“Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life – and travel – leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks – on your body or on your heart – are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt.”
Anthony Bourdain

brick wall strong

I start 2016 with cancer. Admittedly the best kind you can have, if you are going to have cancer Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) is the way to go. With that said it is still cancer and even the ‘C word’ leaves me feeling a bit weak and wobbly, it reminds me that my body is an undependable vessel that can crack and fail me when I least expect. BCC has been good at letting me know about its presence, it decided to makes its home on my face. It is peppered in patches across my forehead and cheeks. As I undergo treatment a quick peek in the mirror reminds me I am but a frail human being. Soon the raised red spots will be replaced by shiny white scars. Scars that will stay with me.

Sometimes the outside does not reflect the inside though. I do not feel weak and the scars I carry from battles fought in the recent past are healing. 2015 was a year to rest in God, a year to recharge worn down batteries, a year to cry tears that needed to be shed, a year to connect with people who love me and who I love back. 2016 is a year to be strong in.

In 2014 I began a tradition of choosing a word I would embrace in the new year. I borrowed/stole this tradition from an excellent photographer, online mentor and friend Lola Akinmade-Åkerström. This year’s word is strong. Strength to me is about developing spiritual, emotional and physical resilience and I am going to find ways to nurture all three areas of my life. I am also going to attempt to put aside the things that strip that strength: Worrying about people’s opinion of me, about idle gossip, about things I cannot control does not help me and it makes me weak.

Physical strength: In 2015 I ran a marathon. I also got skin cancer. My body can be weak and my body can be strong. This year I am going to kick the cancer, protect my body well from the sun, train and eat well so I become lean and fit and as healthy as I can be. This is not about specific diets or exercise regimes, it is simply about respecting my body as it is the only one I have and I need it to carry me around on my adventures!

Spiritual strength: I am going to seek God in the obvious places (the Bible, church, through prayer) but also through the experiences and relationships I form around the world. Different cultures offer different insights into spirituality.

Emotional strength: I am going to keep my mind strong and my feelings in check! I am naturally someone who loves intensely, I don’t intend to change that. However I do want learn ways to live a little more in the moment and put aside the things that strip away strength. I want to invest more in the relationships I have in my life that mean a lot to me – my marriage, my family, my friendships and also appreciate and soak in the amazing emotional experiences I have around the world through my work and photography.

Scars are ok, they remind us we have travelled and they remind us we have survived. Scars are grounding and sometimes it is through the chinks in our armour that the light can shine most brightly.

The word for 2016 is strong. Time to kick ass.

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For those that like photos rather than words check out my 20 photos from my travels in 2015