Annual review 2014

Every year at the end of December I complete the Annual Review exercise. I first got an idea for this tremendously useful annual ritual from Chris Guillebeau’s blog. This is the fourth time I’m doing the exercise: I’ve reviewed 2011, 2012, 2013 and now 2014; the 2012 review was even published on this blog. Below is the (somewhat abridged) review of 2014.

1. The first part of the review is to ask myself these two questions: What went well this year? and What did not go well?

What went well in 2014?

Looking back, 2014 was probably the most amazing year of my life. I spent the whole year literally on the road continuing my Round the World trip that I started back in July 2013. During 2014 I visited 29 countries, many of them for the first time. A whole list of incredible experiences happened on the way, of which the most memorable were:

I was steadily working on my several blogs – I have written about 200 blog posts which translates into about 200 000 words. I greatly enjoy making photos and working on them as well as the actual process of writing the blog posts about the places I travelled to.

I’ve felt healthy and energetic most of the year and for this I’m tremendously grateful.

I met some incredible people on the road, culminating in an unbelievable love story!!!

What did not go well in 2014?

One of my goals for the year was to write a book, and I did not get that done. A project like this requires focus and I think I had too many other things going on simultaneously, which coupled with being constantly on the road made it impossible to devote the necessary time and space and focus to this project.

Despite the fact that I truly enjoy creating my blogs, and the blogs have a sizeable audience and get a fair number of visits every day, I feel like they have not taken off as much as I would have liked.

Being on the road all the time has meant that I have lost real contact with a lot of my friends, although I did see some of them occasionally and we also travelled together.

I feel dissatisfied with some aspects of my relationship with my family in Estonia.

Of course, as on any long term trip, there were times when I felt sad and depressed. I notice that it was particularly during the times when I was not going anywhere physically that I tended to go through such sad spells. However they were relatively brief and there was always a clear answer as to what to do: get a move on!

I have not made up my mind about my longer term plans. A lot of the time I feel that I have just too many separate, even clashing interests and projects and they do not build up into any coherent whole.

2. Goals for 2014

The second part of the annual review is to look at the yearly goals set in December 2013 and to see if they have been implemented. I look at these goals by category, as I tend to have several interrelated goals within each category. This is a summary as I would feel somewhat uncomfortable to disclose all the details of each goal. Not necessarily in the order of importance:

Travel: surpassed all expectation! Crazy new places, including Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Vanuatu, Nepal, Armenia, Oman, my new favourite city Belgrade, and lots of other amazing places.

Writing: the goal of writing 100 000 words – surpassed by far, if all blogs and other writing is counted. I have also drastically changed the design of my blog, as I feel that now that it has so many entries, my old beloved minimalist theme was too difficult to navigate. The goal of writing a book is not met.

Photography: although I made tens of thousands of photos, my goal of creating a conceptual photo project has not been implemented.

Love: exceeded all expectations.

Self-development: I feel like I’ve pushed my boundaries far and wide during this year. For example the orphanage experience was a tremendous learning experience, but the number of learning moments is impossible to count. You never learn as much as when you travel the world. I had been hoping to take part in some art course and that did not happen. Also I had an idea to do an in-depth consultation with a career advisor to contribute to my long-term thinking about what to do in life and that I didn’t do either.

Health and fitness: I did do some punctual things that I had planned for the year. On the other hand my idea of going to the gym systematically was foiled again due to an old ailment.

Friends and family: Again, I did do some “easy” and not so easy punctual things that I had planned. Some of the unresolved family issues are still outstanding – talks I need to have.

3. Finally, the third part of the Annual Review for me is to set my goals for 2015. When I set my goals, I always ask myself: what could be the things that would really set me on fire? What would really move me to the next level? What would really blow things up?

Travel: I have now been to 90 countries. This year my goal is to reach 100 countries. The other key goal is to spend an extended period of time – say three months – in one place, in order to allow myself to focus on a specific project.

Writing: My major goal is still to write a book. The secondary goal is to keep updating my blogs and to concentrate on how to make them more “stakeholder-friendly”, as opposed to only catering to my own fun, to borrow the distinction from this podcast.

Photography: First order goal is to create a portfolio website, perhaps as a subsite of Second order goal is to create a series of photographs which could work as a conceptual project.

Love: Keep developing my current relationship. Do crazy stuff together – go to Kyrgyzstan?

Self-development: I feel like my creativity is still in a way shackled by thinking too conservatively. I would like to work on releasing my true creativity. An art course would be an incredible input in this direction, as I know how much meeting similarly-minded peers can affect your mindset. Another habit I need to work on is to prioritise output over my information-addiction – mindlessly devouring news and social media and Wikipedia articles and random things from the web.

Health and fitness: I know that contemporary dance and tennis are the best fit for my body type, and they also give me the most pleasure. Yet I know I will have little opportunity to do either activity this year. In the longer term perspective I would like to work with a personal trainer – but again I’d need to settle down to do this effectively.

Friends: Hopefully I can physically see some of my friends in 2015. The best is to travel together, which I did manage to do to some extent in 2014.

Family: Have to have some difficult but necessary talks.

Long term planning: Obtain clarity of what to do next. Allocate perhaps a “thinking week” with no distractions to focus on this specific reflection.

Generally I find it difficult to clearly define a theme for the year, perhaps because my life so far has not been streamlined into a pursuit of one major project or work. My theme for 2014 was A MAJOR PRODUCT, and I have to say that if this project was to be a book, then the theme has not really played out as planned. But I notice that often the themes somehow materialise a bit later down the road, say with a yearly delay. It was like this with my themes for the previous years. I would like to make my 2015 theme CLARITY. This is what I would like to achieve regarding my desires for the future in a global way.

Looking back at the review, I feel like there is one dimension that got omitted. That dimension is spirituality. I have a strong feeling that especially the first part of 2014 was a time of tremendous personal and spiritual growth. I really did perceive it as an upward trajectory, starting from some experiences in the beginning of the year, especially in Australia, it reached its apex in Nepal, where a number of experiences made me feel particularly happy and fulfilled. On the other hand after leaving Nepal and towards the second half of the year, even though I still had a number of incredible experiences in various fields, spiritually I felt like a drug addict after an unrepeatable high. The second half of the year therefore felt more like wandering in spiritual wilderness and I do feel now a little bit as if I have lost my way. One reason for this is perhaps that my initial expectation for my Round The World trip was that it would last exactly one year – which would be over in July 2014. But then I decided to continue with my trip as I enjoyed it too much. However that brought along a certain feeling of aimlessness. That brings me to another goal: to define a clear boundary for my incredible and still ongoing RTW trip.

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