2016, A Year of Perseverance

The Atlas Heart in Taroko National Park, Taiwan - 2016

It’s that time of the year again. 2016 is already coming to a close, and I’m preparing for a new 12 months of goals, travel, and life.

When I look back on 2016, I see a year that was difficult, challenging, and a whole lot of fun too. I based myself in North America this year and had many wonderful adventures starting from the Pacific Northwest.

This was an epic year of travel for me. I traveled to more US states than I thought possible in a year, and, to my glee, I finally added Canada to my destinations. In fact, I visited Canada four separate times throughout the year. I just couldn’t get enough of the Great White North.

2016 was a difficult year for many, and I had my own struggles to deal with this year. Namely, Portland, Oregon continued to be my least favorite city in the US, and for most of the year I was finishing out my lease at the worst apartment complex of mankind.

I floundered in the world of pretentiousness that is Portland on a daily basis. Yikes. Because of where I was based, I found myself in a negative mindset that was hard to pull myself out of many times. It became a sarcastic running joke between my partner and I that everything that could go wrong, would go wrong in Portland. And it did.

I also saw my country go through more constant waves of violence and unrest. This was the year of the contentious US elections and it was an ugly year for all sides involved.

There were many sad moments worldwide as well. Some say this was the worst year of the century, and it’s hard to argue with the amount of negativity and violence that occurred around the world in the last 12 months.

But people always seem to forget the good when there’s the bad to focus on. There were many good things from 2016 as well.

Mt. Rainier National Park - InstaFAM Tour through Washington State

In my own life, I officially started my business and made it legit as an LLC. I tried out everything I could think of to improve my blog and figured out what worked and what didn’t.

I continued in a loving and fulfilling relationship with my Kiwi partner, that was made even stronger by the amount of personal and financial stress we had to deal with in the last year. I also traveled more and saw much more of my own country, with its different cultural pockets and national parks.

This year may not have been the best for many, but it can only go up from here, right? I have good vibes for 2017. I think it’s going to be a great year for business, personal growth, and much more travel.

Here’s to 2017!! …And what I got up to this year as a review.

January // Oregon, Montana

Cooper Spur Mountain Resort - Mt. Hood, Oregon

I rung in the New Year at an odd overpriced “club” in Portland. Although my New Year’s Eve and first hour of the New Year were a bit on the mediocre side, the rest of the month of January was much better.

I learned how to snowboard finally! I’m not one who is graceful in snow, and it’s not really something I had to worry about much growing up on the coast of California. However, I really wanted to become more of a snow bunny this year – I was living in the Pacific Northwest, after all, and there were plenty of great ski fields around the area.

I spent two days at Mt. Hood Meadows, just outside of Portland, learning the basics, getting a touch of frost bite on my bum (note to self: buy proper snowboarding pants), and becoming all kinds of sore from using new muscles (not to mention, the amount of times I fell).

In two short days, I learned how to carve, stop myself (very important!), get off the ski lift, and well, that’s pretty much it. It was a start.

In mid to late January, I had one of my very first tourism board sponsored trip in Missoula, Montana. Although life is very different in the Big Sky state, I quickly fell in love with Missoula and the natural beauty of Montana. I didn’t even mind that I visited in the middle of winter.

I snowboarded at the largest ski resort in America, road tripped to Bozeman, spotted bison, and took in the cozy distilleries and cafes in Missoula. I finally started feeling comfortable in snow, and tried out longer and more intense snowboarding runs.

This was also the month that I hosted my first giveaway and The Atlas Heart turned 3. Woot Woot!

I’ve taken on this whole winter idea wholeheartedly, buying warmer clothes, learning how to layer properly, and finally experiencing my fair share of snow. When I woke up last week to fresh snow covering the ground, I felt like a little kid at Christmas I was so excited. After my recent trip up to Mt. Hood to learn how to snowboard, I’m finally starting to see just how beautiful winter can be.” – How to Spend Winter in Portland

February // Oregon

Top of Multnomah Falls on The Fruit Loop Tour

The next two months of the year I caught up on my blog and planned out my travels more completely for 2016. I continued the travel misconceptions guest post series on here that I had started at the end of January, and discovered even more destinations I would love to travel to though other writers.

Instead of wallowing in my dislike of Portland, I actively tried to fit in as much as possible around the city and in Oregon, while also increasing my work hours to about 12 hours a day. I took road trips to the coast, went to the zoo, and tackled the all-day fruit loops tour from the city.

It was my first time watching the sunset above the clouds, the only way I could describe it is magical. I looked over at my Kiwi travel partner and beau who had already journeyed over 4,500 miles to share this experience with me. We smiled at each other without a word, understanding how far we had come to reach this point and knowing that this was just the beginning of our adventure.” – Hiking Above the Clouds in Maui

March // Oregon

John Day Fossil Beds - Oregon

One of my main goals this year was to finally visit Canada. This month I researched where I’d want to go and landed on Victoria. I put out some feelers and set up another tourism board trip to Victoria in April.

This month was also more about exploring Portland and the Pacific Northwest as a whole.

I tried to get out hiking at least once a week, mainly in the Columbia River Gorge, and my body couldn’t wait for the warm weather and long days again.

I chased waterfalls to distract myself from the cold weather and constant gloomy skies, and found a whole lot of Pacific Northwest beauty along the way.

I started ClassPass and felt my body getting toned, my mind sharp from exercising regularly again. I bought my crazy cheap $350 plane ticket to Hong Kong for October, and started daydreaming about Asia and my upcoming move abroad.

My partner and I couchsurfed in Bend for St. Patrick’s Day and met some lovely new friends. We made it into a road trip and saw Crater Lake in the winter, and visited my 94 year-old grandmother in Myrtle Creek before heading back up to Portland.

I’ve always whole-heartedly believed in surrounding yourself with positive things – whether that be your relationships, job, or outlook in life. And so, I’m taking my life and moving it to Asia at the end of this year to see what positive aspects I can find in myself and others.” – On Leaving Behind the Idea of Home

April // Oregon, British Columbia

Hiking at Gowlland Tod with Hike Victoria
Photo via Mark Vukobrat at Hike Victoria

This month I dived more into couchsurfing and giving back as a host, since I’ve been a guest so many times around the world. Because we had an apartment that was right in downtown Portland and a pull-out couch, I knew it would be the perfect time to host other travelers.

We had Canadians, Germans, and Americans stay with us. We even hosted a couple from Chicago, who ended up being our hosts the next month for my birthday trip. One of the many reasons why couchsurfing can be awesome!

April also meant my first trip to Canada, and boy did I fall hard for the country. I guess I was spoiled with Victoria and Vancouver Island as my first stop in Canada, but it’s a country that I immediately became enamored with.

I’ve learned a ton about British Columbia history, wildlife, and the overall pace of life and great standard of living here on Vancouver Island. I love how fit everyone is, their fondness for brunch and high tea, and the way I immediately felt at home from the moment I stepped off the Clipper Ferry from Seattle.” – My First Impressions of Victoria

May // Illinois, Michigan, Ontario

Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada

May is when I really revved up my travels. My departure date to Asia was starting to feel more real, and I was not about to waste those nice days I’d been dreaming about since winter.

I always spend my birthday in a different city each year, so this year ended up being Chicago. It’s one of the least expensive airports to fly into, and I managed to find roundtrip tickets from Portland for under $100.

I LOVED Chicago. Between the deep dish pizza, the Cubs games, and the city architecture, it’s definitely somewhere I could see myself coming back to time and time again.

And my birthday trip didn’t just begin and end with Chicago. I spent two weeks in total in the Midwest. I even worked with another tourism board in Grand Rapids, Michigan to explore Beer City USA.

I visited my favorite Canadians in Toronto – my friend Claire, who I worked with in Sydney, and my fellow travel blogger, Lauren, whom I met in Florida at the TBEX conference last year.

I saw Niagara Falls for the first time. I also couchsurfed and visited Detroit for the first time, and came away with mixed yet overall positive feelings toward the city. I rung in my 26th on the shores of Lake Michigan and with a low-key night out in Chicago.

This past year has been all about discovering the States from the perspective of a traveler. I’ve loved seeing Montana and Florida for the first time, living in and exploring the Pacific Northwest, going back for family & friend visits to California, and now overflowing memories of my journey through the Midwest.”Why You Should Visit Grand Rapids, Michigan

June // Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia

On Coming Home to the Land of Fear - America Travel

My North American travels heated up even more in June. We cut as much of our ties to Portland as possible, and soon took off on a month and a half long road trip around the northern US states and Canada.

I hammock camped for the first time through all of these places. We experienced the beer culture in Boise, watched the Warriors lose the NBA finals in Idaho, found cowboys and went to my first rodeo in Wyoming, visited the stunning Yellowstone National Park, saw Mt. Rushmore, and drove through North Dakota while experiencing a crazy Midwest hailstorm.

We ventured up to Saskatchewan and made it to Calgary for a few days. I adored the epic nature of the Canadian Rockies, looked out over turquoise Lake Louise, and drove on the iconic Icefields Parkway up to Jasper.

My partner and I said our goodbyes in Vancouver, so he could go find work in Canada and I could go back down to the States to spend quality time with my family. Within the next few days, I drove all the way from Vancouver back down to my hometown of Santa Cruz, California.

As I looked on from the furious water rushing past me at the edge, I glanced at the ethereal rainbow fading into the mist of the falls. We had come on a stunningly beautiful day in southern Ontario and it was hard to tear my eyes away from the deep blue water. I could feel the mist on my face and I could understand exactly the attraction that brought so many people to the falls. They were powerful, mesmerizing, and the most impressive waterfall I had seen in my life.” – An Afternoon at Niagara Falls Ontario 

July // California, Washington

An InstaFAM Tour through Washington State

After jaunting around the States at a breakneck speed in June, July was all about chill times at home visiting with my dad in Oregon and my mom in California.

I savored the little bit of family time I had left with a couple small trips here and there. I returned to the Oregon Country Fair with my dad for the 2nd year in a row, and had just as much fun with the hippies and live music as I did last time.

By the end of the month, I was invited on an Instagram FAM trip, or InstaFAM, and had the chance to explore Tacoma and Mt. Rainier in Washington State. I also met a plethora of talented and awesome photographers on that trip, who inspired me to hone my craft of photography even more.

Are you spreading hate today? Even if it’s with people who think the same way you do, if you’re putting down the other side (whether that be in terms of politics, race, religion, or gender), you’re adding to the divide. Sometimes we don’t even realize it because we believe to be on the right side of an argument, I know that feeling well too.” – On Coming Home to the Land of Fear

August // California, Oregon, Arizona, Utah, Nevada

Why I'm Thankful and Why We Should Acknowledge the Other Side of Thanksgiving

I soaked up as much of the California sun as possible in August. I visited with family and friends for most of this month, and I was even reunited with my partner who took a break from working in Canada to come see me.

We officially moved out of our apartment in Portland, and with our new freedom hit the road for another road trip.

I had a girl’s weekend near Santa Barbara with one of my best friends, and visited San Diego to say hello to all of my old college friends. After that, my partner and I made our way through Arizona, Utah, and Nevada. We saw the likes of Sedona, the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, and squeezed in Las Vegas at the very end.

We came across late summer thunderstorms and basked in the dusty southwest landscapes, truly feeling like we had reached the Wild West.

The short amount of time we had in Mt. Rainier National Park (as well as Tacoma!) made me realize how much there still is to see in this area. I would love to head back for a week or two of exploring this impressive national park, to tackle more trails, find more wildflowers, and never grow tired of taking a million and one shots of Mt. Rainier when the mountain is out.” – An InstaFAM Tour through Washington State

September // California, Oregon, Maryland

Shore Acres State Park, Oregon - USA Travel

September meant wrapping up my time in California and saying goodbye to my mom again for another lengthy amount of time. I hung out with another good friend from college in Davis, and drove back up to Oregon to stay with my dad and stepmom.

This month I had to fly out to Baltimore for the company I do contract marketing work for, because the Natural Products Expo was happening over there.

I enjoyed exploring a new city with my fellow digital co-workers, whom I finally got to meet in person for the first time. I even made it to an Orioles game.

I was also invited on a southern Oregon FAM trip, where I spent a few days exploring the wine scene in southern Oregon and road tripping up the coast. It made me appreciate the natural beauty you can find all over Oregon, even though it’s a state I sometimes have mixed feelings about.

This is also the month that The Atlas Heart officially became an LLC in the state of Oregon, yippee!

Once we arrived back to headquarters, there were warm showers for us and changing rooms to get out of our wetsuits. It was still a perfect day in Golden and the sun quickly warmed us up again. As we walked to the back to meet up with Zeb and the other guides, I let out a sigh of relief, still high on adrenaline. So, this is what living feels like.” – Facing Fear Head-On: Whitewater Rafting in Golden, BC

October // Oregon, Hong Kong, Taiwan

First Impressions of Hong Kong | Asia Travel

October was a mad dash to get everything ready for my upcoming move to Asia. I opened a business bank account, applied for a business credit card, set up my travel and property insurance, and sold my car. In other words, there was a lot of adulting involved.

I took the train from Eugene up to Vancouver, Canada and reunited with my partner once more. We stayed with a couple of Canadian friends who had rented a hotel room for the weekend, and relaxed as much as possible before heading to the other side of the world.

By the 19th, we were flying into Hong Kong, and had a whirlwind 10 days of exploring the city and trying a whole lot of food and new experiences.

I met up with one of my friends from college who had been living in Hong Kong pretty much since graduation, and experienced a junk boat party and the horse races at Happy Valley. Although Hong Kong was a fun city, we were both relieved to jump on a flight to Taiwan by the end of the month to find a slightly cheaper place to travel.

There were wonderful aspects about Portland and living in the Pacific Northwest as a whole, but I would never do it again. Even with the amount of cities I’ve lived in abroad. Even with how many times I’ve had to start over and create a new life in a foreign place. I’ve never had as hard of a time as I did in Portland. The few friends that I did make were not from Portland originally, and there was always that underlying feeling of ‘you’re not welcome here.'” – The Surprising Reasons Why I Didn’t Like Portland, Oregon

November // Taiwan

Taichung, Taiwan - November 2016

We weren’t sure when we booked our flights to Taiwan whether we would be settling down in one spot for awhile or traveling. We ended up traveling for the whole month of November and didn’t get much down time. However, this did allow us to see a lot of the country and get all the way down to the southern tip of the island.

I found Taiwan to be a fascinating and lovely place, and it’s somewhere I know I want to come back to someday for a longer period of time.

For the vast majority of Americans, Thanksgiving is seen as a positive holiday. A time to be thankful, appreciate family, good food, and being American. I’m all for that. I think we should always strive to be more grateful and humble at any time of the year. The thing educators don’t dwell on in school in America, is the fact that Thanksgiving whitewashes the genocide of Native Americans in this country.” – Why I’m Thankful and Why We Should Acknowledge the Other Side of Thanksgiving

December // Taiwan, Singapore, Myanmar

Myanmar in December | The Atlas Heart

And lastly, December. This month we changed gears, finished up our time in Taiwan with a few days in Taipei and flew out to Singapore by the 10th.

We were only in Singapore for a short 5 days to experience a few of the best sights – such as Gardens by the Bay, Marina Bay, and the Singapore Zoo. This was my partner’s first time in the city-state, and my 2nd, after only spending 18 hours there on my last visit in 2013.

We’re finishing off the month in Myanmar and enjoying the Southeast Asia leg of our travels. Myanmar is a captivating place to travel full of friendly locals and authentic experiences, and I can’t wait to explore it more in the coming weeks.

I’m about to head off to watch my 4th sunset in a row in Bagan, and, I have to say, life doesn’t get much better than that. I’m looking forward to ringing in the New Year in such a wonderful place.

The buses barreled past at an alarming rate, not giving me the usual berth I would find in North America. The smells that wafted up from the grates and alleyways made me equally intrigued and wary. The electricity that I felt every time I stepped out into the humid air was unforgettable. These were my first impressions of Hong Kong.” – My First Impressions of Hong Kong

I hope you all have a wonderful New Year! I can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store for us. 🙂

Did you go on any adventures in 2016? What were your thoughts on 2016?

*Make sure to check out my past three years in review here for 20152014 & 2013!


2016, A Year of Perseverance | The Atlas Heart

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Mimi McFadden
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2 thoughts on “2016, A Year of Perseverance”

    • Thanks Lauren! I was happy to visit Canada so many times last year and hanging with you was a blast. Niagara Falls is crazy impressive and that blueberry beer…mmmm. Safe travels to you too, hopefully we’ll cross paths again in the near future!

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