraid of them or sad because I don’t have them yet, I trust, implicitly, that if I just keep listening to it and following what I know to be true, everything will work out perfectly.
5. I still hate hiking
Look, each year I try to get into it and I really did give it a crack again this year but, I still hate it.
6. Things always work out
One of the most challenging learning curves for Matt and I has been around Money. We went from having a guaranteed paycheck on a certain day and building our lives around that. Now, we never have a guarantee of any kind. It used to be terrifying, especially when our bank account would get down to dangerously low levels (like, under $100) and the temptation to dip into our savings would become all too real. Yet, each time, we would magically find ourselves booking another job or getting paid right when we needed to be. It has taught us both that things always work out.
7. It’s important to clear out the crap
Be it clothing you never wear, old furniture, bad friends, clutter, mental blocks or bad energy, it’s important to clear the crap out of your life. Doing so makes room for the new to spring to life. I’ll be doing a whole lot of clearing out over the end of year break in preparation for the new year. So, ask yourself, “What can I get rid of?”
8. Trust the timing of your life
A few years ago the Little Grey Box blog was the only thing I could see and the only thing I was committed to building. It was the core of my business, my future and my dreams. At the time, I wanted to see the bigger picture and beyond the blog but I couldn’t. Now, I clearly see the blog as one piece of a much bigger puzzle. I’m certain I still don’t see the full picture, but I see more than before. You can’t rush things but you can trust the timing of your life because everything happens at the precisely right moment.
9. You don’t have to do things the way people say you should
I remember reading loads of guides offering me advice on how to grow my Instagram, the YouTube channel and website. While the advice was sound, a lot of it just didn’t feel right to me. So, there are many things I just haven’t bothered with and, you know what, it feels good! There isn’t one right way to do things, there are so many variations. It’s important to learn and listen but it’s also important to do what’s right for you, not just what people tell you to do.
10. I love my body
I’ve spent years hating myself, wishing I had a different body shape. This year I made a big effort to change my self-hating mindset. It wasn’t easy, I had to work really hard to be kind to myself and accept my body and myself for what I am. Now, I feel really appreciative of my body and have cut out a lot of the negativity and self-doubt. I love my body, I’m thankful for it and I’m proud of myself top to toe.
11. It’s okay to say you don’t know
There was a time I would never admit if I didn’t understand something or didn’t know what something was because I was embarrassed or thought someone would think of less me. Truth is, I was denying myself a valuable opportunity to learn something. Now, even when I’m face-to-face with someone, if I don’t understand or don’t know what something is, I tell them and ask them what it is. I come away from the moment having learned something new and a quick lesson in humility.
12. Always be thankful
I’ve found myself in a few situations this year with people who have been quite negative. Matt and I have the most incredible lives and are afforded amazing opportunities, it’s almost unbelievable that anyone would be negative in such wonderful travel situations. Yet, they are. It served as an important mirror for both Matt and me, showing us it’s imperative we be thankful for each opportunity and, more importantly, always say thank you to those who work so hard to give us these moments.
13. Treat people with respect
I’ve also seen some appalling behaviour throughout the year, particularly where people treat those serving them with a distinct lack of respect. I have a friend who says, “You can always tell what someone’s really like by the way they treat service staff,” and I agree wholeheartedly. I’ve always been polite but this year I learned your actions can say more about you than you realise and it is very easy to be extra kind, patient and appreciative when dealing with service staff. Treat everyone you meet with respect.
14. Less is more
Before all these big changes in my life, I used to feel like fancy meals and expensive clothes were a sign of achievement and happiness. Now, I know none of those things matter and less really is more. I absolutely love finding my clothes at thrift stores and get far more enjoyment out of eating a $5 Yiros than a $100 meal. I guess I used to be embarrassed, like enjoying those simple things was a sign of me not being ‘good enough.’ Now I know that’s not the case at all and, as long as you do what makes you feel good, you can’t go wrong.
15. Plastic is really bad
I got a real education on the negative impacts of plastic and just how much more I could be doing about the problem. Matt and I have both applied this knowledge, we’ve upped our recycling game and can literally see the difference in the amount of garbage we take to the bin. We say no to single-use plastics where possible, carry reusable bags and even made a sustainable travel kit to take with us (containing reusable straws, forks, knives, spoons, chopsticks and more). Once you start looking for all the unnecessary plastic, it’s impossible not to see it.
16. Next year is going to be epic!
We’ve got some amazing things lined up for next year and it’s already shaping up to be our biggest, most exciting year yet as we work toward a fresh set of goals. I just want to take a moment to thank you for all your support this year. We can’t tell you how much we appreciate each person we’ve been able to work with and those who have supported us by watching our videos, engaging with our photos and visiting the blog. Thank you for everything you do for us – we love you!
Need some inspiration? Watch our 12 months in 60 seconds video!
Phoebe Lee is a travel writer and award-winning blogger with a love for storytelling. Phoebe creates practical, fun and engaging written content designed to inspire and energise travel-lovers and dreamers. Follow her and Matt’s adventures at home and around the world, right here on Little Grey Box and through Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.