From Sochi to Shanghai (and a few places in between): Life in 2014

4 Expat Edna in Venice by Ashley Abroad

It was bound to happen eventually, but 2014 is the first year I’m not entirely sad to see go. 

In my recap two years ago, I had deemed 2012 the best year ever and was “scared” for 2013’s ability to rise to such epic precedents.

2013 indeed matched (and surpassed) the year before, but its many ecstatic highs came with a small number of terribly painful lows. Overall though, it was an even better year than 2012, especially when I accidentally started traveling around the world.

18 Edna & Joe in Seattle by Expat Edna

So if I had to boil down 2014 to a single sentence, I’d say it was an unexpected mix of both full-time travel and full-time ‘settled’ expat life — a year that was book-ended by fun and positivity, but with middle months that were quite enh at times.

In some ways I’m nowhere near where I thought I’d be by the end of the year, and in most ways I’m surprised at how 2014 has ended — but I’m still grateful for most of it nonetheless.

After all: it was a good year in general. I hit 26 cities in 12 countries; I feel lucky to be able to live abroad, travel as much as I do, to have wonderful friends and family and to be in good health.

But still, I’m looking forward to starting anew with a tad more adventure in 2015…

[This year, I couldn’t choose my favorite photos for each city, so I decided to make it easy (and only mildly narcissistic): here is 2014 as told through many, many photos of myself:]

January: Iceland – Singapore

1 Edna in Iceland by Expat Edna2 Edna in Sentosa, Singapore by Expat Edna

Iceland saw the end of my full-time travels through northern Europe. (OR SO I THOUGHT.) I went from snow and ice in the coldest place I’d ever been, to hot and more hot in the humid tropics, spending the next three weeks in Singapore on a scouting trip of sorts while thinking I was moving back to Asia.

February: Singapore – Sochi – Venice

2 Edna in Singapore for Chinese New Year by Expat Edna3 Edna in Sochi by Expat Edna3 Edna at Sochi Opening Ceremony by Expat Edna3 Edna at Sochi hockey by Expat Edna

I spent Chinese New Year in Singapore, then flew to Sochi to cover my second Olympic Games / first-ever Winter Olympics. I learned so much more than I did in London and made awesome new friends, top journalists and photographers and hockey fans alike.

(And while everyone thinks Winter is more low-key, let’s just say my Sochi stories are faaaar more entertaining than my London ones…)

4 Edna in Venice by Ashley Abroad4 Edna at Carnevale, Venice by Expat Edna

After Sochi I continued onto Venice, where I met up with friends who had rented a large house along the canal to celebrate Carnevale. We spent a week integrating into Italian life as much as possible with large family dinners in the evening and enough aperol spritzes to power a small boozy army.

In Venice, my early onset quarter-life crisis kicked in. I left my job and my dream field for the time being; until I figured out my next steps I decided to continue traveling full-time.

(top photo of this post and dinner photo above courtesy Ashley Abroad)

March: Venice – Milan – Paris – Brussels – Bruges – Amsterdam

4 Edna at Murano by Expat Edna

With a newfound abundance of time I decided to stay in Italy a little longer, going from Venice and Murano to Milan to pick up the last of my things from work and then, a train up to Paris.

5 Edna and co at Red House, Paris by Expat Edna5 Expat Edna in Paris by Michael of Simply Sara Travel

Three weeks in Paris ensued, full of old friends and our usual bars and mornings at the markets and afternoons at Buttes-Chaumont and evenings picnicking along the river — like nothing had ever changed.

(Photo of me above courtesy Michael, husband to Simply Sara Travel)

6 Edna in Bruges by Joe Provost, Expat Edna7 Edna in Amsterdam by Joe Provost, Expat Edna7 Edna and Joe in Amsterdam by Expat Edna

Then up north we went, from Brussels to Bruges to Amsterdam, drinking as many quality Trappist beers as we were able before heading off to Asia.

April: Singapore – Penang – Bangkok – Shanghai

7 Edna in Singapore by Joe Provost, Expat Edna8 Edna, Joe, Steph and Tony from 20YH in Bangkok by Expat Edna

I was super excited to introduce Joe to Asia, so of course it was a disaster. I got mysteriously sick in Penang and then he followed with a fever in Bangkok (hence why there are zero photos of us in either), so we mostly saw the inside of our hotel rooms while we tried to avoid the humidity and not die. On the bright side, we did manage enough energy to venture out one evening to catch up with Steph & Tony in Bangkok!

9 New office, Shanghai by Expat Edna

Meanwhile, in early April I had started job searching and a couple of weeks later I had an offer in Shanghai. So I flew back to Singapore, got a visa tout suite, and started my new job the following week.

May: Shanghai

9 25th birthday in Shanghai by Expat Edna

May was spent learning the ropes at my new job, getting reacquainted with Shanghai after being gone five years, and grabbing a few of my best friends from Paris and Singapore to visit to help me celebrate turning 25.

June: Pennsylvania

10 Little sis grad, York PA by Expat Edna10 Edna & Rebecca, Color Run, Hershey by Expat Edna10 Edna & besties in York by Expat Edna

I went home in June to see my baby sister graduate high school, and to help my parents humor her as we all joined in the Color Run in Hershey. The start of summer is a great time to be in Pennsylvania and it was great to catch up with good friends I’ve known since elementary school.

July: Shanghai – Chengdu – Hong Kong

11 Our brand new apartment in Shanghai by Expat Edna

In July I moved into my first proper adult apartment — a place I found on my own, paid for on my own, and was totally brand new for me to decorate and make a home. It’s gorgeous and I’m still in love with it.

Also, this photo above technically has me in it, as the reading material in Joe’s hands: I was published in a book!

12 Edna & Feakes in Chengdu by Expat Edna

To curb my growing wanderlust, having settled in Shanghai for a couple months by this point, I spent a weekend out west catching up with my best Aussie mate Feakes, whom I hadn’t seen in over two years and now lives in Chengdu.

13 Edna, Brian and Ruixi of Lost Plate Food Tours in Hong Kong by Expat Edna

Shortly after, work sent me to Hong Kong to finally get that elusive, precious document: the Chinese residency and alien employment permit. While there I happened to run into Brian, my good friend from Singapore who had just moved to Xi’an, and was also getting his residency permit! It’s a small place, Asia.

August: Nanjing

14 Stuck in Shanghai by Expat Edna

Aaand of course, just after getting said residency permit, I was somewhat detained in my local police station related to said residency permit. Just when you think you’ve got it all sorted in China…

15 Diving final in Nanjing by Expat Edna15 Dinner at Lotus, Shanghai by Expat Edna

Luckily, the rest of August went far more smoothly, especially with the Nanjing Youth Olympic Games in town. I’d pop over after work on Friday and spend my weekends in Nanjing, catching up with old friends and colleagues, introducing the newbies to authentic Chinese food, and even catching a couple YOG events.

September: Qingdao

16 Shanghai friends by Wendy Lee16 Edna & Joe in Qingdao by Expat Edna

As Shanghai cooled down in September I started going to more birthday parties and group dinners, as I became more settled in my group of friends. But I was getting a little stir-crazy: because I’d cashed in a large chunk of my holiday leave to go home in June, I was one of the few who didn’t go away for summer vacation and still worked all of August.

So for the Mid-Autumn Festival weekend, Joe took me on a trip to Qingdao, one of the few large Chinese cities I hadn’t visited yet. We stayed on the beach and spent three days on stools in the street, eating fresh clams and drinking unfiltered dark beer from the Tsingtao factory.

(Shanghai photo above courtesy Wendy Lee)

October: Los Angeles – Seattle – Kuala Lumpur – Shanghai

17 Edna & Joe in LA by Expat EdnaParis friends reunion in LA! by Expat Edna

For October holiday — the first week of October where everyone in China gets time off — we decided to go West Coast and traveled to LA and Seattle. Joe introduced me to all of his LA haunts from his many years living there (both to visit and to eat) and we got to catch up with our Paris friends Danielle and Kerri.

18 Middle school reunion in Seattle by Expat Edna18 Edna & Erica of Kizzling Around in Seattle by Expat Edna

Meanwhile in Seattle, we stuffed ourself silly with oysters and beer, caught beautiful sunsets, and I reunited with old school friends I hadn’t seen in nearly ten years while also seeing Erica in her natural habitat.

19 Shanghai GAA team at All Asia Games in KLTetris Halloween in Shanghai by Expat Edna

Straight off the US I traveled to Kuala Lumpur, where I joined my Shanghai Gaelic teammates to compete in the All-Asia Gaelic Games. After a long weekend of football and after-partying and sunshine, it felt good to go back to chilly Shanghai, where I then became a Tetris block with three good friends in our greatest Halloween costume coup ever. (Blog-wise, this was also when I started bringing back the monthly recaps.)

(Gaelic photo above courtesy Ling Teo, Shanghai GAA)

Nov: Shanghai

Beerfest Shanghai 2014 by Expat Edna Thanksgiving 2014, Shanghai by Expat Edna

November was pretty settled and mostly consisted of food-based activities — the greatest, of course, being able to host expat Thanksgiving at my own place for the first time.

December: Shanghai – Melbourne – Sydney

Irish president visit, Shanghai by Expat EdnaEdna at the Shanghai Christmas Market by Joe Provost, Expat Edna

The last month of the year has flown by, and life has been good. I feel more stable in Shanghai these days, my mom came to visit for three weeks, and I met the Irish president for the second year in a row. The holiday lead-up involved Secret Santa exchanges and silly Christmas jumper parties at work, plus a hilarious night at the outrageous German Christmas market.

20 Sunrise over Melbourne by Joe Provost, Expat Edna

And to top things off, we’re in Australia for the holidays! I’ve been checking off bucket-list items left and right in Melbourne and Sydney, and am looking forward to ringing in the New Year here — celebrating one of my favorite holidays of the year with one of my favorite fireworks shows in the world.

Thanks for the good times, 2014, and cheers to 2015! 

To everyone who’s stuck around with me another twelve months in this crazy adventure, thanks for reading, for commenting, for being supportive and for being you. I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes by Neil Gaiman, and what I wish for every year:

May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful … and I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.

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  1. Love your year in review, Edna! If I were as photogenic as you, I’d consider a round-up like yours :-) (But as we know, I have trouble standing up straight LOL!) And I love your haircut! Happy New Year and wishing you an amazing year ahead!! Bisous!

    • Thanks Sara!! Hope you have an amazing year too and can’t wait to see you in Paris this year — where we can take lots of photos together! :)

  2. What a year… my head is spinning again :) Just some completely random comments:
    I love your classy winter look in the March photo– red coats are always a good idea. Yay Seattle with Erica! Just that photo is giving me such pangs of homesickness I had to scroll away before anything else happened, hah. And tetris block photo– whoever thought of that is a GENIUS! Happy New Year Edna! I hope 2015 is one of your best years yet. Thanks for sharing the quote by the way, I’ve never heard it and it’s wonderful :)

    • You should prob come hang out with Erica in Seattle, too!

    • Thanks Cynthia! I hope you have a wonderful year ahead as well! And I agree, you and Erica should hang out, she seems lonely for travel blog company out in Seattle :)

  3. Happy New Year! That is a lot of travel. I’m definitely looking forward to a better year–just need to decide where that will be.

  4. Happy New Year, lady! It is so lovely to see your smiling face (all over the world). Here’s to a 2015 with adventure and travel and joy!

    • Happy New Year to you too, Marina! 2015 is sure to be full of adventure and travel and joy since we’re going to YOUR WEDDING!! :)

  5. What incredible highlights! Here’s to 2015 a year full of adventure.

  6. I love this recap! I just made a resolution to take more photos of myself so I fully support this slightly narcissistic endeavor :) It looks like you’ve had an amazing year. I hope 2015 is just as amazing for you. And that we drink beer together at some point.

    • You know I was actually surprised to find how few photos of myself I had in places — hence the inserted selfies instead — so I think that’s a great resolution! You’ll have great ones to look back on later. And yes I hope you have a great year and we drink beer together agin soon!

  7. Looks like, despite the middle chunk of “enh”, you had a great year! Can’t wait to see what adventures are in store for you in 2015! Happy New Year! :)

    • It all evened out by the end, thank goodness! Happy New Year to you too Megan, hope you have some great adventures in 2015!

  8. Awesome year in Review! So glad you’re feeling more settled. I am headed to Africa! Happy New Year!!

  9. Posts like this remind me why I love to travel, and inspire me for the new year! Best wishes in 2015 and will now be looking to read your Sochi posts!!! (super jealous!!).

  10. Whoa! I love this—even more so that you didn’t intend for the year to turn out like that! Best wishes for 2015. Hoping it keeps getting better from here :))

  11. For a year that supposedly had some “ehh” months, you sure packed in a lot of amazing adventures! And got a cute new haircut, to boot! :-)

  12. Remember when we were in Milan together and you were lamenting not having travel plans in 2014? yeah, I barely do too ;) Can’t wait to follow along your adventures for 2015 (and fingers crossed we’ll be able to go on some more together this year)!

    • Haha yes, yes…we need to figure out a plan to meet up again this year, go three for three!

  13. Sounds like a great year! Hope 2015 is just as good, if not better!

  14. Hurrah for 2014! I know it wasn’t always easy, but what an adventure you had. I’m so glad you & Joe were able to push through the illness and meet up with me and Tony while we were all in Bangkok! It’s hard to imagine how you’ll top yourself in 2015, but if I know anything about you, it’s that you will absolutely make 2015 one to remember!

    • Thanks Steph, it was so great to see you! Hope we can cross paths again this year :)