2013 Year in Review: What Went Well, What Didn’t Go Well, and Goals for 2014
This is the 3rd part of my look back at 2013. Other posts include:
- 2013 Year in Review: Miles and Points Earned
- My Top 10 Travel Experiences of 2013 (and 32 Cheap Travel Tips)
- 2013 Year in Review: What Went Well, What Didn’t Go Well, and Goals for 2014
As one would expect from my first full year of being self-employed and running this site full-time, 2013 was a widely fascinating year.
Sometimes amazing, sometimes completely deflating, but never, ever dull.
I certainly didn’t come through unscathed, but I did come out the other end stronger, better, and more motivated than ever to make it on my own.
And while it didn’t always feel like it at the time, overall, that makes 2013 a huge success.
What Went Well
After sitting on the idea of Frequent Flyer Bootcamp for a year, I finally put it all together and launched it in August.
And voila, Frequent Flyer Bootcamp has easily been the biggest success of any project I’ve launched, and I couldn’t be happier.
We’ve now run 3 different cohorts and it has been fantastic, both for the people who have gone through and given me amazing feedback, and for myself, who has enjoyed every single moment of it.
Moral of the story: Have an idea you’ve put off forever? Just go for it!
It’ll probably be the best decision you make all year.
Connecting with People
At the beginning of 2013, I’d look at most of the blogs I read and they all seemed to be friends.
I wanted to be part of that.
To get advice from them, to bring my skills to the table to help them travel for cheap, and to ultimately, make meaningful connections with people doing what I was trying to do.
So I reached out to anyone I respected and admired.
This year, I’ve been able to create amazing connections and relationships with tons of people, including (but not limited to): Jacob Sokol, Sean Keener, Chris Guillebeau, Scott Dinsmore, Steve Kamb, Thomas Frank and James Clear.
It’s impossible to succeed in a vacuum, and I owe much of my success to the inspiration and insight I’ve gotten from these people over the past year.
But I also owe myself a pat on the back for taking the first step and reaching out to them in the first place.
Moral of the story: People don’t bite, and everyone loves a genuine compliment.
Tell people you love what they do, help them in any way you can, and you’ll be amazed at the bonds you form.
The Extra Pack of Peanuts Podcast
There is an incredible lack of quality travel podcasts, despite how big of a market it is for people all over the world.
No one had created a travel podcast that was exactly what I wanted to listen to; travel interviews with inspiring people sharing great stories and excellent tips for cheap travel.
So I decided to create one.
I had no clue how to do it at first, but using Pat Flynn’s incredible tutorial and lots of trial and error, I quickly learned.
In just 9 months:
- I’ve recorded and released 23 episodes
- Had over 50,000 downloads and the Extra Pack of Peanuts Travel podcast
- Become one of the top rated travel podcasts on iTunes (help us continue our climb by leaving your own rating).
- Gotten to interview some of the world’s most unique and interesting travel personalities.
It’s been absolutely amazing, and I can’t tell who likes it more; me or the listeners!
Moral of the story: If it doesn’t exist, create it, whether you know how to or not!
I scaled back on international travel to focus more on domestic trips.
This resulted in going to:
- 3 different countries (Canada, Spain, and Portugal),
- 5 new states (California, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and Louisiana)
- Plenty of new cities (San Fran, Santiago de Compostela, Madrid, Lisbon, Porto, Denver, Portland, Edmonton, Vancouver, Seattle and a host of others)
- 1 goofy little island stuck between two continents (Gibraltar)
But numbers definitely don’t tell the whole story, as some of these experiences are included in the best of my life.
I’ve been fat ever since the end of high school.
Not slightly overweight or a tad pudgy.
I’ve tried over and over again to lose weight and keep it off.
But it’s never worked, and so starting in May, I told myself it was time to put up or shut up.
From August until the end of 2013, I was able to lose 40 pounds.
I now weigh less than I have since I was 16.
My weight has easily been the biggest struggle in my life since I was a kid, and I’m incredibly proud to say that I’m the healthiest and lightest I’ve been in the last 15 years.
It hasn’t been easy, but it’s the most rewarding, and important, thing I’ve ever done.
Moral of the story: Stop making excuses. Either do it or don’t.
The Growth of EPoP
As chronicled in my Thanksgiving post, financially, this year has been crazy (and hard).
But despite the financial turmoil, the constant has been that EPoP has been growing bigger and bigger each and every month.
We just surpassed 2,000 newsletter subscribers at the very end of 2013 (click here to join!) and our daily readership continues to climb, with over 55k people coming to EPoP each month.
Even with this growth, I’m proud to say that I still personally respond to every single email sent to me and every single comment posted on the site.
Some days, it seems like I’m buried under an avalanche, but I know that what sets my site apart from others is the personal touch in each post, email, or reply to a comment, and that will definitely continue.
Moral of the story: If you’re doing something right, keep doing it.
Booking Award Tickets
Although I’m unsure of the exact count, this year I’ve helped over 50 people book tickets through my Award Booking Service.
I’ve also gotten much quicker and more efficient with the process, and overall, am very happy with how much my skills have improved and how effective I’ve been at helping people plan their dream vacations.
Moral of the story: If you’ve got a skill, use it to make money. Doesn’t matter how much, get paid for doing something you love.
What Didn’t Go Well
Basically, there was none!
I toyed with different strategies for posting, from posting every Tuesday and Thursday, to (briefly) posting almost every day, to posting whenever I felt I had something good to say.
The end result was it screwed up you, the readers, because you never knew when to expect something.
The reason I moved to posting “whenever I felt I had something good to say” and away from a regular posting schedule was pure laziness.
Writing posts, believe it or not, are really hard and time consuming, especially for a perfectionist like me.
And so instead of writing posts, I’d do other things (usually answering emails was my default).
This year, my main goal is to get, and stick to, a posting schedule. Whether it is 2x a week or 1x a week, consistency is the key, and I promise I’ll improve this year for you.
Delegation and Management
Once again, basically this was non-existent.
At this point, EPoP has grown so large that it’s impossible for me to stay on top of all working parts.
From posting to award booking to podcasts to answering emails, there’s just a lot to do.
And while I love doing it, in order to do what I do best the best, I need to bring on a team member or two and start delegating.
The reason I haven’t yet?
Fear that it’ll take time to find the right people.
Fear that I’ll be a bad “boss”.
Fear of giving up part of “my baby”.
But in order for EPoP to really take off and help even more people, I’ll have to give up some control and let people help.
I’ll be releasing more details shortly, but if you are interested in possibly joining EPoP part-time, feel free to drop me a note to let me know.
Following Through on Big Projects
Outside of Frequent Flyer Bootcamp, my other two major projects that I started this year have stalled.
While it would be easy to blame external factors, the simple fact is that I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t know what my next step is…and I’ve just left it there.
This goes back to the “management/delegation” theme, and at this point, I need to make a decision of whether to pursue these or to forget about them.
Because 2013 was so up and down financially, it was very hard to save much money or donate money in any consistent manner.
The “donating money/helping others in need aspect” is something I’d like to make more of a tenet at EPoP, and am trying to figure out a way to start doing that as a community.
Every time I did meet readers (at WDS, at FTU, etc.) it was a blast!
And I absolutely love meeting people, especially awesome people that geek out about travel like me.
But this year, outside of those conferences, I only met one reader when I swung through their city (Hi Suzy from Vancouver).
In 2014, I’m changing that. I want to hang out with you…if you’ll have me!
To that end, I’ll be posting my travel schedule on the site so that you can see where I am, and hopefully, we can meet up!
I’ll also be experimenting with putting together meet ups in various cities.
The Ultimate Guide to Frequent Flyer Miles
After building hype and launching it in October 2012, I basically haven’t done any marketing around it since.
Some of it was because after taking so much time writing it, I was burnt out.
The other reason was just that it’s always easier and more fun to move on to another project than to really market the one you have.
I know it’s the best book out there about frequent flyer miles, and people can still purchase it from my website, but I haven’t marketed it to outside audiences.
This year, one of my main focuses will be getting it in a format that can be sold on Amazon and trying to get some mainstream media press for it.
My Stress Level and Response To It
Having your own business has many perks.
Working in your pajamas.
Traveling around the world when you want.
In fact, the perks far outweigh the negatives.
But stress is not one of the perks.
I’m not usually one to get stressed out, but this year has been the most stressed I’ve been in my life.
It’s a fine line between being passionate about your website and letting it consume you, and it’s not always one I’ve fallen on the right side of.
This has lead me to have a much shorter temper with those around me (namely Heather) and also to not sit back and enjoy life as much as I should.
This year, I’ll be working on the work-fun balance and attempting to make sure I’m being a genuinely nice and fair person to those around me.
What I’m Working Towards (Goals for 2014)
Looking back on what worked and what didn’t work doesn’t mean anything if you don’t plan on changing things.
With all that in mind, here are the goals I’ve established for myself in 2014…
Goals for Extra Pack of Peanuts
Goal: Establish a posting and podcast schedule and STICK TO IT!
Consistency is key..and also one of the hardest things for me to do.
This needs to happen, so help hold me accountable.
When: By the beginning of February, figure out my posting schedule and then use it going forward.
Goal: Bring on at least one part-time person to help me with EPoP
This really is a win-win-win all around.
Having someone help me will allow EPoP to grow much larger than it could if I did everything myself.
It will free me up to do more creative and “big picture” projects.
It will be more fun to have a partner in crime.
And it will allow someone to have an awesome, creative, and fun job and move closer to a life of both location and financial freedom.
When: Post the requirements and application process by February 1st. Hire someone by March 1st.
Goal: Have Extra Pack of Peanuts redesigned.
This is something that has already started a little bit behind the scenes.
I’ve hired a designer (the incredibly talented John Ellis from Podcast #20) and we’ve started discussing the design and what elements we want to incorporate.
Once finished, the site will be much cleaner, easier to navigate, faster, and will have more of my personal touch.
It will also make much more sense for new readers who come to the site in hopes that they join our “Free Travel Revolution” and become part of the community.
When: Shooting to launch by March 1st.
Goal: Hit 10,000 newsletter subscribers.
While the jump from 2,000 to 10,000 may seem like a big one, I believe that we are at the tipping point here at EPoP.
Things have gained momentum, our community is engaged and vibrant (as evidenced by all the comments you leave) and I’m figuring out how to delegate.
All this means that growth should skyrocket, and I can’t wait to have even more people join us in embracing the mantra of Travel More, Spend Less.
When: By December 31st (but hopefully sooner)
Goal: Develop a much more rigid work/not work schedule
Shutting my brain off and stopping work for the day is hard to do, but a necessity if I want to make time in my life for the people closest to me.
To do this, I need to start waking up earlier, get to work sooner, and then get away from my computer when I’m done.
Goal: Save 30% and give away 10% of all money I make, regardless of how much it is.
I don’t care about the actual amounts (although I’d love to have more savings!) but instead, the percentages.
Whether it is $10 a month or $10k, I want to start saving and donating in a fiscally responsible manner.
Goal: Hit my target weight of 175 pounds.
Currently, I’m at 198 pounds, so I’ve got a little ways to go.
But I’ve already dropped 40, so I’m over halfway!
When: By July 1st
Goal: Live in another country for at least 1 month and work remotely
This is much different than a “vacation.”
I want to settle in somewhere for over a month, get an apartment, and work (while also enjoying the area that I’m in).
Currently, we’re looking at doing this during May, and probably somewhere in Eastern Europe. Croatia, maybe?
Any suggestions are welcome.
Goal: Take Heather to Paris for the first time
Since we already have tickets to head there April 5th, and one night at the Park Hyatt Vendome booked, this should be easy to cross off the list.
I’m super excited, since this has been her #1 destination for years.
Goal: Visit at least 1 really amazing monument for the first time
Right now, I’m thinking either Machu Picchu, Petra, or Moai on Easter Island.
Or heck, maybe all three!
Goal: Plan a trip with no end date
I’ve done a lot of traveling, but I’ve yet to have a completely open-ended trip. I’ve always had a return ticket back to somewhere.
This year, I want to take a trip where I’m not sure when I’m leaving, and just take it as it comes.
Special Note to Readers
If you’ve made it this far, I can’t thank you enough for reading.
None of the above could have happened without your support, and I’m the first person to realize that.
I’m incredibly grateful to each and every one of you, and over the next year, I’ll be working harder than ever to make EPoP the best it possibly can.
As the best readers in the world, you deserve it.
This site isn’t just about me…it’s about all of us!
What were your big wins from this year? What things could you have done better? And what are your big goals for 2014?
Let me know in the comments below, and let’s crush 2014 together!