As 2016 is coming to an end and I look back at the past 12 months, it’s safe to say it’s been a big year. A lot has happened, and by that I don’t mean just tangible things like quitting my job and moving to the other side of the world: the biggest shift has taken place inside my head, in my mind.

Had you asked me one year ago, I would never have expected to hear myself say this, but I’ve come to believe that everything in life happens for a reason. Not like things would be written in the stars or anything, like we’d have no say about what happens because we do; each of us has a defining role as for how our lives unfold, at least to a certain extent. We are the captains of the ships aboard which we sail through life, and it’s up to us to acknowledge that responsibility and take the lead. It’s a conscious choice, kind of like if your glass is half full or half empty. Mine used to be half empty, but I’ve worked hard to fill it up, especially in the past 12 months.

Having always seen myself go abroad as soon as I graduate, instead, when I finally did so in October 2015, it hit me that I’d just signed a contract . My brother, who used to be the most anti-abroad person I know (no more, though, thank goodness!), was taken off guard and asked me if I wasn’t supposed to move abroad once I’d finished school and I realized he was right: I was.

What had happened? In the midst of starting my first full time job, finishing my studies and celebrating my graduation, I’d gotten comfortable. It was just a one-year contract, though, so I made a deal with myself to come up with a plan during the coming 12 months. Was I going to leave or was I not, this was my chance. It needed to happen now.

Just after Christmas I found myself making a dream board, or vision board as they’re also called, you know, one of those collections of images and quotes and anything that inspires you that you cut out of magazines (or anywhere, really) and glue onto a sheet of paper and hang inside your closet or somewhere you will come across it every day, the end result being a representation of who you want to be and what you envision in your future.

It turned out more difficult than I’d expected. With limited space you really need to think what you want to fill it with, so it took a few days of a couple of hours a day. Reading, cutting, picking, choosing; you wouldn’t want to add just anything. Mine turned out to be filled with things related to travel, adventure, health and happiness; having the courage to be yourself and do what you want no matter what everyone else is doing; living life to the fullest and doing it here and now, because you never know what tomorrow will bring; enjoying life, and daring, daring greatly.

Dreams in the making.

Placing the board in a space where you see it often leads to short visualization exercises throughout the day, whether they be conscious or unconscious, which makes it a powerful tool that helps you strive towards your goals. Where I lived I didn’t have a proper closet with doors so I ended up hanging mine on the wall, which means it I was faced with it every day. Whoever came to visit would not only see it but be likely to ask about it, too, resulting in frequent discussions about where I want to get in life.

And now, here I am. Sitting in the common room of Jolly Swagman Backpackers with my foot in the air (it’s been almost three weeks now and this is my first full day of resting… I know, it’s bad, but it sucks!) while my friends are hiking in the Blue Mountains, I can strongly recommend anyone who’s the least bit visual to make a dream board. It takes a bit of time and thinking, but it’s super simple and so powerful. There are no rules, but what we focus on expands, so add anything that inspires you.

What do you want in life? Where do you want to go, and how do you want to feel?

In this very moment, if someone asked you what you would want to do if anything was possible, what would you say?

–Anonymous

Be careful what you wish for, though, because you just might get it.

As you can read here (the post is in Finnish, unfortunately), it took me four months of daily debates with myself considering whether or not I want to leave and dare do that before I bought my ticket to Bangkok. It was the end of April and my air miles were just about to expire. As I wanted to use them to fly as far east as I could (hence Bangkok) the expiration date was my deadline for booking the flight.

When I finally got my ticket on April 29 I didn’t feel the least bit relieved, which I’d not only expected but also very much wished for, but no. I was completely, utterly anxious.

What have I gotten myself into? 

I told my supervisors at work that I won’t continue in the fall, and they congratulated me. Leave the country while you can, they said, and I found myself thinking: wait a minute – they want me to leave?! 

Am I making the biggest mistake in my life? 

To get over that feeling of anxiety I went shopping. I got myself a travel towel, a sleeping bag and anything I came to think of that I could possibly need. Vaccines, backpack, visa, check.

Ready for takeoff! 

… just kidding, not really. However, as soon as I’d boarded the plane on September 4 I was washed over with a feeling of relief.

Life, I’m on my way! 

No matter how anxious I was about how things were going to work out, everything’s worked out perfectly. I spent two and a half months in SE Asia and all went well, surprisingly well. No major injuries, no feelings of discomfort and insecurity. I spontaneously met up with Tuomas in Malaysia, and started my Australian chapter with three weeks at Dylan’s place in Perth, trying to re-adapt to real life. That was followed by a full 16 days with dad during which we got to explore not only Melbourne and Sydney but the Great Ocean Road and Ayers Rock, too. When dad left I spent two days with Amy before moving to the hostel where I met up with Marlene and her friends. To finish off my marathon of seeing friends and family what’s next is a week and a half with my host family from the US.

How did things work out so well?

I’ve known Marlene ever since I was an Au Pair in the US in 2008-09. Being the crazy traveler she is she always shows up wherever I go, making the impossible possible. I’m pretty sure this is the 12th country in which we meet up and I’m not even kidding. So far we’ve got the US, Mexico, Sweden, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, England, Chile, Bolivia, Costa Rica and Argentina on the list. Naturally, now, she’s in Australia, too, which I was especially happy for at Christmas as she kind of represents home away from home.

A different kind of Christmas Day. Marlene and I.

As if that hadn’t been a coincidence enough, my host family randomly happens to be coming here on vacation in January, too. At the end of May this year, a couple of weeks after I had booked my one-way flight to Bangkok, I got a phone call from my host mom, Janet, telling me that they’d be in Australia in January. Long story short, it was her birthday, so I’d sent her a text wishing her a happy birthday. Five minutes later my phone rung and when I saw it was her I remember thinking to myself that it must be a mistake, we never call. Turns out she’d missed my previous text where I’d told her that I was thinking of going to Australia and had just seen it. “Are you going to be in Australia, too??”

REALLY???

What are the odds!?

At that time she’d only made a flight reservation so everything was yet to be confirmed. She’d been debating whether or not it’d be better to postpone the whole thing until next year because of the boys’ schedules, but hearing that I’d be there, too, changed things and so all of a sudden I had plans to meet up with them at the beginning of the year, in Australia, on the other side of the world. I found myself thinking this is a sign, I am meant to go. Holy crap! 

You know that feeling when somehow, in some magical way, things just fall into place? Well, that never used to be the case for me (at least not if you ask me). I have friends who have good things happen to them all the time, randomly, just out of the blue, but it’s never been me, which has made me wonder where my luck is and if it’s ever going to be my turn.

Well, now I feel it is. It is my turn.

There’s Marlene, Janet & co. and there’s Dylan and his sister who just happened to have a spare room in their new house for the time I was in Perth. There’s Tuomas’ unexpectedly approved vacation days and spontaneous visit to Malaysia, and dad’s visit post-Perth. And then there’s a few other cases that might mean nothing to you but that do mean something to me.

Two weeks ago when walking around the streets of stormy Melbourne I tried on an amazingly comfortable sweater at the UGG store. I have never been a big fan of UGG although their shoes and clothes seem like the most comfortable things to wear, but needing to get rid of my one and only sweater as it had definitely reached its ‘best before’ date I figured I’d better replace it before I did, especially if I wanted to stay in Melbourne. I had a look at the price tag, though, and quickly changed my mind. That’s AUD 120 just for the brand – no way! And so I kind of forgot about it, until ten days later I came across an official-looking UGG store in Sydney (there’s one less official-looking than the other in every corner, not kidding!), walked in and saw that same sweater, however now at a price of -40% off. Lucky I didn’t get it in Melbourne, I thought, and went ahead and bought it. Score!

A few days later as dad and I were waiting to check in at our hotel in Sydney, I overheard the guy in front of us talk to the receptionist. He handed over a few books – travel guides, it seemed – telling the receptionist he longer needed them “so please feel free to pass them on to someone who does“. Having had dad bring library copies of Lonely Planets for both Melbourne & Victoria and Sydney I’d come to the conclusion that I might need to buy one, so now as I just happened to be there I realized this is my chance and asked the guy if maybe I could have them. “I’d be more than happy to take them, I’ve just thought of buying one”, and voilà! So I had the newest edition of Lonely Planet Australia. I could not believe my luck.

That same day we went to Manly. We took the ferry over and once again, having no plan turned into walking around aimlessly all afternoon. By the time we sat down for a late lunch at 4 pm I was exhausted. My heels hurt so badly and it was way too windy for the dress I was wearing (the flowiest in town, no doubt!), not to mention for wearing a cap. Dad left the restaurant ahead of me and by the time I came out he was nowhere to be seen. I spent a good 15 minutes looking for him on the beach and the promenade, but he seemed to have disappeared into thin air. My hands were tied down at the hem of my dress which seemed impossible to keep in place and my cap was about to fly off a thousand times, forcing me to look down so that I wouldn’t lose it. As if that hadn’t been enough of a hassle I looked like an idiot when trying to get around because of my feet so when I spotted someone who might have looked like this one guy who i met in Helsinki in 2011 there was really not a lot I could do.

Could it be him…? Surely not.

Not remembering to have bumped into him on Facebook in a long, long time, I realized I didn’t even know what he looked like these days, so with the ongoing dress-cap-feet situation I figured that it might be best not to give it a shot and yell out. I found dad at the wharf and forgot about the whole thing until later that same evening when I noticed that Kees had liked one of my blog posts on Facebook. Okay – maybe I should write him and see if it was him or not, after all he lives in Sydney these days, maybe, who knows?

Well, turns out that he does and that it actually was him. How random is that, bumping into someone you know on the other side of the world? What are the odds? Offering me to crash on their couch at the beginning of the year before my host family arrives that, too, worked out just perfectly. Unbelievable!

So many coincidences, so many accidentally matching timetables. So many things that have worked out unbelievably well, against my track record, against the odds. Even though I’m sitting here with my broken feet I’m super impressed of how well everything’s fallen into place. I’m so happy and so, so thankful. What follows in the new year remains to be seen, but for the first time ever I am one hundred percent sure that everything’s gonna be alright. Everything’s gonna be okay, which for someone who used to not believe that is quite the feeling.

Happy vibes and a happy life!

Real life awaits and I’m actually excited about it. Excited to stay in one place for a while and to live like a local. I’m looking forward to finding a place to live and to getting a job, signing up at a yoga studio, exploring a new neighborhood, making new friends and trying out new restaurants. Living a simple life in an inspiring setting. Ah!

In the end, maybe I will get that movie-kind of happy ending that I’ve wished for all my life…? Maybe.

When it’s all finished, you will discover it was never random. Eventually, everything connects.

–Anonymous

With these words I’m wishing you a happy, healthy and courageous new year 2017. And remember:

Anything that makes your heart racing is probably worth doing.

Love,
Anna