Looking back on 2012, I can honestly say it was the most challenging year of my life so far. It’s also been the most incredible and growth-inducing because of it. I left my comfort zone a thousand times over, and made it through, with some unbelievable memories to boot. I pushed myself to the limit physically, mentally, and emotionally and I came out feeling more alive than ever.
So what exactly did I do?
Went camping for the first time: I spent the beginning of the year tying up loose ends and preparing for extended travel. I also snuck in some fun, and took my first camping trip ever (sad, I know, but better late than never). A few friends, some old and new, went to Death Valley–we hiked, cooked, played games, and shot the shit around the fire. I’d always been wary of camping for some reason, but after this first trip, I got HOOKED. Being outdoors all day, with no electronics, surrounded by upbeat, positive people, and the contrast of being so damn dirty for a couple days and then going home and showering.. oo what a feeling.
Traveled around the world: My longest adventure yet lasted almost the entire year, and so if for no other reason than sheer quantity (though there are definitely more reasons), this adventure was MASSIVE. I spent 8 months with one of my best friends traveling all around Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand. I learned how to cook in the jungle, rode an elephant, swam in oceans and waterfalls, peed on a snake, sweated my ass off in Thai swamps, couchsurfed with Polish folks in Malaysia, met people every single day, walked across a jungle canopy, explored a letterpress print shop malaysia, ate a worm, ate frog, ate kangaroo, saw the mist roll across tea plantations, lived on a flower farm for 3 weeks, had close encounters with a Wallaby, saw Karen O perform live in the Sydney Opera House, lived in Melbourne for a month with a group of students, to name just a very very few of my favorite memories. I saw things I never thought I’d see, went places I never knew existed, and basically had my mind blown by the vastness and at the same time, the smallness of our planet.
Let go of YOG: After my year in Germany in 2011 working on my greeting card business,Ye Olde Gangster, it was really hard for me to say “see you later” to it as I left for my long travel journey. I spent a few months before I left stocking up on inventory and even getting a mentee-intern to ship the cards for me while I was away, but in the weeks leading up to my departure, a huge part of me wondered, “am I making the wrong choice traveling? I’m so close to getting somewhere juicy with my little company, and I’d really like to push it further. Am I making a mistake starting something new before I’ve “finished” Ye Olde Gangster?” But I had committed to the trip and so I followed through, I took a leap of faith and went with it. That’s not to say it was without difficulty or hiccups–in the first couple months of traveling I tried to work on it from afar. That only led to disappointment and frustration for both projects–Ye Olde Gangster and my travels. I wasn’t living “in the moment” on my trip and obviously you can’t get very far on a project that requires your presence when its thousands of miles away from you. With the help of my travel partner, I let go. I said, “see you later” to what felt like my baby, and let it do it’s own thing.
That opened up my days to adventure and new experiences, and it was also a great experiment to see if the business that I built to be “passive income” really worked “passively.” It was pretty incredible to see that it did in fact–I continued to make sales throughout the duration of the trip. While I slept, while I tanned on the beach, while I motorbiked across an island.. that was a truly satisfying feeling. To know that it could sustain itself. Waking up in the morning to an alert saying “you have received payment” is something that truly never gets old.
Sold my first Art Outline: I had the idea to sell my illustrations as vectors almost 2 years ago and even created the website for Art Outlines over a year ago. But I let doubt creep in, and before I could gain any real momentum on the project, I turned my attention elsewhere and let Art Outlines sit on the backburner. As I was unable to work on Ye Olde Gangster due to being so far from it, I decided to turn my attention to something I could work on during my down time on the road. I finally got the courage to list some of my illustrations for sale. I decided to stop stalling, stop waiting for the perfect moment, and just experiment a little. And then what happened? Absolutely nothing. At least for a while. But a couple months after I posted my first Art Outlines illustration for sale, something magical happened. On the 4th of July, American Independence day, a stranger across the world sent me $2 for my drawing of a deer. The money itself wasn’t what got me so damn excited. It was the fact that I had real live proof that I had a viable product. All I had to do was keep going.
The Eat Team: My long trip was about more than travel. My partner Hannah and I also endeavored a project along the way called The Eat Team. We interviewed artists, chefs, entrepreneurs, and creative people everywhere we went. We sought to meet people who really walked the talk, who went after their dreams instead of just thinking about them. The Eat Team got us out on the streets, and involved in the communities of the places we went in a richer way than either of us could have ever imagined. It gave us a reason to meet people we admired and wanted to share with others.
Faced one of my biggest fears: being flat broke. I have a long history of being a massive worrier. One of my biggest worries has always been running out of money, even when I had no reason to be worried. I have a history of saving for savings sake, and although that was good in a way because it allowed me to do what I did this year, it also set me up for a lot of stress. I knew going in to this trip that I would be exhausting my monetary supplies. But “they” say that you’ve gotta face your fears to overcome them and I guess I did just that. A funny thing happened as my account crept closer and closer to zero: I became realistic with my choices. It forced me to get super specific and realistic with what I could and could not afford. It forced me to hammer out my budget. I also learned one of my biggest lessons–don’t try and handle a problem before it becomes a problem. There is absolutely no point in worrying about “what could happen” because you’ll never actually know what will happen unless you reach it. And I found that when I hit rock bottom monetarily, absolutely nothing bad happened. I was still a worthy person, I still had a home, I still had shelter, I still had food in my belly. And when it came time to take action and make more money, that’s exactly what I did. There is absolutely no reason to worry, if you know you can rely on yourself, and that there are always enough opportunities given to make shit happen, you will make shit happen. Two friends who had been in similar situations told me the exact same thing separately: it comes down to unjustified faith in yourself. Unjustified faith in the universe doesn’t hurt either. You don’t have to worry if you know you’ll be there for yourself.
Got closer to Oprah: I met four people who know Oprah. This gets its own category because Oprah is a mega badass and it’s one of my dreams to meet her and work together one day.
Said goodbye to my best friend: After 17 years together, I had gotten so used to leaving for long periods of time to travel or live in another place and coming home to find her still curled up on the couch, that I guess I thought Sweetie would never kick the bucket. I thought, she’s so damn old, she’s passed the point of dying. If it was going to happen, it already would have. But one winter’s day in Australia as I was skyping my parents, they had a funny look on their faces. They told me she wasn’t doing well. “What do you mean?” They told me she hadn’t moved much at all for a week, that she grew weaker and thinner by the day. I was angry they hadn’t called to tell me. They put her on the camera and with tears in my eyes, I called my kitty’s name. My parents said it was the first time all week she moved. I cried and said goodbye to a friend who’d been with me through thick and thin. I was grateful to get to “see” her one last time, and just let the sadness wash over me. It was one of the purest and strongest feelings I’ve ever felt. I was happy and grateful for the times we shared together, and just so sad I wouldn’t see my friend again.
Got an mentern: I hired my first employee, to ship my Ye Olde Gangster cards while I was away in return for mentorship on her own projects. It was pretty terrifying to hand over my entire business to someone else, but I took a risk and tried the experiment and it was definitely worth it. I think we both learned a lot about working relationships. Just like any other relationship, it takes a lot of communication for both parties to get what they want and for the team to run efficiently.
Came Home, reconnected: Returning home was just as good as leaving was. It was also pretty heavy. I went through a pretty rough transition period as I digested what I had just experienced. I broke down and then broke through. I picked myself back up, surrounded by friends and family and familiarity. I rediscovered myself and came through the other side feeling revitalized and strong.
Found a way of eating: I had been looking forward to trying the Paleo diet for quite some time, and I finally got to devote some real time to it upon returning to America. After many months on the road having a pretty wild diet (aka eat anything and everything because I’m traveling), I was feeling more than ready for some consistently healthy food. Hannah and I did a Paleo experiment together, inspired by Joel Runyon’s 6 pack experiment. We were strict about it for 3 weeks, and combined it with short but high intensity workouts 6x a week, and even in that short period of time, it was apparent in body and mind how beneficial the effects were. Almost 3 months later and I’m hooked for the foreseeable future. I feel like I found the style of eating that really nourishes me, and that I enjoy. It’s hard to call it a diet when I get to smother everything in bacon fat and avocado.
Moved to Portland: After 8 months of constant travel, I was really looking forward to setting down some roots and routines. I’ve only been here for a few weeks so far and I’m still in the midst of setting myself up, but it’s been apparent since day 1 how incredible this place is. I came here without a place to live, without many friends, and without a job. And though all of that did scare me, I remembered how I felt inspired when I made the decision to live here, and so I didn’t allow doubt or worry to take over. I put my forward-facing-blinders on and charged ahead, doing everything in my power to get what I want (a beautiful place to live, a supportive group of friends, an additional source of income) and let things happen. I repeated the mantra “unjustified faith in yourself, in the universe” over and over, and told myself “UR DOIN IT RITE!” and somehow all the pieces of the puzzle have been falling into place. I feel incredibly lucky and grateful and am damn excited to see what the future brings here in my new home.
Met the most amazing people: It all boils down to this. People are the real juice of it, the real heart of any story. I met so many damn inspiring people it makes me well up a little just thinking about it. There are way too many names to name so I’m not even going to start.
What did I learn in 2012? I guess I’m going to have to write a whole book to answer that one, and it’s probably not a coincidence that’s exactly what I’ll be doing. I learned about “going with the flow”, letting go of one thing in order to fully experience another, not asking “why” (the answer is only ever “because”), and the secret is.. there is no secret. Life is pretty damn simple, you just have to really do and experience things. You can’t just talk about them.
I learned that living a good life “on paper” is as good as having a piece of paper. It is meaningless. Life happens in us, in other people, in other living beings. That contact, connection, experience, that’s what matters. And numbers and papers are big piles of nothing. I learned to give less attention to paper, and more attention to reality.
But the biggest thing I learned was how to be with other people. Traveling with my buddy Hannah, I shared my whole life, every waking moment with another person. I learned how to be myself around others, and how to really stick together. To see something through from start to finish, no matter what. I learned that you have to constantly communicate with one another, to say what you’re thinking and feeling, because nobody can read your mind and nobody else knows what you want but you. It’s nobody else’s responsibility to take care of your needs, and if you’re not speaking up for yourself, they won’t get met. I learned to take responsibility for myself at all times, and how to embrace the “two heads are better than one” idea. I learned what it meant to work out issues as they arose, and know that we’d get through things together. That a discussion never had to be an argument. That an issue never had to be a problem. I learned how to give and receive in a free way, where both parties enjoyed and benefitted from both aspects. I learned about honesty, at all times, and practiced it with increasing directness, only to find that I felt better and other parties appreciated it too. I learned a lot about accepting my feelings, no matter what, and taking it a step further and sharing them with my friend. I learned that life doesn’t fit in a box, that people don’t fit in boxes, and that the beauty of it all is sitting with discomfort. Accepting and embracing that silence. And doing it with other people is just as great as doing it alone.
I think in essence, I learned how to love more.