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Sending a Christmas card from Germany to all my friends and family in America is hard to do. The stamps alone would cost me Millie and Hugo's college savings (they are asking to go to private puppy school to learn the art of barking). So, I thought the blog would be the best place to do it. This time of year always makes me a bit emotional. Okay, “a bit” is a severe understatement. I could most likely cry at the drop of a hat or a sentimental commercial. But this year, in particular, I'm away from home, my birthday is approaching (January 14th), and it's been such a wonderful year, I'm sad to see it end.

Dear Everyone,

This year was a whirlwind. I know, I know. I said that last year. Last year, if you recall, Michael and I moved to Europe with two suitcases and two dogs and struggled to find a place to live. I hoped that 2017 would be a little bit more relaxed. Relaxing is lying on the beach and reading a book. We did go to a few beaches but I wouldn't call this year laid back. It's been such a blast and I thank you now and forever for all your love and support as we take on this crazy journey.

This year I hit the ground running and traveled more than ever before. I ventured to more than 80 cities and traveled to places I'd never been before. I went, for the first time, to places I dreamed about like Italy (which I liked so much I had to come back two more times this year), Romania and Bulgaria (which were a total surprise), Denmark, Sweden, and Austria. I also explored places I thought I'd never get to go back to (like London, Paris, and Dublin) and discovered hidden gems in The Netherlands, Sweden, and Spain.

Surprisingly, with all that travel, I didn't have a bad trip. Not even one. Sure, some places blew me away more than others, but for the most part, I loved every second of our travels. For someone that's lived 98% of their life in the same city, I am pretty pleased with how I'm handling living abroad.

Sometimes it's very hard to be away from home. I miss the people, of course, but I also crave Mexican food like something fierce. In case you're wondering it's not good in Germany. Or anywhere in Europe for that matter. I also miss the convenience of having a yard, a parking spot, and customer service in general. But of course, the good outweighs the bad. I eat the best cheese and sausages I've ever tasted, I'm a stone's throw away from a 14th-century castle, and flights are so cheap I've gone across Europe and back for under $50.

In addition to travel we were on TV! It was a weird, surreal, but fun experience. We were on House Hunters International with appearances by Millie and Hugo who stole the show.

This year I ate at a fast food restaurant less than I can count on my left hand. Which, for me, is very low. And might account for some of the weight I've lost. Also running through cobblestone streets to make a train might also have something to do with it.

As for changes, we've been through more than a few. We are finally settled in our home. Michael built most of our furniture, save for a table and two desks. I'd like to say we are embracing the “minimalist” lifestyle, although Michael might disagree since my closet is now exploding. For the most part, we don't buy things we don't need (except for lipstick, sweaters, dog bones, and dresses). We did break down the other day and buy a very practical blender that barely works and a meat slicer. You can see our priorities center on food.

Michael also took on a new role: working with me! He's now helping me with the blog while also planning most of our travels. We have an agreement that he can quit or I can let him go at any time, but so far, so good. I still have a problem letting go of control but Michael is teaching me the art of delegating.

I'm hoping that next year I'll travel to some of my bucket list places: Croatia, Iceland, Portugal, and go back to Greece. I'm also working on developing a new program for the blog, an app (that might be in the distant future), and a book. If only I could stop blogging and start writing. There is a difference! Our first scheduled trip for next year is to Morocco. Then we are heading home for 2 weeks in March (if you'll be around the Dallas area let us know.)

Before we planned to move abroad we set out saying we'd live in Europe two to three years. Now that we've been here a year and some months it seems like two years would cut it too short. There's still so much to see and do. That's one thing I'm learning as I start to get older: I have a hard time slowing down, yet I want to savor all the moments. The passage of time always makes me ache. But my mom (and Ferris Bueller) were right, life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. That's my goal for 2018: to not miss a thing.

Merry Christmas, y'all!

Love, Helene