At the beginning of February, I celebrated my 22nd bithday. For the first time in a long time, I actually really enjoyed it. I was surrounded by friends, both new and old, all of whom had taken time out of their lives to celebrate with me - I was showered with love and well wishes and I would not have traded it for anything. My best girlfriends surprised me with cupcakes from my favourite bakery, a onesie, and the final season of my favourite television series on DVD. My oldest girlfriends surprised me with a cake, and 22 presents for my 22nd birthday. Combined with various cards and birthday wishes from other friends, it made for an incredible birthday (dancing the night away didn't hurt either!).
By April, I had finished my last term in university. After successfully completing my final exams, I was approved to graduate! I had spent the last 4 years earning my bachelor's degree, yet it felt bittersweet that my time in university had come to an end. Upon receiving my final grades, I had received a 94% in one of my 4th year classes. I was ecstatic! What an accomplishment.
In May of 2013, I went on an Alaskan cruise with my mother and my aunt. It was a week-long cruise, departing from Vancouver and docking in Seattle, stopping in the ports of Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan. Like any other cruise, the food was amazingly decadant. What I remember most is looking out at the snow-covered mountains, breathing in the fresh Alaskan air, and thinking to myself how serene it all was. I remember seeing and hearing pieces of a glacier break apart and crashing into the waters below. I remember the blue tint of the glaciers, and the clarity of the Alaskan water. I remember seeing whales in their natural habitat, peeking out of the water to sneak a breath. There's also nothing like sitting in an outdoor hot tub sailing the ocean and admiring the view of snow-covered mountains, while breathing in that fresh Alaskan air.
By June, I had renewed my contract with my former workplace where I worked as a Human Resources Assistant. My first day back, I went to Blue Mountain for the organization's annual recognition awards. The Human Resources branch was norminated for the Team Building Award. As a recipient, I was able to go to Blue Mountain, where I had my own room, and enjoy a lovely awards dinner - all expenses paid. I must say, it certainly was the best first day anyone could have asked for!
Later in June, I had attended my convocation ceremony. I walked across the stage and received my diploma - the very expensive piece of paper that I spent 4 years working toward. I remember feeling very proud and accomplished, yet sad because the day I was so looking forward to seemed to flash by in a blink of an eye. As did my 4 years at Waterloo. Bittersweet to say the least.
Sometime in July (though officially recognized in August), I became debt free. Between help from my mother and my summer job, I was able to pay off my student loans. This was an incredible accomplishment for me and took a huge weight off of my shoulders. All of the time I spent worrying about repaying my loans vanished and I was finally able to breathe.
The rest of the money from my summer job was used to fund my 3 month trip to Europe. I had always dreamed of travelling through Europe, but had always found reasons not to go. Suddenly, I found that I was at a point in my life where I wasn't studying, in debt, or tied down to a job - I no longer had a reason not to go. My sister has been living in Germany for about 5 years now, and so I went to stay with her. Hamburg would be my home base while I travelled around.
In those 3 months, I explored Brussels, Hamburg, Florence, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Porto, Barcelona, Salzburg, Vienna, Montabauer, Koblenz, Trier, Luneburg, and Lubeck. I travelled solo, I couchsurfed, and I met some great people along the way. I stood barefoot in the Atlantic ocean for the first time (in December no less!) at a beach in Porto, I saw the sunset from high atop Florence in Fiesole, the beautiful beaches of Porto and from Park Guell in Barcelona, I drank 1 euro beers at a punk/rock bar in Barcelona, I saw and experienced real German Christmas Markets, I went on a tour of a castle in Southern Germany, and I bonded with my sister.
The best part about spending 3 months 'vacationing' on a different continent was the incredible amount of love of support from my family, my friends, and my boyfriend back home. I'm so grateful for all of them.
Looking back on 2013, it really was an incredible year. I learned to let go of my fears, doubts, and worries, and to just enjoy life.
I can't wait to see what adventures await in 2014!