2015: Transitions, Travels, and Transformations

"If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours." - Henry David Thoreau

One year ago today, I found myself with a client in a freezing warehouse counting solar panels for an independent inventory observation in Port Chester, New York. It was certainly not the most fun work, but my wife and I were flown on the company dollar to Connecticut to see family and spend New Years in New York City in exchange for my count, which I gladly obliged. We went to a Broadway show starring Bradley Cooper, met with old friends that live in the city, and had a blast riding the Amtrak back to Hartford to see family. While in Connecticut, the conversation over a glass of wine transitioned to my work. As I've written before, I was feeling less than overjoyed with accounting, yet had not received the epiphany of change that was imminent. I shared that I was tired, frustrated, and did not know what I would be doing a year from then, hoping only that it was not related to accounting. I am amazed and proud that 365 days later, I have completed a 3rd busy season in public accounting and subsequently left that job, fished a full season in Alaska, started this blog and built the site on my own, traveled to five countries in Southeast Asia in three months (all without having to work), and planned a 6-month trip across Europe in a campervan. It was a big year! I found that 2015 was defined by three words: Transition, Travel, and Transformation.

1. Transition: 2015 was the year of transitions for Jaimie and I. I found myself transitioning from years as a working professional to an Alaskan fisherman, to a self-employed writer. I also found myself transitioning from a Denver local to a guy that doesn't really have a "home." While I was incredibly blessed to have had my job in public accounting for 3 years, I knew I needed a change, and the first half of 2015 was spent in preparation. I completed a grueling busy season with the firm, often working 60-70 hour weeks, and submitted my resignation letter in April, effective June 19th. This began a crazy season of transition and movement, the simplification of stuff, and the slow process of withdrawing and removing ourselves from the life we had built in Denver. It was uncomfortable, but the underlying purpose and intention made it worth all the effort. Mid June, I left for Alaska while my wife went to work for her sister in Arkansas for the summer. That transition sucks every year. We transitioned again to a life together and on the road mid-September, and this was certainly my favorite transition of all. We went from not seeing each other for almost 3 months to being together every second of every day for 3 months, less the 4 hours that she got her nails done and I wrote from a coffee shop in Thailand one day. Spending this much time with someone allows you to see their day in context--the highs, lows, and triggers that give rise to anger, stress, or fatigue. We were able to connect in a new way--just as we initially hoped--which made the whole trip worth it for this reason alone. The transition from Asia to holidays back in the States has been a bit hectic, but being with family makes it well worth the stress and wild pace of things. As 2015 rolls into 2016, we are in our final transition of the year, preparing for our upcoming Europe trip and all the new goals we've set for ourselves in the New Year.

2. Travel: As many of you know, perhaps the most public and exciting part of our year was all the travel! Longterm travel had always been a "bucket list" item, and after working so hard in the first half of the year to save and prepare, it was a lifetime goal fulfilled. As written about on my World Travel Blog, we visited Thailand, Singapore, Cambodia, Vietnam, Burma, and 12 states, flying 30 times and driving countless thousands of miles more. The posts and photos speak for themselves, as this was certainly my favorite part of the year. Adventure runs deep in my soul, and I got a pretty good fill in 2015, with even more to come in 2016!

3. Transformation: I am a firm believer that all of life's experiences shape and mold us, thus, I set out to do a better job of curation and intentional design of my life's experiences this year. I was tired of feeling like I was missing out on the life I wanted for myself, adhering instead to social norms and expectations that were in direct conflict to my personal goals and ideas on living. I have began a process of defining my core values and pursuits, focusing more on curiosities than a singular career or passion, which has liberated me in a way I have not experienced in years. My views on money, time, work, spirituality, home, careers, war, culture, need, and refugees have all been challenged and transformed (I hope and believe for the better), and have allowed me to feel alive and more fully myself. These transformations are evolving slowly and deliberately, and I hope that when I look at myself 365 days from today, I will be much happier with the person I have become and am becoming. After all, this is the reason I travel--to break down my assumptions, to challenge my own ideas on living, to be inspired by the beauty around me, and to live the life I've always imagined for myself. My friend Kayti wrote about why she travels with her husband in absolute brilliance, and it very much sums up my thoughts on our reasons for cutting ties and venturing abroad:

I am running. I am chasing. I’m not content. Because looking back to where I was, and where my marriage was these past four years, I know I had no other choice but to listen to the whisper in my heart. In fact, I can’t even compare my past life to what we have now. I start to laugh. It makes me cry. I find myself on my knees frantically whispering, “Thank you, Thank you, Thank you” with tears in my eyes and a meek understanding of the unraveling that is still being done. 

I, too, began this trip by running from things: a life of slavery to my possessions and finances, from depression and complacency, and from security and disconnection. Most importantly, I am now running towards something, which is a life willfully lived, intentionally designed, and deeply cherished.

2015 will forever be remembered as a turning point for me, a formative year filled with hard lessons, hard decisions, hard work, and hard play. Transition, Travel, and Transformation. It was a year in motion, in pursuit of something I'm not yet sure of, and a journey that has only yet begun.

A HUGE thank you to all my family, friends, coworkers, and fellow travelers for making this such a memorable and transformative year. I am an incredibly blessed man. Biggest thanks of all to my lovely wife, Jaimie, whom makes the adventure of life worth living. You are so precious to me, and I can't imagine sharing life with a more lovely person!

With fondness, farewell 2015!