To say 2016 was a challenging year would be an understatement.
I climbed Kilimanjaro (and came back with a nasty stomach bug), said farewell to my job at Flight Centre, started a new career at Hootsuite, got up on stage and spoke at 6 conferences, underwent knee surgery (and months of physiotherapy), and said a tough goodbye to my beloved grandfather. This year tested me both mentally and physically, but I know it’s also made me stronger in so many ways.
It’s sometimes easy to forget all the memories you made in a single year, which is why I love to look back at my photos at the end of every year and take a moment to reflect. I’m so thankful for the people and experiences that have helped shape some new chapters in my life. Although I didn’t visit as many countries as I did last year, I certainly saw my share of cities within North America (and visited Chicago for the first time!)
I have no idea what 2017 has in store, but if I could survive this past year, I can do anything. So here are my top 10 photos from the year with some lessons learned along the way.
1. Getting ready to hike Kilimanjaro
Lesson Learned: Hold yourself accountable
I laid out all of my gear for Kilimanjaro with the intention to make a packing video. I filmed the whole process and declared on Social Media that I would be posting a video when I returned from my trip. I still to this day have not edited or posted a video despite the fact that I have the footage sitting there. Why? Because I never held myself accountable to do it. I never set due dates, or put aside time to do it. So here I sit, making some new years resolutions to pick up the projects I left behind.
2. Waking up above the clouds on the roof of Africa
Lesson learned: Expect the unexpected.
I learned this the hard way when hiking to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. I was prepared physically and mentally, and was dominating my way up the mountain until the day it really mattered; summit day. Upon making my way to basecamp at the top of Kilimanjaro, I came down with a nasty stomach bug (which I later discovered was Shigella). This meant that Mother Nature and I got to know each other pretty intimately as I made more visits than I would like to remember to whatever bush or boulder I could find. This also meant that everything I was eating was going right through me, leaving me with absolutely zero energy. I remember so vividly how much of a struggle it was just to exit my sleeping bag and unzip my tent. When it came time to hike the last 5km to the summit, I was down and out for the count. I was prepared for getting altitude sickness, but completely unprepared for a stomach bug. Next time, I’m packing antibiotics with me and all the electrolytes I could ever need. The positive side? I lost 10lbs and got to take a dump at 15,239 feet (4,645 m) under a sky full of stars on the roof of Africa. So there’s that.
3. Recovering from Knee Surgery (ACL and Meniscus repair)
Lesson Learned: The body is an amazing thing
It was incredible to watch my knee heal and recover from surgery. Sometimes it takes a big surgery like this (that inhibits your ability to walk for weeks) to appreciate having a healthy and functioning body. This experience challenged me both mentally and physically; I spent many sleepless nights in pain, and months in physio, but I’m improving and getting stronger every single day.
4. Wrapping up 5+ years of working at Flight Centre into 1 binder
Well there she is… 5+ years of building a Content/Social strategy into one binder. Despite all the work it took to put together this 40 page document, it was fun to look back on all the projects I’ve been part of @flightcentreca. Thanks for the laughs, tears, late nights, and epic flights. This job literally took me around the world and I wouldn’t change the experience for anything. #FlightieLife
Lesson Learned: Don’t let fear stop you
I know this might sound cliche, but when I made the decision to leave my job at Flight Centre (a job I had for over five years and really loved) this statement rang true for me. It was hard to do, but I knew deep down inside that it was right for my brightness of future and I would be cheating myself if I didn’t do it. I’ve learned that fear is often what stops us from making big leaps in life. If I can throw you an analogy here for a moment; that sometimes the shock of jumping into cold water is what stops us from even taking the leap. Yet once you jump in and move around, the water gets warmer and less of a struggle. In fact, it even becomes enjoyable. Trust me on this one.
5. Starting my new job at Hootsuite
Lesson learned: Be confident in your own badass skills
Starting a new job can be daunting; especially when you’re walking into a big company with a lot of different departments and offices. But it’s important to remember that this company chose you for a reason. If they didn’t think you were capable of taking on the job, or fitting in with the culture, they wouldn’t have offered you the role. I’ve also learned as a new hire that it’s important to put yourself out there and meet as many people as possible. Go to social events, meet up with colleagues for coffee/lunch, and participate in discussions happening even outside of your department. You’re all working for the same team here.
6. Taking a chopper to the top of a mountain for Thanksgiving weekend.
Lesson learned: Mother Nature will always run the show
After a wonderful weekend in the mountains for Thanksgiving, it was time to get picked up by the float plane, but due to high winds it couldn’t land. This meant we had to stay in the hut for another night with an unknown time of when the next plane would come or what time we would be back in the city. Just when you think you have control of a situation, mother nature will always find a way to show you who is boss. I knew it was a test, and it’s how you react to these moments that ultimately show your true character. This experience taught me to relax, and accept that many things in life are out of our control.
7. Enjoying the views in Banff after speaking at the Travel Alberta Industry Conference
Lesson Learned: Recharge (even on business trips)
Taking a time out from our busy lives to enjoy the scenery (literally) does wonders for the soul. Oh, and deep breathing… that shit does wonders too.
8. Visiting Chicago for the first time
Lesson learned: Wake up early
If you can take the initiative to wake up early and get yourself to famous landmarks (like the Chicago bean) it means you get time to really appreciate it’s beauty without all the crowds. It also makes for better photos.
9. Enjoying the mountain views from the Pan Pacific hot tub on a brisk winter day
Lesson Learned: Say yes to new opportunities
A colleague of mine at Hootsuite was looking for people to Volunteer at the Pan Pacific charity breakfast, which I immediately put up my hand for. As a thank-you, I was surprised with a free night’s stay and a chance to experience their incredible outdoor heated pool and hot tub offering scenic views of the city. It also gave me the opportunity to meet some incredible people. You never know what surprises may come from saying yes to things, so put your hand up more often and try new things.
10. Celebrating my 2 year anniversary living in Vancouver
Lesson learned: Running is good for the soul
I celebrated my two year anniversary in Vancouver by taking a run to one of my favourite spots in the city: The boardwalk at Jericho Beach. Aside from the health benefits, the run offered me a chance to reflect on my new west coast life and how many positive changes have come from it.
Bring it on 2017. I’m ready for whatever you’re throwing my way.
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