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Monday, June 13, 2011

What a Difference a Year Makes...

I’ve heard the saying ‘what a difference a year makes for,’ well, years.  It always sounded so cliché, so trite.  It’s a year, people.  A mere 365 days.  How much can actually happen? 

A year here and a year there had blurred together into nine years in publicity at HarperCollins Publishers.  A starter studio in Manhattan turned into a ten-year holding tank.  A year ‘round the world become five years filled with the best moments of my life, as well as a lot of head-banging as I tried to pen the next great memoir about an American abroad.  Year, schmear. 

Then, the oddest thing: my year actually happened. 

Circa January 2010, I was lamenting the state of my life with daily visits to the ice cream freezer at my local Food Emporium. I had no boyfriend to speak of (well, besides Ben and his best bud, Jerry), no job, no desire to keep working on my book, and if I’m being honest, little desire to get out of bed every morning.  I’d bagged the New York City Marathon to witness the birth of my nephewone of the best decisions I’ve ever madebut in the months afterwards, I had let that discipline wane.  I usually lived my life with an emphasis on the highs.  So, when my lows blew through town, they were usually really, really low.  I was depressed when my friend Darryl called one random afternoon.  (She might or might not have been equally depressed.)

“Wanna climb Kilimanjaro with me?” she asked.  “It’s for charity.”

“Sure,” I responded, not really thinking about the fact that a) I’d never really camped for more than a night, and b) I was a mess of a girl with no drive, ambition, or feeling whatsoever.  Yet, I was agreeing to tackle the world’s highest freestanding African mountain.  I reasoned it was something to look forward to.  Besides, Darryl often had big ideas.  I wouldn’t really wind up scaling a mountain.  In Africa, no less.

 “You sure?” she responded incredulously. 

“Yeah, why not? I’ve got nothing else going on…”

That phone call was the turning point.  It was followed by another phone call from Flying Kites, the organization in Kenya that was organizing the climb.  They were looking to expand their reach to New York City, and throw a fundraiser to highlight their children and their cause in Njabini, and they needed help in making those dreams into realities.  I signed up.  I had nothing else going on, remember?

All of a sudden, I had a lot going on.  And it felt great.  I was creating an event in New York City that had to deliverthis tapped my publicity bone.  I was working with new people and new organizations on a daily basisthis reaffirmed my social abilities.  I was attempting to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro over the summerthis would put me back on the road, and challenge my body.  It was all for the good of a charity in Africathis put it all into perspective.

April 20th—the night of the Flying Kites fundraiser—rolled around. For the first time in almost 5 years, I was on a work high.  The night was a wild success in terms of money raised, then the great-event-afterglow set in.  I needed to get back in the game. It was time to figure out how to mix my passion (travel) with my skills (networking, and I hoped, writing).  A hard few months logged with Flying Kites, and a challenging summer upcoming, I decided I needed a break.  I’d never been to the Riviera Maya in Mexico, and my dad had a timeshare property.  Why not? 

Still holding tight to my promise to keep my rediscovered confidence in focus, I threw my hat into the ring as a freelance writer.  I had tons of contacts from my book publishing days, I would tap them to make travel editor introductions, and pitch some stories—Mexico and Africa, for starters.  Newsday bit immediately.  Mexico!  I would get to publish a cover story on Riviera Maya.  A year ago, that story ran, and with it a fire had ignited within me.  Travel writing, huh?  I can do this, I told myself.  An excerpt from my book for Women’s Adventure, a piece on Uruguay for the Miami Herald, and then an assignment on Dubai for the Wall Street Journal followed.  I was on top of the world.  I signed up for Twitter, created a new Facebook page for my work, and began to go after more editors and snag bigger jobs.

Cut to today.  Fifteen print pieces, over a hundred online pieces, and a solid resume.  A trip to Africa, and a Kilimanjaro climb, and a year of traveling and writing—the two things I set out to conquer as my career.  I’ve just begun to branch out into the culinary world, doing reviews, and covering the intersection between travel and food, attended the James Beard Awards (!), am exploring intellectual travel reality production, and reconsidering my book.  I can finally embrace the cliché: what a difference a year makes.

Of course, I’m never satisfied with just minor success, so I can’t help but wonder what next year holds.  (Or do you only get one?) My own travel column. International bestseller. Television pilot. A townhouse in the West Village.  A pied-a-terre in Buenos Aires.  Prince Charming (rocking a laid-back travel vibe). The happily ever after…

What?  A girl can dream, can’t she?