Successful people don’t stumble across their success, happiness doesn’t just fall in their lap it’s a constant journey. The best way to ensure progress on that journey is to take stock of how far you’ve come, the areas that still require a little, or a lot, of work and of course to start making plans for what’s up next.
With that in mind I wanted to have a look at my 2015, and I’d encourage you guys to do the same. It’s been a crazy year, full of ups and down so I thought it’d be easier for me to break it down to three sections – travel, business/finance, personal life. Let’s have a look:
2015 was the year I made the most progress towards my goal of officially visiting every country in the world, I visited more countries in 2015 than any other year of my life, 48 in total, I’ve listed them at the bottom of this article in case you’re curious. January and February were spent visiting every country in the Caribbean, which had meant spending Christmas and New Years completely on my way just before 2015 kicked off, not a good choice. Still, Cuba, Dominica and Trinidad and Tobago were the three highlights of that trip, unbelievable countries with cultures and beauty I’d encourage all you crazy people to try and explore.
I then spent around one hundred days in Thailand, with a few trips dotted inbetween, one of which was to Tibet, one of the best trips of my life. I flew my mum over for that one which was pretty epic, and the landscapes of Tibet are some of the most spectacular I’ve ever seen. Taking the ‘highest’ train in the world for 48 hours through the Himalayas to reach Lhasa, the Capital of Tibet, was an awesome experience too. It sounds punishing, it’s not. Do it if you get the chance.
Using Thailand as a base I planned my trip to West Africa, this would be my toughest trip yet, no doubt. I had previously visited around 20 countries in Africa coming overland from Cape Town to Cairo up the east coast of the Continent, that was unreal. It was also a much easier route than my Cape Town to Casablanca trip I was planning for this year. This years trip was full of war-torn countries and some of the most difficult visas in the world. In the end I spent more than $3, 000 USD on visas and bribes throughout my Africa trip. Ouch. I also had to mop up a few countries in east Africa I had missed first time round due to lack of funds, so I was back to some of the more difficult countries. Some of the scariest countries I visited this year were essentially in full civil war – Burundi, South Sudan, Central Africa Republic, the DR of Congo, Chad. Not to mention the whole Ebola situation I ran through in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. Amazing experiences, but I was pretty scared at times if I’m being honest, and some of the things that happened feel like I’m living a Hollywood movie. Seeing a guy getting shot twice in Angola, dead bodies for car crashes in Burkina Faso, there were some shocking incidents. Getting arrested twice trying to illegally cross into Liberia was an interesting day too.
The trip was unreal. The world’s largest lava lake in the Congo, the Avenue of the Baobabs in Madagascar, the deserts of Namibia, overlanding all the way from Ivory Coast to Morocco through fifteen countries solely on local public transport, and of course hitch-hiking a ride on the longest train in the world, transporting iron ore across the Sahara in Mauritania. Hopping on top of the Iron Ore and sleeping under the stars was something I’ll never forget.
There were times I didn’t think I could do it, most of my year was solo travel and I was feeling burned out. Thinking about flying back to my apartment in Bangkok, Thailand or ‘home’ to Ireland for a break but I persevered and now I only have fifteen countries left until I complete my dream. 181/196 countries done. Nearly there.
Now next year is my last fifteen, so i’m off to London next week to try to get visas for some tricky countries – Afghanistan. Yemen, Libya, Eritrea, Turkmensistan. Depending on my success with those, January and February will be spent dotting around as many of those as possible. Then a month in Thailand to do some biz stuff and try to get healthy, then off to the middle of the Pacific Ocean to visit my six remaining countries from there. Back to Thailand to get my last few visas and then plan my last country. Wow.
2015 seemed to make me less concerned about monthly revenues and more both logistically managing my tricky travels, and trying to launch a new business in Hong Kong. My main business, step4wardmedia.com, which has allowed me, a tech idiot, to make more than $1m online from my laptop during my travels, and go viral in the media, took a hit when google changed their search algorithm. A couple of relatively leaner months made me appreciate the crazy money I had been making the last few years, thankfully biz has picked up again but I think the days of the casual $60, 000 per month with just a few hours on my laptop each week could be gone from this particular line of biz. I’m grateful for what I’ve managed to achieve with it, and the team and I will continue on throughout next year with it. The thought of huge publications like Forbes, Business Insider, Yahoo etc writing about me feels surreal.
More exciting though is our Hong Kong startup of which I’m co-founder. Find a Tutor is now a year late due to a host of design problems aaaagh. Steep learning curve but the site is finally finished and we hope to launch next month. I spent a lot of skype time throughout 2015 chatting Carl, one of my closest friends and who is based in Bangkok with me, from random countries across Africa. Note to self: Launching start-ups from West Africa is not a good idea. Anyway, we’re nearly there and we’re hoping it’s gonna really help people across Asia when we role it out multi-nationally. Let’s see.
For onestep4ward.com, I’m hoping it’s gonna be a huge year. I’m getting a WHOLE new redesign, I’m going back to my routes and will start blogging again almost daily with awesome, helpful and gorgeous content. I will be sharing more about myself and my journey too so you too can do it should you be crazy enough to want to. Finally, I’m going to design a three or four part course/guide that’ll be accessible online for a fee which will show literally almost every step I took from being a broke Irish guy bumming around to where I am now, a slightly-less broke Irish guy still bumming around but with no plans, or need, to get a real job or join the real world. Module one will be about teaching English in Asia, two will be about how to start and make a blog successful, and third how to work online, and start a simple online digitial media/blogging business. It’s so possible. I hope you guys can make the leap.
I made my first major move into public speaking, being flown into Algeria, I country I hold dear to my heart, to keynote a conference on digital media there. It was an amazing event, and one I plan to repeat in the new year. Public speaking and perhaps some more intimate get-to-togethers seem like a great opportunity, you can directly help people. Literally show them the direction to take their blog, lifestyle, travels and it can be quite lucrative too, an absolute win-win. I’ll look forward to more opportunities in the coming year.
Other financial stuff – I lost $30, 000 in the stock market when the Russian currency tanked, the oil price continued to drop and China wobbled. I’m in the riskiest fund available so that’s the danger of choosing a fund like that. Ouch. On a positive note, I found out the apartment I bought in Bangkok has nearly doubled in value since I bought it. Also, I finally sorted out a mortgage for an investment property in London, I’m finalising that this week, that’s been an absolute nightmare with paperwork. NOTE TO SELF AGAIN: Buying a property in London from West Africa is not a good plan, don’t try again. Anyway, that has increased 21% since my purchase price which has just confirmed to me that property is the way to go for investments. I wanna get more involved, maybe another place in 2016 but it’s such hardwork to finalise it, let’s wait and see.
Like everyone else, both up and down. My story went all across the world media, in over 100 countries, I’ve been inundated with emails from people from every corner of the globe who have felt inspired to try to chase their dreams thanks to my journey and that gives me a huge sense of both pride and humility. A normal dude doing his thing can help another normal person to do theirs, it’s beautiful.
My fitness is horrific, West Africa was hard and I ended up eating and drinking too much all year with next to no exercise. I’m in the worst shape of my life and I hate it. Knowing my travel plans in quarter one and two next year makes me worried i won’t be able to fix it. But I’m going to try my best. Getting old isn’t just about the year on your passport, adding a kilo a year is a slippery slope. I’m aware of that. Must do better, I miss my six pack. I miss feeling flexible and more confident. It’s up to me to bring it back.
My love life has been turbulent, but then again it kinda always has been. My lifestyle has been tough on Jaa, the girl I had been with for four years. We finally cracked under the pressure a couple of months ago, so that’s been a struggle. My lifestyle has been amazing, but it hasn’t been without sacrifices, that’s very apparent to me. But it’s my choice, so I have to take responsiblity.
Friends and family it’s been amazing. I traveled with one of my best buddies in Domincan Republic and Cuba, another one in Togo, Benin, Nigeria and Ghana, another one all across West Africa, and my dear mum has joined me across five countries this year too. I’ve been in Ireland and London twice too so I’ve managed to see a lot of people I hold dear to me, no one more so than my Sis, her hubby and my niece and nephew who I feel like I have great relationships with. I love this side of my life.
2015 has been very good, I was fortunate enough to achieve a lot of what I set out to achieve, allbeit not without some significant losses, both personal and financial. 2016, I’m hoping, could be the best year of my life. Potential TV shows, new business, finishing my life goal of ‘every country in the world’, but only I can make it happen. It’s up to me, no rationalising excuses. We have to own the direction of our lives, take stock of where we are, and more importantly of where we’re going. And move forward relentlessly. Eyes on the prize. Happy travels x
COUNTRIES VISITED THIS YEAR:
- Saint Lucia
- Antigua and Barbuda
- St Kitts and Nevis
- Dominican Republic
- South Sudan
- Democratic Republic of Congo
- Republic of Congo
- Sao Tome and Principe
- Equatorial Guinea
- Central African Republic
- Ivory Coast
- Burkina Faso
- Guinea – VIA
- Sierra Leone VIA
- Cape Verde