In 2013 I learned that Finnish Lapland is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Especially in the dark winter months when daylight appears for just a few hours with a dramatic sunrise that blends into an even more impressive sunset.
In 2013 I learned that I'm brave enough to go ice dipping and share a sauna with eleven naked Finnish women I've never met before.
In 2013 I learned that if you dress appropriately, stop for warm drinks frequently and walk briskly you can explore a beautiful city like Helsinki in below freezing temperatures.
In 2013 I learned that it's very hard to (successfully) go off piste in the Finnish and Norwegian fells.
In 2013 I learned that new friends will welcome us into their homes as though we are old friends. (Thank you Satu and your wonderful family!)
In 2013 I learned that loss can come out of nowhere and knock you down a little. And that's okay.
In 2013 I learned that Scandinavian cinammon buns make me extraordinarily happy.
In 2013 I learned that Morocco is a country full of warm souls, bumpy roads, yelling goats and the most sensational spices and flavours. (Not to mention this stunning airport.)
In 2013 I learned that I love the company of cats and dogs... almost as much as my boyfriend does.
In 2013 I learned that Edinburgh is a fairy-tale like city with church spires, castle turrets and gothic spikes scattering its skyline, especially as seen from Arthur's Seat.
In 2013 I learned that there is not much sweeter than watching friends you love get married.
In 2013 I learned that NewMan likes to travel by train. A lot.
In 2013 I learned a new love that just won't quit me; that of being an Aunty.
In 2013 I learned that Shepherd's Bush has changed quite a bit since I lived there. Despite a sad sinking in the pit of my stomach, I think this is a very good thing.
In 2013 I learned that there is one thing harder than writing the first draft of your first book; editing it. (But 87 individual drafts later, I got there.)
In 2013 I learned that NewMan is vehemently afraid of needles but that he is as brave as a lion when it comes to facing pain and doing everything his physiotherapist tells him. He made me very proud.
In 2013 I learned that Brighton & Hove is a place I could live in forever and ever and ever.
In 2013 I learned that if I run just one mile a day I am happier, healthier and a little fitter.
In 2013 I learned at Traverse in Brighton that I am not the world's worst public speaker, but I am perhaps the most nervous out there.
In 2013 I learned that I love museums and I'm not going to apologise for it any longer. (My favourites were V&A in London, Boijmans van Beuningen and the Dutch photography museum, both in Rotterdam.)
In 2013 I learned that the North Sea Jazz Festival is one of the most upmarket and exciting live music festivals in the world.
In 2013 I learned (much to my surprise) that Rotterdam is a truly beautiful city with lots and lots going on.
In 2013 I learned that there is no secret shortcut to writing an article that goes viral other than being very honest and very open about your personal experience and when it touches something in more than a few people, it will fly. (I'm talking about this article about how Rotterdam is a city worth loving.)
In 2013 I learned that sharing is the best thing you can do online. And sharing my knowledge about Going Freelance, Shining Online and Becoming a Digital Nomad has earned me new friends, connections and work opportunities.
In 2013 I learned that the UK is home to the brightest bluest skies.
In 2013 I learned that people really loved Martin's story. So much so I'm writing a sequel... (PS You can still get See the Amalfi Coast for free here.)
In 2013 I learned that Amsterdam is where we want to be... for now.
In 2013 I learned that you should definitely believe the hype when it comes to Iceland.
In 2013 I learned that a volcano is still red, raw and hot, nearly forty years after it has erupted.
In 2013 I learned that I can spend hours taking photos of street art and skateboarders.
In 2013 I learned that riding my bike in the Netherlands is a pleasure like no other. Especially when I'm following someone special.
In 2013 I learned A LOT about self publishing and being an indie author.
In 2013 I learned that lots of people wanted to come and stay with us. Thank you all for coming!
In 2013 I learned that there is no better place to be in summer than Amsterdam.
In 2013 I learned that I've taught myself to not want possessions and now I may have to undo all that hard work!
In 2013 I learned that it's okay to not keep up with "just for fun" projects if they become too much ( Sorry 365 Project!)
In 2013 I learned that writing and self-publishing Shy Feet: Short Stories Inspired by Travel is the achievement I am most proud of in my life.
In 2013 I learned that no matter how much I achieve I will always doubt myself, my decisions and my ability. Sometimes it will make me cry in the bathroom for a little while. And then I'll make a cup of tea and get back to work.
In 2013 I learned that people like my book.
In 2013 I learned that people also like the songs I listen to when I write.
In 2013 I learned that Portuguese people are wonderfully social and sociable; we could learn a lot from them.
In 2013 I learned that port definitely tastes better in Porto.
In 2013 I learned that Bruges is a city overwhelmed with tourists but they do little to dilute its charm and character.
In 2013 I learned that when you take away my modern comforts and conveniences, I'm not as tough as I think I am.
In 2013 I learned that I can push myself harder than I realised.
In 2013 I learned that I can go five days without a shower and still feel clean...ish.
In 2013 I learned that husky racing dogs are among the fittest, sweetest and funnest animals on this planet. And they are the main reason I survived those five days without a shower, toilet or bed.
In 2013 I learned that I'm really only getting started with travel, writing, living and loving.
I'm standing on the edge, 2014 and my arms, heart and mind are open - BRING IT ON!
What lessons did you learn in 2013? I'd love to hear them...
Frances M. Thompson
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