Fort Dauphin, Madagascar

January Goals

I’m trying a new thing where instead of plotting out large yearly goals, I break them down into bite-sized monthly goals. It’ll make everything feel more manageable and considering Gareth left yesterday and I’m feeling quite sad and far from home, it’ll give me a tangible list of things to focus on instead of the 6,000 miles between us.

january Goals


  • Finish the project for my Social Research class.
  • Finish the book for Issues in Public Health.


  • Get to lesson 16 in Pimsleur French 1. I used Pimsleur to learn Spanish before moving to Spain and it was hugely helpful. It’s a bit different this time, though. I studied Spanish from grade 8-11 in school, and though it had been nearly 10 years (!), a lot stuck with me. French is literally starting from scratch, I have to google how to spell oui, etc. I get through lessons a lot slower but the plan is to just stick with it and by the end of Jan be over halfway through level 1.
  • Work on the 1000 most common French words in Memrise (100 words).
  • Read first five chapters of Madrigal’s Magic Key to French.
  • Arrange for a tutor to begin biweekly lessons in February (waiting until I have SOME background).

Health and fitness

  • Stick with Kayla Itsines workouts three to four times a week for the full month. While I’m not crazy about the branding (every body is a bikini body, etc ), these are really effective and easy to do without equipment.
  • Try to figure out why I’m sick ALL. THE. TIME. The indicator for this is if I haven’t improved by mid-January to go back to the doctor.

So we’ll see how this goes. If I come close to accomplishing any of this, I’ll update and make a new one for February. If not, it’s safe to assume I failed on nearly all counts. :p


2019 Goals

Happy 2019!!

I can’t believe it’s here! Sometimes I think back to 1999/2000 New Year and remember how scared I was of Y2K. I was at my Aunty Gail’s house with my two best friends and moving into the 2000s seemed insane. Now it just seems crazy that was 19 years ago. Wow, wow, wow.

Anyway, looking back on my goals for 2018, I was semi-successful. I failed at refocusing on Spanish, I did not learn to drive a standard, and while I got back into Pilates for a while, the move to Mada really undid most/all of that effort.

I’m not totally caught up on this blog — one day I’ll write about Croatia, Poland, Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Mzansi in Cape Town. BUT I kept up with it relatively well and got through a backlog of other things. So I’m going to mark this one down as a win.

Feeling content is a work in progress but I’m definitely doing better than I was this time last year, so again, a win.

A theme is that I suck at accomplishing any of my resolutions, which is well documented on this blog. So this year I’m setting “intentions.” Let’s see if that helps any.

2019 Intentions

  • French. Would be SUCH a career boost if I could speak French, and I’m living in a country where French is commonly spoken and would hugely assist my ability to get by. I’m going to look into lessons and try to leave Mada with a solid grasp of the basics — something off of which I can continue to build. I think often with languages the hardest part is just getting started.
  • My masters. I want to take (and pass) the finals of at least three of my classes.
  • Surfing. Fort Dauphin is great for surfing and there are tons of people offering lessons. Learning to surf used to be on my 30 before 30 before I decided my fear of the ocean was stronger than my desire to surf. But when in Greece…

Very few intentions this year, and zero travel related! It’s not cheap getting to/from Mada, so I expect I’ll be here most of the year. When my contract is up, depending on finances, I could see myself moving to France for a bit and taking a month or two of intensive French lessons. We shall see.

The most important things left on my 30 before 30 are: masters, learn French, live in France, B2 level of Spanish, Bali, and Buenos Aires. I might be able to get the first three started, but the last three will be a bit of a push. We shall see! If I turned 30 tomorrow I’d be over the moon excited about how much I managed to do in the past 5 years. Anything further is just a bonus, really!

2018 Wrap Up

Wow, another year nearly over! 2018 honestly went by so fast I’m struggling to write this post — my brain does not compute.

There were some pretty big things that happened this year though. For starters, the vast majority of my friends got married! I went to seven weddings this year and there was only one where either Gareth or I weren’t in the wedding party! It was such a wonderful, love filled year and I’m so grateful I was living in London (and able to get to Boston) for everything!

There were also some great trips —

I went to Paris in February to visit Faye and meet Ross, which was so lovely. FAYE I MISS YOU COME TO MADAGASCAR!

Eiffel Tower, Paris Paris, France

Ibiza for a hen do, where we stayed in the nicest villa and went proper clubbing. I haven’t done that since I was 21 and brand new to LA!


Egypt and South Africa, which were huge life highlights I’ll never forget.

jumping rhino, kruger, south africa

Pyramid, Giza, Egypt Sphinx, Giza, Egypt

Greece, easily one of my favourite places on earth.

Boston, to see my fam and watch some of my best friends get married.

Madagascar, where I’ve moved to work on HIV and WASH projects for the next year.

Ring-tailed Lemur at Berenty Reserve

Regarding my 30 before 30, I crossed off four (and a half) items. Go to Egypt, South Africa, Greece, work in the field in Africa, and I’ve started my masters.

This year was big professionally and educationally, and moving to Mada has been pretty big personally as well. Being apart from G after having lived together is a new kind of hard, but it’s also teaching me so much about the world, myself (to be corny), and of how much I’m capable.

Also I’m quite enjoying looking back at wrap ups for 2016 and 2017 and seeing how much has/hasn’t changed. One more year to 30!

Big News Part Two: Madagascar

Hi there, it’s been a minute hey? We’ll be back to regularly scheduled Greece posts shortly, however I’m behind on everything due to some Major Life Changes. As of last Thursday, I no longer live in London. I’m home in Boston for a few (amazing) weddings, and next week I’ll be getting on a plane and arriving three days later in Antananarivo. Why you ask? I’m moving to Madagascar.

The when

I fly out next Sunday night, and arrive midday Wednesday. The contract is for 12 months to start, which feels great professionally and long personally. This is without a doubt the most exciting, terrifying, adventurous thing I’ve ever done. I vary between confidence and fear, along with overwhelming sadness at leaving Gareth (OH GOD AND BRADY), both of whom I’ve already had to say goodbye. But it is an incredible career move – and in that respect I’m nothing but excited.

The What

I’ll be a Project Development Officer for Community Health in Fort Dauphin, which is on the south-eastern coast of Madagascar. I’ll be working on project design and development, funding applications, donor reporting, and implementation for three projects – HIV in both rural and urban settings and WASH in schools.


ALSO, I was accepted to begin my Masters of Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Classes are through distance learning, so I can complete the work online while living in the field in Mada. It’ll take 2-3 years to complete, and I’m honestly shocked my degree in writing/TV got me into LSHTM, as it’s one of the top programmes in the world!

So by this time next year, I’ll be halfway through a masters and have a year in the field as an Officer on my CV. I’ve felt this urgency to progress as I changed careers quite late, and haven’t been so pleased to still be an assistant at 28. But now (I hope) the ball is finally rolling and things are going to only get more interesting from here. These are two things I’ve been trying to do for years, and I am SO happy it’s all happening!

What next

I’ll be able to check off number 12 and 23 of my 30 before 30, which are probably the most important ones on there. I’ll be posting more frequently as this is definitely a time I’ll want to look back on years from now. I’ll be talking about how to survive long distance, the preparation needed before moving to a developing country, and once I arrive, all things Madagascar. I’m so excited for this next chapter!

30 Before 30 State of the Union

Well, it’s been a minute since I’ve had an update to the 30 before 30 list, but as today is my 28th birthday(!!), I figure a little check in is probably in order. We’re officially past the midpoint to thirty, and I can’t lie and say I’m not totally freaked out at how incredibly quickly time is moving!

This year I didn’t accomplish as much as I had hoped, but I did get a major one out of the way—I am officially a recognized Italian citizen! And I’ve visited Italy not once, but twice, going to Florence, Venice, Pisa, Vernasca, and Cinque Terre!

30 Before 30

The remaining items on the list are:

6. Visit Buenos Aires
7. Visit Costa Rica
9. Visit South Africa
10. Visit Greece
11. Visit Egypt
12. Volunteer in Africa or Asia
13. Stay in Shakespeare & Co Bookstore
15. Fix my tooth
17. Be able to cook 5 meals very well
18. Do a pull up
20. Live in France
21. Learn French
22. Reach a B2 level in Spanish
23. Get my masters
24. Get published
25. Read 10 books every year
30. Go to a Patriots game

So! We have 17 items left and just over two years to go. Because this is about focusing on what’s important to me, rather than doing something just because 25-year-old Kristen thought it sounded nice, this list is ever evolving. As a result, some of these things just aren’t that important to me anymore.

For example, items 15, 17, and 18. I don’t much care about fixing my tooth, and Gareth cooks for me so I’m eating just fine without any culinary skills to call my own. Also I just don’t care enough to put in the work needed to be able to do a pull up. Oh well.

That said, the rest I still care about mightily, and I think I’ll have the chance to accomplish some in 2018!

# 9 and 11: Gareth and I recently booked tickets for two weeks in South Africa, with a day layover in Cairo! We’ve just booked our accommodation in Kruger, and are looking into stop over tours in Egypt. I’m so excited, it’s definitely the most adventurous trip I’ve ever planned!

# 10: We’re also planning on spending a week in Greece this summer, so that’s three of the final five travel related ones done in 2018!

# 21 and 22: My New Year’s resolution is to pass the B2 DELE Spanish exam, so that should hopefully happen this year, and I’m organizing French lessons through my work. I’d like to be at an A2 level of French by the end of the year as well.

#25: I’ve easily read 10 books a year. That one I wrote back when I was crazy busy working on Marco Polo, and hadn’t read a book in what felt like years. I got the 10 in each year while living in LA and Spain and since I’ve started my epic commutes to work in London, I’m averaging a book a week!

#24: As for getting published, to be honest I write less now. However, last year I worked for a travel magazine for a few months, and had a few articles put on their website, so in theory this one is finished—but now I’m being selfish and want it in print. I ended my time there when Gareth’s mom got sick, but still keep in touch and think it would be quite easy to get something published in their print magazine. That’s something I’ll try to do this year.

So, those are the ones for which I have a plan. Others have a much less defined plan, like living in France and the masters. Not to say I’m not working towards them, more that they are less in my control.

The rest, I’m less sure about. I have no idea when I’ll go to Buenos Aires or Costa Rica (except, mom, maybe next Christmas?!). Staying in Shakespeare & Co will tie into the next time I’m in France (see above), and volunteering is something I still quite want to do, but finding the time is proving difficult. Over the summer I applied and was accepted to lead a group of volunteers for three months in Tanzania from January-March of 2018, but had to turn it down for a variety of reasons, one being my amazing job where I work all around Africa improving sexual and reproductive health.

I think that leaves just the Patriots game, which is becoming more urgent as I am desperate to see Tom Brady play before he retires. I might try to go this Christmas Eve, but if not it’ll have to wait to next year (though I’ll be in Boston for 10 days in the fall of 2018 for weddings, so it could be then barring serious injury/knock on wood/Go Pats!/etc).

I’m also so proud of what I have accomplished on my 30 before 30 so far!

  1. Become Italian
  2. Go to Africa
  3. Go to Morocco
  4. Go to Italy
  5. Go to Iceland
  6. Go to Turkey
  7. Get LASIK
  8. Get an IUD
  9. Be in a happy/successful relationship for over a year
  10. Read 10 books a year every year
  11. Be Debt Free
  12. Have $15,000 in savings
  13. Have $5,000 invested
  14. Work abroad