2013 & The Insights of Those Who Helped Shape It

December 31, 2013

2013 was one of the most transformative years of my life. Full of ups and downs and twists and turns that I could never imagine, it’s a miracle I managed to get through it.

Still my insight only pales in comparison to those of all my friends, authors and inspirations that helped make 2013 what it was.

I asked what some of my year’s most defining influences took away from their own past twelve months living life all over the world.

Here’s what they had to say…

Lindsay Hogg…

Who remained a dear friend and stayed with me through the ups and downs, kicked my ass when I needed it and maintained a very sweaty posterior from lengthy bouts of bikram yoga.

The biggest insight I learned in 2013 was about being present. It’s a basic term/word, but it has begun to mean so much to me as I’ve explored it in the past year. From realizing the true reason I’m upset to questioning why I’m eating at what times… I realized I have spent so much of my life not being conscious/present in my day to day… often thinking about the future or the past instead of being responsible for my goals and actions in this exact moment.

 Lindsay is still the Queen of Travel and has lots of other exciting things on the go ready to be unleashed in 2014.

Jodi Ettenberg…

Who continued to be my voice of reason from both Vietnam and the UK.

That no matter how much you want to push yourself to try new things and experience adventure, sometimes life gets in the way. And when that happens you have no choice but to focus your energy inward and recalibrate to what life has given you, to work on gaining strength through those obstacles and then come out on the other side of them a more balanced and focused person.
Jodi spent 2013 launching her exciting new food tours as well as keeping us all entertained and updated over on Legal Nomads.

Anthony Middleton…

Who showed me is beauty as a human being too many times to mention while sharing an apartment with him in Thailand.

Simply surround yourself with as many people who “get you” as much as possible. It takes up too much mental energy to have to constantly explain yourself and to be misunderstood, and even worse – to compromise your own personal values and own sense of identity, in order to be part of a fake and forced relationship. Smile, wish these people well and walk forward. Never compromise with this. A crowded room really can be the loneliest of places.

At the same time it’s important to not harbour negative feelings to those who do not “get you” or don’t even try to. It’s just wasted energy.

Also, try to let go of relationships when you no longer “get” each other. It’s not anyone’s “fault.” The only constant in life is change and this can affect individual relationships, when we no longer feel the bond we once felt.
We torture ourselves with ruthless questions, such as: “was it even real?” Of course it was fucking real. It was real for what both parties needed at that time, for where you both were in one another’s lives. Now move on and find more people who are singing from the same song sheet as you, instead of bemoaning the fact that no one is singing your song.

Anthony spent 2013 getting ripped in Bangkok, travelling to Japan, Korea and The Philippines – as well as road tripping across New Zealand and Australia. He writes at Man Vs Clock.

Ian Ord…

Who proved a true gentleman, scholar and friend. And who also delighted in taking a Macbook Pro and old iPhone off my hands (I can only assume he used one of the two to write this monumental ode to the year just passed).

It’s funny… 2012 felt like a full life cycle. Newly an expat, I felt in my infancy. Not knowing what I was doing, or how to make things work for me, as opposed to the traditional me working for things. Learning was rapid, sometimes unfocused and seemingly endless. A new relation formed, again bringing with it much self discovery, excitement and learning.
About half way through the year, my parents came to visit. This felt like a period of adulthood, as I showed them around and took care of their needs. It was fun, and exciting watching the new experiences fill their lives with joy. I hadn’t seen them so happy.
This quickly came into the final phase of life – my father passed away during his visit with me by a sudden heart attack. The months that followed were full of grief, and hard emotions. Love and support were showered on my family and I from all corners of the globe. The part of life we all deny impacting ourselves had just paid a visit to Thailand – and it certainly had a heavy impact.
After a visit home in Canada, the end of that year came to a close with a new outlook and sense of direction. I had seen the pride in my father’s eyes and of course in my mother’s, as we walked around and I introduced him to my new life… to my world. What I was to do going forward was to make those dreams I had talked about stop being dreams. I had to make them a reality. I had to come into the reality of life and try to bridge it with the dreams I had been envisioning. If not just for myself, for this lifestyle, to stay with my new love… I knew he’d have wanted to see me happy and feeling successful as well.
Life is precious, and taken away from you in a split second… so make the most of it, and don’t waste time dreaming about your dreams… try starting to actually live your dreams now! You might not get another chance.
Ian spent 2013 launching a cool new tour operating business and continues to tear it up with his girlfriend Marianne in Thailand.

James Clark…

Who showed me some great cafe spots in Bangkok and continued his generous offer of pearls of wisdom throughout the year.

I have been thinking about the nature of friendships. This year marked the twentieth anniversary of meeting one of my oldest friends, one that I am still in touch with on a regular basis. I have a handful of friends (less than five) that I remain in touch with on at least a weekly basis. Most friends – it seems – come and go, which is ok. People move. Jobs change. Families start which demand attention. It wouldn’t be possible to maintain close friendships with everyone over a lifetime. What I have realised though is that I need to appreciate the friends that are currently in my life.

James spent the majority of 2013 settling into his adopted home of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, as well as making trips to Central America, the US and beyond. You can find his writing at NomadicNotes.com.

Kiki Kirby…

Who I met shortly after returning home and who coached me in the art of life and the challenges it throws up.

I did lots of reflecting over the year and my goals and there were a few things…  I learnt to take one day at a time and to have faith everything will work out the way it should do. I also realised it’s not only about achieving the goals it’s also about the journey. This year I have set some really good solid foundations for my goals and 2014 is going be incredible. I also had a jar where I put good things that happened last year into and opened it on New Years eve. I found it really good to reflect on things I had forgotten about. I also realised it’s not about achieving a goal quickly. It’s about one day at a time.

Overall my year was all about learning, building foundations and stopping to think about why/what I want from a goal, life and the day to day.

Kiki is busy setting up several businesses in Gloucestershire.

Ed Rex…

Who I got to meet in person after speaking at Traverse in Brighton.

‘My biggest insight from 2013 is to live for the moment. Since coming back from travelling in 2013, I spent a few months mooching around and growing in despair as I went from one project to the other with fears of the future. Taking stock one day, I decided to ignore the future and let it come to me. Meanwhile, I’ll just be spontaneous and do the things I want to do without any regard to the consequences. This is my life.’

Ed continues to blog and travel at Rexy Edventures.

Jeremy Albelda…

Who I had the tremendous pleasure of meeting and hanging out with for a week or so during the summer in Bangkok. And who stunned me with feats of masculine prowess I’ll probably never come to know in my own life.

I’d say my biggest insight this year was that I’m really the master of my own universe. And through working both smart and hard, I can accomplish virtually anything I put my mind too. It’s given me a lot of confidence, patience for others believe it or not and appreciation for life in general. Nothing is guaranteed and I’m just trying to live life to the fullest right now and do what makes me happy.

Jeremy continued to take on the world and 2013 through his blog and went all the way around the world from his home in Miami.

Lizzie Ruiz…

Whose hard work helping to run my business pursuits I’ll be forever grateful and indebted for. And who also paid what was a first-time visit to Bangkok at the start of the year.

This past year’s biggest insight? For me, probably that an ‘either/or’ mentality is an unproductive one. A lot of people – myself included – tend to get caught up in one extreme or the other. At the end of last year I stalled out asking myself whether I should keep traveling the world or go back to a 9-5 job. I felt like one of those options equated to failure, but I couldn’t figure out which.Over the course of 2013 though, I’ve come to better understand that life isn’t about taking one road vs. another – for me it’s more about exploring as many roads as possible, and forging new paths between them. After all, we only get one lifetime, but that doesn’t mean we only get to live one life within it. I went back to a 9-5. I also went to more countries in 2013 than I ever have in a single year. By giving up on trying to pick one piece over another, I became a lot more nimble fitting the different pieces together that really mattered to me.

Lizzie spent 2013 working on her writing projects before eventually settling in Los Angeles and beginning an exciting new career.

Chris Panks…

Who proved to be one of my oldest standing friends and biggest confidantes in the field of life. And who also upped his game to complete a triathlon and other impressive sporting feats.

The most important thing I have learned this year is the importance of honesty. It seems to me to be the key to building anything more than superficial relationships, though I haven’t started to reap the benefits too much as yet. I found that in the past I tried to mind-read and then give people what I thought they wanted – my guesswork was often wrong. The more open I am, the more I trust others to make their own conclusions from the stimulus I offer, the easier it gets. The comfort that this provides is not easy to attain, but when you’re not playing a part, the consistent fear of one’s mask ever slipping is completely nullified allowing the use of that energy for more productive pursuits. It’s about trust really, it’s about trusting others with your feelings and opinions, but also trusting yourself when those others react negatively.

Chris spent 2013 interviewing some of the world’s most extreme adventurers as well as training for his own upcoming expeditions.

Martin Seligman…

Whose research into positive psychology proved immediately insightful and uplifting and whose work continues to shape millions of people around the world. And, who also allowed me to learn two new English words thanks to his response.

The possibility of terraforming other species to do prospection.

Dr Seligman spent the holiday season of 2013 in Africa and continues to educate the world through his writings on learned helplessness.

Rob Hanly…

Who I had the pleasure of meeting in Thailand and whose email correspondence kept me sharp, alive and wondering all kinds of philosophically related things.

The biggest insight I gained this year is the importance on focusing on the fundamentals as you surround yourself with the right friends.
Fundamentals keep you focused on doing the big impact tasks that you’ll always come back to, and the right friends give you the confidence and encouragement (as well as the odd steer in the right direction) to get it done.
Rob spent 2013 living mostly in Chang Mai writing on his website and working on projects like Only Bodyweight.

Turner Barr…

Who I got to learn more about thanks to his relocation to Bangkok at the start of the year and whose enthusiasm took me to a snake petting zoo where I saw him get loud and louche with a cobra.

It’s been a big year – with many ups accompanied by many downs, but I suppose it the silver linings that we find through some grounded perspective that keep us moving forward onto bigger challenges and goals. The biggest take away I have from 2013 is to always follow your gut, heart, instinct – whatever you call that internal compass and take action, even when it points you down a scary, unknown path.

After tolling for weeks on what to do when a certain multi-national got cheeky (see: sinister as fuck) and decided to wholesale steal my identity/brand for its global marketing campaign and deploy some lawyer henchmen, I decided to trust that compass down a very uncertain road and take action. Many friends and colleagues who I initially reached out to, including a Mr. Will Peach, weren’t particularly optimistic on the outlook. But I couldn’t shake that deep feeling in my heart. Luckily, I decided to walk down that unknown path and I found a friend who also shared my belief, Steve (WalksofItaly.com), and as it turns out, I found a lot more “friends” from all over the world who also shared our belief. They took action. Point of the matter is, the path maybe unclear, but trusting yourself and gut that it will work out is the best course. One that you can walk away feeling good about not matter how it unfolds.

Turner spent 2013 fighting the good fight against a major corporation who stole is brand and also, most recently, helped deliver gifts to the children of The Philippines.

Chris Stevens…

Who I had the pleasure of finally meeting for a beer on Khao San Road accompanied by his lovely brother and girlfriend. And then who promptly enjoyed his time hanging out in Bangkok’s preeminent gay district.

This year I learnt a lot about travel and indeed myself. The biggest thing I learnt about my life on the road was to take my time – not simply bounce from place to place like a mentalist trying to tick places and countries off my list. It’s something I began to implement and to be honest I’m a much happier, less stressed person for it. I take my time, kick back for a while and chill…I am a surf bum after all and thats what we do best!

I also became a firm believer in the fact your travels are YOUR travels. As a travel blogger yes I give advice and pass on stories – but at the end of the day it’s a guide, not a bible – if you’re reading this and are planning your own adventure by all means check out a yea of sites, but piece together all the best bits and things that interest you and create your own plan. Learn from our mistakes but don’t expect not to make any new ones yourself!

Chris spent 2013 pretty much everywhere. You can find out exactly where and what he did on his blog.

Toni White…

Who I finally had the pleasure of meeting in Brighton and who continued to share her life and all its big wins and losses along with me.

Living your life by others expectations and rules will hurt you more than peoples’ disappointment.  Often we are weighed down in life by following what others think we should be doing; even loving expectations from family and friends weigh heavy on our hearts and minds but staying true to yourself and doing what you know and feel is right for yourself, whether others agree with you or not, will ultimately be the only true source of happiness you will ever need to rely on.

Toni spent 2013 packing up her life in the UK and heading to Australia where she continues to work and write from.

Michael Lovan…

Who went on one of the most transformative journeys I personally witnessed in 2013, coming through umpteen setbacks and still continuing to be a great friend full of vigour and lust for life. Also had the pleasure of sleeping in a bed with him on a remote Thai island.

What was the biggest insight I leaned about life in 2013? You’re going to have to follow me down a little bit of a rabbit hole for a moment.
I am entitled my multitudes, my bounds, my contradictions.
Some people like to approximate this to having “two minds about it” or “I feel mixed” or “My [bodypart] says no but my [bodypart] says yes” but there have only ever been a handful of consistent situations my entire life in which I felt confident and decisive. Writing these words I’m cognoscente that this is an entirely novel concept but my other side says “FUCK YOU what a breakthrough.”
I’ve subscribed to the values of consistency so much because my mind was and is incapable of processing most things with such a through line. It is as though there have been two, or more, or less, entities inside of me that have emotionally, logically, morally, ethically wrestled over every minute moment I’ve ever had to process. I’ve erred on the side of caution through most of my years, opting in favor of saying what I assumed other people wanted to hear, all the while neglecting the me that became more of a shadow that trailed behind my feet silently.
At my breaking point, trying to keep up with what I believed I believed and what I shared (that I also believed), I somehow found it intuitive to suddenly embrace the whole. To be real with people. To say what I needed to say regardless of repercussions or the potential fallout. To allow my contradictions to be scoffed at while learning to allow myself to give a shit about what they think of me.
This is my way of saying in 2013 I leaned that it’s not only okay to say what you want but it’s awesome. It’s like my whole life I was travelling on one foot and now I have two.
Michael spent 2013 working on TravelSexLife.com with Stephen and I before eventually selling it, moving back to The US, acting in a film, getting out of debt, starting a new exciting life, overcoming grief and myriad other things. He continues to lead a great life.

Ben Spall…

Who continued to inspire after starting a new chapter since meeting in Spain and kept me updated with his thoughts and matters throughout the course of the year.

Happiness is your relationships. Weird for somebody who would have previously called himself a ‘traveller’ to say, but everything is better when done with either somebody you love, or at least are friendly with. I always used to say I loved travelling alone, but in retrospect it’s more likely that I just loved being able to travel where I wanted to without having to deal with the wants of somebody else. If I’d been travelling with somebody I loved or had a good friendship with there’s no doubt these experiences would have been better.

Ben spent 2013 launching his copywriting business, discussing people’s morning routines and sharing his thoughts with the world on his website.

Ed Mantle…

Who continued to be one of my most treasured long-standing friends from afar and a voice of honesty and reason in a world where that’s a rarity.

I’m not sure how much I learned about life in 2013. I cut my bridges and gave up a well-paid job lying for politicians in order to try my hand at making films. So far I’ve spent all the money I saved on camera equipment I’ve barely used and taxes. I’m now struggling to find the motivation to do anything beyond a bit of social media stuff for a friend who’s taken pity on me and play Battlefield 4. I suppose I know that I need to just get on and do it, but saying it and making it happen are two different things. Setbacks like not getting selected for funding feel like a real kick when you’re down. But I’m about to turn down another well paid full time role making a series about cycling in the hope that in 2014 I can actually change. So far there have been lots of grand designs but few real accomplishments. That needs to stop.

Oh and look after your health. We might be young but that won’t stop us getting fucked up hearts or grinding our joints away to powder or finding lumps in strange places.

Ed spent 2013 living in Brighton, tinkering on film projects and continuing to be an elusive enigma in terms of the internet.

Ryan Holiday…

Whose writing, books and exploits in the world of marketing continued to inspire and give me plenty to debate amongst friends.

That you can almost always take on more than you think. Whether it’s feeling like you’re already stressed beyond capacity–life can find a way to put more on your plate. Whether you already think you’re maxing out what you can do in gym, there’s always more. Whether you think you’re working at your capacity, if a big client came up–you could make it work. Your limits are mostly illusory–good and bad. Don’t trust them.

Ryan spent 2013 writing and publishing a new book, Growth Hacker Marketing, as well as continuing to cause a ruckus with his writing online.

Sean Orford…

Whose excellent podcast with Edward Lamb gave me plenty to think about and consider throughout the year and whose excellent advice helped me cope better with illness.

Patience…I can achieve my goals by being attentive, without attachment, by allowing the universe to unfold in its time not ‘my’ ego time. I will eventually be able to  run my marathon, and will be able to achieve all my goals, with patience, consistent and persistence and of course gratitude…

Sean spent 2013 continuing to run his psychotherapy business and writing about his thoughts on his website.

Alain de Botton…

Who proved to be one of my favourite authors and no doubt rocked my world and blew my mind with books like Religion for Atheists, The Art of Travel and The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work.

In 2013, I saw further how much ‘good ideas’ get nowhere unless they are backed up by institutions. I saw how powerless books are on their own.

Alain continues to publish on his official website and is also busy with his initiatives The School of Life and Living Architecture.

Samuel  Jeffery…

Whose presence continued to escape me despite being in the same country for the most part of the year and who kept me sane with the various mental obsessions I offloaded on him.

There are certainly things in life that matter more than anything else.  This year, I’ve accomplished a lot professionally; however, it’s come at a price in terms of both my physical and mental health.  Next year, my plan is reclaim my health (especially my fitness level), spend more time with loved ones and not obsessively stress out over things I have absolutely no control over.  Success doesn’t have to come with compromises.  I’ve learned this year that relationships and health are paramount and should never play second fiddle to anything else in my life.

Samuel continues to travel around the world and spent 2013 building his video channelwebsite and hanging out in Scotland with his girlfriend and fellow blogger Audrey.

Liz Froment…

Whose emails kept me pondering big and difficult questions about what direction to take my life and business in.

I realized I had to stop getting so bogged down in worry and fear and self imposed perfectionism and start having more fun. So I stopped worrying constantly about what I was going to do and what my plan for the future was and started to just do shit that I enjoyed.

I booked more vacations, I had more lunches with friends, I reached out to new people to grab a coffee or Skype, I took golf lessons on Wednesday mornings with 60 year old retirees.Turned out I needed that outlet to be able to clear out my mind of all the crap and just focus on the stuff I enjoyed.

That, in turn, sort of helped to lift all these self imposed weights and restrictions I had been carrying around that had gotten in the way of my best work. Before long it really felt like things were falling into place, I realized I could travel how I wanted and work at the same time, I got new clients, I found a few projects I loved doing, I connected offline with really great people, hell I even have a pretty good golf swing now.

Liz spent 2013 driving around the US, exploring various business opportunities and continuing to be a menace on Twitter.

Tal Ben-Shahar…

Whose book Happier introduced me to the concept of learned happiness and brought some scientific grounding in explanation of the things I’d been thinking and feeling.

My biggest insight is a well-known one, however I grasped it fully and internalized it this year.  It’s about the importance of simplicity, doing less rather than more, having less rather than more.  It’s captured by a beautiful quote, written almost 200 years ago by Thoreau:

“Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!  I say let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen… In the midst of this chopping sea of civilized life, such are the clouds and storms and quicksands and the thousand-and-one items to be allowed for… and he must be a great calculator indeed who succeeds.  Simplify.  Simplify .”

Tal writes about positive psychology and continues to publish work in the field on his official website.

Tim Parks…

Whose brilliant book Teach Us to Sit Still proved a much needed relief to my panic-stricken mind in the throes of suffering from prostatitis.

As for things learned in 2013, my mind really doesn’t work that way. I just try to stay aware in a calm way every minute and enjoy it as it passes. Hopefully with generosity.

Tim is an author, translator and essayist whose work can be found at Tim Parks.com.

Niall Doherty…

Who I lived in Bangkok with at the beginning of the year and whose labour in the pick-up market I did my best to capitalise on.

It’s okay to piss people off. In fact, that’s often the best thing you can do in a situation. I’m not saying that you should go around pissing people off just for the sake of it, but when you hold back speaking your truth just because you’re worried you might upset someone, that can be a big problem. Really, it’s manipulative. You’re essentially editing yourself so other people will like you. You’re not being truthful. I’ve been making it a point lately to speak up even when I feel what I have to say will upset someone. As a recovering people-pleaser, it’s a really empowering thing to do. And the consequences are far more positive than negative as most people tend to respect those who speak their minds, even if they don’t particularly like what they’re hearing.

Niall writes at Disrupting the Rabblement and spent 2013 in Thailand, Hong Kong and Korea getting into ultraman-like shape and building a software business.

Oliver Burkeman…

Whose book The Antidote ranked as one of my favourites of the year and saved me from the inevitable despair of seeking self-help in books that don’t actually work.

I guess I was struck, not literally for the first time but with more force, by how big a gulf there is between knowing about the kind of things I write about and actually practicing them. Not that I’m a huge hypocrite who doesn’t do any of the things he advocates, but just that there’s a constant additional effort needed to practice things, even after you’ve become completely convinced that they’re the right thing to do. I assume there isn’t a solution to this problem – because then I’d just need to find a way to implement *that* solution – but keeping it constantly in mind strikes me as a really good idea.

Oliver writes at OliverBurkeman.com as well as for the excellent This Column Will Change Your Life in The Guardian.

Johnny Ward…

Who I lived with in Bangkok at the beginning of the year and who handed my ass to me on Pro Evo too many times to count.

To believe. Don’t talk about what you deserve, or don’t dream about being deserving of something. You have to actually, genuinely believe you can achieve something, deep in your heart you have to know you can do it. Then take care of the procedures and the results will take care of themselves.

Johnny writes at One Step 4 Ward and launched his own media enterprise in late 2013.

Ash Clark…

Who I resumed a strong discourse with over social media from our positions across the world.

Don’t hold other people accountable to the high level of values and character that you have in your own life.

Ash writes at The Most Alive and spent most of 2013 living and exploring life in Berlin.

Michael Turtle…

Who I had the pleasure of developing a burgeoning friendship with over alcohol fuelled shenanigans in dodgy corners of Bangkok and beyond.

The only things that can stress you out are the ones you let affect you. Problems are only as important as the importance you give them. But, then again, society seems to expect us to challenge ourselves and be as productive as possible. There’s nothing wrong with trying to make the most of our potential but it shouldn’t be at the cost of our happiness. Each of those challenges and reaches for success should be enjoyable in their own right. Most of us are fortunate enough to be able to make choices that balance satisfaction with neccessity. The key is getting that balance right.

Michael writes at Time Travel Turtle and spent 2013 wandering around several corners of the globe and the summer in London. He’ll be speaking at the upcoming Traverse conference in February.

Mike Welsh…

Who proved to be a great and supportive friend during a crisis of sorts in Bangkok and a formidable partner in our regular Pub Quiz victories.

Not being in a rush and taking the time to find out what it is that makes me happy and what motivates me is what will lead to real happiness, rather than following a route which might look more tempting and/or exciting on the outside in the short run.

When planning and setting out to reach a goal taking the first step is always the most important. It can be easy to talk yourself out of trying something new by focusing on the negatives that ‘could’ happen, but no one is ever going to hand your goal to you, you have to make it happen yourself. Success and reaching goals happens through failure and having the ability to learn from failures is what helps pave the way towards success. While the path might not always be straight, staying focused, working hard and having determination to see it through will lead to reaching your goal.

For me, 2013 also helped reinforced the saying ‘It’s always better to give than to receive.’

Mike writes at Go Powerkick and spent 2013 finishing off his MA, presenting at a conference in Romania, planning his forthcoming motorcycle trip across Southeast Asia and kicking trivia ass.

Peter Noyce…

Who proved to be my saving grace in a Mexico City earthquake as well as a reliable drive home from a day spent drinking on the canals of Xochimilco.

2013 was the year of knowing when to slam the brakes on. Sometimes it takes a while to realise we feel pressured into doing stuff that doesn’t fit with what we want to do and it’s important to be able to pluck up the courage and say “no”. “NOOOOOOOO!” If we’re getting too caught up in projects and goals that are affecting our personal lives, we have to be able to take a step back and get some perspective “HELL NO!” Slam them brakes on, then reach for the gas.

Peter spent 2013 finishing up his novel and celebrating another year lived in the Mexican capital. You can catch up with him on Twitter.

Happy New Year to all these people and to everyone else (some of which I apologise for leaving out due to time and space issues) who I had the pleasure of meeting and interacting with in 2013.

It’s been a pleasure learning and growing from the things you continue to do and stand for.