Another year has passed, which means it’s time for my annual life recap!
For the fifth 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 2018 with just a single main goal in front of me, the same one as the year before–to build up my companies (in particular, my safari company, Pamoja Safaris).
So, how’d I do? Read on to find out!
As with the previous two years, in 2018 I continued along focusing on expanding my main company, Pamoja Safaris, while still finding time to hop around to world on a regular basis.
Coming off of my multi-month stint living and working from a series of Airbnb rentals in Bangkok (since October 2017, with a lot of that time spent in front of the computer), I was comfortable with the progress that had been made, and ready for my upcoming adventure: driving through India on a tuk-tuk for a few weeks to ring in the new year.
In the end 2018 ended up being another great year full of business achievements and adventures, including 3,500 driving through India, our first company Friends & Family Kilimanjaro trek, finally getting to hike with gorillas in Uganda, a polar bear safari in Canada with my father, and co-creating an entrepreneurship retreat in Croatia on catamarans for a group of awesome female entrepreneurs.
Well, if nothing else at least I can say that I keep on keeping things interesting…
Travels: 112 Locations in 10 Countries (2 New) on 4 Continents
I started off 2018 with a bang–participating, with my girlfriend, in my third Rickshaw Run charity rally through India on a auto-rickshaw (tuk-tuk). Having done the trip before (via different routes) in both 2011 and 2014 I knew that it would be a wild ride–but it actually turned out to be pretty tame compared to some of the adventures I had had in years prior. I guess that the knowledge and experience of both the country and the vehicle itself led to a smoother journey. While other groups were breaking their engines a few days into the trip (as I had done back in 2011), it was pretty smooth sailing for us, experiencing just a few minor hiccups along the way (wrong turns, steering issues, etc.). We still had a great time, traveling from Jaisalmer in western Rajasthan all the way down to Cochin, Kerala in the south, but it goes to show you that the best stories come from when thing don’t go as planned. For better or worse, our trip went very much as planned!
We were able to get onto the front page of the Mumbai Times, complete with a photo shoot and everything. That was pretty cool. Big thanks to my old Awesomenessfest buddy Murli for that hookup, and for the hospitality, letting us stay with him and his partner in Mumbai for a few days. Bonus: riding a Triumph and a Harley through the crazy traffic of the city–known to be the worst in India–for an entire day. Intense.
The plan after we finished our journey, three weeks and 3,500 km after we had departed, was to head to Sri Lanka for a couple weeks and meet up with a buddy of mine in the tourism industry. However, because of a backlog of work on my end and the need to find a new job on hers, we made the tough decision to head back to our respective homes at the end of January. A tough decision given that we were physically so close to Sri Lanka and had everything planned out already. Hopefully it will still be there when I finally have a chance to visit…
After leaving India I returned back to my temporary home base of Bangkok, with a week-long stopover in Singapore to see my friends John and his wife Chisato. John had recently turned his passion for pizza-making into a full-time business, so I had the opportunity to spend a few days with him to see how he made some of the best pizza I have ever had (a process I recorded on video).
Went back to Thailand for about a month and half after that, as I had a free place to stay (thanks Arsie!) and found that being in Bangkok kept me focused and chugging away at work. As I have found throughout years of working on the road, sometimes the best spots to be productive are the ones that you know so well that there is little left to tempt you away from your main goal. Bangkok is a place like that for me–easy international access via two airports to the rest of the world, a decent public transportation system, cheap, fast internet, great food, and a small cadre of friends I could hang with every so often to break away from the long, monotonous days of work from time to time.
March saw me returning back to Japan, where I’ve been spending springtime for the past few years. This year I opted to not do an Eat Japan culinary adventure for friends, as I wanted to continue getting work done with Pamoja. To that end, after a few days of visiting friends and exploring new places, I returned back to the rental house by the ocean, in Chiba Prefecture, that I had spent a month at the year before. It was great to be back in the four-bedroom house, all by myself, with no distractions, easy access to the beach, and fiber internet access. I’d cook most of my own meals, as there were no restaurants nearby, work during most of the day and night, and be sure to go for a walk or run once a day. Definitely one of my happy places, and I’ll be returning back there as often as I can in the years ahead.
May through the end of September was spent back in the states, albeit a bit differently than the year before. This year I was able to enjoy a bunch of concerts and events, go camping, and generally enjoy the entire summer in a way that I haven’t really been able to the past few years. It wasn’t international, but I really enjoyed being back for such a long stint.
While in Detroit I reconnected with an old buddy and his friend, and the three of us started a brewing experiment where we would meet once per week to crank out new batches and taste what we had made the week before. We weren’t making beer, but instead a drink called Tepache, through a recipe I had created the year before when living in North Dakota. Tepaché comes from Mexico, and is a drink traditionally brewed at home with only pineapple rind, spices, and water, which ends as a slightly fizzy, low alcohol drink that the entire family enjoys. I came up with a recipe that increased the carbonation as well as the alcohol content, and started playing around with different additives, passing it out to all of my friends at parties and gathering whenever I could. Pretty much everyone liked it, which led to me partnering with Carlos and Josh in a bid to make a business out of it. In the end we came up with a bunch of awesome recipes and had a good time, but our individual schedules–and the fact that I was leaving the US for a few months–functionally put a stop to that experiment as soon as I left. (I’ve kept on experimenting on my own whenever I’m back home though, so who knows–maybe something will come of it, someday.)
Alas, sadly no Burning Man for me this year–I ended up getting tickets, but selling them to a friend in order to continue making progress on business goals. (Notice a pattern here?)
In the middle of September I left for Croatia to join an old friend and her team in helping to run a week-long retreat on catamarans for entrepreneur women. The schedule was to sail to a different island every day, sleep and eat on the boats, go swimming, have a few member-led presentations, a few dance parties, etc. We had a (very) late start in putting everything together (long story), but somehow we pulled it off with a minimum amount of hiccups (huge thanks to my Croatian buddies–Julian, Luca, and the entire crew). It was a lot of work, but it was also great to be back in Split after a few years away. Sailing the Adriatic is always good times.
I headed back to the US after that, right before heading to the Arctic to go on a polar bear safari with my father. It was always a dream of his to do such a trip, and so he picked the best company that did specialized trips out on the tundra of northern Manitoba (one of only two), and we spent a few days on the ice with a few families of polar bears. And when I say out on the ice, I mean we actually slept in modified shipping contains on wheels out in the middle of nowhere, where polar bears would lean on the outside walls on their hind legs and sniff our open windows when we were cooking dinner. You could take a polar bear selfie if you just stuck your head a bit out of the window (not recommended). An amazing experience with some beautiful animals, something that not many people are able to experience.
An unfortunate downside of heading to see the polar bears was that the only open window to do so was during the same week as my annual Dynamite Circle Bangkok (DCBKK) conference, which I had to miss for the first time in six years. Definitely a bit of FOMO there, but it was a good trade in the end.
The last couple of months saw me back in Tanzania yet again to lead a few more Friends & Family safaris, as well as do our first ever Friends & Family Kilimanjaro Trek. It was non-stop. From the moment I touched down in Tanzania my partner Josh and I were ridiculously busy, putting together two separate week-long safaris, one familiarization trip down to a park we hadn’t visited before (Ruaha National Park), and of course setting up the Kilimanjaro climb. Despite the unusually dry weather the safaris went off without a hitch. The Kilimanjaro climb, which was my second time and my partner’s third, went almost as well. Out of the twelve guests we led up the mountain eleven made it, and the only person that couldn’t make it to the top made it halfway up on summit day (17,000 feet or so)–quite the feat considering he had developed gout before the trip even started yet still gave it his all.
Oh, and my partner Josh had to be medically evacuated off the mountain after succumbing to elevation sickness (he was fine after being taken down the mountain and spending the night for observation at the hospital). He figures he could’ve avoided that with a bit better gear, more training, and taking the Diamox altitude medication further in advance. We will see next year!
For Christmas and New Year’s I spent some time with my old crew in New York City, who I hadn’t seen in about a year. The Onesie Christmas Party was a definite highlight.
Although the number of locations this year (defined as when I changed the place I was sleeping at), at 112 different locales, was very high, much of it came from work trips or travel where I was moving to a different location everyday, such as my Croatia boat trip (six locations during the week), or hiking Kilimanjaro (seven separate locations in one week).
Doing the math, the average amount of time I remained in one spot during the year was just 3.26 days–pretty much on par with my crazy travels of 2015! However, this year was much less hectic than 2015, and I was much more focused on work tasks and travel in general.
When people ask me where I spend the bulk of my year, I usually divvy it up as around three months back in the states (but not necessarily at home), a couple months in Japan, a couple months in Tanzania, and frequent trips to Thailand (usually for a month at a time), with the rest of the year broken up into shorter trips for work or pleasure.
I often get asked if I think I’d be a bit more productive staying in one place for longer stints? Sure! However, due to the nature of my job at the moment (in the travel and tourism sector), and my love to of the open road, that’s not going to happen anytime soon.
Business & Finances
I set my goal for the year pretty high. After growth of 1,600% revenue/2,200% profit in 2017 I was shooting to double profits year over year by the end of 2018 for Pamoja Safaris.
I almost made it. In the end we increased business by about 85% versus the 100% we were shooting for. This despite the fact that I worked on the business like crazy throughout the year.
Which taught me a good lesson–that I’ve reached peak output given my current techniques. In order to advance I’ll need to change either myself/my habits/work style, or delegate and/or outsource. Given that I’ve already put a lot of time into self improvement, and therefore reached a lot of the low hanging fruit, the easiest path for now is to get work off of my plate.
In order to do this I’ll need to put some time and effort into developing systems and hiring team members. I’m lucky to have a solid team in Tanzania dealing with all of the stuff on the ground there, but business development has been almost exclusively up to me since we founded in 2010. I’ve done a lot and learned a lot, but at this point my time and skills are best put to work on maybe 20% of what I’m focusing on day-to-day–I can find someone better or quicker than me to do the other 80%.
It’s sometimes tough letting go as an entrepreneur. Many of us often think that we can do a certain tasks better and quicker than teaching someone else to do it, and that is often true. But the thing is that if it is a task that comes up repeatedly you’re better off teaching someone else to do it, and even if they aren’t as good in the beginning, with proper time and training they’ll learn (provided you did a good job hiring and training). I don’t have a ton of experience in either hiring or managing people, so that’s just something I’ll have to learn going forward.
You can only do so much by yourself, as we all have the same twenty-four hours in the day. It doesn’t matter how efficiently you work, or how good you are, eventually you’ll peak. From there it’s either stop growing, or push forward through your comfort zone.
2018 Goals Recap + 2019 Goals
My goals at the end of 2017 were as follows:
- Finishing the Pamoja website completely by March
- Starting a Pamoja Safaris email list by April
- 3x’ing Pamoja revenue over 2017 numbers by the end of the year
- Enter the luxury safari market by the end of the year (separate website, tour itineraries, etc.)
Annnnnd…I didn’t really accomplish any of them. Excuses are as follows:
- The website is in a constant state of flux–we are constantly adding to it, but I can’t honestly say it’s done done. Maybe it’s like a musician working on a song, or a director working on a movie, where they are never 100% happy with the way it turns out and keep tweaking it endlessly. Or, maybe I should stop trying to be such a perfectionist.
- The email list is ready to go, with a few hundred members on it, but we haven’t sent anything out yet. See above, web site not quite finished to my liking yet.
- To be fair, 3x’ing revenue was a bit of a moonshot–I’m sure I was still high over completely blasting through projections for 2017. I’m happy we almost reached 2x, and as discussed above, we have plans to get past the plateau we’ve reached regarding results.
- The luxury safari market can wait. We are still planning on doing that eventually, but it doesn’t make sense to split up our effort into another brand right now when Pamoja Safaris is still being tinkered with.
My fault for setting some unreasonable timelines and just not thinking through some of the points before listing them here.
Going forward, my business goals for Pamoja Safaris for 2018 are:
- Finish the website. For real. It’s basically just a vanity site at this point (we get most of our business through referrals, and those that come via the site are usually “tire kickers” looking for the cheapest price), but nonetheless I won’t be happy until it’s done.
- Hire at least one person on the team to start taking things off my plate.
- Start our first advertising/marketing campaign (online).
- Keep revenue and profit about equal to 2018 (I’m not aiming to increase dramatically, as I’ll be using this year to set the groundwork for future expansion, which will take time I’d otherwise devote to marketing/sales).
On a separate note, I definitely lost progress with my writing (on this site) as well as the accompanying newsletter. I do want to get that going again, but realize it’s amatter of limited time and prioritization, so it kind of depends on time management and what I accomplish in the next twelve months.
My ask of anyone who is reading this is to please pass along any friends or family that are interested in a safari to the Pamoja Safaris web site at PamojaSafaris.com for more info. Every single person that has come on a safari with us has raved about it, and we’ll put that same level of quality into you or your friend’s safari or Kilimanjaro trek, promise.
Appreciate the help–if you’re looking for any assistance on your big goal(s), please let me know and I’d be happy to assist in any way I can.
I’ll be in the US until my annual trip to Japan in March, where I’ll be leading yet another Eat Japan trip for some friends of mine (which is already booked up). After that, I’m planning on spending another month at my beach house across the bay from Tokyo to get some work done, and also of course carving out some time to explore new places, visit friends, and have some fun.
In May I’ll be spending a few weeks with my father on another trip, this time to Norway and Finland (note how he loves to go to the upper latitudes primarily). After that it’s another summer spent primarily in the US, with the exception of visiting London for the first time in many years, on account of my buddy James’s wedding. I’ll try and make it to Burning Man at the end of August, but who knows how that’ll go (depends on workload, if I get a ticket, etc.).
The fall will see me returning back to Asia, for my sixth Dynamite Circle Bangkok (DCBKK) conference, where hundreds of internet entrepreneurs from all over the world converge to level up and make connections with each other–always one of my favorite weeks of the year.
November and December sees me yet again returning to Tanzania to work on Pamoja Safaris. And, of course, I am again putting together a special discount photo safari in Tanzania in early December, along with an optional Kilimanjaro hike. Each trip will be eight days in length, with six full days of safari, and there will be an option to summit Kilimanjaro after the safari ends (which will add another eight days to the trip). I’ll personally be leading the groups, 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 up to 11 people on each leg of the trip, and the ground cost will be $3,390 per person, all-inclusive with lux accommodation (not including the Kilimanjaro portion, which will add another $3,290 to the total). See the full details, or sign-up, here.
That’s about all I have on the schedule for now! Not completely full, and I’m sure things will get added or altered a bit, but a pretty decent list of adventures for the coming year if I do say so myself.
I’m currently in Montreal, celebrating the new year in blisteringly cold temperatures for whatever reason. I often get asked by locals why I’d choose to be somewhere so cold when I didn’t have to, and it made me think. Maybe so I can prove to myself that I haven’t gotten soft yet? Well, I’m definitely failing in that regard, as I rush from heated establishment to heated establishment trying to avoid frostbite.
The plan for the next couple of months, before I head off to Japan, is to work on solid groundwork for establishing the goals I wrote about above. What better place to do that then in a cold climate, such as Detroit in January/February, where the chill makes you just want to stay inside everyday? I find concentration is much harder when I’m around in the summer and keep getting invited to BBQs, pool parties, beer fests, and the like.
Take advantage of whatever your current geography hands you, and turn lemons into lemonade! Well, at least that’s how I try and convince myself that the upper Midwest in wintertime is a reasonable spot to base myself.
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