Reflecting on 2017
See ya 2017! Fair-dinkum exceptional year.
I packed up my apartment, immunised my cat against rabies, and for the third time in seven years, checked the 'Australian resident departing permanently' box on the Melbourne airport outgoing passenger card.
This time, the man without a plan, had a plan (sort of). I was relocating to the Danish countryside to work for a little company called LEGO, a brand and product that captured my imagination as a child. Good idea, right?
Yes, it was.
I saw a little more of Denmark, and discovered there’s more to this wonderful country than just Copenhagen. I watched midnight sunsets from my terrace, ventured to the far north where two oceans meet, and swam in the crashing waves of the wild, western beaches. I also rediscovered my love for bread and pastry and the small things in life, the micro-moments, the things we take for granted.
I grocery shopped across the border in Germany, because Nutella is cheaper there. I made friends with strangers in Berlin coffee shops, and treated myself to the finest pork knuckle on earth. Oh, I love pork knuckle. And while I’m on the topic of Germany, I also developed a crush on Hamburg, my new favourite European city.
When the long, dark northern European winter began to set in, I escaped to Malta, twice. I wandered along red sand beaches, laughed with Australian entrepreneurs in boutique coffee shops, ate freshly chucked oysters and watched the sun set over this small, but magnificent country made up of rocks.
I travelled to Morocco without accomodation, without plans, and reminded myself the joy of ditching my smartphone and just figuring out life as it goes. I stumbled across Chefchaouen, Africa’s mind-blowing blue pearl city. I sipped mint tea on the Tangier coastline, drank wine with mates on a pirate ship in Rabat, shared a bus seat with a live chicken, and got lost for hours in the underground city of Fez.
There was a rollercoaster visit to French-speaking Canada, where I conquered the Quebec alps, ate pancakes and waffles in border towns, finished an important project in the most hipster co-working spaces, and fell in love with a little city called Montreal that probably hasn’t seen the last of me.
I went on a date, to Romania. That’s always a good idea.
I spent my 30th birthday wandering the streets of New York City, just to remind myself how much I love colourful, confident and intimidating cities.
I fulfilled the grandest of childhood dreams by exploring Iceland. I bathed in the bluest lagoons, spent days slipping and sliding across glaciers, got properly off the grid, and on Christmas Day, I climbed atop a crashed military plane on the island’s black sand beach. It was one of my favourite things, ever. That, and pork knuckle.
There were a dozen trips to London for coffee and haircuts and fish and chips, a whirlwind six-night sabbatical to Australia in December to catch a mate’s birthday and drink Christmas beers with mum. There was a road trip to Amsterdam, and long, warm summer nights with colleagues in Oslo, my favourite Scandinavian city.
And despite the adventures, I also got some work done, picking up new freelance clients, doing a few useful things at LEGO, and I rediscovered my love for writing and photography - the two things that pushed me into a marketing career in the first place. And at some stage my postgraduate law degree arrived in the post from Australia - I almost forgot about that one, primiarly because it still feels like highway robbery that a university would actually award a hooligan like me any sort of certification with the word ‘law’ on it.
I’ve also managed to survive a year in Denmark without pissing off the entire country with my g’day’s, cheers and constant references to females as sheilas. Phew!
I still kick myself that I get to do these things. I find it ridiculous a business would fly me across the world to work for them. And even more outrageous that somehow, the kid whose Year 8 maths report card said, ‘Ben needs to understand that class clown is not a high paying job’ ended up doing okay, and having a lot of fun in the process.
I’m not sure what 2018 is going to hold, but I can tell you now, it’s going to be brilliant. Because we shouldn’t settle for anything less than brilliant.
So if you're a mate, and you've bothered to read this far into my prose of self-indulgence, just remember that this world is one, big marvellous adventure, and there are so many new chapters out there, waiting to be discovered. The only risk, surely, is to take none.
Keep dreaming, folks!