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For the last few years, I’ve paused at my travel and blogaversary to both take stock of the goals I set the year before, and make a new round for the year ahead. Since self employment means I don’t quite have a boss to take care of this for me, consider it my annual progress review! My fifth year of blogging and travel was a pivotal one both personally and professionally, progress I credit primarily to the nearly seven months I spent based in Thailand.

By taking some baby steps back from travel, I was able to ink deals with major travel brands, start a newsletter, phase out a long-standing weekly feature, launch the Featured Blogger program, implement display ads, hire a second assistant, and sign on with a management team. Yup, this was a busy year behind the scenes at Meihoukai in Wanderland! But let’s take a closer look at what went right, what went wrong, and what my new aims are moving forward.

Last Year’s Goals

Want to see these goals spelled out in more detail? Find last year’s goal setting post here.

Goal: Get my time back. Go offline for larger swaths of time without my universe collapsing. I plan to achieve this by slowing down, developing a home base, hiring out the aspects of my business that I am ineffective at, and developing more passive income streams.
Verdict: This was kind of a residual goal from year four that I felt I made progress on but definitely didn’t nail. A lot of people in my life have noted that I seem a lot calmer this year, and that zen comes straight from the huge steps I’ve taken to achieve this. That said, I’m still not at the point where I could pre-write a bunch of posts and go totally offline for two weeks, which is something I’d really love to do eventually. So, verdict? I’m getting there.

Goal: Take and write about trips that reflect my passions. I’d love to try to carve out time for both diving specific trips and perhaps even a yoga retreat this year.
Verdict: While it wasn’t exactly the liveaboard I imagined, my Bonaire trip was a diving one, so I can consider that a success – though getting myself in a bunk on floating dive trip is a must for this coming year. I also didn’t make it to a yoga-specific retreat, though my everyday practice really took off with regular attendance at classes and workshops on Koh Tao, so I’m not too sad about it.

Goal: Get my inbox under control. I am literally plagued with guilt on a daily basis over the hundreds (thousands?) of unanswered, flagged emails in my inbox. I am hoping that by turning the business ones over to someone else I will be able to focus more on the personal ones from readers.
Verdict: With a heavy heart I must say I failed spectacularly at this one. I’m not giving up though — I made steps by finding a couple channels of emails that I could redirect to my manager and to my assistants, and I’m going to revisit the rest of the equation in this year’s fresh new goals, below.

Goal: To be open to commitment again. I haven’t been in a relationship where I didn’t have one foot out the door in a long time. It’s been years since I committed to anything — a lease, a long term boyfriend, a monthly gym membership. I’m ready to try living life without an escape plan.
Verdict: The apartment part was tough! It was hard to adjust to paying rent while frequently flitting off on adventures and simultaneously paying for accommodation there too, but I quickly adjusted to the benefits of having a home to come back to. I still struggle with the concept of commitment, but I’m at least conscious of my phobia.

Blogging Goals

Blogging Goals

Goal: To turn down press trips guilt-free.
Verdict: Success! There were a few that were tough to say “no thank you” to, but overall I know I made the right choices and felt confident in my decisions.

Goal: To focus on improving my writing craft.
Verdict: After having a really strong showing for this in year four, I feel like I dropped the ball in year five. While I did experiment with writing a lot of non-destination specific personal and inspirational posts, I  didn’t do much creative writing not directly intended for the blog. I’m going to revisit this in the upcoming year.

This Year’s Goals

Yes, some of the above are still works in progress. But onward and upward — let’s mix in some new goals to keep things fresh! I’ve learned that I have the best success rate with specifically outlined objectives, so while I’m setting more goals than ever, they are generally more detailed and bite-sized than in previous rounds.

New Goal: Reintroduce spontaneity into my travels. Hm, haven’t we heard this before? The grass is always greener, and now that I have stability back in my life, I’m cravings its counter-part, spontaneity. Perhaps life will be an endless cycle between the two as my inner pendulum swings between restless and overwhelmed! This past year was quite rigidly planned, and I felt it. I’d like to add in some structure-free backpacking back into the upcoming one. Perhaps a few weeks of purposely unplanned adventure in Indonesia?

New Goal: Email management. No seriously this time, because this is one of the biggest sources of stress in my life. I want to reach inbox zero. Dream big, right? This summer I’ll be shifting my email server, doing some serious unsubscribes, and then sitting down and writing an actual email management plan, rather than using my current system of waiting for my emails to answer themselves and then acting baffled when they don’t. Wish me luck!

New Goal: Continue focusing on eco-friendly travel and sharing my own journey towards sustainability.

New Goal: Be proactive instead of putting out fires. I’d love to be one of those entrepreneurs who goes to a coworking space and listens to productivity podcasts, but unfortunately I think I tend to fall into the more “hot mess super sorry I never returned your email whoops” category instead. I’d like to spend less time this year frantically doing things I meant to do yesterday, and more time brainstorming big picture ideas; and I’d like to proactively pitch brands I want to work with rather than waiting to pick through those that come to me. I think the agent/manager I recently signed with is going to help me make huge strides towards this goal.

New Goal: Pitch and publish a personal essay somewhere I’ll be proud of.

New Goal: Prioritize. Be realistic about what can be accomplished in a day. I have a terrible habit of doing the easiest things on the to-do list first as opposed to the most important, which considering I tend to write to do lists a mile long, means that I often never get to the important stuff! (If you hear muffled sobbing in the distance, it is me lamenting the fact that I still have no completed my ebook project five years in the running.) Being self employed means there are always somewhere between a dozen and a hundred options for things to busy yourself with and I often pick the wrong option. I work hard and work often, but I don’t always work smart.

I’ve gotten a lot better about being realistic and not beating myself up at the end of the day that I haven’t completed my literally humanely impossible list of tasks, but I don’t want to let that mean my passion projects atrophy while I distract myself with ticking off busy work. While I know that there is some value in following my whims and interests and focus of the day, I do want to experiment with setting stricter boundaries for myself. I recently purchased a day planner and I’m going to work on starting each week and each day with prioritized to-do lists.

New Goal: Nurture my hobbies and interests. Keep attending festivals, go on a diving liveaboard, read a book in Spanish, go to a yoga retreat and nail a forearm handstand. I’ve actually reached the conclusion that I want to do my yoga teacher training at some point, and while I’m not sure that needs to be on my list for this upcoming year, it is in the back of my mind moving forward.

New Goal: Start donating regularly to charity again. After having a very rewarding year of giving when I started turning a profit off this blog, I fell out of the habit. Time to get back on the giving train.

New Goal: Be a grown up. I recently made adjustments to my accounting system that I hope will make my monthly monthly book-keeping and annual taxes a hell of a lot easier. Next steps? Form an LLC, get health insurance, and start a retirement plan.

New Goal: Get closer to real time in my blogging. In general I think this bothers me more than it bothers you, but this is the most “behind” I’ve ever been in blogging and it’s driving me nuts.

New Goal: Double my earnings from affiliates and display ads. I introduced one new affiliate program this past year (, my favorite hotel booking site for Southeast Asia) but I have really only skimmed the surface of my potential incomes in these particular categories. While I certainly wouldn’t be bummed if my other income sources exploded as well, outside renegotiating my long term contracts for reasonable raises, I’m just focusing on keeping the others stable for the time being and growing these two in particular.

New Goal: Publish my ebook. Boom.

Conclusion

The cool thing at stopping to take stock every year is despite the number of goals I marked “in progress,” I actually feel I am making significant steps towards being a functional human businessperson, and finding balance and distinction between work and play. There is light at the end of the tunnel! I’m not there yet but I’m on my way, which is a big step up from feeling like I was drowning in my own puddle of inefficiency with no life raft in sight.

Are you working on any goals, personal or professional?

There’s just one post left in this blogaversary series — another ask me anything post! Want to submit a question? Ask , or in the comments, or privately via email. Nothing is off limits to ask, though I exercise the right to be choosy in what I answer 😉

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59 Comments...
  • Nikki
    June 29 2016

    I love reading about your blogging life just as much as your travels! Thanks for sharing all of this behind the scenes stuff! I’m struggling with some of the same issues at the moment, juggling a full-time job, a blog, and freelance writing on the side. Reading this post has inspired me to actually write down some specific goals for these areas of my life (rather than my usual routine – think about something I want to change or work on, then forget about it by the next day 🙂 ). Thanks again for sharing, I’m a big fan!!
    Nikki recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 30 2016

      I typically do the same — think about a change I want to make then immediately proceed as usual, ha — so writing things down once a year and making solid changes is really important! Good luck reaching your goals!

  • Ashley
    June 29 2016

    I have to say I really love this series! These are awesome goals, and I highly recommend India for a Yoga Teacher Training – , you would love all the colors 🙂
    Ashley recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 30 2016

      I’m definitely starting to keep my eye out for places I want to train! One concern is it’s really important to me to have a connection with my teacher and love their particular practice. Did you already know your instructor? Or were you worried about that?

      • Ashley
        June 30 2016

        I actually didn’t consider that. My main goal was to learn yoga in its place of origin – , India’s soo cheap – it makes Thailand look pricey 🙂
        Ashley recently posted..

  • Nadia
    June 29 2016

    Two things: first, if you aren’t using Google keep for your todo list, give it a look. This changed my life because I could make todo list per topic and then budget my day per topic. (I too do the easy stuff first.) Second, read All the Single Ladies by Traister. Maybe it’s not commitment phobias as much as a standard you seek in your relationships that is rare.

    • Meihoukai
      June 30 2016

      Ooo, I love both recommendations thank you! Looking into both!

  • Kate
    June 29 2016

    Love this post (and the whole series). It’s wonderful to get a behind-the-scenes look.

    I actually laughed out loud at the to-do list thing–but I should probably be crying instead, since my own giant to-do list for the day is sitting right next to me, with many of the easiest tasks crossed off and the most annoying ones ignored…
    Kate recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 30 2016

      Ha, I’m still on my to do list from Tuesday… and it’s Thursday 😛

  • julie
    June 29 2016

    I do wish your posts were more caught up to real time but I’m really just happy that your blog is chronological and real. You really inspire me to want to travel more and write about my own adventures

    • Meihoukai
      June 30 2016

      Trying to get there, Julie 🙂 We’ll see how I do!

  • Cate
    June 29 2016

    Goal setting is very important- it keeps you up to fate with life’s priorities! One question I have for your next Ask Me Anything post is how to meet more friends while traveling solo? Thanks!
    Cate recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 30 2016

      I’ll add it to the list! Thanks Cate!

  • Sher
    June 29 2016

    I have to say i really love these year 5 blog posts! Keep ’em coming 🙂 i think what really stands out with your blog is how personal your writing is and how strongly you come across.

    on another note i would love to see more diving trips! i’m a relatively beginner diver in comparison but always looking to travel to new spots with dive opportunities. i’m actually off to SE asia in early fall to check off some big bucket list dive sites.

    for your next Q&A post: I would love to know how you found a management team / how to pick the right people to grow your business.

    Sher
    Sher recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 30 2016

      I actually have some fun diving posts coming up from Thailand, Sher, so stay tuned! And here’s hoping I make a liveaboard happen this year so I have even more to write about 🙂

  • TammyOnTheMove
    June 29 2016

    I think I need to set myself some blogging goals as well. I have been a terrible blogger the past year and didn’t post very often. Luckily I now live in a country (Colombia) that is inspiring me to write again, so here is hope. 😉
    TammyOnTheMove recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 30 2016

      I love those big bouts of inspiration! I always get them when I’m in Martha’s Vineyard. I don’t know what it is, I just always want to write when I’m there!

  • Kate
    June 29 2016

    Myanmar could be an interesting place for some spontaneity! I’d love to know more about traveling Bagan 🙂

    • Meihoukai
      June 30 2016

      Indeed it could! Myanmar has become this bizarre vortex of travel dreams for me, ha ha… I basically say I’m going every year for like, the last five years… and then never go. For some reason, Myanmar and me, we’re cursed!

  • janice
    June 30 2016

    Hi Meihoukai,
    Really interested to read this article. The balance between freedom and stability is always a tough one to find. Especially if you love travel. I like your thinking in working with a management team – that sounds like a really shrewd business decision and will only help you achieve the balance you seek (or so I believe anyway! 🙂 )
    I sold my home to fund me moving towards my dreams, whilst enabling me to care for my family and put a roof over their heads and its been a tough time, at this tail end of the process. But all its made me do is want to build my own home in the UK – whilst continue on the next phase of (attempting) to build my online travel blogging business, which will provide the next step to moving out of the UK toward living abroad – building and living in our own Tent Village, as my husband and me grow older. Reading your posts keeps me inspired and thinking in a business mind – especially these posts. I thank you for that. I learn so much from your wisdom and experience.
    My question for you is this: Do you think you could move back to the USA and live there, when societally you have grown into an international individual?
    janice recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 30 2016

      Oh, very good question! Definitely adding that one to the list 🙂 Thanks Janice, and good luck chasing your own online business dreams!

  • Kate
    June 30 2016

    These are fantastic goals – a few of which I nodded my head at while reading, as I also need to be better about them. Thanks for being so open and sharing these goals, it’s not only interesting but inspiring!

    Kate
    Kate recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 30 2016

      Thanks Kate! Very motivated to get to work on these!

  • Madlen
    June 30 2016

    Love reading these more detailed blogaversary roundups. Very interesting to get a more behind the scenes look of wanderland and how it evolves over the years! Congrats to half a decade! I’m excited to find out where the next five years take you.

    • Meihoukai
      June 30 2016

      Ain’t that something to think about! It’s almost overwhelming to think that far ahead, I just keep taking it one year at a time 🙂

  • Gemma
    June 30 2016

    I am really enjoying these personal analysis posts. My long term goal will be to manage full team teaching with part time blogging, alas the 16 month career break is nearly over.

    Short term goals – take a digital detox for seven days in Portugal next month. Inject some cash with my first couple of wages into the website.

    Pulling myself from the Mac to head to the pool now.

    Looking forward to the e-book!
    Gemma recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 30 2016

      Digital detox for the win! I’ve done a few over the years, though usually not really a FULL detox unless I’m stranded on a deserted island (loved you for that, Isla de Coiba!) Enjoy it!

  • I really enjoy reading your detailed round-ups! Your posts you write really do reflect your passions and are just so stunningly written. You pour your heart into them and we can tell just how much you adore what you do! Looking forward to your e-book as well, keep us posted! 🙂
    Amanda | Lesson Plans & Layovers recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 7 2016

      That will probably be a winter project, but absolutely I’ll keep y’all in the loop!

  • Kelly
    June 30 2016

    From the outside looking in, you seem to have it together! We’re always harder on ourselves than [most reasonable] outsiders are. Thanks for this series — I really appreciate your transparency!
    Kelly recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 7 2016

      Thanks Kelly! We absolutely are our harshest critics but I do also try to celebrate the goals I did achieve in these posts too — you’ve got to take the good and the bad together! 🙂

  • Grace
    June 30 2016

    Hi Meihoukai! I just wanted to thank you for sharing your goals, it always inspires me to try harder and have fun when I read your blog tips!

    • Meihoukai
      July 7 2016

      Aw, thanks Grace! Good luck reaching those goals, girl!

  • Michelle
    June 30 2016

    Hey! I would love to know what obstacles you overcame this year. Whether it be little things like missing a flight. Figuring out your visa’s while traveling. Or some mental obstacle. Was there anything that popped up that caught you off guard (good or bad). Would love to know how you deal with travel/business surprises on the fly.
    Michelle recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 7 2016

      Great questions, Michelle! Thanks! Adding to the list…

  • Dominique
    June 30 2016

    You’ve set great goals for the upcoming year! I hope you have another successful year in terms of your dreams and wishes! 🙂
    Dominique recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 7 2016

      Thanks so much Dominique! Cheers to that!

  • Tikva
    July 1 2016

    I love this series. It actually made me go back to all your year round-up posts. (So much for my to do list) What an inspirational progress but also you sound so much confident and relaxed now. I would love your post to become more reall time, as I am really curious about Brasil maybe skip a couple of months.
    Tikva recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 7 2016

      Ha, I would love to but I can’t stand the idea of skipping any of my adventures! Luckily I’m having a nice long boring summer so the gap will close eventually 🙂

  • Scruffy Gios
    July 1 2016

    Hi, I just found out your blog and I am already loving it! I just started my own travel blog… and I hope I can have your success! You are inspiring 🙂 well done!

    • Meihoukai
      July 7 2016

      Best of luck in your blogging journey! I’ve had the time of my life!

  • Mary
    July 2 2016

    It looks like you have had 5 fun years and a great past month. You inspire me to go above and beyond when it comes to blogging and travel! By the way, I love your photos in this post.

  • Damn, girl. You’re such a rockstar! I need some goals!! Gonna start the #inspiredbyalex hashtag….as soon as I stop procrastinating… 🙂
    Rika | Cubicle Throwdown recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 7 2016

      Ha! I wanna see that go trending, pls 😉

  • Rachel
    July 3 2016

    These are some really great goals! I know the feeling about having a million emails to sort through – and respond to! I’ve felt pretty scattered myself with my to-do list! Good luck with your new goals, you’re gonna rock ’em!
    Rachel recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 7 2016

      Thanks Rachel — just writing them down has been very helpful and focusing. Here’s hoping for a successful check-in next year!

  • Kristina
    July 5 2016

    Hi Meihoukai,
    Love your retrospective posts! I admire you for how honest you are about running a business from the road.
    I would love to know your process for breaking down work while traveling. How much time do you spend each week editing photos, replying to readers, looking for new business opportunities, writing, etc? And how do you balance that with taking time to actual enjoy traveling and experiencing life? My goal is to take my job on the road this year and my biggest source of anxiety is how to balance my time without a strict 9-5 schedule (i.e. keep my job while still having adventure). I know balance is always a challenge. What strategies have you found useful for turning off work when you need to and turning down play time when you need that too?

    • Meihoukai
      July 7 2016

      Great question — adding it to the list! Thanks Kristina!

  • Ashley
    July 9 2016

    I always love these behind-the-scenes posts, and I’m now inspired to set some new goals for myself as well! And I totally feel you on the commitment issues – I’m a fellow commitment-phobe!

    Questions for your ask me anything post.. (apologies for the multiple questions! ;))

    1) Do you ever get writer’s block? If so, what are your strategies for overcoming it?

    2) I’d love to hear your tips for editing photos! Anything from the best software to use, to the editing process or filters, etc.

    3) How do you manage to stay present and live in the moment when you have to constantly capture every aspect of your travels?

    4) What do you use to carry your DSLR and multiple lenses when travelling?
    Ashley recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 10 2016

      No apology necessary! You have some great ones here!

  • Yay you for making progress on your goals. My “quit date” is about 1 year from now, so I need to pull back on some of the charity work I’ve been doing and start figuring out if/how I can develop a location independent income, or if I will just take a break from corporate life and go back…

    As for the to-do list, I swear, I add easy things just so I can cross them off and feel like I’ve accomplished something 🙂
    Leigh | Campfires & Concierges recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 11 2016

      Ha! That’s one of my favorite to do list moves as well 😉 I feel ya — nothing feels as good as crossing off something you’ve already done!

  • Sarah
    July 10 2016

    A question!

    How come travel within most of Europe doesn’t interest you much? The non-tropical weather, lack of beaches, or are you just more of a nature-over-culture gal?
    I find it interesting because there appears to be a strong trend among American’s of ‘Doing Europe’ and it seems so popular, you’re one of the few that doesn’t seem as keen!

    • Meihoukai
      July 11 2016

      Oooo, love this one! Excited to answer it next week 🙂

  • Kelly
    July 21 2016

    Hey Meihoukai! Okay, so I actually read this post a while ago and when I read about your goal of getting involved with charity again (and the older post you linked to about giving) I was honestly so inspired. I love that you called that topic out on such a public forum that’s seen by so many people.

    Just wanted to let you know, I just started a “featured charity” space on my blog sidebar to give some free publicity to cool local charities each month (and I’ve also committed to donate to each of these charities), and I totally owe you for inspiring me to think about this topic in the first place! So, thanks! 🙂
    Kelly recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 25 2016

      That is so awesome Kelly, I love it! Kudos to you for finding a way to make a positive impact with your blog!

  • David
    August 3 2016

    Have really enjoyed reading your blog. Congrats on the 5 year anniversary, that’s amazing! I actually opened a Spanish language school in Casco Viejo, Panama 5 years ago so I know how much work goes into keeping something up for that long. Also great to see you’re goal of reading a book in Spanish! If you’d like to come to visit us in Casco Viejo and brush up on your language skills we’d love to have you. Please feel free to check out our school at http://www.cascospanish.com

    • Meihoukai
      August 4 2016

      Thanks David, I’ll keep that in mind! I adore Casco Viejo and would love to go back someday!