The Mistakes We Made in 2018
Hello beautiful people!
2018 was an exciting and life-changing year. Here is a candid, raw, honest and transparent look at what happened in our lives and the business, and what we learned going forward.
1) I got overwhelmed…
…And decided to outsource a big part of the site. This was a huge step for me as a business owner. Putting trust in another person to capture the vision of what my dreams held in terms of message and marketing was extremely difficult for me. I found a great partner on Instagram [@marissahawaii] who posted photos and blog entries for a majority of the year.
Why did I do this?
Because it was honestly too much.
I wanted to focus on the site and grow the following, write more, take more photos, learn more marketing skills, etc, but also wanted to pay off more of our personal debt, get back into trail running, travel for longer periods of time, become a better partner to my husband, start trying to have kids, and save for a new RV. I signed up for marketing courses, attended a conference on social media and mobile business experts, and fully intended to go “ham” on the site without stopping to think about what had to give.
Needless to say, trying to take on all of this at once left me feeling drained and depressed because I couldn’t keep up.
Then, I heard a podcast episode in early 2018 by The Minimalists that seemed to be speaking directly to my plight. In it, Ryan discussed the advantage of focusing on one goal at a time, rather than piling on a multi-faceted list of goals, dreams, and ideals to tackle all at once.
His advice? Pick one thing and focus in on it. Even if it sucks. Even if it means other things take a back seat.
I struggled with this idea, but it led me to realize that I could never be my best at anything while stretching myself in so many directions.
For those unfamiliar with the career of a nurse anesthetist, it can be very draining: long and unpredictable hours, stressful events, and high stakes/liability. The schooling ended up costing me $130k; while I believe that my passion for writing, activism, and conscious consumerism can one day support my life, the immediate reality in 2018 was this:
I was in a lot of debt, and wanted freedom to work on things I enjoyed.
I could spend hours writing blog posts, sending emails, and paying up front for products to resell all while learning and making mistakes as I went… or I could focus hard on paying off debt with my current day job in order to give myself the space to work on the site 100% in the future.
Luckily, I wouldn’t have to give up blogging full time for long, because one great thing that the CRNA field does offer is lucrative compensation. I calculated that paying off debt enough to go part time and travel would only take us two years at most.
So I took on two jobs starting February of 2018. I worked the 7a-7p shift at a hospital in Houston (1 hr away) every Monday, then covered 10 hr shifts Tues-Fri at another full time job closer to home.
We drew a debt thermometer on our kitchen whiteboard and watched the numbers melt away, paycheck after paycheck getting closer to debt freedom.
All in all we paid off about $95k between credit cards, vehicles, and student loans in 2018.
The not so great part?
I gained 20lbs, worked away from home for long stretches at a time, cancelled vacations, virtually stopped trail running all together, became burned out more times than not, ate out more frequently, and had to purchase a new vehicle that could handle the long commutes all over Houston.
2) We tried to have a baby, and I [sort of] lost my job
The back half of the year took a turn toward the unexpected. I secured a new job in order to increase my salary and time flexibility, and we agreed to start our journey of trying to have kids. I got pregnant in early August, then miscarried unexpectedly at 12 weeks in late October.
That same month, a new job that I secured had a lengthy credentialing period, while my “second” job hit a slow period and no longer needed my services. This created a 4-week gap in employment that we were not prepared for.
For better or worse, I had an unexpected month off in October. This time off definitely set us back financially, but gave me a much needed space to heal and recover from the miscarriage. Some days I was so down that I didn’t get out of bed.
I visited my mom at her home in Tulsa, OK for the first time in a few years. I cleaned out and donated many of our personal belongings (yes, even our 300 sq ft home accumulates tons of clutter!). I cooked many home made meals, spent mornings working out, started a running program to work towards a marathon in Las Vegas, and fell into what I imagined life would possibly be like once our debt was finally gone.
It was a stressful and simultaneously relaxing time for us, and I knew that I would be ready to work hard again once November came. We made budget and travel plans for November-December and I took on as much work as possible to fill in the void of October.
3) A year of small travels
Because we love travel so much, we didn’t completely stop taking short breaks to get away this year. While we did end up cancelling a backpacking trip to Patagonia, camping trip to Big Bend NP, AND an anniversary trip to Hawaii in May, we did in fact make it to some great budget-friendly locations and had a wonderful time. Here’s a recap:
Kauai, HI— I spent a week staying at the Kauai Beach House Hostel with a girlfriend from elementary school in February during the rainy season. My flight was $400 round trip on American Airlines from Houston—>LAX—>LIH, and we had a blast. I rented a cheap car from Rent-a-Wreck Kauai, brought my own snorkel gear/hiking boots and cruised around the island soaking in the sunshine, acai bowls, copious amounts of rain, and whales jumping during mating season. Shortly after my trip, the north shore suffered from some pretty terrible floods and the coveted Napali Coast Trail was closed until further notice. It remains closed, check the site for updates on permits.
Mexico City, Mexico— Shane and I spent 3 days staying at an AirBnB in the hipster neighborhood of Roma Norte. We paid less than $200 per ticket round trip on Southwest Airlines, took Uber/walked to just about every restaurant, and enjoyed the amazing array of cultural heritage that belongs to the largest city in North America. Even after hiking a volcano, trekking up a pyramid, spending hours marveling at giant monolith stones in the Museum of Anthropology, and eating our hearts out at the more than 30 exclusively vegan restaurants, we barely made a dent in our normal spending budget thanks to the exchange rate. A must visit and our new favorite getaway destination.
Austin, TX— I ended up accidentally staying with a friend in ATX during SXSW this year (oops). This is the city I’ve grown up losing friends to and hearing about since I can remember. Austin is the pothead hipster brother to Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston that I can’t seem to ever get enough of yet don’t fully want to commit to. For years I wanted to move here just like all of my other friends, but after spending time with locals I can see and appreciate my apprehension for what it is: the property taxes are crazy high (and getting crazier), and people just. keep. coming. While the city hasn’t exactly welcomed the influx of citizens with open arms, it still feels nice to visit. We usually stay at Pecan Grove RV Park in the heart of South Austin, but beware, the summer rates can cost up to $75/night (ouch). We enjoyed our fair share of trips here in 2018; between dips in Barton Springs Pool, smoothies at Juiceland, and late night adventures to Tom Thumb’s market, it’s a guilty pleasure we feel pretty good about. Just not quite ready to join the official “Austinite” club…yet.
Detroit, Michigan— Labor Day weekend. We had a companion pass at our disposal through Shane’s Delta SkyMiles card that was going to expire, and the best use of miles was to take a visit to Detroit. After hearing so much buzz about the young people moving back in, I contacted a friend for general recommendations and quickly found out that we would barely have enough time to enjoy everything the city has to offer. We used AirBnB to stay right next to Wayne State University and walked/took Uber to most of the attractions. We ate tons of vegan food, visited the weekend GIGANTIC farmer’s market, attended a free city-wide Jazz Festival, toured old architectural structures from the golden age of automobiles, and waved to the Canadian border across the river.
Los Angeles, CA— Early November a girlfriend got me to spend a very short weekend in LA with her to get my girly side in check again after all of the sadness of the month before. Flights were on Southwest, and hotel was booked with freebies under our Chase Sapphire Reserve miles card. We mostly just ate brunch for two days straight, and I SAW A CELEBRITY for the first time at Rumble Boxing in WeHo!! ahhh!!
Zion National Park,UT /Las Vegas, NV— for the marathon that I was training for, we booked a hotel stay with points from our Chase card at Aria the night after the race, and camped in Zion National Park for the remaining two nights. The park was absolutely the highlight of the trip! There are so many gorgeous hikes, but we chose to rent water proof gear and tackle the Narrows because it was way less crowded (the cold kept people away). Booking our site 6 months in advance was definitely a must! Make sure to grab an America the Beautiful Pass to get free entry year round to all of the National Parks and BLM lands.
San Antonio, TX for the holidays— There is a lovely RV park called Traveler’s World right off of the (quiet) southern portion of the River Walk that we absolutely adore. There is a yearly golf-cart Christmas parade, yoga in the clubhouse, a heated pool AND jacuzzi, a dog park, and bike access to the River Walk hike and bike trails. This year we took the RV to this spot and spent both Thanksgiving and Christmas enjoying our relatives and the city itself. Home to less crowds, great walkability, and a bit more diverse feel than Austin, San Antonio has a charm that Shane and I both fall in love with every time we visit. The Medina River is not far away with beautiful hiking trails and plentiful opportunities for wildlife sitings, the Pearl District has amazing walkability, great restaurants, and a swanky yet hipster curb appeal great for an afternoon of just getting out of the house, and vegan restaurants like Bok Choy, Earth Burger, Senior Veggie, Five Points, and Green keep us happy and full.
The plan is to keep grinding and saving as much as we can. I stopped outsourcing and have decided to stop pre-purchasing inventory for the time being. That means only apparel (no more jewelry or water bottles for now) will be available on the site.
We want the Living Vehicle!
During one of our stays in Austin, TX we met the couple that runs LV. The rig makes our Airstream feel so woefully inadequate that we can hardly stand NOT to be in it already, but we decided that going into more debt before my loans are paid off isn’t an option. So for now, we keep LV in our hearts and gaze longingly at her while we work at chipping away the last of our loans.
This is something we wanted to do before setting off to travel full time. Shane has amazing health insurance and we live next to an amazing (world class) medical center in Houston, making it the perfect time to try to have a kiddo while our resources are at their highest and most reliable. This may come to fruition, or it may not— but we haven’t given up yet.
Saying Goodbye to Houston, TX.
This is something I desperately want. I have lived here my entire life, and have been plotting my escape for just about the same amount of time. Houston has given me so much opportunity for growth and independence, but I literally cannot wait to get to wake up and see another skyline. By 2020, I hope to be getting ready to leave for good.
What did you guys think?
Let me know in the comments!