2014, Year in Review

Looking back so we can look ahead... Last year we stumbled over the "year in review" and learned a great deal in the process while looking back at 2013.  We thought we'd give it another shot this year before we look forward to goals and aspirations for next year.  After all, we've spent the last few days with long drives, which always give us plenty of time to discuss deep things like this in between border crossings, potholes and topes (speedbumps). Here's a basic breakdown of what we feel went well and what didn't go so well in 2014. What went well:

  • Home Base.  Our primary goal this year was to create a home base in Portland.  A roof over our heads near friends/family and a jumping off point for our travels.  That project has many details left to complete, but we are living in our perfect home.  Granted, it's only 480 sqft, but it's everything we could have asked for in a living space, makes us feel like we wake up each morning in a spa retreat, allows us to entertain and has actually lead to many other bullet points to follow.kitchenwine3
  • Social/Entertaining.  We had tons of social time with those we love.  We soaked up every moment we could with those we are closest to, and made some new friends along the way.  Having a home allowed us to entertain, which we had been missing in years prior.  We hosted several large parties and events, including one for charity; and we hosted dozens of intimate dinner parties that allowed us to get to know new friends and get to know old friends on a deeper level.
  • Community.  We feel closer to our neighborhood than ever before.  We know and spend time with more neighbors than we have ever known and have started taking part in a broader set of neighborhood meetings and events around.  We are excited to watch our community grow, and hopefully to be a supporting member in that growth.  We also found ways to associate with a broader community.  To associate with and be around like minded people.  This was one of our fears upon returning from our trip, but we seem to keep finding and meeting new people that share our passions and goals and are looking for something more.
  • Freedom.  We seem to have found it.  We still wake up each day without an alarm clock, get to go and do what we choose to do that day and spend time how we choose to spend it.  It is a gift that we don't take lightly and never take for granted.
  • Travel/Exploration.  We got out and explored the pacific northwest more than we ever have.  We backpacked, we went kayamping, wine tasting, hit a ducks game and visited friends in Vancouver. We also got in trips to vegas and new orleans as well as this little trip were on now...a good old fashioned (central) american road trip.  All in we traveled over 90days (25%) of this year, including 7 states,5 countries (and are currently driving from costa rica to the states) and a whole lotta fun.  Not too bad for a year that was supposed to be focused on building a home)goat lake campsunsetirvin9
  • Financial Sustainability.  Don't misunderstand...that doesn't mean profit, but our lifestyle should mean we are blowing through savings or going into debt at a rapid pace.  We are doing neither.  This is a bullet that likely requires a follow up post with more detail but thanks to our having built a home that allows someone else to pay the mortgage, our minimalist lifestyle, and renting our home short term while we travel... we actually appear to be mostly breaking even despite not having incomes.  Mind boggling- but sweet!
  • AirBnB.  We have no stake in the company, but it is a huge positive in our lives at the moment.  Renting our place out while we travel has led to not only the bullet about places we've been able to explore this year, but also the bullet about financial sustainability.  Our garage turned zen loft has truly become our home, our lifeline to travel and an income stream.
  • We started a business.  Not because we felt we needed to, but because we were already doing it for fun and thought it would be interesting to pursue it and see what happened.  We're still finding that out, and it in no way is part of the financial sustainability described above-  but we have an initial set of clients, are enjoying working with our neighbors and love having a creative pursuit that doesn't require us to go into debt first!
  • Exposure.  We continued to be willing to put ourselves out there this year and some people seem to be taking notice.  We were awarded best of show at the 2014 Serving up Style event, entered a Portland Street Seats competition, hosted an open house during Design Week Portland, had write-ups (primarily about our design work) in the Oregonian, CoolTears Magazine, a little piece called the NY Times,  and several other online blogs and journals.  It's awesome to be recognized for something we truly love to do and we are humbly grateful for the support!familyServing up Style 8portland street seats 2
  • Our "curves" are more aligned.  After we returned from our trip i caught myself often describing our life in curves.  "Our happiness curve is going through the roof, but sadly our finances/savings are headed in the opposite direction".  Our financial curve is certainly not headed for the roof...but as described above, i feel like its at least begun to make the turn (and certainly is no longer taking a nosedive).
  • Bringing E home.  We left our beloved VW bus in central america almost 2 years ago.  It has been a thorn in our side that we kept putting off and ignoring, but we finally committed and are en route home as we speak (I'm typing this review from a camping spot in northern nicaragua).
  • Writing.  Despite no longer being on (what most would consider) a blogworthy adventure I've continued writing the blog.  Continued spilling my thoughts out for the world (or at least a very, very small slice of it) to share if they choose.  It continues to be a great/healthy exercise for me and continues to provide an amazing way to look back at events and mindsets we can't possibly remember from year's past.  This post is another great example of just that.
  • Sharing our story.  We have had a few friends make leaps this year.  Quitting their jobs, moving, making investments to begin freeing themselves from the cycle.  All making great changes in hopes of a better life and increased happiness.  We will never know if sharing our story helped inspire or energize them in any way, but hearing theirs feeds and excites us to no end!  We continue to hope that at the very least we are a good influence and that we encourage those we know (as well as those we don't) with our journey, just as we continue to be inspired by others.
  • Happiness.  We are as happy as we can possibly imagine.  We are having a blast day in and day out, feel as though we have hit a groove in terms of momentum and are looking forward to even better things to come.  This is, after all why we started down this path...and remains our focus for all decisions big and small.  This is the question we begin each year and typically each day with.  "Are we happy, and if not how could we be more so?".  Then we move in that direction.


What didn't go so well:

Much like last year, this seems difficult to discuss.  We have almost nothing to complain about and are truly blessed which makes listing these thing seem somehow inappropriate, but there still remains huge value in considering what we can improve and what we can focus our efforts on moving forward.

  • Stress/Overcommitment.  Starting a business has been great fun and an amazing learning experience, but also came with moments of stress, caused typically by my old habits of over-committing myself.  We realized these, got them in check and dealt with/learned from them...but they remain on this portion of this list as long as they continue to occur.
  • Health.  We are both in good overall health and very pleased to be so, but we aren't really doing much to make sure that sustains.  We don't workout or exercise on a regular basis, and while we eat extraordinarily well day to day we do tend to party a bit too much and drink too much, especially when around our friends.  We need to be more active in maintaining our health and we need to limit our alcohol intake.  We would love to get fit and lean.
  • We tried to move our bodies more this year and did make it out backpacking, did some kayaking and played some volleyball...but far from enough of any of those activities.  We need far more backpacking, volleyball, surfing, and even lovemaking in our next year.  We also need to find a way to add rock climbing, scuba diving/snorkeling and the other events that not only add to our health but also our happiness.
  • Driving.  We live in one of north america's most walkable cities, and in the heart of one of it's best neighborhoods, yet we still seem to use our car at least once most days.  We would love to find a way to reduce our footprint here and bike/walk more.  Both for our health and the earth's.
  • Missed opportunities.  We can't catch everything, and i don't feel like we missed anything out of laziness as we were quite busy this year.  That said, there were several opportunities that passed us by either because we didn't know they existed or because we didn't see them as opportunities at the time.  We need to stay alert and make sure that when opportunities arise we are both paying attention and willing to grab onto them.
  • Art.  I feel so lucky that I've finally found a way to be creative that manifests itself in a positive way.  We are currently designing small homes in portland for people that allow them to live more simply, allow them greater financial flexibility and when needed share their home with aging family/friends in need.  I cant imagine a creative outlet more inline with our own goals.  That said, i seem to have found myself so busy between our home projects and those for clients that creativity in the form of art has disappeared completely.  I need to find a way to once again create only for the sake of art.  Whether it be painting, drawing, sculpting, making a lamp or a piece of jewelry, i need ore of it.
  • Teardrop.  This was a fun project for us that taught us an immense amount, allowed creativity to flow and allowed us to travel while we were without the bus (our home away from home).  But now that we are returning the bus we have no need for our tiny bamboo teardrop trailer, have no place to store it and have struggled to find a buyer that allows us to break even (bamboo isn't cheap).  I wouldn't change anything and would build it all over again...but it seems to have become a problem for us moving forward.  We need to find it the perfect home.
  • Sharing our story.  I've begun to realize that it's simply not enough to be living freedom and happiness.  I am desperately seeking a way to share our story with others, to help others realize what jen helped me see- that there is another option, that we aren't trapped and that we can actually change our lives for the better if we're willing to take the leap.  I have no idea what the audience or format is, but i'm learning that i need to find a way to encourage/promote/mentor others who are looking for the type of change we were seeking just a few short years ago.


Last year i mentioned that i hoped 2014 would become the year of balance, "where we figure out how to live our current lives for as long as we choose".  I think we accomplished that better than i could have imagined.  Here's to hoping that next year is even close to as good as this one, and toward a goal of next year being the year of profitability and giving back.  A year where we retain the happiness we've found through giving it all up, but can start to once again save for the future, and to find ways to give something to others as well.

Thanks again to Chris and the Art of Nonconformity for giving us the idea and inspiration for an #AnnualReview.  His process continues to be  learning experience, and the crowd of people he attracts continue to impress and inspire us!