I tend to get reflective around the new year. I and my blog are another year older. I’m pretty much exactly a year older, as my birthday falls this time of year; my blog is becoming a toddler and will be two in March. So it was nigh on impossible not to write a reflection on the year that was 2015.
The eagle-eyed of my readers will have noticed the subtle change in my blog’s title: we’re now 18-plus Months in DC. This has been a year of applying for visas, preparing to leave America, and then settling back in for a little while longer. Sometime in the new year I’ll tell the saga of the visas, as promised. I’ll also finish my tales from our road trip out west, and find a way to bring these all together – possibly on a dedicated road trips page.
It has been a good year for traveling. Two road trips, a conference in New York City, and a fellowship in Austin, TX means that I’ve now visited 20 states.
We already have plans to visit Delaware this holiday break, and New Orleans (Louisiana) in January, which will bring me up to 22 states. Still lagging behind R, but then he doesn’t have to pay for his trips.
Taking a look over my most popular travel posts from 2015, it turns out that people were pretty interested in our Southern adventures (https://18monthsindc.wordpress.com/2015/06/17/on-the-back-roads-from-atlanta-to-the-coast/), and that plenty of people share my love of food-tourism (https://18monthsindc.wordpress.com/2015/06/14/queuing-for-regional-specialities/). My first guest-post on a holiday in DC and Shenandoah (https://18monthsindc.wordpress.com/2015/09/07/guest-post-autumn-adventures-in-dc-and-shenandoah/) was also popular – and quite rightly! As well as some lovely photos and descriptions of the Virginia countryside, my guest poster also said some lovely things about DC, which I hope might encourage more of my readers to visit!
I was unexpectedly charmed by DC. In its own, low-key way it is quite lovely. R&A live in an area called Adams Morgan which is home to a classic American diner, a number of great restaurants and a degenerate bar called Madam’s Organ … Other highlights of DC were canoeing on the Potomac in the autumn sunshine, watching the Washington Wizards in action, R’s informative and beautiful walking tour of the war memorials and hours spent in DC’s brilliant museums. Watching E scrambling through air ducts in the spy museum will stay with me for a long time.
After about 21 months in DC I feel pretty much at home here now. I noticed the other day how my feet just take me where I’m going without me really having to think about directions, and I usually have a recommendation for a bar or restaurant wherever you might be in town. So this year I felt able to describe some of the sides of DC that a tourist wouldn’t experience. For example, a trip to Costo. Or the experiences of a private tutor: https://18monthsindc.wordpress.com/2015/07/30/dc-as-seen-by-a-private-tutor/. I also felt equipped to answer the question: how safe is DC really?
My most popular posts, though, have dealt with the issues faced by the foreigner living abroad – the ‘expat experience’ if you must. This is a weird time to be living in America. We’ve felt a bit disconnected from the political debates in Europe over immigration, and far too far from home when tragedy struck in Paris. And at the same time, we feel completely baffled by some of the political debate in the US right now. Everything that’s going on in the world can make a blog about a British person’s life in DC seem a bit trivial. In response I have tried recently to write about the bigger issues of the day, from my current perspective. But I also hope that my blog’s usual topics provide entertainment (and potentially useful information) for people back home and those embarking on their own international adventures – and I think that this can be just as important.
Because it’s not all plain sailing in expat life. Clara Wiggins, in her book Expat Partner’s Survival Guide (see my ‘blogs I follow’ section for the companion blog), covers the serious side of living abroad better than I do, but this year I reflected on how relocating affected my relationship with my husband (https://18monthsindc.wordpress.com/2015/07/11/relocating-with-my-best-friend-2/), and wrote about finding friends in a new country (https://18monthsindc.wordpress.com/2015/05/21/friends-and-friending-social-networks-abroad/). Hopefully these pieces may be of some help to people in similar situations.
However, sometimes it’s the littler things that can help the most. Like being able to find your favourite foods in your new city (Eating British). Or being able to laugh at how Brits and Americans can’t understand each other (American English).
Ultimately, as anyone who has studied travel writing will know, this sort of writing is best when it allows readers to turn their gaze back on themselves, with the benefit of a new perspective. In other words – we love reading about ourselves! So I’ll end this round-up with my most popular post to-date: my Favourite things about a trip (back) to the UK.
Thanks for reading – and Happy New Year!