Favorite Things 2021
I moved to Europe, splitting my days between Singapore, Sarajevo, Ericeira, and Amsterdam.
I swam and strolled between skyscrapers, mounted pine tree forests, surfed buttery waters, and traced rugged coastlines.
I made my first investment, began learning Portuguese, took up a 30-day writing challenge, and ticked off my most precious yet.
I also learned more about my body. Took a hard look at my self-talk. Learned to breathe. And ended my showers with cold water.
39 books, 24 Knitting Club calls, 8 in-real-life yoga sessions, 8180 kilometers of road-tripping, and a solo weekend to Lisbon fell between the cracks.
But all that fades compared to having my parents close by. Long evenings with old friends. And celebrating eleven years of friendship, ten years of love, and the making of one baby boy.
I’m taking life less seriously.
And I’m swapping the pursuit of many trades for one.
Here are my favorites of 2021.
The Message That Got Me Teary-Eyed
💭 Carly’s Text
A month after discovering I was pregnant, I received a message from my dear friend Carly. She told me she wasn’t sure if anyone could ever be ready for parenthood but that she knew I’d do great. She explained why she was so confident and what our friendship meant. It was all the love and encouragement I needed at the moment, and her words have comforted me throughout my pregnancy.
✨ Plus, a Folder Full of Sweet Messages
I started a sparkles collection two years ago. It’s a folder on my cloud where I keep emails, scanned letters and postcards, and screenshots of texts with kind notes from friends, colleagues, and blog readers. I especially like to pull it up when I’m low and let the love wash over me.
Best Purchase I Made Under $100
🖤 Peak Design Wash Pouch
I now see my travel life as travel before and after the pouch, and the latter is significantly better. I’m stunned it took me 35 years to buy a decent toiletry bag, something I feel men have appreciated forever. What I love about the Peak pouch is almost too silly, but it fits most of my bathroom necessities, and I can easily reach all of them.
I also got the Tech Pouch where G and I now keep things like sim cards, passports, money in different currencies, etc.
The Books That Left a Mark
Designing Your Life – Bill Burnett & Dave Evans
I followed Burnett’s and Evan’s advice on designing one’s dream job and invited developers and designers with intriguing careers for a virtual coffee. The experiment resulted in a new job and one of the most interesting people I met in ’21 after only six coffees.
The Mental Load – Emma
Emma’s comic You Should’ve Asked (available for free) is the text I recommended most often in 2021. Emma’s insights about unpaid work changed G’s and my relationship at the core, bringing much more mutual appreciation and awareness into our household. The Mental Load includes this comic and other thought-provoking ones.
Burnout – Emily Nagoski & Amelia Nagoski
I picked up Burnout after hearing plenty of burnout stories from friends and worrying I may be on the cusp of writing one myself. The Nagoskis taught me how to think about and work with stress, which are insights I still apply today.
Expecting Better – Emily Oster
The first pregnancy book I read after discovering my pregnancy. Oster gave me the confidence to continue making my own decisions and keep my exercise routine and glass of wine if I wished. In general, not to let others treat me like a kid who isn’t allowed anything or someone with a medical issue.
Greenlights – Matthew McConaughey
McConaughey’s Greenlights encouraged me to reveal much more of my life than I ever did and write the memoir essay Everything I Never Told You.
The Art of Gathering – Priya Parker
I have Parker to thank for a significant share of the success of Slow Retreats. Her ideas inspired many of my decisions for the retreat.
The Bucket List Idea I Unexpectedly Ticked Off
🧘🏻♀️ Slow Retreats
One of my wishes for 2021 was to take another small step towards organizing a retreat/dinner series/workshop weekend. The step I took, asking the members of The Knitting Club if they’d be interested in letting me organize a retreat, turned out to be the final effort necessary to make the retreat a reality.
Most Memorable Travel Experience
☕️ Coffee in Munich
Some moments, so ordinary, easily win over the grand ones. They’re unplanned, unforced. Yes, unremarkable. Thus, as they say, you really had to be there.
Like that morning, Laura, G, and I had a coffee at the Little Rabbit’s Room on Wiener Platz in Munich.
As we sat down at the terrace in front, our golden chais and lattes in hand, it started drizzling. But none of us seemed to flinch at the coming rain. It was unsaid, yet settled, we were staying.
Soon one of the baristas came rushing out of the cafe, carrying beach parasols. And then apologetically fixed one above us. We squeezed in closer, gauging each other’s coverage, making sure each of us was equally protected.
The latte was sweet, foamy. The terrace dotted with people drinking coffee from soup bowls under other kitschy parasols. Their bubbles as complete as ours. It was a Monday disguised as a lazy Sunday.
Laura was beaming, and G was at his most gorgeous smiliest self. My two most introverted friends making conversation. My heart full at the sweetness of seeing them get along.
We talked about the future–our dreams and timelines. But also interior design preferences. And the promise of more visits. No complaints. No empty words. An actual conversation. A mere hour so full.
A note appeared, included in a belated birthday gift, that ended with “Happy to have you in my life.” I looked up at the two of them, and I couldn’t agree more.
📌 Little Rabbit’s Room, Munich – Germany
🚂 Plus, the Beginning of Travel Moments
The One Big Thing That Defined the Year
📦 Our Move to Europe
After calling Singapore home for five years, G and I moved back to Europe. The move allowed us to spend two quarters of the year at our homes in Amsterdam and Sarajevo and the rest in Portugal, where G and I are looking for a new home. I got to spend buckets of time with my parents. We saw the rest of our families. And met our friends all over Europe. We bought a car and went road-tripping, something we had missed a lot. Furthermore, we spent weeks immersed in nature, close to the mountains and wild beaches, surfing, hiking, and soaking up the expansiveness. Plus, in the euphoria of it all, we made a baby boy who we’ll get to meet in March.
And a Few Small Ones
- The apps: Dipsea, Down Dog, Freedom, Pimsleur
- Beach walks
- Christmas tree from dad + Twinkly lights
- The Friendship Game by The School of Life
- The Kate Bumpsuit
- This Lemongrass Solid Conditioner Bar by Raw Care
- Mom’s cooking
- Palo Santo
- Polaroid Now+ camera
- Road trips
- Stagg Kettle
- State of Escape tote
- Wildflower bouquets
A New Year’s Tradition G and I Started
🌤 The Gift of a Quote
At the beginning of the year, G and I “gifted” each other a quote, which we meant as a guiding light for inner growth and the year ahead. For 2022, we’re keeping it up, though this time, we decided on a mutual quote.
🔖 Related reading: A Practice Friends Were Most Enthusiastic About: Talkies
Quote I Started 2021 With
Do you have the patience to wait
till your mind settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
till the right action arises by itself?
–Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching