At the end of the year, people throughout the world focus on introspection. Some years are better than others, but the most important thing to me is to always grow as a human being. Sometimes growth comes from joyful experiences and relationships. Other times heartbreak or sorrow. Bad experiences and personal mistakes often create the greatest lessons, and the bravest of souls are those who can look in the mirror or inward, recognize personal faults and try to fix them. Every year, waves of emotion build and crash and life remains fluid, constantly moving and shifting in both good and bad ways. In 2013, life was mostly good and on the travel front exceptional! I never imagined at the end of 2012 that I would visit Russia twice in 2013. Many other new countries were added to the list, including Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Belarus. I discovered several new States in my own country, including wondrous Wyoming. My solo journey through the Jackson Hole area of this State was one of the best and most memorable of the year, rescuing me from a very dark emotional place mid-summer.
When I wrote my summary of 2012, I had only 12 subscribers on LiveJournal. Now I have 1,300. I'm still amazed that Russians care about the musings of an average American woman, but I'm happy to have so many new readers in 2013. Special thanks to my original supporter Alexander Belenkiy and new advocates inoblogs and ru_learnenglish, all of which continue to promote my blog and make people aware of my content. Let's take a look at my most popular stories of the year. I bet you can guess which post came in first place!
1. American In Russia: General Observations
The story that "blew up the Russian Internet," as one reader told me. It also brought over 600 subscribers to my blog and remains the most commented on post in my blog's short history.
2. Aeroflot and the Missing Vibrator
This post taught me an interesting blogging lesson - that reader interest and response almost never correlate with the time and effort invested by the author in creating a post. I wrote this post in less than one hour and it generated over 200 comments. Why? The mere mention of a vibrator! I never expected such a reaction from readers, nor did I realize that Russians still consider public discussion of such topics taboo - especially from a woman.
3, Bizarre Russian Foods
Again, this post took little effort but received a lot of attention on my own blog and others who republished it, including the new project inoblogs where it received over 650 comments and made it to Top LJ. Very amusing comments on the translated version. Take a look at this new community focused on translating interesting content from non-Cyrillic bloggers.
4. Russian Men vs. American Men
This post was fun to write and discuss with readers. Perhaps you notice a common theme in my top posts of the year? Readers like when I write about Russia and sex. Russia I'll continue to write about, but sex, men and relationships will never be the primary focus of my blog. Sorry to disappoint, but LiveJournal is already full of female bloggers writing on these issues. Take a look at Top LJ and almost every day you will see posts from lena-miro.ru and morena_morana there. These women are completely consumed with superficial discussions about women's bodies, the dreaded fate of older women, pleasing men, etc. Yes, I think about these issues the same as all women but not obsessively and I don't wish to focus my energy on such discussions with readers. However, I did visit and photograph an American sex shop due to reader curiosity and will write about it early in the new year.
Which of my stories did you like best during the year?
Here are a few of my favorite photos from 2013. The first was taken in my hometown area of Washington, DC. The second in an abandoned field in Wyoming.
I know that in Russia the main holiday celebration comes this week, and I wish all readers a festive celebration! I'll leave you with the following inspirational quote from American author Mark Twain:
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade wind in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
We sometimes become so consumed with the mundane tasks of adult life that we forget to truly live. Explore...dream...discover...I hope each of you makes time to do so in 2014.
I have no doubt that many new adventures await me in the new year. I already know of one, and will announce the details soon. Stay tuned...
Happy New Year to all!