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My 2021 Year Review; Successes, Failures, Finances, Travels and Health

It’s that time of year again. Something I have been doing every single year for the last 7 years (and wish I had done since I started all this online business, blogging, every country in the world stuff).

Writing this stuff, and confronting my goals from the start of the year is a scary, honest review of how my past year has gone. It’s more for me than for anyone else. It keeps me accountable and focused.

2021 review
My 2021 review, I got married!

Past year plans and reviews?

Also, If you want to see where I failed and succeeded over the years, you can check out the last few years posts too:

My 2021 Year in review, month by month:

Ok, so let’s get into the thick of it. How did my year go month by month? For a start, 2021 was supposed to be the year we defeated COVID. Remember all those champagne celebrations we did at the end of 2020, saying what a shitty year 2020 had been, but now 2021 would be better. That didn’t go so well for the world did it?! DELTA, followed by Omicron. Followed by countries losing their minds and closing borders and destroying economies.

So we had to choose to try to claw back our lives. It was up to us. Personally, I didn’t want to see a whole year pass me by. It’s tough times, but let’s make the most of it. Something I plan on doing into 2022 too. Life is short enough without losing a year or two. So here we go:

January

I woke up on January 1st in the North of England, in Whitley Bay. My mum and sister have recently moved there, and I was back in Europe getting ready to undertake some serious ocean rowing, and row across the Atlantic Ocean. Covid was hitting hard, DELTA had arrived and our trip looked like being canceled.

Despite that, I got the chance to move into an AirBnB with my mum for the whole of January and to spend time with my sister, bro-in-law, and my nephew and niece. So even though all the training, and planning, and money I had spent on the rowing project looked like it may be wasted, the huge silver lining was to spend true, quality, unadulterated time with my family. Something I hadn’t done for this length of time since I was 17 years old. It was beautiful.

February

Sh*t got real in February. After a million and one delays, we managed to get our rowing boat to Lanzarote, a Spanish island off the coast of Morocco. That meant we could make our way there too, via Ireland to avoid DELTA issues.

Long-story-short? The 4 team members of the Atlantic row finally met in Lanzarote. This thing might actually happen. With yet more delays, I ended up spending a couple of weeks in Lanzarote. With the ocean row pushed back further still into March.

In other news, on February 11th, my builders broke ground on my house in Thailand!

March

What can I say? We started to row across the Atlantic, we ended up breaking our boat and getting rescued by the Spanish coast guard (worst 24 hours of my life for the record).

We spent a week fixing it at a Spanish port, then set off to row an ocean again. 2 days into the experience, stuck on this tiny boat, I had a real awakening as to the task ahead. I’d be spending the next 2 months on this boat. In a space with 3 other guys, living in about 3 square meters. Very quickly I realised this would be the toughest experience in my life.

Physically, I was prepared. Fit, strong, trained. Mentally, it was torture. The rest of March was consumed with 2 hours of rowing, 2 hours of resting, 24 hours a day. Slowly making my way across the Atlantic Ocean.

Rowing the Atlantic Ocean, 100% unsupported.

April

April was more of the same. 2 hours row, 2 hours rest, 24 hours a day. Trying to sleep in 6 45 minute batches per day. But this month I found it even tougher.

Finally though, a month in, I made it to the halfway point across the Atlantic Ocean, where you’re closer to the international space station than you are to land!

The trip was just brutal. I felt so claustrophobic, so isolated, so away from everything I loved and the life I dreamed of. To this day I’m not sure if it was worth it. Sure, it’s cool to tell people in a bar that you rowed an ocean, but truth be told, the currents/waves/winds do the hard yards. You just have to suffer through the time on the boat!

I blogged it all here in depth. It’s a loooong read: Rowing the Atlantic Ocean.

My hands from 12 hours rowing per day for 2 months

May

Thank christ that’s over! 52 days after leaving European waters, we pulled into Antigua in the Caribbean on May 2nd, 2021. A day I’ll never forget. Pride? Nope. Pure relief more than anything. A few wild days partying in Antigua with my new buddies. Thank you Billy, thank you Martin, thank you Pritch. You guys made what was a tough experience just-about bearable. Friends for life I hope. Couldn’t have wished for a better crew. But let’s not do that again eh?!

I flew back to the UK from the Caribean (business class thanks to British Airways upgrading us when they heard about our row!).

I had told my finance, back in December 2020, that I’d be away for 100 days or so. But Brexit, Covid, Delta and now vaccinations, those 100 days looked like being 200 days. Not cool. Now back in the UK, I moved back in with my mu, and waited to get double vaccinated in England. Thailand was slow with vaccines, so I couldn’t rush back ‘home’ to Bangkok due to my less-than-secure legal status living there. That meant I’d have no way to get jabbed there.

June

June was with my mum and family again. Got my first vaccination, and then begged the health service to give me my second so I could get home to my life in Thailand, and to my fiance. Which they kindly obliged.

Rather than sit around and do nothing while waiting in England, I organised a little get-together with some close friends and we had a last-minute attempt at the UK 3 Peaks Challenge. That’s the highest mountain in England, the highest mountain in Scotland and the highest mountain in Wales, all within 24 hours, including driving time of about 12-14 nours!

The 4 of us out of shape, we headed to Scotland, 23 hours and 40 minutes later, we made it down from Snowdon, Wales’ highest peak, success!

And with that it was goodbye to the boys, and to my family. FINALLY back to Thailand….

July

Thailand ASQ quarantine. 16 DAYS LOCKED IN A HOTEL ROOM IN BANGKOK, THAILAND.

To be honest, after spending 2 months in a tiny row boat across the Atlantic, I think I was the only person in Thailand genuinely excited to undertake a 16 day quarantine. I upgraded to a 2 bedroom ‘suite’, complete with a little gym area. In the 2 months since finishing the row, I had an emotional hangover from the expedition. And I ate, and drank, like A PIG. I was now 88kgs, 10kgs overweight. Ouch.

And I wanted some personal space. 2 months rowing, and then living with my wonderful mum, the thought of being to do nothing but work and workout was bliss. And so it was. 16 days of heaven. I used this time to plan an epic group trip to Mauritania later in the year. More on that below. It was also quite an interesting life experience too, to be honest.

Anyway, mid-June, 7 months after leaving Thailand “for 100 days” I was reuinted with my slightly-pissed-off Fiance.

I flew straight to Chiang Mai to lay eyes on my house build for the first time too. Wow!

My house build was well underway

August

Back to the real world. Thailand had managed to keep Covid out, for the most part, during 2020. But 2021 was a different story. They were having their first real wave. So as I got out of quarantine, much ofThailand went into lockdown.

Up in Northern Thailand though, was a different story. So Jaa and I flew to Chiang Mai once more, got ourselves an AirBnB and stayed up north where life was somewhat normal. It was great to hang out regularly with my best mate, Anthony, and I went about losing those 10kgs hard, with 7-10 workout sessions per week.

Being able to focus on work and health felt like a dream. I was loving life up in Chiang Mai. Jaa and I celebrated our 10 YEAR ANNIVERSARY (wowzer) with a gorgeous weekend, and then the following weekend we went to the mountains and went glamping in Mon Jam. A brilliant month.

September

Lockdown was ending so we moved back to Bangkok. Back in the coworking space everyday, working out every day in Benjakitti Park with Junio. Focusing on my relationship, and my business and exercise. I felt super productive. We spent a few days traveling to Hua Hin, a gorgeous little beach town 3 hours south of Bangkok, and visited Monsoon Valley vineyard. Home to Thailand’s best wine. And the wine I’d then sign-up for my wedding! Life was good.

October

I lost those 10kgs (22lbs)! Hard bloody work.

Anyway, almost time to hit the road again. Jaa and I spent the first 10 days or so going to the VIP movies in Bangkok ($150 for 2 tickets, but you get a butler, minibar, bed etc – highly recommended).

And with that, I was off on my Mauritania tour. One of those crazy onestep4ward blog trips, like the ones I do to Syria, Iraq, Yemen (Socotra), etc.

I finally cracked the UK credit card airmile game, and flew in Q-suites with Qatar air, business class. Lovely! And then I ran 2 EPIC trips in Mauritania. Ancient cities in the desert, then riding on top of the iron ore train across the Sahara. And with amazing people to boot.

Iron ore train Mauritania
Riding the Iron ore train in Mauritania

November

Back-to-back trips in Mauritania culminated in me flying from Mauritania, to Morocco, to Dubai, to Dar Es Salaam, and then FINALLY to Arusha, Tanzania!

Here, I was running a charity trip with my mum. We were doing the Serengeti Marathon, and raising money for a cure for Parkinson’s disease. Something my mum was diagnosed with 10 years, but has chosen to fight head-on. We raised $15,000USD. And 22 of us, some old friends and some new, did various distances. My mum, like a hero, completed 10km. God i love her. Watch here:

Anyway, the rest of the trip was brilliant. Safaris, hot air balloon at sunrise, parties in Stonetown, beaches in Zanzibar. After than was done, my mum and I flew to Phuket, Thailand for our 1-week Thai quarantine. This time though, we’re allowed to travel around the island, so we had a great time whizzing around paradise with my mum on the back of my scooter!

Traveling around Phuket by scooter

December

Back in Bangkok. This would be one of the biggest months of my life. Because on December 18th, I’d be getting married! But, with my trips in Tanzania and Mauritania over, and my quarantine in Phuket done, I also had to re-focus on work and health. So rather than rest on my laurels, I asked a few friends to do an impromptu 100km (62 miles) ultra-marathon the week before the wedding, around a 2.5km loop no less!

bangkok ultramarathon
Our Bangkok ultramarathon

And miracously, Thailand opened to foreign visitors! That meant my loved ones could come for the wedding in Chiang Mai! And with a last minute scramble, they did just that. I’ll appreciate to the day I die, the time, effort, and money those guys spent to get here for our big day. THANK YOU EVERYONE, I LOVE YOU GUYS. I’ll never forget it.

And on December 18th, I had one of the best days of my life. Friends, reunions, family, and plenty of Champagne. We hosted the event 20 minutes outside Chiang Mai, and it was just perfect. I’ll blog about that later should any of you guys want to do the same. I can’t recommend it highly enough. And Jaa, my now-wife, looked absolutely beautiful. Thank you for everything babe.

getting married in Chiang Mai

And that brings me up to date. I’m still in Chiang Mai now for Christmas. Then we’ll fly back to Bangkok for a low-key New Year (the most overrated event ever). And hopefully next month, January 2022, our dream house will be finished.

Anyway, what a year eh?!

Looking back at my goals for 2021

So, how did I get on from my 2021 year plans? Well, looking back at that blog post from 12 months ago, I had 6 big goals for the year.

  1. Get married and go on Honeymoon
  2. To row across the Atlantic Ocean
  3. To do a charity trip and take my mum to the Serengeti Marathon in Tanzania
  4. Increase my net worth by $100k+
  5. Start building my dream villa in Chiang Mai, Thailand
  6. Run a sub-40 minute 10k, or sub 3.30 marathon

So how did I do?

  1. I got married! Just a few days ago actually. But I didn’t even know WHEN we could get married due to Covid, so because the wedding was so late in the year (Dec 18th), the honeymoon was a minor fail. But I’m ok with this, we have Italy, France and a few other spots organised for March/April next year. All good.
  2. Row across the Atlantic? Done. For better or worse. Still have some kinda PTSD emotions about it, but it’s done either way.
  3. Serengeti Marathon? Done. $15K raised for charity, and the trip of a lifetime with my mum.
  4. Net worth increased by $100k? Yup, I don’t track this date-by-date. But I was over $100k short for my house budget when I started the year, and I’m now all paid up, so I guess I did this.
  5. Start building my dream house? Done. Well underway, and just a matter of 4-6 weeks of finishing it!
  6. Sub-40 10k? Failed. I did a 18.40 5K, and a 41.40 10km. But bottom line is that I failed. Don’t feel great about it, but happy I managed to squeeze in a 100km run in the midst of all of it.
Serengeti Marathon
Serengeti Marathon with my mum

Health, Finances, Work, Travels, Life in 2021

So with the timeline done, and my year goals evaluated, how do I feel I did in 2021? Let’s see.

Health in 2021? 7.5/10

Mental health and physical health. Physical? On paper it seems like a victory. I rowed an ocean, I ran a 100km, I organised a group Serengeti Marathon. Did 10+ half-marathons up Doi Suthep Temple Mountain. That’s all great but I did also get 10kgs (22lbs) overweight in the aftermath of my row. So I clearly wasn’t anywhere near disciplined enough with my diet. Something I really need to work on. I am finishing the year in decent shape though, so not all bad.

Mental health? Wowzer. Well, the 2 months on the boat were the worst I’ve ever felt in my life. Genuine depression. That was tough. And then the stress and pressure of my wedding, both organising and having to finance 100% of it myself, in addition to having to find the funds for my house without a mortgage has been brutal. I was waking up at night shaking sometimes. First time I’ve ever done that! But I’m through all that now, almost. Just gotta furnish the villa, and we’re done.

The wedding, and the great day it was, was worth it all. And I’m sure the villa will be the same. It always seems to be the way. I am aware though to achieve big stuff, I have to accept big pressure. So I need to find a balance where I’m pushing myself hard, but not to the extent that I’m an anxious mess perhaps.

Finances in 2021

I feel stone-cold broke! I know of course that I’m not.

2021 was a good year financially though property, crypto, SEO, the blog, trips etc but I didn’t get to ‘see’ any of those funds. But basically every single penny I made this year has gone to my villa (and the wedding), which is now probably $200k over budget!

Total revenue for 2021 was $287,755 and I have another week or so to go. So let’s say $290k. It’s my best year for a few years to be honest, but it’s kinda ‘falsely’ inflated by at least $50k pure profit in crypto.

I’ve liquidated all my investments for my house now. Which is kinda scary. So my whole net worth is in my 4 properties and my crypto now (of course my businesses too). So once the villa is finished, I need to start building a brand new nest egg. Kinda depressing truth-be-told!

Work in 2021

I took over 2 months off due to the row, where I was offline the whole time. Then I’ve had the wedding which took a lot of bandwidth, and over a month of trips with Mauritania and Tanzania. So for sure, I’ve had a lot of time away from my traditional work of my blog and SEO stuff. But it’s gone ok.

My traffic on onestep4ward.com has kinda plateued this year (thanks to a manual penalty for selling ads more than anything!), but I’ve rewritten LOADS of old content so the site is actually far better now, despite traffic not increasing too much. And the SEO stuff has been steady, can’t complain.

My trips? Mauritania and Tanzania were f*cking amazing. Such great people, and wild times. Our charity though, Mudita Adventures, had to cancel every single trip which has been heartbreaking.

Travels in 2021

I traveled to 7 ‘countries‘ in 2021. United Kingdom (England, Scotland, and Wales), Thailand, Antigua, Mauritania, and Tanzania. And took about 20 flights. Not bad all things considered.

Life in 2021

How was 2021 in a nutshell? The first half was dominated by the Atlantic Expedition, and the 2nd half was dominated by my house build and wedding. All in all, I’m delighted with how 2021 was gone. With the state of the world, I feel privileged to be able to look back at the year with success and happiness, despite a lot of stresses.

My loved ones are healthy. I got to spend time with my family. My mum is back enjoying life again. My (now) wife is delighted with how the wedding went and our honeymoon plans. And my house build is going well if a little over budget (!).

Chiang Mai house
My Chiang Mai house plans

And now onto 2022…

So on we go to 2022. What will that hold? What are my goals, resolutions, dreams and plans for that? I’ll write another blog post outlining all that. With big mountains, finishing my house, and maybe even having kids all part of that write-up! Thanks for reading my self-indulgent blog here, see you on the other side.

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