12 months + 12 songs

It is hard to believe how different life can be from year to year. Last year at this time, I was still miserable. I wanted to be back in New Zealand farming, back in Baghmara shoveling dirt, back in India getting lost. I wanted to be anywhere but beautiful North Carolina.

As I write this, I still want to be anywhere//everywhere, although this time around I’m happy. Happier than I have been in a very long time.

There is neither happiness nor misery in the world; there is only the comparison of one state with another, nothing more. He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness. We must of felt what it is to die, Morrel, that we may appreciate the enjoyments of life.

Live, then, and be happy, beloved children of my heart, and never forget, that until the day God will deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is contained in these two words, ‘Wait and Hope.’

– Alexandre Dumas

In 2012, I spent a lot of time on rooftops, I took lots of photos, started a new relationship with Harold, spent another summer in Asia, moved into a new house, made new friends, posted a lot of alphabets, and had dear friends from England, New Zealand, Australia, etc. stay with me in Carrboro. Most of all, in 2012, I finally had to admit to myself going back to school and staying at UNC was okay. . . and I would survive.

Of course there were down times, depressing days and moments when I wanted to give up, but 2012 was good. I am thankful for it all, the good and the bad.

2013 is going to be a good year too. A year of adventure, of trying, and of perseverance.

I’m finding it incredibly difficult to sort through the big events and memories of the past year, but it went something like this. . .




+ “We Move Lightly“_Dustin O’Halloran

In January, a new and better semester began. I escaped to the mountains with a group of incredible women. I contemplated dropping out of school again. And I pretended to like a lot of things I didn’t really like.


+ “Cold Wind“_ Among Savages

From what I can remember, February was a good month. I set a new list of  goals, got more involved at the OCRCC, and carried my camera around. Also, TedxUNC was cool.



+ “Everlasting Light“_The Black Keys

Favorite moments in March = Holi [Chapel Hill style not quite the same as this, but still fun], a weekend in Charlotte for the Black Keys + late night Waffle House, a weekend in Charlottesville and running 10 big miles with my favorite people.


+ “Verona“_Geographer

In April, I stopped wearing pants, ran away to the beach, got news that Kelsey + Alex were engaged, studied for exams, received a grant to go to Indonesia and got really distracted by plans for Bali. Plus, I spent a lot of time at Abbey Court.



+ “Eyes Wide Open“_ Gotye

On May 11, just a few days after the semester came to an end, I was on a plane from RDU -> NYC -> DUBAI -> JAKARTA. Jakarta = hung out with this guy, long walks, more rooftops [this time overlooking the dusty Jakarta skyline], morning yoga, getting stuck longer than expected thx to religious holidays. –> Bali. Bali = Australians, beaches, bungalows, fresh food, green rice field love, long bike rides, scary monkeys, Bumi Sehat, lots of yoga . . . Then, Bali got a whole let better when Amirah met me in Kuta. Bali with Amirah = pizza, beaches, sky garden, laughter, pools, life chats –> Gili Trawangan. Our time in Gili T was unreal. I honestly have a hard time believing it ever happened. It was paradise x 1000. Magical. Perfect in every way. Gili T = beaches, turquoise water, snorkeling, turtles, fish, volcano views, sunsets, endless nights, new friends, bike rides through the sand, naps in beach huts, sunburns. After beautiful Gili, we took the fast boat back to Bali and spent one more night catching up on sleep and swimming in the big dark pool before we flew to Yogyakarta.



+ “Welcome to My Paradise“_Steven and the Coconut Treez

In early June, the whole team made it to Jogja. We threw ourselves into Bahasa Indonesia language lessons at Alam Bahasa and I struggled to focus on anything more than morning coffee. We quickly made new friends, practiced driving our little motorbikes on the left side of the road, and Nicole and I moved to Tembi. We started work and Nicole and I learned how to make and move shadow puppets and a handful of phrases in Bahasa Java. We visited ancient temples, hiked an active volcano,  got in motorbike accidents, visited the beach most every day, ate too much rice, ate not enough rice, woke up every morning to the call to prayer at 4:30, made funny memories at Hugo’s and  fell in love everyday. In the end, this is what we had to show for all our work. Most of all, in June, I learned that even though I was just as unreliable with a phone as ever, I could work and enjoy work with a group.



+ “Pyramids” _Frank Ocean

In early July, even though I tried to stay in Indonesia, I made it home again after seven long flights. I thankfully had something fun to come home to and two days back,  Maria + Matt got married in the sand. The rest of the month was spent working and traveling a bit [including a brief stay in Hatteras island].



+ “You Are All I See“_ Active Child

Most of August was filled with work. I taught art classes in Davidson. Worked at the Beehive. In mid-August, I moved to Shelton St, painted a tiger mural in our living room, and started the best semester yet at UNC. I started learning Hindi, wrote my first poem, and switched my major. Plus, I got to photograph Lauren + Ben‘s gorgeous outdoor wedding.



+ “White Foxes“_Susanne Sundfor

In September, my little house in Carrboro was full. The highlight of all of September was all of the wonderful guest that filled my house from Virginia, New Zeland, Australia, and England. Most of the month was spent enjoying the warm sun and the start of a late fall. I went to Jordan lake a lot, went swimming, invented Graceball, laughed a lot, road tripped to D.C. . . . All the travelers made me happy and helped me feel a good deal like I was traveling myself. In September, I also designed this and got a triangle and stayed up all night by a campfire// drum circle at Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival.



+ “The Science of Fear“_ The Temper Trap

October was filled. I was never around much//traveled most of the month.  On the 13th, Kelsey + Alex got married on weekend full of love, laughter, and some tears.



+”Hold Onto Love When You Get Love“_Stars

November happened. School happened. A few little trips [another to D.C. & Charlottesville] happened. And overall, things were really pleasant and fast-paced.



+ “Taro“_ Alt-J

By the time December rolled around, I was ready to be done with the semester and try something new. The semester finished quickly and I went home to work and play. I danced to celebrate the end of the world, played with cats + dogs, got sick, read books, set new goals and celebrated Christmas [twice].

+ 12 Little Lessons Learned in 12 Months [2012]

[Photos: 1.) NC mountains, 2.) early February flowers in CH, 3.) Gili Trawangan before sunset, 4.) Gili Trawangan with lovely people, 5.) final performance, Tembi, 6.) a morning with mount Merapi, 7.) Carrboro house, 8.) Jordan lake times, 9.) Temper Trap in concert, + 10.) end of the world rave//Grace Farson]

+ + +


+ 2013 is the first year since 1987 where all of the digits are different. [Thx Guion Pratt for the daily dose of trivia]

+ Abby’s new blog layout with one of my photos + her goals for the new year

+ Yes. I’m excited

+ My personal [exhaustive] 2013 goals//life ambitions list coming soon

x g

[Photo: Blurry Holga film + words//Grace Farson]

21 by 21 goals

exactly a year ago i was living and working in the little town of blenheim, new zealand.

it is hard for me to even comprehend how much my life has changed since then.

where did a year go?

+ + +

grace’s 20 by 20 goals:

3.) buy a bike
4.) see mt. everest (does the everest mnt. range count?)
5.) take a self-defense or karate class
6.) become a better friend and better listener (you will have to ask my friends! i’m still working on this one)
9.) have weekly cooking nights over at sarah or kelsey’s place
11.) find a job doing something i love (or at least like a good bit)
12.) learn to sew a skirt, romper, or dress
13.) start looking for more travel opportunities, grants, scholarships, you name it!
14.) make a chain of blessings and add one each day of school
15.) join a bible study
16.) make art on a daily basis (i try)
17.) run in a race  (just made that happen LAST week!)
18.) find the best place to see the stars on/off campus
19.) go rock climbing with andrew every week  (sometimes with andrew, sometimes with others!)
+ + +
here’s to a new year and a new list!
+ + +

grace’s 21 by 21 goals:

1.) participate in a yoga workshop (and teach regularly in chapel hill)

2.) train to be a doula

3.) learn to bake bread & incorporate bread making into my life every week

4.) make a portfolio and a website

5.) take an art class (learn to make pottery/ develop and use my film cameras & dark rooms/go back to figure drawing class)

6.) make money doing things i like to do/can learn from (& start paying off my education)

7.) sew something (thinking an apron would be fun)

8.) pet a wild squirrel

9.) learn how to play the accordion (now that it has made this list, its getting serious. if anyone knows how i can do these, please let me know!)

10.) travel to a new state

11.) learn how to take care of beehives with my mother

12.) teach art to kiddos

13.) plant things and watch them grow

14.) make mo:mos and samosas from scratch

15.) run the charlottesville 10 miler (AND a half marathon before February 2013)

16.) go to a new country – mexico, uganda, indonesia ???

17.) buy a canon 5d mark ii  (learn to make short films and take beautiful photos)

18.) spend a week without sleeping in a bed . . . (goal: live like an authentic hobo with andrew in chapel hill)

19.) decide on a study abroad/ find, apply & get grands to travel

20.) rock climb on real rock faces/climb at least once a week

21.) volunteer and serve in my community

+ + +

thanks everyone for making today so special.

i feel very loved.

(& check out abby’s sweet post.)


12 little lessons in 12 months

i cannot believe a new year is already here. i haven’t stopped to think through this whirlwind of a year since i left for new zealand last january.

it is crazy to think that a year ago, i was ferociously packing, planning, and preparing for one of the greatest adventures of my life.

this might be saying a lot, but 2011 was probably my favorite year of all time. it was the year that proved most anything is possible with a little hard work. i just went through my journals from 2011 and i was filled with so many wonderful, not so wonderful, challenging, and beautiful memories.

i learned a lot in the year. . . i learned that there will always be highs {all of nz, finding random odd jobs i love, and the people i met along the way} and lows l {china, random illnesses in asia, and astronomy}, but life goes on. life is good.

i learned that i was born to travel. born to live a life on the road. . . i learned to trust and that very little is in my control. i learned how to be relaxed and it is possible to live a stress-free and content life . . . i learned that i am never bored. . . i learned that friends make a world of difference. i learned lessons in love. i learned about relationships and friendships. . . i learned that i have an incredible creator, family, and friend group. . . i learned that time goes by very fast. . . its so scary to think just how fast this year went by!

ultimately, i learned a lot about myself in 2011. i learned that i was capable of a lot, but at the same time capable of very little. i learned a lot of my strengths and weakness {sometimes i had to learn them the hard way}. . .  i learned that i am a work in progress . . .i still have a lot to work on. . .

but. . . i am ready. i am ready for challenges ahead. i am ready for 2012 and most of all i am excited. i doubt 2012 will be as thrilling and adventurous as 2011 was for me, but i wholeheartedly believe good things are in store. i am incredibly grateful for 2011 and i know that it will be a year i will never forget.

2012 has started off well. already, it has been a good blend of things and i am excited for a new start. so far, i’ve spent a lot of time – outside, with the family, with snuggly puppies, running in this beautiful nc weather, cooking, partying, wearing fancy clothes, watching movies, reading for fun, and working at mom’s shop.

but . . . like every year, i have a list of goals, ambitions, and resolutions that have carried over year after year. i am an obsessive goal and list maker and i believe there is always room for improvement.

thank you all for being a part of my 2011 and i look forward to sharing my little life with you through this blog in 2012!


here are 12 of the little lessons i learned in the last 12 months:

january 2011:

lesson #1 if you work hard, you will be rewarded richly.

after a dream trip to europe with my sister kelsey in the summer of 2010, i returned home broke but with big dreams to travel again in just four month’s time. i instantly threw myself into work back in nc and i worked four odd jobs to finance almost seven months of travel. . . in january last year, all that work payed off and thanks to the support and encouragement of my wonderful parents and friends, i jumped on a plane heading for new zealand. thanks to random connections and wwoofing, i fell hard for nz and esp. the south island.

my song in january was lemonworld by the national. every time i hear it, i go right back to those long and lovely runs in wellington. i’d just get lost for hours on end. . .

february 2011:

lesson #2: never over pack.

in february, i found myself working on farms on the south island. i landed a random harvesting job in blenheim and even though blenheim is probably the most boring city in all of new zealand, i loved it. i learned a lot about garlic harvesting and grapes. i met some remarkable people in this little hostel and was content enough to stay there for years. the weather was glorious and everything seemed perfect. . . then i got an email that rocked my world and an offer i couldn’t pass up. as hard as it was to leave, i knew it was the right decision and i packed up my things and began traveling through the rest of the south. i learned a lot of lessons about backpacking and i quickly learned i packed far too much. traveling with two packs was overkill and walking to one of the wwoofing farms for almost two hours with everything was almost the end of me.

february’s song was probably this one – the cave by mumford and sons. . . long, but always lovely rides in nz were often accompanied by mumford and sons.

march 2011:

lessson # 3: i am not the one in control.

after leaving nz, i wound up in australia for a short while and then somehow managed to get stuck in china. i got stuck in china without a phone, a friend, or a visa. those five terrifying days in china taught me a lot. and even though it was a thoroughly bad experience, i am glad it happened. after the mess in china, i was overjoyed to make it safely to nepal without much trouble. after my delay in china i started work on a short documentary film with two wonderful women – mandy mcanally and mary olive smith – and the people of psi nepal. throughout the month of march i learned many lessons in trust and faith and understanding my place in the world. after mandy and mary olive left, i traveled around the kathmandu valley with some friends i met along the way. when i made it back to the city, i came down with a dramatic, horrible case of tonsillitis. with each day i became sicker and sicker and almost two weeks passed where i had trouble breathing and eating. i was stubborn and thought i would eventually get better on my own, but thanks to many miracles and prayers, i found a hospital and continued to get better. march was a month of trials and triumphs.

march sounded a good bit like this – wolves by phosporescent. afterall, the hilltops at night were beautiful. . .

april 2011:

lesson #4: sometimes plans change . . . but sometimes, they end up far better than you could have ever thought or imagined.

in april i learned the true meaning of “what to do in kathmandu?!” as much as i love that quirky city and as comfortable as i became there, i was ready to move on and see more. as soon as i was feeling well enough, actually, the day after my doctor’s visit, i left for southern nepal. after a seven hour bus ride with another volunteer, carlos from spain, and the web nepal founder, bhim, i started a new life in bhagmara, outside of chitwan national park. there, i learned more about bio-gas, water buffaloes, and jatropha than i thought was possible. everyday was wonderful, rewarding, and fun. i worked so hard digging ditches in the mud and dirt, biking in the hot sun, and teaching english to little kiddos. after my time in the south it was hard to believe i was ever meant to volunteer anywhere else. i made some dear friends there and left a sliver of my heart in that part of the world. by mid – april, i wound up with the one and only brad shelley. we met up in ktm decided to trek the incredibly gorgeous annapurna circuit trek. we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into and we were far from prepared {i had only a camera backpack, glittens, and trail running shoes} but we had an incredible time and to my great surprise, i survived. spring in nepal treated me well.

april brought a lot of good things into my life including this song – boa sorte by vanessa da mata – a song that will forever make me think of southern nepal and mel.

may 2011:

lesson #5: appreciate the little things in life.

may taught me one simple but very important lesson in appreciation. i learned to take in everything and enjoy the simple things in life. may was spent traveling through nepal. . . and included two short visits back to bhagmara and pokhara. . . in may, i met a lot of wonderful, inspiring, people and felt truly comfortable and confident in nepal. each day was happy, simple, and care-free.

my favorite memory with a song in may was with and the boys by angus and julia stone. it was my song for weeks. . . i loved wandering the streets of ktm and listening to it over and over again.

june 2011:

lesson #6: be fully present. live in the moment. . . yes, even on a 32 hour train journey in india. . .

another new challenging awaited me in the month of june. after my nepal visa expired, i decided i could go anywhere i wanted to, but for some crazy reason, india was calling me again. i never would have imagined that in two years i would have two indian visas in my passport. india, all alone, as a blonde kid was an incredible but challenging experience. it wasn’t half as threatening as people thought it would be, but my . . . i started in darjeeling and then varansi, and did this crazy loop down to the south to see my dear friends in bapatla, passed through mumbai, rode camels and motorcycles in rajasthan, and ended up wandering old delhi with some of the friends i had met earlier in the journey. . . june confirmed my suspicions. for some reason i cannot really explain, it confirmed that india is my place in the world. india, dear india, i don’t know why, but i love my life when i am near you.

there was no other song in june but this – sheila ki jawani. oh the love i have for this song!

july 2011:

lesson #7: i have an incredible family and group of friends in my life at home and abroad. . .

i finished my travels in nepal and after many sad goodbyes – i may or may not have cried the whole way to the airport – i was headed home. as much as i wanted to stay and travel for the rest of my life, i knew that home was what i needed most. i stepped off the plane and was greeted by one incredible welcome party. my time abroad had taught me to fully appreciate my family and friends. the more time i spent apart the more i realized just how much they meant to me and just what i loved about each individual. july went by incredibly fast {i worked odd jobs, went to charlottesville, the beach, d.c., etc} and before i knew it, i was off to start a new adventure – chapel hill.

my favorite song in july was easily – coming home by diddy.

august 2011:

lesson #8: starting over can be challenging

i am not going to lie, my enthusiasm for chapel hill in august was pathetic. i didn’t want to be there, i longed for nepal, i longed for the people i met abroad, for the joy and excitement that got me up and out of bed every morning to do yoga on a rooftop . . . etc. . . i’d say for most of august i was fairly certain i would leave chapel hill. and although, i have still not given my whole heart over to unc, i am learning to like it more. i am extraordinarily blessed to live in a state with such incredible universities, but sometimes unc just doesn’t work for me. august was a month of ups and downs. . . beautiful photo opportunities. . . and random adventures with new friends. . .

my august song will always be near and dear to my heartholocene by bon iver.

september 2011:

lesson #9:  starting over can be challenging, but interesting. . .

september started off well with a beach trip. in september, i surrounded myself with people i love and admire. i learned i liked philosophy class, was not smart enough for astronomy, and got lost very quickly in french. i learned that unc unfortunately zapped a good bit of my creativity, but i still had some fun trying new things at work. i also learned that sleep is important, but i did little to change that. . .

the song of september dealt with surgery, but was mighty sexy – surgeon by st. vincent.

october 2011:

lesson #10: make the most of it because the days are numbered

i think one of the best things i learned in october was to take myself less seriously and find the time to invest in the things that matter. in school, finding balance is the ultimate goal and something i have promised to work harder at next semester. in october, i often felt inadequate, lost, and overwhelmed, but i came to terms with it and tried to focus more on what matters. . . i’m still learning. . .

in october i danced around to the one that got away by katy perry far more often than i would like to admit. . .

november 2011:

lesson #11: every choice we make can affect us now or in the future

and that is that. november was. . . well, a lot. . . but november as a whole was really good for me. the lovely dana, holidays, getting to know people on a deeper level, and long hours of hard work were definitely the high-lights.

november kept reminding me of iceland and this song – tornado by jonsi.

december 2011:

lesson #12: there is always room for improvement

december was gone in the blink of an eye. i learned that i have a lot to work on and i have a lot to look forward to. in the end, december brought on a new wave of commitments, inspirations, and aspirations for the new year.

thanks to the concert, december brought me to east harlem by beirut.

. . .

thank you all for my year.

what all did you learn from 2011?

. . .

also, in celebration of the year, check out:

+ jonas peterson’s 2011 recap in photos

+ you got growing up to do – joshua radin and patty griffin {this might just be my january song}

+ my three favorite campus style posts of the last semester:

* charlotte steddum

*kristina linde hansen

*emily tinsley and tim dement

happy new year. go get inspired and be the change you want to see in the world. . .