And just like that another year has passed! Every year of my life has been better than the last. I used to believe that this was a nearly universal experience, as every year you should become smarter, learn from your mistakes, build on your successes, deepen your relationships, etc. But I talked to some people who told me that their years are up and down. Very hard to comprehend, barring some major death or catastrophe.
Anyway, I like to write my annual wrap-up because it helps me get perspective on what I was able to do in a year, how I progressed, how I met or missed my goals, and it lets me set a little bit of direction for the next year.
I really fell in love with Budapest as I mentioned in my annual wrap-up post last year. In May I had the idea to buy a place there with friends (not so original, as I've already done things like this), and I went there in August. Within six weeks we had closed and moved into the new place!
It feels great to have some gravity with friends there, and to get to know such an interesting city on a deeper level. Besides buying a place I also spent six weeks there, which is by far the longest I've spent in one place in three or four years.
I visited seven new countries (Denmark, Estonia, New Caledonia, Fiji, Vanuatu, Australia, New Zealand), most of them on cruises. I get a different number every time I tally it up, but I think I've been to 75-80 countries now. There's obviously plenty more out there for me to see, but I do feel like I've hit the point of diminishing returns, where it's more beneficial to get to know some of my favorite countries better than it is to seek out new places.
I did MUCH better with travel this year than last. No solo trips where I was left wondering why I even went, no overextending myself, no booking trips and then canceling them later.
I spent some real quality time with some of my best friends in Tokyo, the island, Cambodia, Paris, Budapest (11 people visited at various times!), London, New Zealand, and on cruises.
I went on two long cruises, one 24 day cruise with my good friend Leo and one 12 day cruise with my good friend Nick and his family. Cruises are my favorite place to spend time with people.
Overall I was really happy with travel this year. I think I did a good job being discplined and only going on trips that were a really good use of time and money.
I finished the writing bet, which dictated that I had to write one blog post per day (but not post it). In retrospect I shouldn't have made this bet as I think I'm not sure it was overall positive, but I'm proud that I stuck with it and completed it.
Last year I wrote that I wasn't able to improve CruiseSheet, but this year was different. It now makes 5-10x what it made last year. That's still not a huge amount of money, but I'm very happy with how it's going. I like working on CruiseSheet, and I think I can get it up by another 5-10x this year if I focus.
Wrote Around the World in Fifteen Friends
I wrote just one short book this year called Around the World in Fifteen Friends. It was very different from my normal books, as it's a collection of fifteen short stories about friends I met while traveling and the adventures we had.
Sales have been terrible (like a fraction of my normal books), but reviews on Amazon are all five stars. Would have hoped for better sales, but I'm still glad I wrote it. If you like the stories on my blog you'll definitely like it, so maybe check it out?
Lots of progress on Vegas this year. My place is almost fully renovated, as I made a big push to finish by the end of the year. The (ridiculous) bathroom renovation is done, I replaced all of the flooring with wood by myself, I wood paneled some of the walls, etc. I actually don't remember what of the other stuff I did this year. The point is that now it feels great to be there and I don't have any huge projects looming.
The neighborhood takeover has also progressed. We had two units last year, and now we have five and a waiting list for new ones that pop up. I think we may have hit critical mass in terms of having enough interested parties with interested friends that we'll get every single good one that goes up for sale. It's pretty cool that usually at least one person is in Vegas when I'm there. I think it's pretty cool that I'm solving the "Vegas doesn't have as many quality people as other cities" by importing them.
I've also really enjoyed hosting my friends in Vegas. Several good friends have come to stay with me. For years when I just had the RV I couldn't really host people, but would always crash at their places. I'm glad to be able to pay it back/forward, and I like showing people the "local" side of Vegas.
Dating was so-so. I dated someone briefly in the beginning of the year, but it didn't last very long. Since then I've been more actively dating, but haven't met anyone I think I'd be a really great long-term match with.
I had two big dating failures this year. One was a girl with whom I had two dates, both of which I thought went excellently. Like, even in retrospect I can't think of much I'd do differently. Then despite inviting me to something during the second date (I was busy), never replied again. I'm assuming she either had an ex come back into the picture (my general assumption when something inexplicable happens), or maybe googled me and found out about pickup and freaked out. That happens sometimes. Anyway, she probably wasn't a great long term match, but when something like that goes wrong it makes me think about what I could have done differently.
The second was with a girl to whom a friend introduced me. We met once, then I left for a trip for six weeks and she started dating someone else. We still spent some time together when I got back but she was in that weird gray area where they weren't officially dating but may as well have been. I made a half-hearted attempt at that point, but should have just gone full bore or decided to leave it alone. Doing anything halfway is sort of dumb. I don't know that it would have worked with her, but she's definitely the girl with whom I most compatible who I haven't dated.
Many dates went really well too, but for some reason it seems more appropriate to talk about the failures. I think on one level my dating life is pretty good, but it doesn't feel to me like the time and focus I spend on it is necessarily worth it. Definitely something I'll be thinking about this year.
A reader contacted me and offered me enough money to coach her on an ongoing basis that I was willing to put aside my aversion to scheduling regular things. This has turned out to be one of the more satisfying new things I've undertaken this year. To protect her privacy I won't share any specific details, but she's made really huge strides in all major areas of her life, including hitting a bunch of new milestones. The primary reason for this is the hard work she's put in, but I do feel like our one hour per month has had a really big impact as well.
I love hearing about her progress every month and feeling like I'm making a difference in someone's life, so I may take on one or two more coaching clients this year.
I was doing really great with workouts this year, getting up to 170lb at one point, which was an all-time high. But then I sprained my ankle really badly four months ago (it still hurts) and I haven't worked out ever since. Realistically I should have kept working out, at least on a limited basis, but I think I used the injury as an excuse to scrap the whole thing because I didn't want to deal with joining a gym in Budapest.
This was a really good year for the island. We really turned a corner and went from roughing it to sustainable comfort. It's not five stars or anything, but having an outdoor shower, an outhouse, and a boat dock have made it reasonable to spend any amount of time on the island. We still have a lot of work to do, but it's now very pleasant to stay there and do the work.
We had our first big trip to the island, hosting five owners and seven guests. I didn't really know what to expect, but the trip went great. We got a ton of work done and everyone had a great time. I look forward to doing more big trips.
I bought four new pieces of art (I had two before). One is a 13th Century Korean celadon bowl with inlay. I love these bowls and always go see them at museums, so I'm so excited to have one. They're very hard to find, especially at reasonable prices, but I got really lucky. Mine is museum quality and I saw one that was nearly identical in the Paris Asian Art Museum.
I also bought three woodblock prints. One was an original Ando Hiroshige of a teahouse. It was originally in the Worcester Art Museum's collection. Another is an Ogata Gekko of outside a teahouse. It's probably my favorite one visually. Last I bought a second lifetime print from Katsushika Hokusai that illustrates a poem about travelers.
Buying art is fun because you get to have a little museum in your house. I find that I appreciate the art more because I can look at it closely every day and even touch it in the case of the bowl. My goal is to very slowly, over time, acquire a lot of museum-quality art that covers my favorite stuff to see. Next I would like to buy a native american porcupine quill box and maybe some Chinese famille-rose ceramics. I also REALLY want Russian malachite, but can't find any I like at decent prices.
I didn't learn too much this year and I'm really proud of that! I have a tendency to spend too much time learning rather than applying what I'm learning. This year I did much better. The only thing I really spent time learning was some Hungarian. I read a bunch of books, too, but mostly I applied what I already knew or learned things as I needed them.
Overall I really had a great year. Last year my goals were to simplify, improve systems, travel less, and find a long-term girlfriend. I did all of those except for find a girlfriend, but I feel like I made a decent effort on that one. I also improved my business a lot, which is something that is tough for me, so I feel good about how it went.
I'm very excited about this next year. Here are some things that I'm looking forward to:
My biggest goal is to take CruiseSheet to the next level. For some reason I'm really good at getting businesses to subsistence level, but really bad at getting them to the next level. That's a wall I want to break through as much for my own personal development as for the money it will bring in.
I'm selling my RV. This one is certainly bittersweet, but it feels like one of those make-the-hard-but-right-decision sort of things. I'm really looking forward to freeing up the money I have invested in it, and to having one less place to deal with. I'm not happy that it may mean I spend less time with my SF friends, but upon reflection I realized that most of the real quality time I spend with them is on trips anyway. If you're interested in buying it and I haven't sent you info, email me.
My family is coming to visit in Budapest! I am so excited about this as traveling with my family is a huge goal of mine. My mother, one aunt and uncle, and one cousin are coming in March, and then another cousin and her boyfriend are coming in May. This will be the first time my family has traveled internationally with me, so this is huge. I'm hoping it's the start of a new era.
I'm planning on building a small personal cabin on the island. It will be less than 400 square feet and will have a nice place to sleep, a tea room, and an office. I'm most excited about turning the island into a place where I can be very productive. I've got my spot picked out and my sister helped me design the cabin, which I think will be really beautiful and functional.
I have a loose goal to not stay in hotels or Airbnbs this year. I won't be super strict on it, but the intent is to focus on my favorite places. I have places in Vegas, Budapest, and Halifax, and then I have friends I stay with in SF (once I get rid of the RV), New York, and Tokyo. Cruises are also great for me, so I hope to take at least two this year.
I'm planning on writing Life Nomadic 2. I wrote the first version six years ago or so and a lot has changed with my own travel style as well as the world. It didn't really occur to me until this year that I am on the bleeding edge of being a digital nomad, and that I should probably write more about it. I'm very excited about this book and I know it's going to change some lives.
I hope that you had an amazing year, and that 2017 will bring both the results of good work and habits as well as unexpected positive surprises. As always, I'm thankful to have you spend a small part of your year reading my writing. I hope I've been able to make a small positive difference in your life.
Photo is Ginza in Tokyo. Every once in a while (maybe weekly?) they shut down the main street, which provides an otherworldly experience walking down the street.
I think that gratitude is an essential part of a good life. If you don't appreciate the people, places, and things that make up your life, you don't have much motivation do anything. I feel the weight of gratitude every day. Many times a day I think of how fortunate I am to be where I am, and how so much of that is due to other people. I can't write that post every day, but I think I can get away with it on Thanksgiving.
I'm most thankful for my family and friends. The two categories of people are intertwined because I feel like I'm best friends with many of my family members, and that many of my friends are so close they may as well be family. Genetics make clear lines, but in real life they're one big group of people I love.
I traveled with a lot of friends this year, and I'm particularly grateful for that. Sharing my favorite places around the world and discovering new ones with friends are among my favorite things in the world. I'm very fortunate to be able to do a lot of that.
I made only a few new friends this year, but I feel like I became closer with a lot of friends, often as a result of traveling together.
So, it's about time that I unveiled the cover of my debut album . . . . The artwork is actually an original drawing of mine that I did back about 2001. It really was meant to be just a practice sketch for a bigger piece and a whole series of drawings, but I liked it so much that it became its own art piece. It's called "The Unraveling". It even comes with a poem that I might someday share. Otherwise, I think it does quite well standing on its own. Last year, I was sitting in my bedroom wondering what in the world the album cover would look like. I already had an old photograph in mind until I happened to look up at my wall. There it was staring right at me. This old sketch I had done so many years ago was beckoning to me. It's wispy lines done in charcoal and pastel reeling me in. I was hooked, and it was decided. This would be the face of my debut album. Given the themes upon which this album would be built, It just felt so right. As I was writing this, my niece banged heavily on my door. I just let her in and picked her up. She fell asleep in my arms instantly. I'm having trouble even typing this. She is so precious, and she's draped herself all over me. These moments are magical. I guess I have to go. Be well my friends. -g