Friday, 29 December 2017

MY 2017 in review

I write this 99% as a record to myself, but invite others to read it (but it is long and boring if you are not me).

I am a very reflective person. I've written similar things in the past more as a "Christmas letter" kind of thing and I've tracked the highlight events of a year since 2003 (not consistently).  I do it to remember, and to refine my "process" of planning the next year to shore up what things I think I've neglected, but more to try to load up on the things I know make us happier.  I have difficulty finding optimal balance,.. but the effort is something I enjoy and tinkering with the perfect formula is something I know will never lead to the "perfect year",... but it grounds me and gives me the feedback loops to remind me to stay on track.

What is important to me in life (with Laura):
  • seeing enough family
  • seeing enough friends
  • keeping work in proper context
  • ensuring we see/try enough new things: travel destinations, local activities, restaurants
  • health

2017 Overview

This year was destined to be a weird one.  In 2016 we decided my job was not a long term match and that it was time for Laura to use one of her leaves (3 months). We worked the first quarter and on April 1st we embarked upon a series of trips we likely will never rival in such density.  I did even more that Laura afterwards.  

I was determined to not consider my next work move for another 3 months (Q3) so I did a number of "projects" while she unfortunately went back to work. This included volunteering, multiple injury rehab stints, our complete and intensive diet change, completing a hiking milestone, and the 'not to be underestimated on effort' photo of the day project (among other pet projects).  I also dabbled in a few side jobs.

In Q4 I began to process what I'd learn in an effort to figure out my work life. More on that below.  As it stands I'm cautiously optimistic I'll be working early in the new year (slightly behind my plan). One of the potential options might be different enough from what I've done before to offer a new path for me and the balance I seek.


Travel is what will mark 2017 for us. In 2016 we went to Spain, so it felt absolutely decadent to embark upon something like this so soon after.  The whole thing I documented heavily in photos and can be found here.  We've started to call it the "friendly people tour" because the countries and provinces we went to are a collection of some of the nicest citizens and that is exactly what we experienced.  We never fought once (we never do),.. but noone is easier to travel with than my wife Laura. 

Phase 1: New Zealand, Hong Kong, Thailand
NZ was the longest stretch in one place, close to a month. The whole things was longer than either us had ever been away from home without living in one place. The highlights are too many to mention but if I had to pick, I'd say:
New Zealand: the stunning 4 day Tongariro circuit, Wellington, steamy Rotorua, and staying on a working sheep farm
Hong Kong: the giant Budha, and HK Disney on my birthday!
Thailand: the food, Tuk Tuks in Bangkok, killer temples, and the elephant sanctuary.

Phase 2: Peru
We had booked the maritimes trip already but left space after Asia to chase a deal,.. and Peru came up. Neither of us had ever been to South America at all. The highlights here included Machu Pichu (no surprise), all the street festivals, and staying with a family in rural Lake Titikaka.

Phase 3: Newfoundland
This trip was unique in the set because we went with Wendie and Pete! In a roadtrip format we crossed the province.  The hiking here was a bit limited by a knee problem of mine but we saw plenty of nature.  The true highlight here was a magical evening on a dock with musicians and local townsfolk as the moon set over the water.

After Newfoundland, Laura and Pete had to go home but I went with Wendie to do what became the start of "tour de cousins" project of 2017.  We visited Macleans and Vanderwoerds and formed many great memories along the way. A perfect Peggy's Cove sunset and the Northern mud flats will visually mark this trip for me, but the people we got to see were the true take-away.
I also went to Toronto piggy-backing a Laura work trip and loved it. We also did Portland,Victoria, and many local day trips.

One take-away I feel the need to record is the feeling that too much travel is possible.  The "peak" experience of getting away seems a bit diminished if you were already away for a month.  I truly think we became a bit jaded.  It is unfortunate that the work world forces us to do all or nothing, or not enough,.. just think of how many people probably would work for less money and more time off... and be better workers as a result (by spreading out the highlights).


I maintain that I'm the worst (Laura is better). The worst son, cousin, nephew, brother, and grandson before that,.. at least from the perspective of keeping in touch on a regular basis. For both friends and family,.. I just feel I don't invest enough time. 

This year I feel slightly less guilt about that.  In part, my awesome trip with Wendie to Nova Scotia allowed us to catch up with Macleans and Vanderwoerds (Aks, Grants, Hollands too) out there.  Although Anne and Wayne have always been there a number of our cousins from Alberta have made part or full time homes out of the Maritimes too and it was a riot to see them all.

Back home we were lucky to have a short visit with my cousin Murray, and Jim. I also managed to see more of my cousin Elly, and Jim and Irene than I typically do and it was great.  I also went to Victoria with my dad and Wendie for a great day trip to see Jean and Lorne.  We really covered the bases and to top it all off we celebrated my dad's 80th birthday by co-planning a party with Patti. Having more lunches and bike rides with my dad are a great dividend of having time off too.

On the less positive side my uncle Jim had to spend some time in the hospital dealing with a new wave of health concerns.  Not to be outdone on my mom's side, aunt Jean also has been fighting like a trooper a number of serious issues (but you wouldn't know it when you look at what she still manages to do in a year, really amazing).  Both of these stories cement my will to ensure I don't let spending more time with family slide.

The new family (for me), was less of a success. Ellen and Dave have a new family member but the busy side of that makes time tighter and we saw little of them (though Ronan and Dave came down to VC).  Even worse for me and my in-law parents, I didn't see them at all.  Upside - cousins Johnny and Danielle are expecting a baby and we managed to get together with the Garinger side of the clan for 2 (and counting) events over the holiday plus many a great meals at Tracie's for Game of Thrones!


This wasn't a good year for our social lives.  Between limiting our own diets, Laura's increased work duties, and being out of the country for over 4 months we have been feeling a bit cut-off. Having more time off allowed us to see my friend Dave and his family this summer (and our friend Teresa), but saw less of other people we usually see more of.  Part of that is our social network is a somewhat hiking-centric and health things limited our hiking (see below).  Other people also seemed really busy.
Friend highlights for me this year included Dave's visit and also hiking the Chain Lakes trail with Peter and Olivia. Many BBQs and brunches were also more frequent than I'm giving credit but we want to increase that even more.
We are getting a collapsible teak table from Laura's parents and we hope that might inspire us to host more events at our home.  


2 annoying injuries this year luckily impacted the travel part very little. My knees and now my shoulder.  A great physio helped my knees but something bigger is going on with my shoulder (a WiP).  Though hike season was mostly curtailed by weather and other things we were doing,. I had planned to make this season a life topper - it wasn't.  I did at least finish the 109 Walks book and got half a dozen light hikes in.
The other big thing this year was that when I asked Facebok for physio suggestions, a former co-worker suggested a diet change to address the inflammation head-on.  Together, we embarked upon a very time consuming project: Whole30. For me, it allowed me to shed some weight but also feel alot better in general, but it is a bit all consuming. My joint inflammation did go down though (until now when I fell off the wagon!).  My cholesterol levels also dropped which is important for me. Onwards and upwards and a goal for 2018 is to bike consistently for commuting.


I struggle here. I am liked at work and think I do good things, but I find it is often a source of my imbalance and a disproportionate amount of unhappiness. I resigned my former position for a number of reasons but mostly knowing something in me was not a match. My former employer was very gracious about it which I appreciate,. timing wasn't great but I gave 6 weeks notice which I hope reduced the impact. I was gratified to hear that the army of people I used to manage considered a gofund-me campaign to subsidize my salary and bring me back.  Little do they know, money was not the main issue.
I sought help and have done considerable self reflection. What is clear is a I need a mission I can stand behind and the mission cannot be "keeping the troops in line".  I'm looking to sectors that impact my city and would be pleased to be doing something related to community building or cycling and city infrastructure.  I'm looking away from IT and tech. Wish me luck!


In addition to the upkeep of a new diet regime, a huge and daily part of my year since mid March has been doing a 2017/18 photo of the day project.  I did this in 2012 and found it well worth it.  It changes how you see the world, and forces an unassuming introvert to go find new and cool things every single day (and learn my new camera's features).  I do think it has distracted me from doing other things though (like career related).

I also explored local transportation by doing a personal study of my travel habits and borrowing e-bikes.  

I've gone down many whimsical rabbit-holes, and enjoyed having the time to do so.


  • find a good job that aligns with my values
  • keep up the good work seeing more family
  • see more friends**
  • hike way more**
  • get health under control (all of the above IMO impact that)**
  • travel will probably be a lower priority for 2018
  • continually learn from my experience