Friday, December 23, 2016

2016: Year of Personal Growth

You know how businesses like to say that if they aren't growing they're dying?

I think it's the same with people. For me, I need to consistently be experiencing and learning and growing, otherwise I feel like I'm dying. Because what is the point of life if we aren't able to somehow get better at it and enjoy it more as we mature? Nobody wants to be the person who peaked in high school.

Chilean Plains & Mountains
Beginning in late 2015 I made a significant life decision to give up the normal world of job, mortgage, bills, stress. I wanted to learn more about myself and more about humanity in order to grow into the loving, understanding person that I want to be. The normal world of busyness and bills often leaves little room for personal understanding and growth.

In 2015 I overcame my fears and set out on a new path. The fears were many. Fear of failure. Fear of running out of money. Fear of Mexican drug lords and Colombian cartels. Fear of malaria and zika. Fear of not being in control. Fear of the unknown. 

It turns out that fears are mostly poorly informed ideas bouncing around in our brains. As a result, it was a rewarding decision for me.

Magellan Strait

Looking Back at 2016

2016 was an amazing year for me. It was full of thrilling and eye-opening new experiences, often involving new friends. See the archives of this blog for stories. It was also an odd year that I lived differently than any other year in my life, and different from the lives of virtually everyone I have ever known.

It began for me in El Chalten, Argentina in the shadow of glorious Mt. FitzRoy. Patagonia was always a place that existed only in my dreams, but there I was, hiking among her peaks and gushing with gratitude.

2016 was spent entirely on the road, traveling through South America and making my way up to Mexico. I mostly stayed at hostels, sharing rooms with friendly strangers for about 10 US dollars per night. I mostly ate out, something I had hoped to avoid and a place where I hope to improve in 2017. And I mostly had a wonderful time that I hope to continue until I get tired of it.

Here are the goals I set one year ago, with a note on each about my progress.
  1. Finish writing book and accompanying support website/marketing and begin making money. STILL IN PROGRESS. My business idea has evolved a bit so this is still in progress. I did successfully launch a website with some information on it that has been downloaded by 30 people so far. But I'm still a ways away from making money. Need to crack down more on this in Asia in 2017.
  2. Extended bicycle trip in Latin America DONE! I spent a few weeks cycling north through Chilean Patagonia in 2016. Touring on a bicycle is an excellent way to give a person a new perspective on the world. Every hill is a mountain. Every breeze is friend or foe. Streams are like family and mountains like gods. And all food is the best food ever.
  3. Have an Ayahuasca experience in Peru DONE! Ayahuasca is an ancient plant medicine that the local tribes have used for dozens of generations. It is a hallucinogenic that is used in healing because it pulls our inner self and inner demons out of the depths and forces us to reconcile with them. And as a hallucinogen, it also opens up doors to everything we don't yet understand about the universe. I enjoyed the experience and wrote about it here.
  4. Attend a yoga or meditation retreat DONE! The 10-day vipassana silent meditation retreat was intense and difficult and frustrating and wonderful and mind-expanding. Nothing is better for personal growth than meditation, and I got a massive dose of it here. So beneficial to be able to see that ideas in our head are nothing, actually, until we act on them. Therefore we can simply notice negative thoughts when they arise and let them go away without being acted upon. Powerful stuff. I don't get angry or frustrated anymore, except an occasional snap when alcohol weakens my awareness.
  5. Keep improving my self IN PROGRESS. This goal will always be "in progress". 
In 2016 I did a good job with my goals around inner growth and personal development. I did okay with my business goal. But what's alarmingly clear to me as I sit here with more fat around my belly than one year ago, is that I did not focus enough on my physical health.
Albatross soaring over Galapagos Islands

7 Billion Realities

I think the concept I'm most happy about understanding in 2016 is that there are 7 billion different realities on the planet, one for each person. For what is reality, but a brain's perception of the world through all of it's built-in lenses and filters. Our life experiences create our unique collection of lenses and filters. Hence, the world is seen differently by each of us. That's how smart people can differ so much on political views, for instance. Fortunately, there are a lot of overlaps in the different realities. These overlaps allow us to have mostly functioning nations, laws and fantasy football leagues.


The super cool thing about 7 billion different, but overlapping, realities is that reality lives within each of us. That means that we control (our) reality and therefore have the ability to change (our) reality. A most excellent truth.

This understanding has helped me stress out less when other people's views of the world differ from my own.

That's it for now. I'm sitting in the super cool city of Guanajuato, Mexico. A buddy from Montana is flying down to join me for Christmas weekend. Life is good.

I wish you all the best in 2017 and beyond.