Another year has passed, which means it’s time for my annual life recap!
For the fourth year in a row I’d like to recount the areas where I progressed over the previous twelve months, as well as the spots I could improve upon. The reasons for doing so are as follows:
1.) to think back to all of the things I am grateful for that happened during the past year,
2.) to brainstorm some of the ways I can improve myself, and
3.) to publicly set quantifiable goals for the next 365 days.
I started off 2016 with just a single goal set in front of me (the same one I’ve had for the past couple years, in fact).
Did I accomplish that goal? Read on…
What About 2015?
You may have noted the inexplicable lack of a 2015 Year Overview post on this blog…
In short, I was so focused on changing things up for 2016 that I pushed back my usual beginning-of-January Year Overview post to February…then March…and so on. It just wasn’t a priority in the face of all of the other challenges I was facing at the time.
It’s a shame too, because 2015 was one hell of a year (as far as adventures go–work, not so much).
What I’ll most likely do is turn a few separate stories from 2015 into their own full-length posts, so stay tuned for that later in the year.
If 2015 was all about adventures, then 2016 was all about trading in a few of those in exchange for time to put into my ongoing projects and businesses.
While it didn’t seem like all that attractive of a proposal on the surface, I knew it was time for some radical action after years of talking about it, but never quite seeming to get to the point I was aiming for (for reference you can see any of my previous Year Overview posts–2014, 2013, or 2012).
So how’d I do that? Simple–by not traveling as much. Now, I thought that if anyone could do it, I could do it all–travel non-stop and get all necessary work done at the same time. It only took me a few years to realize that, at best, I could keep things more or less stable while being constantly on the road.
Grow multiple businesses at the same time? Forget about it.
It’s harder said than done though, as not only had I become accustomed to traveling full-time, but I had also become used to the public image I had made for myself of “the guy who’s always on the road, having crazy adventures.”
It can be challenging to break out of the mold you’ve made for yourself, or shift the perception others have of you. After years of failing to grasp that I needed to change things up a bit, it finally hit me sometime in 2015, in the middle of one of the most fun, adventurous years of my life.
Travels: 21 Countries on 3 Continents (6 New)
Believe it or not, this was a relatively slow year for me as far as travel is concerned. In 2015 I travelled to 112 separate locations–an unbelievable average of a new spot every 3.25 days for the entire year. In 2016 I did less than half of that amount.
Now don’t get me wrong–2015 was a ton of fun (albeit a bit exhausting at times). No regrets, but as I stated above, I rarely had any extended periods in which to make progress on the big tasks at hand.
To combat this issue, throughout 2016 I made plans to stay in one place for a whole month or more. In the end I wound up spending one month in Budapest in January-February, two months in Istanbul in June-July, and three months in Bangkok from October-January. At the end of the year it was definitely clear to me that the longer I spent in each location, the more productive I became. Touristy stuff wasn’t a distraction anymore, routines were set, I had seen everyone I wanted to meet with, and I was able to focus in a way that was nearly impossible the year before.
I did manage to squeeze in six new countries in 2016–Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, and Laos–which is quite a few less than was planned at the beginning of the year. This is a result of a few cancellations outside of my control, as well as some that I chose to cancel in lieu of getting more work done. I’ll come visit you soon enough though Portugal, France, Monaco, San Marino, Malta, Philippines, and Ireland!
One of the highlights of the year was definitely leading my second Eat Japan culinary tour through Japan for 17 days in March and April. The nine of us covered a lot of ground, ate a ton of delicious food, sipped more than our fair share of whiskey, and made a bunch of new friends along the way. At the same time, I learned a few valuable lessons from what didn’t go as planned, and have taken steps to improve upon those points in future trips.
And, who could forget that time that a coup happened while I was in Turkey! What a wild and crazy ten hours. Not to mention the bombing that happened at Istanbul Atatürk Airport a couple weeks prior. Or how about the time the king of Thailand died a few days after I arrived in Bangkok? I sure do have interesting timing sometimes (not complaining though–I’ve narrowly averted other coups and natural disasters by as little as a day on multiple occasions before).
Travel is one hell of a drug! There’s a rush that comes from constantly exploring new places, meeting new people, eating new foods, etc. I do, however, choose to see this recent change to “slow travel” not as a loss, but as an opportunity to explore places in greater detail, and in a different way than before.
On a final note, at this point I have mostly given up on the quest to hit 100 countries by 35 years of age. It was definitely a priority before, but now it’s not. I’ll continue along that path as soon as I have my new goals on track. (I’m currently at around 90, so it shouldn’t take that much longer…)
This is the first year in a while that I actually scheduled in time to work.
Genius, right? If you need to do work, schedule it into your life plans.
Whereas before I would only work in between the “fun times”, this year I set about to make work a priority. I knew I wouldn’t be able to just change habits on a dime, so at the end of 2015 I decided to include ever-increasing lengths of time in spots around the world that would allow me to get some real work done. And boy, did I have an ever-increasing list of work that needed to be completed by that point…
As I mentioned in the Travels section (above), the places I elected to stay long-term in included: Budapest, Hungary; Istanbul, Turkey; and Bangkok, Thailand. Each of these locales shared a few things: easy access via international airports, stable electricity and Internet connections, delicious food, comfortable housing, decent public transportation, and a minimum of distractions. (Because I had already been to all of these cities multiple times on previous occasions, I didn’t suffer from FOMO when it came to going out and seeing the sights or whatnot.)
It was a difficult start, and I didn’t get as much done in Budapest as I had hoped, so I upped the ante and doubled my time in Istanbul a few months later. There was a noticeable improvement resulting from a longer stay, so I figure I’ll aim for 2-3 months per location from now on if I’m hoping to make any real progress on my goals.
After years of being pretty lax about finances, spending, and the like, I started recording every single purchase I made, tracking all of my credit card information, and setting financial goals and deadlines.
I know this is something that many people do regularly, but it was definitely a new habit for me. I never really paid all that much attention to money for many years, as I had enough for me to travel wherever I wanted to go, buy the things I wanted, and generally just be happy with what I had (within reason of course).
In that I haven’t wanted for much, I am truly fortunate. (Although living a minimalistic life definitely helps in this regard.)
However, I have come to realize more and more over the past few years that life isn’t all about being comfortable and having fun, looking out for no one else but yourself.
At one time my goal was to travel the world, be around amazing people, and generally just be free and have fun. Having accomplished that, I’ve set my sights higher for 2017 and beyond (see 2017 Goals, below).
There are big goals out there to tackle, and complacency tends to breed stagnation.
I’m not a very public person when it comes to divulging information regarding topics such as relationships and family online, but I can state that some things were shaken up in my family life over the past year, which made me realize that things aren’t going to stay in stasis forever. I need to focus on setting larger goals (in shorter time spans), making more money, and investing in my future growth.
Doing this will allow me to be more resilient to the change that inevitably occurs throughout life, as well as to be in a place whereby I am able to assist and support others as needed.
As far as health goes, I was lucky enough to not have a single thing happen to me in 2016–didn’t even get sick once. *knock on wood*
Friends-wise, I am grateful that I was able to meet up with many friends around the world throughout my travels (including the Eat Japan trip I led in March, my friend’s wedding in Barcelona, conference buddies in Bangkok, and some new friends of friends in Budapest)–I even added a few new friends in the process.
All in all, a great year.
The goal for 2015 (and thus, 2016 since I didn’t write a new goals list) was to focus on my safari company, Pamoja Safaris, as stated below:
My goal for 2017? Pamoja Safaris, yet again. This year it won’t be as much about the framework of the company as it will be about the sales aspect. The company is set up and ready to go, so now it’s time to get some reservations.
Safaris aren’t usually something that needs to be a hard-sell–a large percentage of people already have it on their bucket list. Given that fact, what I need to do is:
- let people know that Pamoja Safaris exists (through marketing, advertising, and hopefully many referrals)
- explain why our company is the best company to make their dream vacation become reality
- educate that no, there is no Ebola within thousands of miles of Tanzania, and yes, it is very safe
- and lastly, inform people that it is financially viable to do a safari trip in Africa, right now–a week-long, private, all-inclusive, luxury safari costs the same as a week in a 4-star hotel in Paris. No need to wait until retirement!
My ask of anyone who is reading this is to please pass along any friends or family that are interested in a safari to me, or send them to the Pamoja Safaris web site at PamojaSafaris.com for more info.
So, how much have I progressed on this singular goal? Well–at least #3 isn’t an issue anymore!
The truth is, I’m still way behind. It’s actually quite embarrassing when you think that the above was written at the end of 2014–two years ago! Sure, I’ve been hustling hard for over six months this year, but all the hustle in the world won’t make up for years of lackluster-hustle.
I am happy to say that I feel like I’m on a roll though, and expect 2017 to be very fruitful. I’ll be keeping up the hard work, and expect to see results–all of which I’m eager to share here a year from now.
I should add though that Pamoja isn’t the only thing I’m working on nowadays–no, no–that’d be too easy!
To add to the mix, I now run (along with my younger brother, Kyle), Brothers Design–a premium WordPress website development and support firm. My brother and I started the company in mid-2015 because:
a.) Kyle now had a few years of web development experience and was ready to branch off on his own, and
b.) Pamoja wasn’t bringing in money quick enough, and I needed a way to bring in some cash to live off of, as well as money to invest back into the company.
Admittedly, Pamoja Safaris‘ growth has been stymied because of all of the work I’ve been putting into Brothers Design over the past year. But, my thinking is that as soon as we have Brothers up and running it will pretty much operate on it’s own (my brother is in charge of the development work, while I focus on the company and clients). I’ve been working on the processes to make this happen all year, and am looking to have all the pieces in place to make this a reality before the end of the year. (The fact that I ran my own web development company for over a decade definitely helps a bit as far as the planning goes.)
On top of all of this, I have continued to offer small group adventures around the world, which definitely take a bit of time to both plan and execute.
If there’s a lesson to be learned here folks, it’s don’t focus on two+ companies at once–it’s a ridiculous amount of work, and will most likely shorten your lifespan a bit. Luckily, my business partners at both Pamoja (Josh) and Brothers (Kyle) are both top-notch, which helps immensely (and allows me to keep my sanity).
So, my goals for 2017?
- Write a minimum of one blog post per month right here,
- start an e-mail list to keep people apprised of updates, adventures, and blog posts,
- 10X my overall PROFIT compared to 2016,
- successfully complete my three group trips I’ll be leading (Japan, Madagascar, and Tanzania–see Upcoming Adventures below),
- get Brothers Design running without putting in more than 10 hours of time into it weekly (through creating processes and hiring people to execute those processes),
- and to finish the new Pamoja website (by the end of January), and then market the hell out of it–through third-party providers and search aggregators, travel agents and agencies, and online marketing/advertising.
Will report back a year from now to let you know the results!
The first half of 2017 is pretty much planned out, and I’m quite looking forward to it.
First off I’ll have some time in Detroit to reacquaint myself with winter and finish churning out work, after which I’ll be heading to Japan to lead the third Eat Japan tour (one spot is still open, by the way). Will most likely stick around for a month after and continue working somewhere (Fukuoka perhaps?).
From Japan I’ll be heading to co-lead a trip to a special place I’ve wanted to go to for a while now–Madagascar. This is my first time co-leading a trip, and my partner will be my good friend and fellow adventurer, Kym Pham (be sure to check out her amazing IG feed here). If you’re interested in joining us, we have eight spots available at a price of $3,400 for the 11-day trip, from April 29-May 9 (all-inclusive minus alcohol and international flights). (Full details coming soon, to be posted here.)
After all of that I’m going to try and hit up my fourth Burning Man at the end of August, as well as be back in Bangkok in October for my fifth Dynamite Circle entrepreneur’s conference in a row (a.k.a. DCBKK).
Lastly, I’m (finally) putting together a special wildlife photo safari in Tanzania in November, 2017 through my company Pamoja Safaris.
This trip will be eight days in length, with six full days of safari, and there will be an option to summit Kilimanjaro afterward (which will add another week to the trip). I’ll personally be leading the group, along with my co-founder Josh, who has twenty years of experience in the field and an amazing breadth of knowledge about the ecosystems of the area.
We will have room for 12-16 people, and the ground cost will be around $3,000 per person, all-inclusive with lux accommodation (not including the Kilimanjaro portion, which will add another $2,500 or so to the total). Stay up-to-date with trip details here.
I’m currently in Bangkok, Thailand, finishing up a three month stint–it’s the longest I’ve spent based in one place in over five years.
In ten days I head back to the states for the first time in nearly five months.
Definitely looking forward to seeing old friends and family, as well as to getting out of the big city for a bit. I like Bangkok, but I have to admit that it (along with the consistent long work days I’ve been putting in) has left me yearning for a bit of nature. (I could always easily escape to some island or mountain destination while here of course, but keep vetoing the idea in favor of employing every productive minute I can before returning home.)
I’m positive that 2017 will be an amazing year on all fronts, and can’t wait to explore it with all of you.
So friends, without further ado, Adventure On!
So I see that Amsterdam with your favorite AS and Neil Young didn’t make the list -hmmm?
When is the Madagascar trip by the way?
It actually was on my original draft of the page, but got bumped out by the awesome picture of Gili Air. 😉
Madagascar is going to be from April 29th-May 8th.
Those are some ambitious goals for 2017! Wish you all the best for making them come to 🙂
Personally, my take away from goal planning has always been that goals are not performative: Creating a goal, doesn’t make it a reality. We tend to overaim our goals, thinking that ambitious goals are better because they’ll make us work harder. In practice I found that achievable goals are more important than ambitious ones. Setting goals that are fully within my sphere of influence drastically increases not only goal achievement but also behavior adherence.
Nowadays I aim more for productive routines and moderate goals rather than trying to create an inner drill sergeant through super ambitious goals.
Thanks for reading man!
And yes, I do in fact believe all the goals listed are reachable (and then some, but I won’t add those extra side-goals, as that reaches the point that I believe I might be becoming overly ambitious…).
After years of setting (and often failing to meet) goals, I’m very confident all of what I wrote is within my power to achieve (especially if I keep at it like I’ve done here in BKK!).
Very nice read Scott!
You have great goals for 2017.
I’ve been using the SMART goal setting technique and worked well for me last year.
Still figuring out what to aim for this year, thanks for the inspiration 🙂
My pleasure Daniele! Best of luck with your goals in 2017~ 🙂