22nd December
2010
written by Randy

As you can see from the name I chose for this site, this has truly been an amazing year. In fact, my life has changed dramatically this year. With the year coming to an end, I want to look back at how much I’ve seen and done, and share with you some of the many things that have made this such an amazing year for me.

It all started when I created a popular language blog. I started it as a way to share language learning advice with a few friends, to save me the work of typing the same thing several times. But it rapidly grew into something very popular, much faster and more successfully than I could have ever imagined or hoped it would.

The commitment to learn a new language every year has led to some really incredible meetings and opportunities in regular life, too. It has given me unique things to talk about with people I don’t know, and it has resulted in me being told on many occasions, “you are by far the most interesting person I’ve met in a long time.” I can’t tell you how nice it feels to hear things like that!

At the end of winter, I reconnected with a good friend, who I hadn’t seen or heard from in almost 20 years, thanks to Facebook. We were emailing our hellos on a Tuesday, and by that Friday I had flown to see him. It was great catching up, and for a gypsy like me, it was also quite meaningful to connect the present with something from that far into the past.

This spring, I visited Uzbekistan, which was also my first ever trip outside of the country. While there, I met a friend who I’d previously only known over the internet. I survived on my own in a non-English speaking part of the world. Oh, and I at horse… that was memorable. And delicious.

By summer, I paid off the last of my credit card debt, a sum that at one time had totalled almost $50,000. Being completely debt free has absolutely changed my life. And doing it the honest way — by working hard and paying it off as agreed — gives me a great sense of pride and accomplishment.

At the end of summer, I spent a week in Barcelona, seeing the sights, meeting new people, and even hanging out with some really great Russians. I ate tapas and paella, I went to a topless beach, and I slapped a hooker for touching me on the ass.

This fall, I cancelled my cell phone, and I have been completely phoneless ever since. I have lived happily for four months without a cell phone or a home phone, and the difference I experience in my quality of life is unbelievable.

Shortly thereafter, I threw away my alarm clock. I haven’t owned a clock of any kind for two months, and I haven’t woken up to the sound of an alarm in even longer than that. My days start out so pleasantly, I can’t imagine ever having another clock.

In a process which took almost a whole year to complete, I had my photography published. I was contacted by someone who had seen and liked my photos, and I was invited to be part of a collection including some of the best names in photography today. It’s nice to be published, but it’s even nicer to be discovered.

As I promised at the beginning of the year, I learned to speak Italian fluently. There were a few times when I wondered if I would succeed, but one evening, sitting at a pizza shop telling my Italian friend a story from my past, the moment hit me when I realized that I had just reached fluency. That’s a new tool that will be with me for the rest of my life.

I’ve completed several of the tasks from my bucket list, the most memorable of which was that I bungee jumped for the first time. Standing in a high place, looking down, and making the conscious decision to jump head first, trusting in some piece of stretchy cord to protect you… well, that kind of changes your perspective on life.

I have set foot in all 48 of the continental states of the US. I fell short of all 50 states by two: Alaska and Hawaii, which are admittedly the most difficult. But I’ll be sure to visit those next year, and then my task will be official and complete.

I travelled a lot, and I saw several important and/or historical sites for the first time, including:

  • the Space Needle
  • the Gateway Arch
  • Mount Rushmore
  • the Crazy Horse monument
  • Yellowstone National Park
  • Old Faithful
  • the Alamo
  • Taos pueblo
  • Oklahoma City National Monument
  • the site of the JFK assassination
  • Little Rock Central High School
  • the Hollywood Boulevard “Walk of Fame”

Many of the things I saw affected me in a really deep way, especially those I saw in the first half of December. More than anything else, seeing the entire continental US has given me a really clear understanding of what this country is, and where it has been. I feel that I can honestly say, I know what it means to be an American.

But perhaps the most significant of all things is that throughout my travels this year, I have met with dozens of truly amazing people with whom I’ve connected online though my blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Skype, and other social networks. In meeting these people, I’ve had several really profound experiences, and it has all taught me the most valuable lesson of all this year: possessions don’t matter, things don’t matter, money doesn’t matter; only the people you meet and the experiences you share… only the memories you carry with you can truly make you happy.

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