2017 Annual Review

I love the period around Christmas and New Years as a time where you think back on the year that went and start thinking about the new year. It’s pretty irrational that it should be at right that time, you have those thoughts. You could do that whenever, but it comes naturally to many around that time, and for me too.

I made some notes on what I did in 2017, what I learned and how I want to use it all going forward. I’ve put stuff in 6 different categories: learning, sports, work, lifestyle, and travel. Time flies super fast and it’s easy to forgot and not appreciate everything, so making some kind of annual review is a good way to finish the year and start a new.

Learning

I always start the year by wanting to be more structured about learning, but I still didn’t succeed with it. There are so many topics out there I want to learn more about and if I want to learn just a small percentage of what I want, I have to get more structured about it at some point I guess.

One topic that I’ve been especially interested in, in 2017, was urban planning. This overlaps quite a lot with traveling full-time since the whole idea with that was to live in different ways, to learn more about how I wanted to live. One thing I’ve been trying a lot is to really think about how places make me feel, especially in the long run.

I notice everything about places I’m in. The noise level, smells, how it feels to be in a place alone, with others and much more. Adding a bit of theory to my observations has been interesting. Maybe I will dig into the subject in future blog posts, but one thing I can say already now: It’s made me even more critical about where I want to live and even more hungry in the pursuit of exploring new places and ways of living.

I stumbled upon the topic after reading a blog post about the true cost of commuting, which lead to reading the book Happy City. I would recommend following CityLab.com and especially checking out the work of fellow Dane Jan Gehl. An easy, but an interesting book I would recommend is City 2.0.

In the middle of 2017, I started reading a lot about Bitcoin, like everyone else. What I found very interested was the idea of decentralization which lies in the theory behind Bitcoin. I know everyone says they are in it for the technology, but just want to earn a quick buck, but if you value freedom and are interested in a world where neither governments, companies or people can concentrate too much power, it’s worth digging into!

Sports

Being almost 9 years since I started running and doing sports in general, I think 2017 was a great year. The last few years, I’ve switched more from having big sports goals, that I was very serious about, for example doing a fast Ironman triathlon, to being better at just enjoying endurance sports.

The year started out with a few months mainly doing treadmill runs in super hot Malaysia, which lead up to a marathon in 2hr 55min in Tehran in April. While not so exciting, it gave a really good base for the rest of the year.

The last part of the year was spent in the French Alps, where I did almost 15 hours of weekly training when training the most. No goal, watching my times very little, but just enjoying pushing myself and being outside. While I’ve been lucky to have a bunch of great experiences in the mountains, I will always remember these months. Why? Because it was pure passion, it was hard work that I loved and it was many hours of solitude.

I have never felt as strong as after these good months and my love for being in mountains has just grown. Something I’ve learned this year is that what I really like is being alone outside, pushing myself hard. It motivates me much more than doing races etc.

In the summer I climbed Mont Blanc with a good friend via the Cosmique route, quite a lot more technical than I’ve tried before. It was a good challenge and I was out of my comfort zone not just a few times.

Work

Work started out terrible and ended quite well. In the beginning of the year, I was really struggling. I think I had some kind of personal crisis (can’t remember what number this was), but I couldn’t really see the meaning of work. My focus was Refuga, but I wasn’t motivated at all. I didn’t feel I had found the best way to scale it and couldn’t really see the purpose of doing it anymore.

That just resulted in most work days being wasted on being angry about not being focused enough, on things not working or growing. Refuga is a project that can grow and do something fun, but the focus and work I’ve put in, is not enough to make it a success.

I had a very hard time finding directing during this period and my days just got worse and worse, for over two months also affecting my sleep a lot. Ask my girlfriend… I was not interesting to be around. Maybe it was some kind of small depression or something. I don’t know.

While I’ve always been lucky enough to make a living for myself and for the last year or so I’ve not been taking in new consulting gigs, but when I got the opportunity to work on another project, I just said yeah right away. I quickly saw that just being productive and creating stuff is an anxiety killer (for me at least). Over a few weeks, I realized that I had to think about thriving instead of building that big company and I started trying to get more work, did some creative work with no monetization ideas and it helped.

Over the last 4 months, it’s actually resulted in a $10k/month consulting gig that only takes part of my time. Besides that, I’ve gotten involved with a training company (the company that trained me for Ironman some years ago) where I now own a small stake (through an option) and I started Radimet.dk with a good friend, who is also the person I started one of my very first businesses with.

While I still struggle a lot with direction, 2017 was transformational for me. My dream is still to do something big one day, but right now this is the right thing. I’m earning good money, saving a lot of money and creating stuff every day.

Lifestyle

As mentioned earlier, the idea around us traveling full-time / being digital nomads is meant to be more than just being in nice places. Our idea was to learn about different ways of living, so we can create the best way of living for us. Do we wanna live near the beach, in a big city, what kind of culture, big house, tiny apartment etc. I think we did some interesting observations in 2017.

We changed strategy to traveling more slowly, having a base in Kuala Lumpur for the first part of the year and in Chamonix, France the last part. It worked out great, having more time in each location, doing smaller concentrated trips and planning well in advance, so we could have a lot of visits.

After traveling to 25 countries in 2016 (insanely stupid), we have enjoyed much more quality time with good friends in 2017 and that is something we will work even more on, especially by planning where we live well in advance and getting as many friends to visit as possible.

We bought a new apartment in Denmark, so we have a base there. We will go there from March and the rest of 2018 because we’re having a baby, but we are both still very interested in living in new countries for shorter and longer periods, so that is the plan for 2019 again, but let’s see with that baby. I’ve heard it’s a lot of work ;)

Travel

Travel was as mentioned slower, but the quality was much higher than in 2016. With having two bases instead of traveling a-to-b-to-c, really removed a lot of stress and planning, which gave the energy to do some really nice trips. Especially, the energy to plan well in advance to do trips with good friends.

We did North Korea and Everest Base Camp with Refuga, I did Bali with my mom, we did trips with friends in Malaysia, Hong Kong, France, Iran and Israel. Nothing is perfect, but 2017 as a travel year, regarding the kind of experiences and with whom they were shared, was very close to perfect.

One thing I really enjoyed was going back to Beijing 5 years after we lived there. From the places we have stayed longer (just 6 months for example), it’s amazing how we really feel we have a deep connection with those places. Even being almost 4 years since we were there last, there were a lot of memories feeling completely fresh. While it is exciting to visit new places, I really really value going back to places where I’ve some big memories. It’s probably my favourite kind of traveling.

Conclusion

Lots of challenges, experiences and learnings. It was an interesting year. 2018 is defintely going to be different, going from just being 2, to also having a little baby. There won’t as much adventure in the traditional sense, but I’m sure there will be another bunch of good lessons learned a year from now.


Originally published at Nikolaj Astrup.

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