Sometimes it’s easy to forget how much I’ve accomplished. Looking back over the year is a good way to remind myself of how far I’ve come in the past 12 months, as well as look ahead at what I’d like to accomplish next year. 2013 was full of ups and downs. As usual this year involved lots of travel, but it also involved some big changes.
I finished my German class
At the end of January I finally finished my intense German integration course. I took the stressful language exam and the surprisingly easy civics test, and luckily I passed both. Earning that certificate fulfills an important requirement for me to renew my resident visa again in early 2015. I’m a long way from fluent, but at least now I can navigate the grocery store and pharmacy and carry on a simple conversation with my hairdresser.
I experienced a German hospital
While this was certainly not a highlight of my year, spending five days in a German hospital gave me even more insight about the culture I’m now living in. Getting sick in March was awful, but hopefully I won’t ever get sick enough to have to endure that again.
Beyond Vacation was born
Technically the idea for Beyond Vacation started in the summer/fall of 2012, but spring of 2013 was when Andy got his visa upgraded to permanent resident status. This allows him to work on a contract basis, and it means we have more flexibility. Our new lifestyle hasn’t been easy, and we’re still trying to work out the kinks, but overall it’s been a good thing for both of us.
I traveled to several new countries
In between Andy’s last day at his old job and the first day of his first contract, we took a couple months to travel around Europe. Aside from a return trip to Brussels and an entire month in one of our favorite countries, Italy, we also traveled to some of the smallest countries in Europe. My new countries on this trip were Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and San Marino.
I took a writing class that inspired me
An author friend of ours told us about a two week writing seminar being taught in English at the Freiburg University over the summer, and Andy and I each signed up for a class. It inspired me to work on writing fiction, and even though it’s been an extremely slow process and sometimes I still don’t think I can write a novel, I’m still pushing myself to give it a try. Unrelated to the novel, here is my favorite piece I wrote in class one day: The Bells That Mark Time in Minori, Italy
Three months in Berlin
Andy ended up with a three month contract in Berlin, so in about two weeks we packed up our stuff, found renters for our apartment in Freiburg, and found a place to live in Berlin. We really enjoyed exploring the city, learning about the history of the Berlin Wall, and trying many, many restaurants. We also took three day trips to both Hamburg and Poznan, Poland (a new country for both of us) since they’re reasonably close to Berlin. There are a lot of things I’ll miss about Berlin, but I’m also looking forward to going home.
Despite a few negatives, it really has been a great year. I traveled to eight countries, four of which were new for me, I got to see more of Germany, and I’m pursuing writing in ways I never have before this year. We’ve already started planning the beginning of 2014. Our seven week winter escape is booked, and even though we don’t know what life will look like after that, we’re working on some ideas. But I imagine 2014 won’t end up how we think it will, so we’ll just have to see what happens!