Blowing By Quickly
As always, the start of the next year leaves me scratching my head as to what happened to the previous one. Well here’s a post that will outline some (I know, just some) of what happened and put down some goals for next year!
I’d like to start by saying, one of the biggest things I did was go full tilt into starting a travel blog. For years I had wanted to. Entrepreneurial podcasts said I should. I almost purchased an $800 e-course on how to produce a successful blog, but because I was in Lebanon the credit card company flagged it and payment never went through.
I couldn’t sleep at night thinking of all the stories I would write. I spent every day in March setting it up, creating initial content. I came home and attended a blogger’s conference.
So What Happened In 2018?
I simply ran out of time and money to pour into a venture that wouldn’t see any notable income for probably the first year. The fact that I’m writing this article right now is symbolic that the dream of a unique, informational and inspirational blog is not dead. Not yet.
Strong Start: January – May
The year started really strong. My first art show ever opened early in January in Austin, MN at the Austin Area Artworks Gallery. It showcased the things I’d seen and people I’d met in Tanzania the year prior. We had it set up and opened in a couple of days and by the end of the next week I was back in Africa reconnecting with many of those very same people! The show was up for a couple of months.
I had left for Tanzania with some loose plans but many ideas. I caught up with old friends from the year before and spent more time with them. Such as Mama Gladness at the Tengeru Cultural Tourism Programme, and visiting Global Orphanage that they have ties to. We helped the orphanage gut their entire space, so that workers could come in and change the floor from dirt to tile. Paint the walls. Add rooms to sleep in. Build a chicken coop.
There was some time in between adventures so someone recommended that I climb a mountain, so I did. You can read a bit about climbing Mt. Meru (my first actual mountain!) here. Then I returned and did portraits at a local school we had ties to, and did some street shooting with a local photographer I met on the street.
Another dream I’d had was to stay with a Maasai family for a week and really get to know them. That dream came true staying with Saruni’s family. I had met him for a day the year before, and had heard of them hosting people for longer. He picked me up at a cattle market a couple hours outside of Arusha, and took me back to his village on the back of a tiny motorcycle. That week was quiet, peaceful, hot, educational, and I celebrated my 32nd birthday after a stomach bug knocked me out for a full day.
Already I’ve just grazed the surface of Africa but only talked about the first half of it! After this I would bus for three days to the middle of nowhere and live on a farm/retreat center for a week. This was the most transformative part of the trip for me, it left me feeling closer to the earth and wanting to do some small scale farming when I returned to my parent’s place in Minnesota. Watch the linked video and you’ll have to read more about them in another post.
I would leave them to go on safari, half of my reason to come to Africa was for the people and the other half the wildlife. I was trying to go to more remote parks that had less tourists, so I ventured into Ruaha National Park which was fantastic. I’d dreamed of getting up to Mahale Mountain National Park to see chimpanzees but the three days it would have taken to get there wasn’t in the cards. Nor was visiting my friend who just so happened to be in Rwanda at the same time. I ended my time in Africa by crossing the border and doing a final safari just outside of Nairobi in the Masai Mara. I had been chasing photographer/zoologist Jonathon Scott as that was his territory but couldn’t put together a meeting. While out on safari my guide even pointed out a vehicle and suggested it might be him on the horizon…but in reaching out to Jonathon after the fact he said it was not. A dream for another time! Instead enjoy this video I made to test the time lapse feature on the Nikon D850 I brought on the trip.
Beirut: To the Grindstone
Africa was full of making new friends, connections, making images and recording interviews. I had a ton of raw content that I could use on my new idea for a blog…which I started as soon as I landed in Beirut. I had a month in the country and I had to make a decision…do I spend my time going out and seeing as much as possible or do I get down to business and get this business going? I chose the latter.
Every day started waking up, making coffee, and sitting down at the computer. That was my life for nearly every day I was there. I did manage to find some time for fun however. That included a Bumble date, which turned into meeting a coffee roaster who recommended me to a dive instructor…and thusly me getting certified with my Open Water dive certification! There was also a brilliant camping trip that involved sleeping in a frost covered sleeping bag but thanks Enlightened Equipment for making them warm. 🙂
In my time away I had made a lot of plans for my return to Minnesota. For the first time in a long time, I had a possible plan for the entire rest of the year laid out! It was going to be crazy. That’s when it started to get not crazy.
I immediately landed, unpacked and repacked for colder weather in NYC. I had been booked to photograph an old friend’s wedding that summer and this was the best time to come do their engagement sessions. I would enjoy our time together, but not so much the cold I got or the infection in my nose. Uff da.
Dedicated to killing it as a blogger, I attended the Midwest Travel Network Conference in Ames, Iowa. I was jazzed to meet all of these talented and wonderful people who were making a go of it writing blogs and books. There were many tourism boards as well that I wanted to reach out to. Hopefully I would be able to find the time in my super busy schedule I’d made for the rest of the year!
I left there excited and ready to speak in Minneapolis about my adventures, talking to promote international hiking in Tanzania. This first talk was more preparatory to get ready to speak at the Superior Hiking Trail’s annual meeting, Hike Fest. This was held up in Finland, MN at the Wolf Ridge ELC. The amazing and perfect thing about this was that they miraculously scheduled the entire event so that it fit with my plans to finish the Superior Hiking Trail (read about my start) the day after talking! And thusly after meeting the wonderful crew involved with SHT, Wolf Ridge and the other speaker that weekend, I got back on the trail and walked to Canada.
The Rest of The Year
I wouldn’t say I was burnt out. I had a lot of adventure left in me. But I was a bit overwhelmed.
2018 up to this point had essentially been nonstop. No real breaks, and that was great. The rest of the year would be the same. Here’s the short list of what I had planned to do the rest of the year with intent to create more adventurous blog content:
- Montana road trip following an amazing photographer doing tourism board work (same work I wanted to do.
- Ride across Iowa by bicycle for RAGBRAI
- Visit my cousins for the first time in seven years in the not-so-distant Duluth
- Cover the fall colors in State Parks in Northern Minnesota
- Exchange film/video coverage for a stay at the coolest hostel in MN, Hungry Hippie Farm and Hostel
- Road trip to New Mexico for a weekend van life event. I don’t live in my van but my Mazda 3, same concept. Less space.
- Exchange presentations and photography for a week at Wolf Ridge ELC
- Begin the Minnesota State Parks Passport Program Project (been thinking about this for years, dream is still alive)
- Drive to NYC to photograph my friend’s wedding
- End the year working in Antarctica
None of those things happened. Aside from still photographing the wedding (I just flew instead of drove), none of it happened.
The shift started slow. I decided against Montana because I figured if I went, I wouldn’t get any of the first part of the year edited, and just add more work to do. This turned out to be true but I instead photographed weddings and still didn’t get much work done. Then it became a money issue, where after months of working for myself but not an income…I had to cancel some things to make money. I did a medical research study instead of RAGBRAI which netted me some cash and saved me some on the other side of it. I simply wasn’t hired for the position in Antarctica
How Did 2018 End?!?
After the gears switched, I went into a money-saving mode. I set a financial goal instead of a travel goal and worked towards that. I sold off an extra camera lens and opened a money market account (not that you should take my advice but they’re not a great investment). I picked up as many wedding gigs as possible and lived in my car with a gym membership just to see if I could pull it off. I started real estate photography (that post will come out soon). I took an offer to work for Santa at the Mall of America.
That’s not to say there wasn’t at least a little more adventure to be had. Two friends of mine decided to follow through on one of their big dreams and cross Lake Michigan. Under their own power. On stand up paddle boards. I met them in Milwaukee and rode the support boat to Muskegon with them. Then in another attempt to visit that same friend, I picked up a couple of people in Chicago and drove to his farm in Virginia for a short “Friendsgiving” get together.
In the week between Christmas and New Years something miraculous happened! I became an uncle for the first time. I never had before but now slightly understand, the obsession some people have with babies. I couldn’t believe it but for the first time I actually wanted to hold one. And not set him down right away. I’ve been reading a bunch on how to not be a terrible uncle so I’m excited to be there for him as best I can.
And in the final moments of the year it ended in much the same way that it began, cheering on the shift of something old to something new while surrounded by people in Minneapolis. New Years is one of my favorite holidays and sometime I should write a post outlining all the ridiculous things that have happened while celebrating.
But What About 2019
Already the year is well on its way. This is the quiet time of year where I try to sink my teeth into ideas and relax a bit for the upcoming craziness that always comes. What’s coming up?
I have very few. One big trip is planned, that’s to spend a month in Norway. The goal is to work with brands as an influencer to help facilitate the trip and give me more purpose besides my regular ‘wandering about’.
However I do have a significant number of goals and ideas. Check these out:
- Write more consistently for the blog!!!
- Get to the 7th Continent (South America)
- Return to Antarctica
- Become FAA drone certified
- Go snowboarding
- Big roadtrip (loose definition)
- New photography outlet – think techniques or film formats
- Kayak tour (Lake Superior?)
- State Parks Passport Program
- The true finish of the Superior Hiking Trail (What do you mean?!?)
- Learning to winter camp
- The Last Continent
- My Minnesota Passport Project (This Has To Be Attempted!!!)
There’s nothing like having more goals than you could ever hope to complete. While it’s completely possible to do all of these things in a perfect world where cost doesn’t exist and I can bend time to my will…it’s likely many of these we can again look forward to in 2020. But until then, the world is open to be explored and I’m going to dive in. Come with me and let’s find a couple more spur trails to check out.