In my end of 2015 year summary, I wrote that life is a sinusoid and you can’t have the ups all the time. 2014 and 2015 sucked a lot. 2016 was a breakthrough. This summary is not focused on calculating all the countries I’ve been to, because seriously – who cares?, but a recap of the things I managed to change this year and what consequences it had.
In January 2016, I was still anxious and uncertain if I would manage to break out of the vicious circle of frustration and stagnation which accompanied me throughout 2015. That was the year which I spent without any goals, vision for myself, energy to carry out the simplest of tasks. Instead, I carried a lot of anger and disappointment with my life: that it was so far away from the vision I had for myself when I was younger. Nearly all of the things I thought would be true, didn’t happen. I was stuck in the “work-eat-sleep” mode for around 2 non-creative years.
The priority for 2016 was clearing my mind from depressing thoughts, making decisions in agreement with my intuition and not to satisfy my family, society, and basically everybody else except for me. Decisions “because you’re supposed to do so” were the worst and made me stuck in frustration for two years, so the strategy for 2016 was different. Now, having followed that path for a year, I can finally say I am living my life to the fullest.
January and February were the months when I was gathering momentum. I was still scared of changes and not strong enough to do what I had in mind, so I took it slow. Every weekend, I would go for a walk with my camera and I see now that those first steps to regain my creativity laid foundations for everything else that followed. I decided to shoot more with my analogue camera and it gave me tones of joy. The best, however, were the walks in frosty air and staying away from computer and the flat. It seemed to me that winter air froze my gloomy thoughts and when March started, I felt ready.
It was a usual March day. I got up, saw the sunshine and felt certain that I would accomplish everything that I had in mind. Normally, I am very impatient, but that day, I felt ready to commit for long-term changes. The biggest revolution affected my diet and exercises.
So what exactly happened?
I started drinking a glass of water with lemon first thing in the morning. I started eating healthy breakfasts before I would leave home. I gave up on processed sugar. The only sugar I have eaten since March was in fruits. I gave up on wheat products, because I had noticed it made me feel sick. I cut down on diary products, because they were making my allergy worse. A week after, I felt a huge change in how I was feeling. I had way more energy and power to accomplish my other goals.
Next, I added regular visits to the gym. I didn’t enjoy long cardio sessions, so I researched youtube looking for ideas for other activities I could do in the gym to improve my endurance and burn some fat. That’s how I found out about high intensity interval training. And I loved that. HIIT is relatively short but it would make me really tired. I also started to notice the benefits very soon: suddenly, I could walk up the stairs without panting, run after a bus faster, and so on. I also wanted to learn some other exercises such as deadlift, hip thrusts, squats. Week to week, I saw improvement.
In March, I went to ITB to Berlin and, quite spontaneously, I met the guys from Arctic Adventures. We quickly agreed on a really cool blogging cooperation: trekking in Icelandic highlands. Now, visiting the gym wasn’t just for myself. Now, I had a precise goal and deadline in mind.
I wrote down what I want to accomplish by when and stuck to the plan. Working out and eating clean made me feel so good, that not for a second did I feel tired or bored with my new “lifestyle”. The first opportunity to check my fitness came pretty soon: in the Accursed Mountains in Kosovo. But before I solo travelled to Kosovo, I also visited Wroclaw with my high school friends and my boyfriend and fell in love with this city.
My stay in Kosovo was really amazing and the test I did in Prokletije really hard. I went to the mountains alone. The trail wasn’t too long, but it was very steep and my imagination was playing tricks on me. It was foggy, windy, and the landscape reminded me of some mysterious land of the dead instead of a holiday destination. I reached the foggy lake, came back, didn’t loose my way, felt absolutely happy. This short trekking gave me so much power and confidence, that I became certain that I would reach my goals that year. Also, two months had passed since I changed my diet and added the gym and the differences were getting more and more visible.
The trip to Kosovo was special also for some other reasons. I met a lot of young people there and we talked about life in Kosovo, the youngest country in Europe. I also wrote an article about them which you can find here. This was a very slow trip. I didn’t rush after attractions, I took a lot of time to enjoy my time drinking coffee, chatting with the locales, taking photos. This trip also made me realise that it’s the way of travelling I like the most. I love spending time with people listening to their stories and enriching them with my photos. For more stories from Kosovo, click here.
In June, I went to Łódź, a city in Poland which fascinated me the most. Although this trip was challenging at times, I already miss going there once again. Incidentally, I happened to visit the biggest photography festival in Poland and am planning to do the same in 2017.
In June, I also went to the mountains with my friend, Hanna (hannatravels.com). It was my first time in Lower Silesia region in Poland and I absolutely loved it there. We climbed three mountains (to be precise, two mountains and 3/4 of the third one). We slept in a dorm where the ceiling fell down. We walked in the forest at night which was very scary because we also encountered some wild animals. We drank beer looking at the starts at midnight. It was a really good weekend.
In July, I spent a week with my sister. We went to Berlin and this would be a really cool adventure if we had not missed our bus back to Poznan. Lesson learnt: always check the time of departure of your bus.
August was good as well. I finally went to Iceland! I was both excited and stressed if I would manage to complete the 5-day-long off path trekking in Icelandic wilderness. It turned out I was in better shape than I thought. I didn’t have sore muscles, I didn’t feel tired, I kept a good pace all the time. I felt in power.
The breakthrough was walking down one really steep slope. This was the day when I got rid of my fear of heights and felt new opportunities opening up. I love hiking and mountains and this fear of heights would always slow me down or made me change my plans. From that time, I can finally fully enjoy trekking and am planning other, even more difficult routes. I am also proud of myself because I know how much effort and determination it took. Having completed the trekking with Arctic Adventures, I went to Landmannalaugar to hike the Laugavegur trek solo. By incident, I met another solo traveller, Sophia, and we spent those three days together and it was magnificent. The whole Icelandic trip was really, really fortunate for me.
In September, I went for my first trip with a group of friends and we spent five days in Romania. I was more scared of this trip than I normally am before going somewhere solo. I know what expectations I have of travelling and was afraid that I would get impatient or angry with my friends if they would e.g. slow me down. I hate waiting, I am not the biggest fan of meeting halfway when I travel. Instead, I love spontaneity, meeting the locals, taking a lot of time for photographs and getting up early to see the sunrise. The trip went good and I convinced myself that I also can travel with friends. We had a lot of fun and I will long remember those crazy five days. I have also learnt what benefits and drawbacks travelling with friends has and will stay faithful to travelling solo at least in the near future.
In September, I also went to the Slowinski National Park with Wojtek and it was an absolutely perfect weekend. I actually made one of my small dreams come true: seeing the majestic Baltic Sea in early autumn. I had to pay for that dream with a two-month-long Achilles joint injury, but it was still worth it.
October and November without the gym made me realise how strongly working out became part of my life. After those two months when I had to heal my injury and couldn’t move too much, I started to feel bad again. My energy levels dropped and I knew that as soon as my leg is healthy, I will start exercising again. I wanted to exercise even better and make it all according to a plan. Since I am not a personal trainer and I wanted to focus on photography instead of on learning about food and exercises, I decided to work with a trainer. I received a dietary plan with a set of exercises. I’ve been working with them for two months and the effects are really good.
To be honest, changing my lifestyle and adding regular visits to the gym made this year. First of all, I am now way more organised than I used to be. If I want to cook meals for the next day, plan the time for the gym and still have some time left for this blog and photography, I have to be well-organised. Even though I like staying longer in bed, there were days when I would get up before 6 am only to visit the gym before going to the office. Not only did I manage to loose quite a lot of fat, but I improved my endurance and, what is the most important, discovered an activity that I really love. I have become much stronger, not only physically.
This has also taught me that if I managed to accomplish those goals, I can accomplish any other goals as well.
Photography has been present in my life for a long time, with even longer breaks. There were moments of absolute fascination and months when I didn’t touch my camera. I didn’t shoot for most of 2014 and 2015 and I wanted to catch up on that in 2016.
In October, I attended a photography workshop organised by two photographers who I admire a lot. When I came back, I was full of motivation and determination to commit myself to photography and make it constitute a larger proportion of my life. Since October, I have been taking photos nearly every weekend: portraits, boudoir, family, pregnancy photos. I am also going to shoot a wedding in a few weeks with a photographer who I admire a lot. Time will tell if I would manage to make my passion my daily life. In a few weeks’t time, I am planning to publish my portfolio.
When I look back, I see I have managed to reach quite a lot of my goals. A lot of things happened completely unexpectedly. I was planning to loose weight and I discovered a new passion. I wanted to take more photos and I am now planning to make it my living. When I sometimes have a bad day and self-doubt, I look past and the good energy comes back to me. The awareness of well spent time gives me determination to keep on working on my goals.
I am happy that I discovered that I can be very determined when I really care about something. I am also thankful for the support I received from my boyfriend and my closest friends. I also grew stronger by understanding that it’s only me who is responsible for the shape I am in. Other people can either support me or try to drag me down, but in the and, how I feel depends on my own decisions. No one else will bear the consequences of bad choices and that’s why I made a commitment to follow my own intuition, not anybody else’s. If I shall fail, I want to do it my way.
It’s a very personal post, but that’s how I wanted it to be. I have come a long way to be who I am right now and I really believe that if I managed to do this, everyone else can. Maybe my experiences will inspire you to also look back at your life and take the courage to change something.
To wrap it up, I wish you clear mind when setting goals and determination to keep going against all odds. I also wish you to have loving and supporting people around you and courage to cut the ties with those who drag you down. Everything is possible, you just have to do it.