My Thoughts: Lessons Learned in 2014

2014 was a good year for me. It was a solid year. It began in the same place that it ended. And after three years of that not being the case... it feels good.

Amsterdam, Changes and 2015

We have somewhat cemented our commitment to Amsterdam this year. We didn't move. We didn't even talk that often of leaving, and when we did it was for reasons that had nothing to do with the city itself. In other words, we are still crazy about Amsterdam. We still find riding a bike EVERYDAY a blissful novelty. We still think winters are better here than in London (though evidence suggests they're roughly the same, if not colder). We still believe summers are longer and warmer here than in London (They are. Fact.). We still want to be here.

I'm trying not to look too far forward at the moment. I already know that next year is going to bring about a number of changes and challenges. I've decided to focus more on writing books than my freelance copywriting business, and though I've not yet made any fixed decisions, that will likely mean less travel and so less travel-related content on this blog. Or will it? Travel doesn't have to always mean long, foreign, drawn-out journeys, does it? Can't it simply mean discovering a new city, a new town or maybe a new neighbourhood that's just down the road? At the risk of getting a little philisophical, I think 2015 will be the year I travel in a very different way. I may not cover as many miles, but the journey will arguably be harder, longer, bumpier. I hope to share much of it here with you. I hope that's okay...

So, what did you teach me 2014?

You taught me that Dubai is not as brutally soul-less as I'd imagined.

You taught me that Amsterdam is beautiful in winter.

You taught me that I can survive a month of no alcohol and no meat... and feel fantastic for it.

You reminded me that I love museums, and there's no shame in that. In fact, I think you even introduced me to my favourite museum ever.

You taught me the real meaning of a holiday and proved that Thailand can deliver this again, and again, and again.

You taught me that festivals are an incredible way to see a place. Especially when they involve snow and comedy... or food. One festival I went to this year, even inspired a new short story.

You taught me the importance of asking my readers what they want to read. THANK YOU EVERYONE WHO RESPONDED!

You took me to places I've never been before: Madeira, the Italian Dolomites, Linz, Hamburg, Ljubljana, Lucca, Cape Town, Cesky Krumlov

You showed me that sometimes there is nothing better in life than laughing your way downhill in a wicker basket.

You taught me that I can keep up with a reading challenge (and win!) but I lacked the motivation to share monthly updates (after the month of June at least). (Instead you can read my ten book recommendations of the year here.)

You taught me that I didn't need to drive myself crazy when I redesigned my blog.

You showed me that there is much to be explored in all four corners of the Netherlands. I'm so glad we got to know Zutphen, I'm happy I got to see the tulips at Keukenhof, and it was a definite pleasure to hang out with Rotterdam lots more this year.

You made me realise that I do indeed like comic art.

You proved to me that I am getting quicker at this writing fiction malarky. It took me twelve months to finish Shy Feet which was just 45000 words in total. London Eyes was more than double that and it took me exactly the same amount of time to complete. Fingers crossed this curve continues.

You reminded me that I love Lisbon. Especially when I'm there with my two best friends.

You taught me that even when I have a home in one place, I still have a home on the road. I will always travel one way or another, even if it's just to help me write these books that live inside me.

You proved that there's no denying it. I do love me some luxury. And Marrakech. It's a place I could happily return to every year.

You taught me that if I can't rid travel seasickness from my life, I can at least manage it.

You reminded me why I love Croatia so very much and you let me learn that the Dalmatian sea is wonderfully warm in August.

You taught me the immeasurable benefits of reading more.

You gave me some closure on London. Without realising it until the very final stages of writing it, London Eyes was very much a literary farewell to a city I lived in during some very important years of my life. In addition to the twelve fictional stories I wrote, I also included an Author's Note which explains why I'm so attached to the city. I'd like to share an extract from it here:

"Yes, London Eyes is very much a love letter to a city I no longer live in but find myself thinking about almost every day, as I have always been aware of how hard, harsh and hopeless living in London can seem. London not only has the ability to amaze and awe, but it can also overwhelm and overpower, as is the case in The Tourist and Night Bus. I think it’s also fair to say that the themes which dominate many of the stories are also topics that I was very occupied by when I was living in London as a twenty-something single lady. There are the perils and pleasures of dating as touched on in The Wizard of Elephant & Castle and London, Baby; there are the challenges of a young girl’s first steps on the career ladder in An Invisible Girl; and in A to Zed we explore some of the cross-purposes I found so common in Shepherd’s Bush, an area I lived in (and blogged about) for four years. In London Eyes I wanted to give life to London’s boroughs in the most personal way and Angel is a story about how London a city of nine million people can too easily deprive its new arrivals of what we all need most; friendship.

Of course, the stories are also about much more than London. Keep the Change deals with fidelity and a different kind of loneliness. Routines looks at how our daily lives can come undone in a heartbeat. And in The Ghosts of London Underground I felt a need to tackle the question of what happens to us when our time on this planet is over.

I can’t answer that question, but I can answer the question of what happens when your life in London is over, for I have been gone now nearly three years and my partner and I have no plans to return. I can tell you that London stays with you. For my partner it is a mixed bag of memories, many of them tarnished by the stressful journeys he made on his bike, risking his life more often than he should have. For me, I remember all of the bad too; being sneezed on in a crowded Tube carriage; being rained on while waiting for a bus; being ignored when crying after an awful date; and most bizarre of all, getting shot with an air gun while out for a run. While my head nods and agrees with my partner that these and more are the reasons we don’t live in London, my heart still struggles to reconcile that I don’t live there anymore."

You took me up into the sky in a way I've never experienced before... or am likely to again.

You taught me how and when to slow down.

You let me make some wonderful new friends. (This video makes me smile inside out.)

You showed me that Amsterdam is a city too and not just a pretty plaything for me to live in.

You taught me that although I'm always, always learning more about writing, I still have knowledge that I can share which will encourage others to write too. (Thank you to everyone who followed my NaNoWriMo Inspiration posts. I hope they helped!)

You helped me fall in love with podcasts.

You reminded me that there are some things you should never think twice about... like dancing, singing and hugging someone you love.

You reminded me why I love flea markets, again.

You taught me that there is more to Dutch food than I realised. And you were also the year I found the best apple pie in Amsterdam.

You taught me the importance of habit and falling in love (thanks to a documentary about sushi). And if you can combine the two.. that's a wonderfully effective pairing.

You very unexpectedly made me obsessed with Amsterdam's doors.

And now as I read through this list and re-read too many of the blog posts I published this year, you remind me how even though it can sometimes feel like a year passes too quickly for anything "real" to change, this is actually very wrong. Everything changes, always. We're changing right now, from one second to the next. That's life, right? I just hope that whatever morphing and moulding I'm doing - especially when I don't realise it - that it's making me a better, happier person.

I wish the exact same thing for you. 

If you've written a reflective post about 2014, I'd love to read it. Please leave a link to it in the comments... or alternatively just summarise some of the key lessons 2014 has taught you. I was surprised how "good" writing this article made me feel. I hope it has the same effect on you!

Frances M. Thompson

Londoner turned wanderer, Frankie is an author, freelance writer and blogger. Currently based in Amsterdam, Frankie was nomadic for two years before starting a family with her Australian partner. Frankie is the author of three short story collections, and is a freelance writer for travel and creative brands. In 2017, she launched WriteNOW Cards, affirmation cards for writers that help build a productive and positive writing practice. When not writing contemporary fiction, Frankie shops for vintage clothes, dances to 70s disco music and chases her two young sons around Amsterdam.
Find Frankie on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+.

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