2015, A Year of Change

2015 A Year of Change - The Atlas Heart

When I look back on 2015 it is with fondness for how far I’ve come since I rung in the New Year at a little bar in Wellington, New Zealand. At that time, I had no idea what this year would bring, how many firsts I would have, and the amount of change I would experience throughout the year.

2015 was a year of change in more ways than one. I changed my career, or I shall say, started my career from a bar manager to a full time writer and freelancer. I also realized how much I had changed while I was abroad for two years after coming home finally in March.

Although, it feels like America has changed for the worse in terms of gun violence and general political snarkiness, I know that I’ve simply changed as a person after leaving this country for awhile and experiencing the different versions of other cultures and governments.

This year was full of firsts. I went to Hawaii for the first time and tried to learn how to surf even though I’m terrified of waves. I saw much of my home state for the first time, including Joshua Tree, and the lush Northern California forests and rugged beaches that I had never ventured to before.

Flower Fields - San Diego, California - The Atlas Heart 2015 Review

I signed a lease and moved into a one-bedroom apartment with a partner for the first time. I quickly learned the ins and outs of making this blog a business, the secret to success on social media, and even how well I could manage marketing for another company all on my own. In addition, I worked with my first companies as a professional blogger, and experienced so many wonderful tours and accommodations around Portland and Oregon as a whole.

This year constituted a lot of hard work and even some unhappy times in Portland, specifically, but looking back, I can’t help but feel a fondness for what this year has entailed and how far I’ve come. There were a lot of changes, and there will be more next year I know, but I feel more of a solid ground beneath me going into 2016. I know what to expect better with my business and my freelance work, I have a plan for many more travels around the States and soon back to Asia.

I hope you’re just as excited as I am to follow along and experience more firsts, more cultures, and more ruminations on this blog. Without, further ado, this was my 2015.

January // New Zealand

I started off the year with one of my best friends and boyfriend in Wellington, New Zealand. The next day we were on a ferry to the South Island and would experience a 2 week road trip through the stunning southern scenery of New Zealand.

I would go on my first multi-day hike in Abel Tasman, see the place my boyfriend grew up in Nelson, enjoy the adrenaline activities of Queenstown, the peaceful tranquility of Milford Sound, the colorful nature of Lake Tekapo, the sadness of Christchurch, and the likability of Kaikoura. It was a whirlwind trip, but the longest vacation I had gone on since arriving in New Zealand. I also finally became comfortable with driving on the opposite side of the road. That was a big win!

Abel Tasman, New Zealand - The Atlas Heart 2015 Review

“Kelsey and I trialled our backpacks, one carrying food, one carrying mainly camping gear, and gave each other a questioning look. This would be our first multi-day hike for the both of us, and we were doing it completely on our own in one of the most iconically beautiful parts of New Zealand: Abel Tasman National Park.” – The Gift of Nature: A 3-Day Hike Through Abel Tasman

February // New Zealand

The highlight of February was the romantic getaway my boyfriend and I took to Napier and Gisborne. The drive was rugged and unfamiliar, and so strikingly picturesque that it was hard to mind the windy drive taking much longer than expected – except for when we almost ran out of gas on the way. Whoops!

I had my first real taste of New Zealand lamb, found cute cafes and delicious Turkish restaurants. We discovered Rere Falls and even a look into the life of Bob Marley at the local museum. We were taken back to the 1930s with the colorful art deco style in Napier. We went where we wanted and became lost in each other’s company, the world was ours that weekend.

Gisborne, New Zealand - The Atlas Heart 2015 Review

I hadn’t had a special Valentine’s Day in what seemed like forever. I wanted to celebrate a weekend away with my boyfriend to cherish a relationship that makes me happy. So, I invited him to take a road trip with me to the East Coast of the North Island, to Gisborne, New Zealand.” – A Romantic Getaway to Gisborne

March // Hawaii

My last month in New Zealand was full of travel and many changes. I hurried to sell my Kiwi car, tried my best at graceful goodbyes in Wellington, and I even managed to squeeze in a solo trip to Waitomo to go Blackwater Rafting with the famous glowworms. I finally saw Auckland for the first time at the end of the month, got my first tattoo, and found out the profoundly sad news that my grandma had passed away the day before heading back to the States.

Our first stop in Hawaii was in Oahu. It was my first time to Hawaii and it was actually a nice mix between American and Polynesian culture to gradually get me used to life in the States again. The hardest aspect to get used to were the portion sizes, we couldn’t believe how big our burgers were that first meal in Waikiki.

Oahu, Hawaii - The Atlas Heart 2015 Review

Maybe after spending two years of life abroad, I’ve realized how much I appreciate and love where I’m from in sunny laid-back California, but perhaps I’ve been away long enough to sugarcoat it as well. I guess I won’t really know until I’m physically back home.”  – Thoughts on Coming Home

April // California

We ended our time in Hawaii by spending a few days in Maui and being as adventurous as possible. We tackled an all day hike through the collapsed volcano, Haleakalā, spent a day on the harrowing Hana Highway, and even went to our first luau.

April also marked my return to California and my old home of San Diego, which I had left behind almost exactly two years previously. It was an odd feeling to be back and staying in such a different part of the city as well, with my friend Kelsey. It was crazy that this was the first time I had really experienced and appreciated the tourist attractions around San Diego, after going to school and living there for 5 years.

I also went to another Coachella Music Festival in April with my sister and Kelsey, and I was sadly underwhelmed with what I found the festival to be like compared to when I went a few years previously. This month was the start to our two month road trip through California, and was a string of lazy memories and relaxation. Seeing Joshua Tree for the first time was one of the best moments from April.

San Diego, California - The Atlas Heart 2015 Review

I can’t think of a happier way to spend an afternoon than frolicking through a colorful garden with a view of the Pacific Ocean as the backdrop. It was a whimsical way to say a goodbye to the place I used to live. It gave me pause to be inspired by new growth, new beginnings, and a colorful outlook.” – Postcard from the Flower Fields

May // Oregon

We continued our road trip through California into May, going up into Northern California and settling down in my hometown of Santa Cruz for a couple of weeks to spend some much needed time with my mom, and attend the memorial service for my grandma.

Believe it or not, this was actually the first time I had been able to properly explore Northern California, especially north of San Francisco. I’d never had my own car while growing up, so it was a wonderful homecoming back to my home state, to see all these spots I never knew existed before.

This month I also celebrated my quarter-of-a-century birthday in Veneta, Oregon with my dad and step-mom, and started thinking about where we were going to settle down for the summer.

Santa Cruz, CA - The Atlas Heart 2015 Review

“I want to take a cross country road trip with my boyfriend in our beat up van through the States and Canada. I want to settle down in Portland for awhile. I want to teach English in Japan, and live in London just to write for a summer. I want to go to concerts constantly, and festivals as much as my bank account allows. I want to continually learn, to grow and find out how many ways I can enjoy life in the process.” – Notes on Turning 25

June // Oregon

June was a huge transition month. After living in Veneta with my parents for a couple of weeks, I was called in for a job trial at a well known craft beer bar in Portland before we were even based in the city. I ended up getting the job but quit before my first real shift, realizing that I was taking a step in the wrong direction of where I wanted my life to go. I listened to my gut and put my whole heart into finding freelance work and writing for this blog full-time.

We didn’t get to see much of Portland this month with how busy we were with finding jobs and getting settled in a new summer sublet in the Northeast.

Portland, Oregon - The Atlas Heart 2015 Review

I’ve jumped head first into the world of freelancing. I’m writing every day, whether it be for this blog, guest posts for other websites, or applications for paid writing gigs. In the short time I’ve been in Portland, I’ve secured 3 partnerships with local companies that I’ll be working with this summer, and my head is clearer than it has been in ages.” – Life in Portland and Choosing What You Love

July // California

July is when we really started to explore Portland as a whole and especially the Alberta Arts District where we were based. I also took a major step forward in my professional blogging career in starting to working with companies. We celebrated Kendall’s birthday through experiencing the hilarious BrewCycle tour, and I even went down to California for a wine weekend getaway hosted by Hotel Valencia Santana Row with my sister.

I drove up the family car to Oregon that my sister was no longer using and had a fun couple of weeks on my own, driving around parts of Oregon I had been wanting to see since I had moved to Portland. I went to my first Oregon Shakespeare Festival production in Ashland, was amazed at the jaw-dropping scenery of Crater Lake, and explored the quality craft beer scene in Bend.

Brewcycle Portland, Oregon - The Atlas Heart 2015 Review

On my last day before check out, I had the chance to slip up to the rooftop to see an even better view than our room, looking out over Santana Row. It had just rained so there was no one up there, but it was actually nice to enjoy the view on my own for awhile, appreciating how I ended up on that rooftop with the rolling hills and the endless possibilities before me.” – A Wine Weekend Getaway with Hotel Valencia Santana Row

August // Oregon

August was another transition month, with our sublet ending we decided to sign a lease for a little one-bedroom apartment in downtown Portland. It was my first time moving in and signing a lease with a boyfriend, and although we soon realized the shortcomings of the complex we picked, it was an exciting step forward for both of us.

We had a lot of ups and downs in Portland this month and continuing into the rest of fall, and were frustrated more than once about the constant incompetence found around the city, especially in terms of customer service, which is to say there is none.

Before moving into our sublet, while I was in Veneta for awhile, Kendall and I met up for a day in between Portland and Veneta, to explore the Rogue hop fields in Independence, Oregon. That day, along with celebrating our 1 year anniversary, was my fondest memory from August.

Rogue Hop Fields, Independence, Oregon - The Atlas Heart 2015 Review

It has been such a relaxing and productive week in the countryside of Oregon. My mind is clear and inspired, and it has made me realize that even with how much I love city life, it’s nice to have a break from it now and then.” – Atlas Weekly: August 9th 

September // Washington

To take a break from Portland life and explore more of the Pacific Northwest, we went up to Seattle for a couple of days in late September. I met up with one of my blogger friends while I was in the city, and we also managed to make friends with two English mates that ended up coming down to Portland with us for a few days.

I absolutely loved Seattle and immediately felt at ease in the city. We had a grand time going to a Mariner’s baseball game, spending an afternoon at Pike Place Market and the EMP Museum, and going on an epic bar crawl our last night in town.

Seattle, Washington - The Atlas Heart 2015 Review

I was looking forward to getting out of Portland for a bit. After being a tad too stagnant for the likes of my traveling soul, I ran towards Seattle with open arms. It was a new place to discover, a new place to explore.” – My (Almost) First Impressions of Seattle 

October // Florida

October was another major step forward in my blogging business and career with attending my first travel blogging conference, TBEX, in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

Although we didn’t particularly jive with Southern Florida, it was fun exploring a new state and meeting a variety of other professional writers that I had so much in common with. It was inspiring not only making new connections in the blogging field, but to see the creative drive of like-minded individuals from all ages.

In Miami, we saw an abundance of alligators, even tried an alligator meal, partied in South Beach, tried Key Lime Pie in Key Largo, devoured a cubano in Little Havana, and had my wallet and Kendall’s passport stolen in different incidents.

Back in Portland, I had the chance to experience a unique event called The Blind Cafe, and it was an incredible way to bring awareness to the blind community.

Florida, USA - The Atlas Heart 2015 Review

I enjoy events that make you think and physically put you outside of your comfort zone – The Blind Cafe was no exception. It was an absolutely beautiful night in Portland, learning how to be more attune with my senses, and learning more about the local blind community through such an honest and open event. In a world where we’re always distracted by something, usually technology related, it was refreshing spending almost 2 hours in the dark with just voices, music, and good company to keep us entertained.” – Experiencing The Blind Cafe in Portland

November // Oregon

In November, I hunkered down to work indoors most days with the much needed change in weather that went from unbearably hot to freezing in a matter of days. I focused on my part-time marketing job and worked hard to get organized with this blog and exactly where I want it to go next year.

There wasn’t much traveling involved this month but there was more time spent checking out attractions and new restaurants in Portland. We managed to settle into the closest thing to a routine in the city since we had moved there in June. My favorite outcome being our weekly date nights at the cheap indie theater down the street from our house.

We spent Thanksgiving down in Veneta with my dad, step-mom, and their two Border Collies with plenty of food, craft beer, and family time to cherish.

Multnomah Falls, Portland, Oregon - The Atlas Heart 2015 Review

I can never wrap my mind around these types of events, but I can mourn and weep with the rest of the world, and hope that tomorrow will be a nicer place. That one day we won’t want to kill each other over religious differences or ethnic backgrounds, or just for the fun of it to see the terror in someone’s eyes. To all my friends in Paris, Beirut, and Baghdad – I am so incredibly sorry for your loss and your pain. No matter what color your skin is, or what language you speak, or what you believe in, I’m thinking of you.” – Thinking of you, Beirut, Paris & Baghdad

December // California

And finally, this month has been split between Oregon and some much needed time at home in California. I’ll be home in Santa Cruz until just before the New Year, which I’ll be spending in Portland. This month, again has been a lot about work in order to get ready for 2016. It has also been very much about family and friends and spending time with them as much as possible. It’s all about the balance, right?

This is my first Christmas home in two years and I don’t know when I’ll be home again for the holidays in the coming years, so I’m wanting to truly appreciate my time in Santa Cruz this December.

Santa Cruz, California - The Atlas Heart 2015 Review

As I wound through the dark redwoods on Highway 17 a couple of nights ago with an eagerness to get home, I couldn’t help but feel a certain gratitude for a place that can make me feel such strong emotions no matter how many times I come back.” – Home for the Holidays

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2015 A Year of Change - The Atlas Heart

Feel free to pin this image for future reference by clicking on the top right hand corner.

Check out my past two years in review here for 2013 & 2014!

What did you do this year? Where did you travel or what did you experience for the first time? What accomplishments are you proud of?

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Mimi McFadden
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Mimi McFadden

Travel Writer/Blogger at The Atlas Heart
Mimi founded The Atlas Heart to create a community of travelers inspired to see the world. The Atlas Heart is a space where you'll find anecdotes on slow travel, craft beer, outdoor adventures, and all the eccentric bits in between that this world has to offer.
Mimi McFadden
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