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Soleil is an award-winning blogger, travel and food photographer based in Austin, TX. 

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2021 Travel Dates

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Dense. 

That’s the word I would use to describe this last year. Not just 2020, but my last year around the sun as I enter into my 25th year of this beautiful life.  

I was grabbing coffee with a friend and we were talking about how we were doing with all that’s going on in the world. I told her that the word that came up for me was that it’s been dense. My mind jumped to the idea of density like people per square footage, or a graph with an X-axis of space and Y-axis of moments and in application to my life, what I feel most accurately describes how I have experienced life in this last year. It has been dense.

I think back to where I was a year ago and I can 100% say I was a completely. different. person. Never in my life have I experienced the jamming, cramming sensation of so many life-changing experiences, failures, explorations, and growth in one year. I’ve experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, and everything in between has been an unimaginable beauty. 

I wrote something only a few weeks ago that I never shared with anyone, but what I think and know to be true especially during this time is that vulnerability is strength and brings us closer together than apart. We always have been and will continue to be in this together. 

I’m struggling. My heart and spirit has been strained. My faith has been tested. I’ve wanted to scream and sob and be silent all at once. I have been straight up annoyed with small things and numbed out big things. I’ve been brought to my knees and prayed so hard to end up in confusion and frustration and annoyance.

But I do believe there is hope and happiness waiting to be claimed.

Hope that the strain and discomfort I feel now is really a strengthening of my character, grace and compassion for others and myself, and my submission to our one true Hope. Happiness that as I’m getting pulled and molded in so many uncomfortable ways, I wouldn’t want to go back to where I was even though this place is hard now. Hope for the rest of the year, happiness of the things to celebrate and the people in my life right now. 

A note to myself and maybe whoever needs to hear: 2020 isn’t over. It’s just begun. Keep doing the work. Resisting is our natural response to hard stuff, but it’s the hard stuff that makes us stronger, better, more loving, and more unified. Don’t give up or tap out of 2020, I think it’s got a lot of good things still that is making us more of who we are supposed to be than ever. 

There has been so much good this year. Truly, I mean it. It’s been one of the most wonderful years of my life. My 24th year has been full of deep, unconditional love, travels around the world with my favorite people, incredible food, adventures and sunsets and hikes that fill one’s soul, a new independence, an exploration of unknown creative endeavors and so much more. Friends have gotten engaged and married, friends have bought their first houses, others have released their first books or gone full-time into their business, the list goes on for the ways in which I see my community growing and killing it in life which inspires me. 

I’ve also shed a lot of tears. I’ve grieved deaths and losses, been overwhelmingly stressed and anxious, treated my body with disrespect, had friends fail me and myself fail friends, applied to hundreds of jobs without a single yes, became angry, scared, and confused about my ethnicity and racial injustice, pissed off at the world and CO-VID and humans in general, felt drained, depressed, and disappointed.

Despite the chaos, I know that I am a wonderfully made, imperfect, learning human and this life is GOOD. I don’t take a second of the pain or sadness for granted.

These moments are not easy, but there’s a difference between acceptance and avoidance of the hard things. It’s a combination of both the easy and the hard that allows my caterpillar-turned-butterfly transformation to happen so that I become a better and wiser friend, daughter, future mom, woman, leader, and person in this world. 

So where does that leave me going into my 25th year? 

Twenty-four was a blessing in pure sight. It went so fast yet was deep and rich in moments, a density that I never expected. I’ve always loved a challenge and I’ve never been motivated to go bigger and work harder than ever in my life, even amidst a pandemic. For 25, I am confident of nothing except an abundance of gratitude, adventure, success, and joy, in ways I can’t even fathom or might expect. In terms of celebrating, I’m excited to celebrate the little things. Something as silly as putting real pants on (or maybe not), hugging friends without limits, full restaurants and FaceTimes with old friends, I never want to go another day without expressing gratitude and telling people how much I appreciate them. 

I still look at my 2020 goals every day and while they may not be fully accessible or even laughable at this point (RIP Italy, Iceland, Mexico City, and Japan, I will wait for you until it’s meant to be), it doesn’t mean I can’t achieve them. Thankfully I have a close circle that drives me to be better, that have weekly accountability calls with me and inspire me with their successes and achievements, parents that love me and support me in all I do, and a whole world out before me to create and serve.

When I do think about the world we’re in at the moment with CO-VID, I think about what CO-VID actually is; a virus. The definition of a virus is “an infective agent that is too small to be seen by light microscopy, and is able to multiply only within the living cells of a host.” I’m no science gal, but what I do understand is that a virus is infectious, minuscule, and multipliable. Then I think about things that also act as a powerful virus: Me. I am a virus, my actions, my influence.

Are we influencing each other right now in a way that something good spreads, or something bad spreads? Are we spread a culture that is slow to speak and fast to listen or vis versa? Are we spreading fear, hate, indifference, and our own personal selfish opinions or spread kindness, grace, love, and patience? Every single one of us is our own virus, and if I have the multiplying effect of a virus, I hope it’s a damn good, positive, and influential one. I hope I infect people with compassion, in small ways, and it multiplies in others lives. In the Bible, 25 signifies “grace upon grace”. I didn’t know that until I just looked it up, but I love how symbolic and fitting it is for this upcoming year. I see a change in myself and others as grace upon grace, the way I want to teach and learn from people as grace upon grace, the actions and experiences I have through the lens of grace upon grace. Spreading the virus of goodness and grace.

If I’ve learned anything from this last year, is that I have no idea of the things further in store for me. I could have never imagined being where I am now a year ago. So I guess all I’m left with is a drive, hope, motivation, excitement, and a passion for the unknown that I’ve come to be okay with. As much as I would want to cancel 2020, at the root of it I wouldn’t want to wish away a single second. I’m more ready than ever for this next year, even if I don’t what it will look like. I know it will be full, abundant, beautiful, grace-filled, and maybe even dense. Here’s to a quarter of a century!

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