A Year in Review (And a Needed Break)

Matt hiking in the mountains
As dawn broke on this year, I was excited for a fresh start. Last year, I dealt with panic attacks and anxiety from taking on too many projects, a breakup that left me heartbroken, and a mini-identity crisis from settling down.

But that “greatest worst year of my life” set the stage for a year in which I shifted my priorities and focused on developing routines. On a personal level, this was a solid year.

I cut my travels in half.

I now love waking up, opening my fridge, and making breakfast.

My panic attacks are gone.

I read a lot more.

I drink less and cook more.

I joined a gym.

I developed routines.

And, while my insomnia is not gone, I’m starting to sleep a lot better.

But no year is perfect.

I replaced one addiction (traveling) with another (work). On the road, it was easy to fill a day with exciting adventures. But now that I was home, what was I going to do? I did the one thing I knew i could default to: work. And I worked all the time. I annoyed my team on the weekend by sending them work. I released more digital guides and published a new edition of my print guide, How to Travel the World on $50 a Day. We changed the site’s design. I did two speaking tours. I ran three tours.

And, in the process, I burned myself and my team out.

As this year ends, I’ve come to realize that while I enjoy the stability in my life, I gave up the one thing I wanted most by slowing down: time.

Time to learn languages and start hobbies. Time to read and relax. Time to explore New York. Time to date. Time to do whatever the hell I feel like doing.

While I’m better at managing time, I still have too many projects going at once. As my friend Steve recently told me, “Matt, I got tired just hearing what you are doing. I can’t imagine what’s it like to actually do it.”

There’s a certain irony in that, while I preach the importance creating time in your life for what you want, I haven’t followed my own advice.

The truth is I’m a workaholic. I have been since I was I was a kid. I used to pull 60 hour weeks at my 9 to 5. I don’t know how not to work.

I think that’s why I love being an entrepreneur. It’s easy to always create projects and build stuff.

But I take it too an extreme: I just work. And then work some more. I write, I blog, I start new website and initiatives.

But I need to stop that. I need to free up time. The average life is only 29,000 days and, as I barrel closer and closer to the statistical half way point of my own, it’s time to live a more purposeful life.

And so, as I am off to Thailand and then New Zealand through January, I’ve decided to take a mini-break from blogging. In truth, while the panic attacks are gone, the conditions that created them still haven’t gone away.

I need to work on that.

Last year was a revelation. This year was a realization:

This new me is still a work in progress.

One thing I loved about this year was that I finally got offline while traveling. I didn’t bring work with me. I allowed myself to fully enjoy the places I went. I didn’t rush off to find an internet connection or get bothered if one didn’t exist. I want more of that. It makes me love and appreciate travel.

When I’m doing that, travel isn’t work.

This is not one of those “omg blogging is so much work so I’m taking a vacation” posts. I plan to still write and be on social media. This is taking a step back and trying to figure out how to find balance.

I’m not looking for work/life balance.

I’m just looking for balance in general. I want to stop feeling like I’m five minutes away from a panic attack.

While there are two big community announcements coming in January (We’ve been working on them for months and they are freaking awesome. They are designed to get people together in real life and talk about travel.), new blog posts will be few and far between until I return from New Zealand.

If last year taught me to stay put, this year taught me the need for balance. Multitasking is an illusion, and settling in one place made me realize just how easy it is to fall into “the busy trap” of modern life. The internet, with its 24/7/365 schedule means, without proper restrictions, it’s easy to give it your 24/7/365. And that’s not a good habit to have.

2018 will be a year of focus. It will be the year of stepping out of “the busy trap.” It’s time to learn to say no to things I don’t love and reclaim the world’s most limited and precious resource: time.

(On a final note, thank you for everything. You all are amazing and I’ve enjoyed your emails, letters, and random run ins on the street! Thank you for coming to all the meet-ups! This community is awesome and I look forward to seeing and meeting more of you in the new year. Thanks for always being there. Have a happy holidays and an amazing new year!)

P.S. – The winner of the free trip around the world contest has been picked. I’ll be announcing it tomorrow. Just have a few more details to work out Stay tuned!

P.P.S. – I’m hosting a meet-up in Bangkok on Christmas Day! Let’s grab drinks and talk travel Follow the Facebook event for updates.

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