2013 Annual Review
The end of the year is always a great time to take a step back and reflect on the last 365 days. Did the year go as planned? What were the surprises? What were your highs and lows? What did you do to recover from the lows and to extend those highs? And as many politicians may put it, are you better off today than you were a year ago?
I made several big decisions in 2013 which have drastically changed my path and puts me at a completely new place mentally and physically as we start the new year. I ended 2012 with an unhealthy state of mind in Kansas. I was extremely unhappy with my job which had me feeling trapped. I was far enough away from family that I couldn’t see them much, but I was close enough that I was still in the Midwest. I met several great people in Winfield, KS, but the imprisoned feeling of my job was overpowering. I lacked energy and motivation, and I was in a huge rut. It felt like I was letting my life slip away.
I realized I would continue to feel this way until I started taking action to change. After proposing a remote access working situation (denied) and a transfer to Chicago (also denied), I took an early out offer at the end of March. Just like that, I stepped off the corporate ladder. Besides, what good does it do if you make it to the top of the ladder and then realize you climbed up the wrong one?
I then faced one of the scariest moments of my life. I had worked and saved up for this moment, to have my entire life in my hands. Suddenly, this far-off dream became a reality, and I felt a ton of pressure and responsibility with this opportunity. I originally planned on cycling solo from Illinois to Seattle and then kayak the Mississippi. However, a continuing knee injury kept me off the bicycle and a lot of advice told me that kayaking the Mississippi was too dangerous. I had always been interested in microfinance ad searched around a bit for opportunities in Central America.
After many hours of research, I found a great opportunity in Granada, Nicaragua, with an organization called People Helping People Global. The relatively small size of the organization and the amount of responsibility they offered for the Program Coordinator were two of the things I loved about the organization. After a few Skype calls with the then-Program Coordinator and the Director, I committed to volunteer with them for five months. The work was tough, every day I was a sweaty mess, and the experience was tough. But I am happy with everything that I’ve learned from my months in Nicaragua, and I hope that I improved the organization as well. Microfinance is fascinating and I plan to continue learning more about the industry in the future. I many have fond memories of Nicaragua, especially road tripping with my friend, Brian.
As it is for many years, my life was based around travel in 2013. I checked off three countries (Nicaragua, Panama, and Costa Rica) and also checked off two states (South Carolina and North Carolina) that I had never been to. Some of the highlights of the travels were watching baby turtles hatch in Costa Rica, Panama City and the beaches of Bocas del Toro, and enjoying unique festivals in Granada.
One of my goals at the beginning of the year was to spend more time with family and catching up with old friends. I spent a total of about 3.5 months this year living in Illinois and taking trips to see family and friends around the Midwest. I spent time in Des Moines, Monroe, Milwaukee, and Chicago. I was also able to spend both Thanksgiving and Christmas with my family, the first time spending both holidays at home for many years. I’m very happy and grateful with the amount of time I was able to spend with family this year.
My timeline for the year looked something like this:
|Jan 1 – Mar 31||Kansas|
|Apr 1 – May 31||Illinois/Wisconsin|
|Jun 1 – Jun 13||Panama/Costa Rica|
|Jun 14 – Nov 14||Nicaragua/trips to Costa Rica|
|Nov 15 – Dec 31||Illinois/Iowa/Wisconsin|
Another big event that occurred in 2013 was getting LASIK surgery. The results were incredible. For my entire life, I had always been essentially blind without glasses or contacts. My vision when checked out before the surgery was 20/400, meaning that I could see something at a 20 foot distance when the normal person could see the same thing at a 400 foot distance. I was legally blind. The day after surgery, my vision was 20/15 which means that I could see better than the average person. I love science!
I also made a big step towards the life I want to live by selling my car. I personally do not like driving and all of the liabilities that come with a vehicle. The expenses with insurance and depreciation really add up quickly, not to mention the amount of money needed to buy a car. And commuting to work in traffic might as well be the death of me. My ideal place to live would have public transportation so that I would not need to own my own vehicle. Making this sale put me a step closer to the life I want to live, as different as this may be when compared to the normal American life.
Thinking about where I was one year ago and comparing it to today makes me realize that dramatic changes were needed in my life. Rather than dreading the days ahead, I’m anxious and extremely excited as I start another adventure. On January 2nd, I’m starting a five-month trip through southeast Asia, my sixth continent. It starts with a week in New Jersey and New York before heading to Japan, followed by Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, and the Philippines. I’m excited to experience these unique cultures, try the foods, and for the adventure.
I remember when I first started traveling, I met many people who had been to what seemed like a ridiculous amount of countries. I remember dreaming of traveling like they had. I had no idea how they did it. How were they able to take off so much time from work? Shouldn’t be they be sitting in front of a computer on Microsoft Excel? They must have just inherited a ton of money and now can do whatever they want.
I never imagined that I’d still be traveling. When I finished my internship in London, I was very down and sad since I thought I’d be locked up in a job for the next 45 years and would never have the chance to spend an extended amount of time outside the country. However, what seemed very far-fetched turned out to not be so difficult after all. All it took was a good look at my priorities and then adjusting my lifestyle to fit these priorities.
These decisions I made over the past several years have led to this lifestyle that I’m leading. Because I paid off my debts as quick as possible, never purchased big ticket items like a new house, new car, or big-screen TV, and saved up as much as possible, I was able to change my life completely from a year ago and to continue this nomadic lifestyle. So 2013 and 2014 are really the results from years of planning and prepping. It is definitely not a typical life, but it’s the life that I want to live!
Have you reflected on 2013? What can you learn from the happenings throughout the year? Are you closer to your goals now than you were on January 1, 2013?
To new and exciting adventures in 2014!