Jack’s Annual Review 2017

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Welcome to Colorado

“Life is accumulative — Either our errors accumulate to what we don’t get, or our wise decisions accumulate into what we do get.” — Jim Rohn

A simple reminder that the course of our lives can change dramatically with the simple steps we take each and every day.

It’s insane how fast time flies when you’re having fun! This past year was filled with brilliant adventures and amazing new friends. It was a year of realized dreams and the accumulation of a lot of hard work. But best of all, it was another year spent doing what I love with the one I love — just me and Zoe on the road, exploring the world!

As usual, in my Annual Review I will be asking 3 simple, yet important questions:

  1. What went well this year?
  2. What didn’t go so well this year?
  3. What am I working towards in 2018?

These days I write a blog once every blue moon, but if there is one tradition I want to keep, it’s this. To me this sort of reflection is a humbling process. I believe it’s essential for one to find out why they think, say and do certain things so you can continually move forward as a better version of yourself.


What went well this year?

First and foremost I gotta say… 2017 was AMAZING! Finally, Zoe and I were able to hit the road and live out a massive dream we have been thinking about for at least two years.

Best of all, for the first time ever, I was able to bankroll our round-the-world trip by freelancing as a web developer. What’s more, I actually ended up saving money instead of coming home broke and deflated. This was a massive achievement for me, and validation that all the hard work of the past few years has finally paid off.

I started learning to code back in 2014 when we were living and teaching English in Hangzhou, China. Living and working in China came with some pretty severe consequences:

 — one the one hand I was attempting to satisfy my love to travel and adventure, however …

 —  Both Zoe and I ended up working far too much, with hardly any holidays and living in a heavily polluted city, cooped up in a tiny loft apartment.

Some compromise huh… Since our time in China I swore to myself that I would learn how to build a lifestyle around my passion for travel and desire to build a career in tech.

So, that being said here’s what well in 2017:

 — I travelled throughout the United States, exploring Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks in California, Canyonlands and Arches National Park and in Moab, Utah and most dearly, the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.

 — Zoe and based ourselves in Boulder, CO. We made some great friends and spent our summer days out hiking the beautiful mountains, swimming in the local creeks and practicing acro-yoga in the park. I was lucky enough to sample some amazing climbing and bouldering in the area as well.

 — On our next stop over in Europe I went and visited a good mate in England for a week, followed by another week road tripping through the stunning Triglav National Park in Slovenia.

 — For the first time ever, my Mum and Stepdad came over to visit us and Zoe’s family in Austria! Given that Kurt can speak German, it was a really great opportunity for Zoe’s family to truly understand me and our ‘exotic’ world down under. It’s great to finally join our two families together seeing as we are getting hitched in 2018!

 — After Europe we stopped in Bali for a month. Bali had always been a dream of mine because there is a thriving digital nomad community based on the island. I worked from a couple of co-working spaces and internet cafes and met some pretty cool people. Everyone seemed so free and independent, which made for a great working and living environment.

The best thing about Bali for me was the Yoga. The quality of classes there was fantastic and what better place to practice than on the beachfront cliffs or high in the treetops above the lush jungle.

 — After an envigorating month in Bali, we finally landed back home ready to sort our lives out. Just weeks into being home Zoe managed to get her Australian permanent residency and I landed an amazing full time position. We moved house quickly and got set up entirely all within a couple of weeks! It was a bit stressful, but totally worth it as we could completely wrap up the year on a high note.

All in all, 2017 was a cracker! Here are some photos of our adventures:

Photos (left to right): Crystal clear, freezing cold Slovenian Alpine water, soaking up the view from Schlossberg in Graz, good times at a John and Sheree’s wedding in Bali, hiking Cat Bells with a good mate Dan, Keswick, England.
Photos (left to right): Bali waterfall skinny dipping madness, stunning landscapes in Moab, UT, rock climbing near Mt. Batur, Bali.
Photos (left to right): It’s bloody hard to capture the grand scale of Yosemite — this photo was taken after hiking directly underneath that massive waterfall, as we snaked our way up the back end of Half Dome. A beautiful shot from Zoe of me overlooking the jungle in Munduk, Bali. Zoe and I at the top of Hollywood! A must do hike if you’re in LA.

What didn’t go so well this year?

2017 wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns despite all the fun stuff above ^^. It was a blast, but here are a few things that didn’t go so well.

Blowing my knee up with a high chance of a reconstruction on the cards…

Early in the year I took a nasty rock climbing fall which left my left knee pretty messed up. About ten years ago I blew my knee to pieces playing rugby and it’s that same knee that I have now damaged again. After numerous back and forth visits to the doc, it’s now quite clear that I will probably need yet another operation.

Since that fall in January, I have been taking it pretty easy. Luckily, my two favourite activities — Yoga and Rock Climbing — are both still possible to some degree.

The constant need to always do more…

Aside from that, it’s hard to say what didn’t go ‘so well’. However, there is so much more I could have done while travelling in the United States. But you know what, I don’t regret anything. I do hate that the human condition dooms us to always be wanting more, where once you achieve a great goal, it’s instantly made redundant.

Zoe and I had been planning our America escape for a very long time. Heck, I even drew it on my vision board wayyy back in 2014 when we were living in China. It was always a dream that felt so far away, and almost impossible at that time. Now, it did become a reality and while I absolutely loved every moment of it, I’m already wondering if we could have done more while on that trip…

So yeah, Boulder was amazing — yes, we could have seen and done more, but in all honesty, I really did love the normality of just existing in a foreign place. I really enjoy the idea of slow travel. Setting up a home base to then going out and exploring a nearby mountain or township is the best way to travel — in my opinion.

Heck, isn’t that why AirBnB is all the rage: people just want to feel like a local even if it is just for a day.

Digital Nomadding — it’s not always so cracked up to be… 

Lastly, I did learn a thing or two about life as a digital nomad. At first I really believed that working on the road, sipping lattes in a cozy corner of Starbucks was the way to go. Having the ability to work wherever, whenever is a pretty special privilege I gotta admit. But if you really do need to get work done day-in-day out then it actually can get pretty darn exhausting!

First of all, the struggle begins as soon as you enter the building: power points — they are the ultimate currency for a digital nomad … so hard to find and so unreliable! You’ll generally find them positioned under the seat, making for a super awkward duck under the table, your legs flailing up in the air. And that’s just the beginning!

The seats in most cafes are so god damn hard and rigid. Within the first hour your butt starts to fall asleep. It’s hard to get up and stretch without looking like a bit of a weirdo, so you basically end up fidgeting and becoming restless.

You’re already 16 ounces deep by now and it’s almost time to pee 😱.

Can you really trust your laptop with a bunch of strangers coming and going? It’s basically a lose-lose scenario at this point: you can either get up and leave everything, or you can pack up and risk losing your prime piece of cafe real estate. It’s a gamble I had to take almost every day… Yes, the struggle is real.

Building a career and a lifestyle on the road is hard work. It certainly isn’t all cocktails and hammocks. However, it certainly allows for a great deal of freedom and flexibility. I learned a lot about how to be productive and disciplined while on the road, but it’s definitely a work in progress.

What am I working towards in 2018?

Here’s what I’ve got planned for 2018:

Marriage

It’s been over a year since I proposed to Zoe. Seeing as we have been out exploring the world for most of 2018, it’s now time to finally tie the knot. We have booked an incredible place down by the beach in Byron Bay and are thinking of keeping it small and intimate. This is something I truly am looking forward to.

Health

I am desperate to fix up my knee, although I’m not so excited about having an operation. I most likely will get it done this year, which will mean a few weeks on crutches followed by some pretty solid physiotherapy. Luckily, for the moment I can climb without pain but aside from that I can’t really run or do any agile movements.

Anyhow, my plan 2018 is to stay fit and healthy so I can get outdoors and climb more! I really enjoy practicing yoga on an almost-daily-basis and have gotten a lot out of it — most of the benefits translate directly to the wall when climbing.

Rock Climbing

This year I am working towards completing a seasonal training plan outlined in the Rock Climbers Training Manual. I’m already well underway and hope to be ready to take on some great climbs in the Blue Mountains early in the year.

I want to get outdoors more often and explore some of the lesser known rock climbing areas in the region. Without a doubt, there is plenty of rock within a 2–3 hour drive from Brisbane that I have never seen. What it takes from here on in to make it happen is just a ton of good planning and a trustworthy belay partner who is up for the adventure!

Coding

Every single day I seek to improve my web and coding skills. It’s a never ending journey and still feel like a novice in many areas of the game. That being said, it is literally impossible to know everything there is purely because web development is an infinitely complex beast. Not to mention the fact that on any given day, someone out there claims to have invented a new framework that is going to revolutionize the world. It is exhausting at times…

I have set out a pretty simple road map for 2018, which can be broken down into 3 main parts:

  • Gain a solid understanding of backend web technologies, including databases, server side rendering, user authentication, routing, and API creation.
  • Work on more enterprise level applications. Generally this requires a deeper knowledge of application architecture, code algorithms, modular and component based coding patterns. The goal here is to gain a first hand understanding of the difference between traditional website development and web application (software) development.
  • Staying relevant with all the latest trends. This includes gaining a solid understanding of all the new syntax features of JavaScript and their associated frameworks (mainly Vue and React for me). I would also like to develop more advanced CSS skills including transitions, transforms and animations.

The end goal of all of this is basically for me to know that I have the skills and ability to build an develop a project from scratch that could potentially turn into a business opportunity or a source of income. Thus it kind of doubles back on my original goal that I have always had, which was to be able to live and work from any location in the world.

Holidays

In 2018 I would like to take more small holidays and weekend trips, mainly to just get out of the city. I want to visit new rock climbing areas and coastal towns and do more camping! I don’t need much from this year in terms of travel, but I do think it’s important to take time out to relax for a few days every couple of months.

Relationships

Maintain friendships, make new friends, try new things, stay in touch with family more. Get out of the city more with Zoe. Go camping. Explore the countryside. Relax on the beach. Laugh more. Tell Zoe I love her more. Be kind. Give more. Have great conversations.


2018 has already started off amazingly. I’m really looking forward to the months ahead and wondering where I will be this time next year…

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