My 2016 Highlights and Establishing a Home Base

2016 was a fantastic year of professional and personal growth.

A year in which I landed some of my biggest clients for both editorial and writing projects.

A year in which I received my first major award as a travel journalist.

A year in which I published my third title for Moon Travel Guides: a first edition of Moon Dominican Republic.

And a year in which, after eight years of being on the road as a travel writer and photographer, I have finally picked a country as my home base: the Dominican Republic. It was indeed in November 2008 that I sat in my >>boss’s office in Washington DC, and told him I was leaving the firm. I was well ready to go back out into the world, away from the US and those office walls that surrounded me 12 hours a day. I needed to figure out what made me happy. Not anyone else’s idea or society’s idea of what that is. To figure out my kind of work, my kind of life, my kind of environment, and what country would be my home.

 

The itch to find my ideal base and phase out of the nomad life started three years ago. I was feeling overstretched, living out of a suitcase for so long while working in multiple destinations. I thought Belize could be my permanent home, but as much as I love it and will continue to travel there for work, my spirit didn’t feel an overwhelming “yes.” It was too far from the rest of the Caribbean region for my purpose, and too expensive to live, among other long-term reasons. I waited with reluctance, and learned the value of being patient in making major decisions.

I knew the DR was “it” for me earlier this year. And I also realized yesterday that I’ve already been living here the past two years full time, minus a couple months to travel home to the US and a short visit to Cuba.

Why the Dominican Republic (aside from the exterior aspects)? In a nutshell, it makes me feel alive on a daily basis. It inspires me to create. I laugh more, I enjoy the day-to-day more… I feel the rhythm of life. It pushes me out of my comfort zone (besides the fact that I speak Spanish daily). I feel culture, music, and warmth. Dominicans have also taught me a great deal about generosity and selflessness, about sharing, about being grateful for every moment–more so than any other destination. It’s not perfect, as no place is, but it fuels my soul. Of course, I’ll continue to travel on assignment and write about my Belize, Jamaica, and other parts of the region. But this is now my home. And I’m excited about this next life move.

In the meantime, here are my top seven highlights and/or accomplishments of 2016. I hope they inspire those of you who are on a journey of creating your own path.

  1. Receiving an award from the Caribbean Tourism Organization and from Jamaica Tourist Board in New York

  2. Working on Destination Belize Magazine as Editor and Major Contributor

  3. Visiting Cuba

  4. Obtaining my PADI Advanced Diver Certification with Splash Dive Center in Belize

  5. Gaining substantial editorial work from major clients

  6. Launching my own group cultural and eco-tourism trips to the Caribbean (join me in June 2017 in Belize)

  7. Completing the manuscript and holding a final copy of Moon Dominican Republic in my hands

    Finally in my hands and I’ve been flipping through it since Friday! My first edition of Moon Dominican Republic for @moonguides. It looks so pretty inside, all in color! 387 pages, compact and easy to carry. Written and illustrated by me from scratch. Bittersweet with the flood victims who are suffering up on the north coast of the country. But hoping it sends new visitors in the right direction to experience an authentic and gorgeous DR. A DR I lived and breathed and love. My home! To get a copy, check out this link, also in my BIO: http://a.co/4e1h5kl Available in print or kindle (ebook). A big thanks to all who supported me on this journey! #getyourcopy #kindleorprint #leaveareview #DominicanRepublic #MoonDominicanRepublic #Caribbean #travel #guidebooks #TravelwithMoon #RepublicaDominicana

    A video posted by Lebawit Lily Girma 📷🌴☀️💃🏽 (@sunandstilettos) on

    And of course, the moments spent with old friends and new.

     

Life isn’t perfect, but I am grateful that my not-so-rosy moments of 2016 are few (aside from the US election results). My work gear suffered–my MacBook Pro died in a boat during a storm, and my SLR full frame is in need of repair. I replaced my computer with a MacBook Air which I absolutely love. I’m waiting to see what (mirrorless) camera I will purchase eventually when the funds allow.

On another front, a friend and an aunt of mine have been battling varying forms of cancer this year–please keep them and everyone in poor health in prayer.

Looking Ahead

2017 is going to be a year of even greater authenticity in my personal and professional spheres. To tell more of the stories I want to share. To continue to encourage others to travel responsibly, and to cultivate cultural understanding. To give and help those who are in need more than in the past. To spend time more effectively on social media–cutting out idle online time. To keep improving on self-care and health now that I have a base. To surround myself with truth and positivity, whether in friendships or work. To keep creating my best life now.

I hope you’ve enjoyed following my photographs and journey in 2016 and I thank you for being here. There’s much more to come ahead.

Last but not least, I wish you all a happy, healthy, prosperous 2017. To quote e.e. cummings, may you continue “to be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else… .”

 

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Lebawit Lily Girma

Lebawit Lily Girma is an award-winning writer, photographer, and blogger specializing in the Caribbean region. Her work is regularly published in major travel publications, including AFAR, CNN, Delta Sky, and Lonely Planet, among others. A self-professed "culture-holic," Lily left her native Ethiopia at age one, fast developing a passion for the expat life. In 2008, she ditched her US corporate law career for the road and created Sunshine and Stilettos— a travel photography blog showcasing authentic ways to experience the Caribbean, through culture and nature. Lily has since partnered with multiple travel brands and tourism boards, and also authors major print guidebooks on three Caribbean destinations, including Belize, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica.

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2 Comments

  1. Lorraine 27 December, 2016 at 2:06 PM #

    A great year for you my sister!!! Thanks for taking me along!

  2. Lebawit Lily Girma 27 December, 2016 at 3:44 PM #

    @Lorraine – Thanks so much, my dear sister!! Only you missing from 2016 but we shall fix that in 2017, God willing! 🙂 Thanks for always being supportive and wishing you continued happiness this year. Hugs!

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