Each year, my Husband creates a gift that shows more love for me as his wife than an acceptance speech co-written by George Clooney and Tom Hanks. Being a photographer, Bello takes countless photos. At the end of each year, he combs the archive selecting his favorites. Then, he shares them with me by printing a book as a Christmas present.
Bello captions each photo, I used his words to title this post. He summarizes 2014 at the front of the book and predicts happiness at the end of the book for 2015. His words are just as poetic, insightful, silly and playful as he is. Turning the pages, I cry like the smitten kitten I am, rediscovering and recounting our year together.
For us, 2014 was epic.
We started our year off flying to California on New Year’s Eve. We agreed as long as we were together we could ring the New Year in anywhere, even in the air. Thankfully, we landed in LAX in JUST enough time to rent a car… drive to Palm Springs… run into a store to buy some wine… check into the hotel… and luckily find one of the only restaurants open for dinner.
Walking into the Wolfgang Puck Pizza Bar at 11PM we realized we were the only customers, period. Full of New Year’s hats and streamers, they clearly planned for a party but found patrons just didn’t come out. At midnight we joined the jovial staff in a private party +2, yelling Happy New Year! We couldn’t have had a better end to 2013 or a more successfully unplanned start to 2014.
We spent the next 10 days exploring streets with no names in Joshua Tree. Driving through the Mojave onto Death Valley and all the way up to hug the largest trees on earth in the Sequoia National Park. Perhaps the best part, when we returned home, we raised a glass to the happy news that Bello’s green card was approved!
In February & March
We visited Bello’s parents at his childhood home in Torino, Italy. Each day we explored Northern Italy, sipping Barolo in Barolo, hiking the Alps of Bardonnechia to dine on Polenta Concia. We spent a little time in Briancón France where I was introduced to Raclette and life was never the same. My Husband–and I must stop here and say, I KNOW I’m a lucky Midwest American kid–decided it was time I saw Venice. Off we went to the floating city mid Carnevale, were fled the tourist in favor of the locals and cecheti.
April & May
Relatively quiet months for travel. In April, I was flown to St. Petersburg, Florida for a job interview. Bello joined me and jointly we decided this was an option, a life to decline, but an important trip we recalled with fondness. It got us talking about life, the future, what we wanted and where we wanted to live.
As a couple, we decided to prioritize freedom from corporate life and having the ability to travel more over our Manhattan lifestyle. Choosing to continue my efforts to work for myself and not sell out and go back to the well paid but highly stressful media world, we knew we were ready to make big changes. Moving to Jersey City in May, we cut our annual housing expenses nearly $20,000. With our new budget flexibility, we spent the rest of the year traveling as much of the world as we could.
June & July
To celebrate our dedication to freedom, travel we did, joining Bello’s parents in Paris to celebrate his Father’s 75th Birthday. I fell in love with Croissants and began to imagine our lives incomplete without living a Parisians lifestyle… at least for a while. We worked our way up through Bruges to Amsterdam stopping at the small towns of Ghent and Delft in-between. We wrapped the trip in Brussels with a Champagne toast at breakfast to celebrate the news, that Paolo Ferraris Colors had just that morning, sold another piece.
Returning home, I launched myself into a collaboration with a friends company to work as a contractor with a great title on the digital strategy for Cornell University Alumni Affairs. A monster project, I spent many hours working from home with every other week in Ithaca, New York. July was slower again, but when Bello’s camera went on the fritz and a repair location took him towards the water in New York, we figured let’s make a trip of it and ended up in Fire Island… why not they have beaches there!
August & September
Now these two months were big travel months, even for us. We celebrated our first year as happy newly weds in Cartagena Colombia. The heat and humidity beat us into submission of a slow, leisurely, romantic pace. Morning explorations lead to Ceviche lunches and afternoon siestas. Oxtail dinners followed by sunset rooftop toasts became the slow dance of our days.
Domestically, we adopted our inner Goonies and found ourselves uttering “It’s TIME for an IPA!” each afternoon in Portland. They say “keep Portland weird” yet we found ourselves wondering, could this be a place we move to stay one day? Within a 90 minute drive you either hit one of the most beautiful costal areas of the US, wine country, Mt. St. Helen’s or Mt. Hood. If you stay in this mid-sized city, you can get anywhere in about 20 minutes and eat some of the best food around.
For my Sister’s Birthday, we swung a trip up to Gaylord, Michigan. Nothing beats the dreaded sense of aging better than watching your Sister toss her son full of giggles into the lake behind their house. Except watching your Husband take countless photos of your Niece and Nephew and know full well, he’ll soon make them a gift to your Sister to thank her for her hospitality.
October & November
Travel slowed a bit in October, giving a break to focus on work. Bello’s parents came for a visit and being the good son he is, he took them for a mini-vacation in the Smoky Mountains. Meanwhile, I began to develop my client base and landed my first contract as a Strategy Consultant. Life began to breathe into the concept of truly being free, my Husband and I both working for ourselves, it found a pulse and a heartbeat. My fear of shifting security in a bi-weekly paycheck finally died.
My family also hosted these vagabonds in Columbus, Ohio. We sipping wine with my Mother at the kitchen table reliving our travels and dreaming of more to come, a delight. We sat with Dad, finding confidence and support in our decision not to have kids, a comfort.
When storms threatened in New Jersey, we flew south for the winter spending time with kindred spirits, a Digital Power Couple and fellow Nomads Ayaz and Val in Miami.
We love our family and they us. 2014 was a year full of support, wise words and laughter.
We ended the year in a very atypical celebration of Christmas in Burma and New Year’s in Cambodia. It will take me months to fully appreciate everything I experienced on this trip. Pagodas of Gold, Burmese easy smiles, Monks… with cell phones and selfies, soup for breakfast so good you’ll realize your American granola bars are for chumps. Sunset on a Stupa, Inle Lake a city where fishermen move in beauty, learning Italian in Burma and Cambodia… from a local guide, bananas the size of my palm, sticky rice, gold, gold gold, beautiful ruin, entire families on bikes, boarding passes with no name. Spending one night in Bangkok and traveling for 2 days with 4 flights and a 6 hour drive… on a Cambodian road with pit stops by stalls where they sell fried tarantula… as a snack.
This trip was a tribute for my Husband to his parents, having years ago planned the trip. Sadly, the shifting political climate changed and their hopes were dashed. He wished for years to make it up to them and go, and so in this year when we freed ourselves from the corporate shackles, we did. I’m fortunate that they consider me not just their son’s wife, but family and brought me along.
Somehow through all the traveling we were able to work, grow closer and learn more about ourselves and ultimately each other. With a year like 2014, I couldn’t escape spending hours, days writing this blog, there was so much to be thankful for. Most of all, I’m thankful to one man, my present and my future, my Amore della mia vita, my Bello.