By: Ethan Maurice
This is my second annual review, a sort of yearly glance at the map to better understand where I've been and where I'm going. Looking back at last year's review, it seems I hit seven of the eleven goals I set for 2016, which I'm quite happy about. If I'd fulfilled all of them, I think that would mean the bar was set too low.
This post is a bit more of a plot summary of my life, rather than lessons or ideas taken from it that I usually share. However, I tend to enjoy a bit of background information on who writes the things I read. If you do too, read on.
What I Did:
The Living Theory grew many times its size and I wrote a couple things I'm quite proud of.
- The Living Theory's monthly traffic is 5-6 times larger than it was a year ago.
- Monthly Newsletter subscribers last year: 31. This year: 472.
- The most popular article: “How Did I Get Here?" Moments. Read by 3,676 people in 2016.
- Looking through past articles, my writing has notably improved.
- I guest-posted on Thought Catalog and was profiled on The Art of Non-Conformity.
- After months of writing, editing, and rearranging, I released GO. A Ridiculously Useful Guide to Cheap, Unconventional Travel and it completely changed the trajectory of The Living Theory.
I lived in Playa del Carmen, Mexico for three months.
- I got to know people from around the globe who work online for a living.
- I learned that life outside the United States can cost a fraction of what I was used to paying back home.
- The exposure to another culture whose riches were found in human connection rather than money was eye-opening.
I ran the Range Rider Lodge just outside Yellowstone National Park for the summer season.
- In a right-place-at-the-right-time kind of situation, I was hired as the innkeeper/bartender in charge of this historic lodge one mile outside Yellowstone National Park without any previous hospitality experience.
- It was an awe-inspiring structure with a wild history dating back to the 1930's, but the lodge had all but closed in recent years, my work had a purpose: to bring it back to life.
- I honed my social skills as a host and had creative freedom in opening and running the bar where Ernest Hemingway used to drink in the early 1940s.
- At the end of the year, I advertised three rooms on Airbnb in a little experiment with stellar results. Next summer, profits are projected to soar and the whole lodge will be rented out over Airbnb.
I spent a collective month road-tripping throughout the American West and living out of an old Durango
- I spent my time reading, writing, and wandering throughout Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana.
- At first, finding a place to sleep in my car at night felt like a daunting task, but I quickly learned that nobody expects you to be sleeping in your car. I've seemingly mastered the art of stealth camping in places ranging from empty desert to suburban sprawl.
- It's a simple, nomadic lifestyle that gave me essential time away from everything to ponder some big-picture stuff.
In early December, I landed in New Zealand with a Working Holiday Visa
- I plan to spend four months in New Zealand reading, writing, and exchanging 10-15 hours per week for room and board in a variety of places through HelpX.
- I spent the month of December working at a hostel in Kaiteriteri, New Zealand with a wonderful staff from all over the globe.
- I'm reading a lot. Five books down thus far, including the 944-page epic Shantaram.
What Was Good?
- I traveled for ten months this year.
- My library of useful and profound quotes from books I've read grew by about twenty-five books this year.
- After failing to summit Mt. Whitney in a freak August snowstorm two years ago, I went back with my sister and three other backpackers we had met on the trail who shared our fate that year. Our second attempt at the 14,505ft summit was a spectacular success.
- Running the Range Rider Lodge and opening the bar taught me many lessons, sharpened my social skills, and greatly enhanced my ability to lead drunk people.
- As many do, I fear public speaking a bit and leaned into that fear this fall, giving two forty-five minute talks about overcoming obstacles and my comeback story at a community college in Phoenix.
What Was Not Good?
- I invested serious time and some money into DormGoggles, a startup company I laid the groundwork for last spring but shelved indefinitely to focus on The Living Theory. It was a lot of work that I've yet to see through.
- While I had many short-term and a week-long adventure this year, I felt the urge to dig deeper—to undertake something truly challenging. An adventure with a long enough exposure to change me and allow insight into deeper parts of myself, as riding a bicycle across the United States once did.
- This might sound weird, but I felt too comfortable most of the time. Maybe I didn't spend enough nights in a tent or days in uncertainty. This probably goes hand in hand with the previous point.
- I didn't do any sort of fundraising this year and only volunteered a handful of hours.
Goals from last year's review:
"Travel for months at a time." I spent three months in Playa del Carmen, four and a half months near Yellowstone, one month road tripping, and one month in New Zealand.
"Live somewhere amazing where I can work productively." Each place I went fulfilled this goal, especially Playa del Carmen and New Zealand.
"Continue writing weekly for The Living Theory." Overall, I was quite consistent and posted an article almost every week, though I did miss a few weeks while working on "GO." in the spring and summer.
"Passionately work on my business startup." I worked hard to pull it all together while in Mexico, but when I got to the critical hiring of 25 authors and 25 photographers, found it was too late in the school year to do so. I've shelved DormGoggles indefinitely, as I double down my writing efforts and work on The Living Theory.
"Follow my fear, using it as a compass." I managed a lodge and opened a bar on my own with no prior experience. I told my story to a couple of classrooms at a community college. I broke the ice with strangers, blossoming into everything from great conversations to friends to connections that fall into a category beyond friendship. I felt fear in varying degrees towards all these things, the indicator to pursue them.
"Not take on too many projects at once." For the first half of the year, I failed at this. I was spread too thin working on my startup idea and trying to grow The Living Theory, negatively impacting both projects. Since pushing DormGoggles off into the indefinite future, The Living Theory has been growing and life's been much less stressful.
"Market The Living Theory better and guest post on other sites more often." I'd hoped to do a dozen guest posts in 2016. I only did two. This is something I look to improve this year.
"Find or create an environment more conducive to focus and creativity." From my apartment in Playa del Carmen to the manager's office of The Range Rider Lodge to the empty midday hostel kitchen where I sit now in Kaiteriteri, New Zealand, I've had some surprisingly great places to work this year.
"Surround myself with like-minded, driven people that inspire me." I did a better at surrounding myself with like-minded people this year. Quality time with many travelers and interesting people from around the globe filled many of my days. This year I'd like to spend time with other ambitious writers, artists, and individuals who work on the web to help push me further in my creative and online pursuits.
"Read 2x per day instead of once before bed." I didn't keep an exact count but guess that I've read about twenty-five books this year. I'm quite happy about this.
"Have a better goal for my workouts as opposed to directionless lifting and running." Failed here. I still probably averaged a run or workout every day, but without gym equipment most of the year, it was mostly just maintenance.
Goals for this year:
- Grow The Living Theory's monthly traffic to over 20,000 page views per month
- Reach 2,000 subscribers to The Monthly Newsletter
- Write another ebook or guide for The Living Theory
- Write 10 guest posts for other sites
- Tell my story in at least 10 public speaking engagements
- Become a certified NLP Practitioner
- Read 52 books (one book per week)
- Take pictures of people I share my travels with, not just the places.
- Provide significant help to a worthy cause
- Help others with the things they're most excited about