This year I’ve enjoyed regularly posting what I learned—from the serious to the silly—every month. Today I’m sharing a few noteworthy things I learned in 2018, especially those things that I’m still using, telling friends about, and hearing about from you on a regular basis!
1. Camping is a lot like going to the beach.
File under: things I never expected to say. This year we planned to camp more as a family. We scheduled our trips when we could fit them in, not with any strategy in mind. But it felt like we ended up heading into the woods (with zero cell reception) during times when I really needed a break from the internet.
I approached these camping trips with reluctance, but I ended up loving them. The lack of showers wasn’t my favorite part, but the lack of internet might have been. It felt so great to be someplace where the only activity options were to hike, cook, sit, and read. I read as much camping as I usually do at the beach, and I did not expect that. But I like it.
2. How to keep a finicky plant alive.
Last year I bought my first fiddle leaf fig right before New Year’s … and then I had to learn how not to kill it. I came close. It took time to learn how to water it, and then I did battle with spider mites. But thanks to help from my local plant shop and one extremely knowledgeable and patient blog reader (and author) it’s now doing great. (Maybe not as well as it was when it was happily living outdoors this summer, but great by winter standards.)
2018 was my year of the houseplant, and I learned so much about keeping my fiddle and many easier plants alive this year.
3. Audiobook listenership is way up
If it seems like everyone around you is listening to audiobooks these days, it’s not just you—audiobook sales are up more than 40% over this time last year. That’s a huge difference!
I’m a big fan of the format, and it’s nice to see so many readers embracing what I still am tempted to call books on tape.
If you’re an audio convert, or long-time fan: I just shared my favorite listening experiences of 2018, and we have great audiobook content here on the blog. If you have to pick one post, I’d go with 10 audiobooks so good you’ll want to fold another load of laundry, finish washing the dishes, or just sit in the driveway for 5 more minutes.
4. Bookstores have their own personalities
We always visit bookstores when we travel, and then this fall I headed out on book tour, so this year I visited a ton of independent bookstores. Visiting all these stores one after another highlighted how different they are—in staff, in selection, in vibe. (Pictured above: Monkey and Dog Books in Fort Worth, an utterly delightful book tour stop.)
I learned that the thing I most appreciate in a bookstore is bookish enthusiasm. Hard to define, but you know it when you feel it, and some stores were crackling with it.
5. Your hair knows when you’re stressed.
I went to see my regular stylist for a trim near the end of this fall’s book tour adventures. Halfway through my cut, she asked, “Have you been under a lot of stress lately? I can see it in your hair.”
Book tour was great, but good things are stressful, too, and I wasn’t sure whether I should feel appalled or validated that my body was registering that this was an unusual season for me.
(I told this story to an author friend, who said, “My stylist said the same thing to me!” That felt validating.)
6. What works for you may or may not work for me.
I’ve noticed this about significant things, like getting my rhythms and routines right. Some practices that seem to work for everyone else have not worked for me this year, and it took me a while to realize it. I’ve also noticed it about the small things, like when the new-to-me winter hair relief shampoo with thousands of five-star reviews destroyed my hair.
7. I learn a ton when I travel.
I’ve been posting about what I learned at the end of every month this year. This year I noticed that I always accumulate a long list of things I learned when I travel: new experiences lead to new people, new ideas, new discoveries.
8. I hate going; I like being there.
Speaking of travel: I traveled a lot this year, and as my stylist noticed, it was stressful. Being off routine is always hard; I also hate to fly and am not keen on road trips. (Confined spaces aren’t my thing.)
It’s helped me to see that once I’m there—wherever there is—I enjoy being there. (New people, new places, new experiences!) That makes it easier to tolerate the getting there.
9. I can fit 8 days’ worth of stuff in a carry-on.
This is decidedly prosaic, but travel is less stressful if you’re nimble, and that means packing light. At first I thought I could squeeze a week’s worth of summer clothes in one bag, because the season’s clothes are thinner and take up less space. But then I managed to do it in cold weather, too. (Thank you, packing cubes.)
At a book festival recently, one author told me she packed for twenty-one days in a carry-on for her own book tour. She’s going to need to give me lessons before I’m ready for that, but for now I’m happy with my eight days.
10. Don’t discount the simple stuff.
I started the year with my annual physical, and one of my top concerns is always mental health. My doctor started by urging me to do two things that couldn’t be simpler—or, according to her, more important for long-term health: take a walk every day, and drink plenty of water.
I’m prone to think complicated problems demand complicated solutions (and my doctor had a few ideas on that front), but it’s a mistake to discount simple solutions.
What did YOU learn in 2018?