My 2018 in Review: Failures, struggles, successes and how to improve next year

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In search of The Big 5 in Akagera National Park, Rwanda.

Hello folks! It’s that time of year again when us bloggers think to ourselves; in a world where I already put my name to a brand, in which I put myself and my opinions out there on the internet – how can I quite possibly become higher on the narcissism spectrum?

The answer is of course, the ubiquitous annual review post.

I used to be dead against New Year’s resolutions and I considered looking back at a specific year and onto a new one as quite arbitrary and vacuous.

I don’t really understand why. Maybe I thought I was being avant-garde or edgy. Retrospectively, I have no idea why I took such umbrage to this in a world where I use Roman calendars and clocks for pretty much every plan that I make.

A year can be the best or worst of some people’s lives. It can also be a pivotal period of transition, the start of something new or the end of something awful.

Nevertheless, I’m joining the “how my year went” crew and putting it out there, as honest as possible and maybe even rather uncomfortable whilst doing that.

Life is complex, but often we make it even more so. To keep it as simple as possible, I’ve chosen subcategories which I believe to be important for myself and where I currently am in life.

The first half of the post will be about how it went and the second half of the post will be more about how I plan to improve in these areas in 2019.

Putting pen to paper with stuff like this is really cathartic for me and it helps me to focus on how to iron out any issues in the future.

As always with personal growth types of posts, I write this with the philosophy of; “if it helps even one person, then it’s worth doing.”

Physical achievements: 5/10

The summit of Mount Elbrus, Russia.

This was supposed to be the year I reclaimed my fitness, but I travelled so god damn hard and long-term travel is counterproductive to reaching optimal health.

I could have done better though and no one forced me to become even more liberal with my red wine affinity, however there are two physical things that I am happy I experienced in 2018.

The first was summiting Mount Elbrus of Mother Russia, the tallest mountain in Europe. It was as last-minute as it gets and I was in awful condition.

But my mind is made of tough stuff and this type of thing is more about how much suffering you can cope with and oh boy did I suffer during that!

A killer chest infection in sub-zero temperatures, coined with an angry Russian guide who tried to strong-arm me into quitting every day was not enough to thwart me and I’m over the moon with this scalp. You can read more about that here:

Climbing Mount Elbrus, the highest mountain in Europe, (my experience)

Sadly that was the only Seven Summits success of 2018 as we failed to get up the tallest mountain in South America, Aconcagua, due to unprecedented dangerous weather. You can read more about that here:

Failed (first) attempt at summiting Aconcagua: My Experience

Training for that was hard and dare I even say it…fun. I hired an amazing movement coach who helped me improve my mind/body connection, a brilliant strength coach who finally taught me how to squat properly and I also worked with a miracle worker physio who made me the most supple I’ve been since I was a little nipper.

The second physical thing I was happy with was finally taking part in a local event back in the northeast of England – The Great North Run.

It’s known as the biggest (most participants) half marathon in the world, but recently there is contention to that claim now that Sweden has upped its half marathon game.

I ran for the Make a Wish Foundation (thanks again to the people who sponsored me) and the training for this was also last minute, as I was gallivanting around Europe up until 6 weeks before the event.

I said that I wanted to finish it in under 2 hours and I did it in 1 hour 50. As it has so many people taking part, it’s frustratingly hard to manoeuvre around so many bodies in front and I like to think I’d have been closer to 1:40 in another half marathon event, and hopefully around 1:30 with more training.

Regardless of all the shoulda, woulda, couldas I felt very proud to take part and the energy was absolutely electric on the day.

Finances: 7/10

Vilnius Museum of Illusions, Lithuania.

My current number one goal is to own a mortgage-free apartment and that’s what I’m saving for.

It was a three horse race between Mexico City, Bangkok and Chiang Mai. I’m living in Bangkok right now and I’ve completely ruled out buying a place there. It’s a cool city, but it’s obnoxiously loud and it’s not very walkable at all, I actually can’t believe I was considering buying there.

I miss lazy Sundays in Mexico City very much, where I’d meet friends for a cuppa and I could actually hear us speak, go for a stroll etc.

The attraction to Chiang Mai is mainly how much bang for my buck I can get there. I don’t know many places on earth where I can get such high-quality apartments at that price per square metre.

However, I’m fully aware that Chiang Mai has nostalgic power on its side, as it is the city where things really started taking off for me. Chasing ghosts can be a dangerous game, but I plan to visit often in the near future to see how the energy feels to me. (I’m actually there while I write this post, and I love it here even more then I remembered).

I’m at a place in my life where I need to a place to call my own and it’s something that I think about a lot. I will make a decision in 2019 and buy a place in either Chiang Mai or Mexico City.

The Faroe Islands.

Regarding finances, I used to be a lousy saver and way too frivolous with spending. However, with business not being as good as it once was, my saving has improved.

Also, I find it’s much easier to save when you’re saving for a goal, as opposed to soullessly counting money in the bank.

But let’s be real – I travel so much and I could have way more in the bank for the apartment! Next year I’ll be slowing down a bit on travel and working on the apartment piggy bank.

I’ve rested on my laurels in terms of streams of income for too long and in 2019 that needs to stop. 2019 will see me putting some serious hours into new projects.

Goals achieved: 8/10

Cute little legend in a village in Uganda.

Seeing so most of my goals were travel-related, it’s no surprise that I did well in achieving what I wanted to do in 2018.

I visited 26 countries in 2018, finally getting my feet on African soil where I was blessed with the gift of seeing a silverback mountain gorilla in its natural habitat.

I finally went to India and China, saw what Greenland was all about and got stuck into the Middle East – to name a few highlights of a brilliant year of travel that’ll give me happy memories when I’m getting closer to kicking the bucket.

Friendships: 7/10

Friendship has always been a very important value to me and it’s always hurt when I’ve felt it’s not reciprocated. Maybe I’m needy when it comes to mates, or maybe I understand, as do the Okinawans how important it is for living a long, happy and healthy life.

However, bouncing around the globe doesn’t exactly provide the best platform for maintaining brother/sisterhoods, especially when vacuous platforms like Facebook is the only mode of contact – I’m more old-school personally, I prefer a chat on the phone.

I’m not a friend collector and my tight friends remains relatively low in numbers, I’m ok with that because I’m grateful for the qualities that those friends have and what we give each other.

I made a 5-star friend in 2018 who I have no doubt will be in it for the long run and I also finally got rid of a gaslighter who was as good as a friend to me and my emotions as Ike was a loving husband to Tina.

There were a few more possible good new friend shouts for 2018 too, it’s just the case of keeping in contact and nourishing those relationships.

Mental Health: 3/10

Not so green Greenland.

So that bit earlier about some of this being uncomfortable, yeah – this is that part.

I feel guilty giving a score so low after reeling off all of the adventures I’ve had this year and talking about buying a mortgage-free property. It’s not that I’m ungrateful for any of that, I’m the polar opposite – I’m beyond pleased for those and more graces in my life.

Mental health is a very nuanced subject and the new-age talk about it like it’s not. “Just talk about it and you’ll feel better” is the general consensus and for me personally, I actually feel worse taking about it. It consumes me and I don’t like it.

That being said, I’ve decided to put it up here in case anyone else is in my position feels the same, as I don’t plan for next year’s score to be so low!

I don’t want to be a victim and use this as currency, I feel like I know what I need to do to feel better in the new year in order to get over this slump.

The cataclysmic event in me getting the blues and not being able to shake them was when I went back to my “home,” Durham City.

I’m usually at my worst when back there, but the reason why I went back was already a sad one – we lost a very good man in our family so it was always going to be a rough time, even rougher seeing how it affected the special people who I love so much.

But there’s something about going back home that always breaks me and sets me back. I wish it wasn’t the case and I’ve tried so hard to not let it be, but it always wins.

Sitting with my aforementioned new mate in a cafe, she asked me what it was about the place that got to me so much, the best and most immediate answer I could give was; “it’s this place, it’s got bad energy.”

Sounds a bit wanky, but it felt right and made sense to me.

Maybe I’m haunted by bad memories, maybe I’m sick of my extended family falling out with each other more than the Gallagher Brothers and never growing up, maybe it’s something else that I haven’t considered – but yeah, Durham won this round, as it always does.

Post-Durham my chronic insomnia came back, my Fitbit said I averaged three hours a night on most weeks and it drove me nuts.

I’ve also had nervous tics on and off all my life, the longest I went without them was five years. The recent anxiety and lack of sleep saw the return of my tics to an unprecedented level.

Also, it makes me clench my teeth REALLY hard, which ruins the back of my veneers doing this. Ticking is becoming an expensive habit haha!

It’s really embarrassing when the tics are very aggressive as sometimes I don’t know when I’m doing them…until I see people staring at me wondering what the hell I’m doing.

Finding advice online about tics is very frustrating and sparse and most advice is geared towards kids, it also pushes the need for chemical drugs – which is a world I don’t want to become a part of.

I tried therapy in 2018 to try and overcome my tics, but one day my therapist accused me of being on cocaine, informing me that she was unable to have an appointment with me if I was “under the influence!”

I informed her that today was a more stressful day than usual, and that what she was seeing was not me having a good time on a bit of the old Charlie, but me being anxious and having strong nervous tics…the whole bloody reason I went to see her all those times!

Needless to say, this all affected my confidence levels and as I said – it was hard to get out of this funk for the rest of the year.

Best book I read in 2018:

I met an absolute legend of a guy in India. He’s a published German author on a highly-sensitive topic and I opened up to him about how I’d lost confidence in writing, he recommended a short memoir by Stephen King called “On Writing.”

It was one hell of a fun read and exactly what I needed – insightful, frank, cheeky humour and inspiring without even trying to be.

I plan to watch less and read a lot more in 2018, which can’t be too hard as I watched a lot of crap!

Best movie I watched in 2018:

Bohemian. Rhapsody.

Best documentary I watched in 2018:

It was so good to see Louis Theroux back on our screens with ‘Altered States’ and the episode ‘Choosing Death’ was a beautiful, sad, powerful masterpiece – following three people with chronic illnesses as they plan to take advantage of a Californian law that helps them to euthanise themselves whenever they choose to do so.

Favourite country of 2018: Oman

Me and Yaqoob, the man of Oman!

Arabic hospitality on steroids. Untouched, gorgeous beaches and not just “friendly,” but hospitable locals who will go out of their way to make you feel welcome in their beautiful country.

It was tough answering this because I visited so many places, but I’m confident Oman was my darling destination of 2018.

Not to mention the fact I finally got the long-time sought after “goatfie.”

Goatfie goals in Oman.

How I plan to make 2019 better

Ok, lets take it from the categories above:

Physical achievements – bruh. Stay tuned for the new challenge I’m training for, it’s coming in my next published post. It’s going to be the toughest thing I’ve ever done in my life.

On top of that I’m gunning for two of the Seven Summits – Kilimanjaro and Puncak Jaya. I’m also considering Mont Blanc, as I need to get used to mountains and being more efficient at putting on my gear etc.

Finances – First of all, I need to stop spending like it’s still 2012 when business was booming and budget stricter.

It’s going to be terrifying letting go of pretty much all my savings when I buy a place, but I’m hoping that’s also going to bring back some much-needed motivation to start something new – something that will put the fire back in my belly and get the creative juices following.

I’m actually really looking forward to working more and travelling less, at least for the first half of the year.

Goals for 2019 – I plan to pick my blog back up, which has taken a back seat to hedonism over the years. Writing has always been cathartic and fun for me and I need to do more of it.

I feel like my blog has an identity crisis sometimes. It’s predominantly a travel blog, I love travel but I much prefer writing more about other stuff. I’m sure more expression will help me work it all out though.

I’d also like to start a podcast in 2019. That’s a huge one for me, and the main goal (apart from the physical ones mentioned above) is of course – buying my own place and having an official base. No more streaming football on dodgy websites – get that shit on my telly! 🙂

Friendships – I’m going to try and call people more often and spend time getting to know more about their lives and what’s important to them, how they are etc.

Facebook relationships tend to be depressingly barren and we have gotten lazy in conversation because of it. The Anti-social Network has a lot to answer for and in a week or so, I’ll be deactivating my personal Facebook account.

I’ll still update my blog fan page, which I’ll only check twice a day and I’m looking forward to not having a timeline to waste time on.

As always, toxic friends are going to be a bye-bye – although I’m much less likely to befriend wrong’ns nowadays.

Mental health – the Facebook account removal is a move for better friendships and also better mental health.

I’m becoming increasingly like a grumpy old man with the subject of social media, but I honestly think it’s doing more harm than good.

Everyone thinks they’re an activist nowadays, when in reality it’s a just circle jerk in an echo chamber and it’s also weirdly seductive to be attracted to negative content and bad people sometimes.

Also, individuals who suffer the most on Facebook are those who seek approval and validation from others. I know these people and I see first-hand what it does to them.

Aside from that there is the sheer amount of time spent on it and how much of a time suck that is on living real life and smelling the roses, not to mention the fake reward system which rewires our brains.

I’m convinced there is a direct correlation between social media overuse and the rise of depression/anxiety and that experts will look back at it in years to come as something that was an overall bad for society.

I know that sounds a bit tin foil hat, but I’m owning it as I have courage in my convictions with this one.

It’s been good to me over the years and helped me build a blog with a full time income. But for the greater good, for myself and everyone else I think it’s done a lot of harm.

Facebook arguments is a funny one too. That’s the biggest waste of time and energy out there. I retired from the Facebook argument game not too long ago, after arguing with a bunch of Americans about male circumcision.

I figured if I can’t convince fully-grown adults that it’s bad to mutilate baby boys’ penises, then I wasn’t going to be be able to convince anyone with any argument via Facebook.

With my other social media accounts (Twitter and Instagram), I will be curating intensely so I’m not focusing on what I don’t need to focus on, especially on Twitter – which is mainly trash. I’ve also unsubscribed from all YouTube channels, so I can focus on, well…focusing.

I’m experimenting with cutting out the coffee again for a bit, as I feel it could be triggering the nervous tics when I’m living on little sleep.

Meditation has been nothing but good to me over the years and I was foolish to stop it, often we know what’s best for us but stop because times get tough.

The ‘Headspace app’ is an absolute godsend.

In terms of exercise – I don’t really have any choice with that considering the next challenge is so huge and I’ll be tightening up my nutrition in order to cope better with that.

No more buying booze for when I’m in the house either!

That’s about it from me, I feel 2019 is going to be a better one all around and I’m taking full personal accountability for doing so.

Don’t knock New Year’s resolutions until you’ve tried them (like I did). We have to start somewhere and it’s always good to reflect upon what you could have done better and what you did well.

Just make sure you take your new goals seriously and don’t let anyone or anything knock your focus. Good luck. Have a good’n.


Join the Conversation

7 comments

  1. Ariela Reply

    I enjoyed reading this! but geez that made me angry that your therapist wouldn’t see you cos she thought you were on cocaine?! Ugh. There are so many bad therapists out there. I went to 4 before now having one that I love!! So I would recommend trying to find a new one 🙂

  2. Sammy Reply

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  3. Desert safari deals Reply

    I am thrilled reading your success stories, struggles, and achievement of 2018. Your scores are pretty good than mine. I traveled to only 8 countries last year but will surely try to make the travel scores better next month.

    Your goals for 2019 are also very inspiring. Thanks man for this brilliant post.

  4. Will Reply

    Good read and some awesome achievements there (and an emotional reminder of the glory days of ’12). Can also recommend Stephen King On Writing.

  5. johnny Reply

    Legend

  6. James Reply

    I’m on Team Chiang Mai, but I’ll will happy for the excuse to visit Mexico City if you decide there.

  7. Jackie Rose Reply

    Wishing you contentment in 2019. Thanks for sharing this. I’m always grateful for people who open up about mental health and hope I have similar courage someday. Here here! to the comments about social media. It’s an odd little universe curated by corporations and ideas of self, not reality, and anything incongruent with reality can cause suffering. Most of my greatest celebrations and difficult hardships have never made it online so I can only guess it’s the same for others. Also cheers to meditating. If you ever want to chat about it, give a shout. ✨