2019, A Year of Discovery

2019 yearly wrap up

In some ways it feels like this year flew by in no time at all, but then I think back on everything that happened in the past 365 days and it’s amazing to me that it has only been a year. 

2019 was a year of discovery – into myself, my purpose, and what I want to make of my life. It was a year of humility, growth, and solid confirmation that you’re never really done growing as a human. 

I was full of hope at the start of 2019. I had finally found a home base in San Francisco, recently moved into a new apartment, I was making enough to comfortably live in the Bay Area (not an easy feat), and I was smitten with my relationship.

As the year went on though, each of those foundations began to crumble. First slowly, and then all at once. I was taken aback looking at the crumpled mess before me by July. 

Wasn’t this meant to be my year when all of my wildest dreams came true? How could everything go so wrong if I was building a life that I loved? 

The short answer is that I wasn’t.

I was settling for a life that I thought was good enough but not actually aligned with what I wanted. The good news is that if you’re not following your true purpose, life has a way of shaking things up to wake you up and get you centered again.

That’s exactly what happened in 2019 and it was the greatest gift I could’ve been given this year.

All of those things that looked like ‘failures’ on the outside brought me closer to figuring out what I actually wanted. For that reason, I’m thankful for the hiccups that came up during what was meant to be my perfect year.

2019 yearly wrap up

Let’s again look at all those foundations I was so happy about at the start of the year: 

1. Found a base in San Francisco – Although I love San Francisco in a lot of ways and I still plan to be based here for some time, there are some things that don’t sit well with me. I’m still figuring out if they’re big enough to move again or not.

The most notable issue is “tech bros”.

Now, I’m not saying everyone in tech is a “tech bro”, far from it, most of my friends are in the tech industry. But, there’s enough of these “bros”, usually white guys who make way too much money, who are just not great humans. They’re entitled, arrogant, and kind of treat everyone like shit unless you can do something for them.

I’ve come across enough of them in San Francisco to realize it’s not just a few, there’s a whole tribe of them here. I’m not a fan of entitled people who look down on others, and this has been a disappointing attitude to come across regularly in San Francisco.

Because of this, I’ve decided to try out the East Bay for some time to see if it’s better over here.  

2. Moved into a new apartment – I was excited to have my own place in San Francisco, but as the year went on I realized how wrong it felt.

I was constantly woken up at 2am on weekdays by the meth heads outside my window who would yell at each other or play guitar.

One of my housemates ended up being an alcoholic, made a pass at me while he was drunk (and if that wasn’t bad enough, his girlfriend lived with us too), and made rape jokes during a dinner party I was having with friends.

I realized that my living situation was a nest of drama and I needed to get out.

3. Making enough to live comfortably in the Bay Area – The only reason I was able to live comfortably in the Bay Area this year was due to client work, which I originally wanted to start doing less of so I could focus on my blog.

But, I was suddenly making more money than I ever had before and I felt like I couldn’t turn it down.

One of my clients was especially hot headed and I would regularly get angry emails that made me feel like none of the work I did was good enough for him. This constantly made me second guess my work and my usual confidence in it.

4. Smitten with my relationship – Because I was so smitten, I allowed myself to ignore the red flags and fall for someone who would never be a good partner for me. It became clear by the middle of the year that we weren’t meant for each other and that it was time to let my belief in our relationship go.

January 

Wrap Up: January 2019 | Red Rocks Colorado

I started off the year ice skating in Union Square in San Francisco. It was a clear, crisp day and my dad was visiting from Oregon for my brother’s recent nuptials. It was the first time I had seen him in about a year.

I was still enjoying my new apartment, getting used to life in San Francisco, working at my all women’s coworking space during the week, and settling nicely into my weekly routine of regular workouts, co-ed basketball, trivia, and date nights.

Mid-month I flew to Denver to explore Colorado for the first time and visit a friend from college.

I made the mistake of renting a 2WD because it wasn’t meant to snow while I was there. Of course, the one day I went up to the mountains I was hit by a freak snowstorm. 

Driving a 2WD that had very little grip on icy roads in the middle of a blizzard is probably the scariest near-death experience I’ve ever had.

I ended up pulling over because I knew if I kept driving I would get into a serious accident. I was stuck on the mountain in a tiny little town that only had a couple of hotels.

The hotel I stayed in turned out to be one of the most haunted hotels in Colorado (according to Google), which I didn’t know until after I checked in and paid for my room.

Needless to say, I got very little sleep. I was relieved when the snow finally cleared mid-afternoon the next day so I could race back to Denver and make my flight in time.

It was a whirlwind trip and because of my lack of preparedness and the bad weather, I came away from Denver without the fondest memories. I knew I would have to come back someday in the middle of summer to give it another chance.

Also this month was the start of my website design. I found a designer at the end of 2018 and she started working on my branding and new web design at the end of the month.

February 

Towards the end of 2018, I found insanely cheap roundtrip flights to Paris (under $300). I sent the deal to a few friends and asked if they wanted to join me on a girl’s trip to Paris for Valentines Day. A plan was made and our group trip was born.

I arrived to Europe a few days earlier than everyone else to squeeze in a new country – Luxembourg. I started in Luxembourg City and did a day trip to Vianden to explore its famous castle.

I soon headed back to Paris to meet everyone at our AirBnB in Bastille. The next week was a whirlwind of wine, pastries, working on my rusty French, getting lost down historic streets, and more wine.

This was my third time visiting Paris, but I managed to have a completely different experience than my last two visits. 

This was the first time I was visiting the city with a group and it was a blast to take on the City of Light with some of my closest friends.

Highlights included seeing Versailles for the first time and eating a fancy dinner on top of the Eiffel Tower. I also learned more about the history of the city from a combination of walking, food, and bike tours.

When I got back to San Francisco after 10 days, I enjoyed the feeling of being home – still a novelty for me after my many years of constant travel. 

The rest of the month was full of work and relaxing. I went to see Justin Nozuka in concert, one of my favorite artists from college, went crabbing for the first time, and attended my sister’s annual Oscar party.   

March 

2019 yearly wrap up

I started the month enjoying a girls weekend in Calistoga, near Napa Valley. It rained on and off through the weekend, but it was the perfect bonding trip with a bunch of old and new friends.

We camped in yurts in Bothe-Napa Valley State Park and took a $1 shuttle into Calistoga for a day of wine tasting. My favorite tasting room of the day was Tank Garage Winery, housed in what used to be a retro gas station.

Later in the month, I went down to Thousand Oaks to watch my little sis from my sorority get married. It was a beautiful Mexican-Jewish wedding that had plenty of dancing and good food.

I saw a few people from college who I hadn’t seen since graduation and we all caught up about where life had taken us since our college years. 

When I got back to the city, I decided to get LASIK done. I had been dealing with regular eye infections for the past few months because my eyes were becoming less accepting of contacts.

I’ve worn contacts since I was 10, so I think my eyes were over having plastic in them every single day. Wearing glasses full time wasn’t an option due to my active lifestyle and love of yoga and basketball, so I turned to LASIK. 

I set aside my nerves and scheduled my surgery for a week after my consultation. It went smoothly and I recovered within 24 hours, although it took a good few months before my eyes weren’t overly sensitive and dry.

I could suddenly see as soon as I woke up in the mornings without having to reach for my glasses. It was magical. 

Finally, I ended the month celebrating one of my best friend’s birthdays in Oakland and another friend’s housewarming party in El Sobrante.

April 

2019 yearly wrap up

April was a pretty relaxed month that didn’t have much going on. I used my downtime to explore more of the city on the weekends.

I went to a new brunch place with my friend Chris every weekend, made it to a Giant’s game with my sister, saw a concert at the Independent, celebrated a birthday party on a boat, and just took the time to enjoy Bay Area life. 

May

montreal weather in may - montreal summer

In May, my good friend from Montreal came to visit San Francisco for a law conference and I had a fun time showing her around the city.

We grabbed greasy Mexican food from a taqueria in the Mission and I took her to some of my favorite bars around the city, including Smuggler’s Cove, Martuni’s, and Madrone. 

After she left, I surprised my then boyfriend with a birthday trip to Disneyland.

He had never been before so I wanted to give him a bit of magic and a day to just be a kid again for his 35th birthday. We spent the first day enjoying the beaches of Southern California before heading to the park the next day for a full day of rides and laughter. 

He had to leave the next day, but I stayed down south to explore Santa Catalina Island for the first time. I took the ferry from Long Beach and spent the day hiking around the island. I took in the island scenery, window shopped around the small boutiques, and ate fresh seafood before taking the ferry back. 

Once I made it back to the mainland, I took the train up the coast to spend Mother’s Day with my mom and sister. We had a few days of family time before my sister and I went back to the city. 

I squeezed in one last trip to Quebec at the end of May for a blogging campaign with HI Canada and to celebrate my birthday. I saw my friend again from Montreal who had been in San Francisco earlier in the month, and I spent a few days getting to know the city better.

The last time I had been in Montreal it was during the middle of winter, so it was a very different experience visiting in late spring.

Unfortunately, during the trip, my assistant told me she found another job and quit on me without even 48 hours notice. This left me stressed and frazzled, scrambling to pick up her work and find a replacement the day before my birthday.

Only a few days later, I got the news that my biggest client was needing to wind down our work together because he couldn’t afford to keep me on anymore. I had another week in Montreal and I suddenly felt overwhelmed and unsure of what my next steps would be when I got back to San Francisco. 

I tried to push the stress aside and focused on having a good 29th birthday in the city.

The night before my birthday, my friend treated me to a nice birthday dinner and we spent the night singing hilariously bad karaoke from the 90s.

The next day on my actual birthday, we went to Montreal’s weekly summer music festival, Piknic Electronik and danced the day away to chill electronic beats.

I finished my trip by renting a car and doing a solo road trip through Quebec for a few days. I explored the historic Quebec City and scenic La Malbaie area before returning to Montreal and flying back to San Francisco on the last day of the month. 

June

2019 yearly wrap up

As soon as I got back to California, I went to Clear Lake for a weekend party. 

It was my first time visiting Clear Lake and I adored the drive up there, full of golden rolling hills and vineyards. The lake was not as clear as the name made it seem, but it was a fun weekend away with new friends. 

The following weekend, I celebrated my birthday in Oakland with my friends in the Bay Area. I drank tequila and danced to 90s rap with some of my closest friends. It was the perfect way to ring in 29. 

In June, I also squeezed in a day trip to my hometown of Santa Cruz with my sister and saw another favorite artist in concert – Nick Murphy (aka Chet Faker). 

I ended the month by going to my first Pride Festival in San Francisco. I watched the parade and the many floats go by with my sister, got invited to a swanky private party in a hotel with a good view of the parade, and ended the day in the Castro with a bunch of gay men dancing to Lizzo. It was great. 

July

July started out rocky with my breakup, but the month wasn’t all bad. I finally saw Hamilton thanks to a generous birthday present from my sister. I went to the very non-PC comedic variety show in Oakland called Tourettes Without Regrets, complete with hot dog dodgeball, rap battles, and sword swallowing. 

I spent the month reconnecting with as many friends as possible and figuring out my next steps now that my main client and my relationship were non-existent. 

I decided the recent shake up was a sign to finally focus on my blog full time, something I’d been saying I wanted to do for years. I gave notice at my apartment and set my sights on moving to Mexico for a month or two in the fall to ease the transition to blogging more full time. 

August

2019 yearly wrap up

In August, I moved out of my apartment in the Haight and went down to San Diego for my friend Bre’s bachelorette party.

It was full of laughter, dancing, beach time, Mexican food, and a lot of drinking. I saw a bunch of friends from college who I hadn’t seen in years. It was exactly what I needed and I was happy to be there to celebrate my friend’s upcoming wedding. 

After spending a few days in San Diego catching up on work after a boozy weekend, I flew to Atlanta for the start of my 10-day Southern USA road trip with my friend Urvi.

We drove through Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Alabama, ate finger-licking barbecue, listened to live blues, drank bourbon, and learned more about the Civil Rights Movement in the places where it was the most tumultuous.

It was an eye-opening trip. It only further solidified the fact that every part of the US is different enough that it sometimes feels like a different country.  

September

2019 yearly wrap up

In September, I split my time between San Francisco and spending time with my mom in the Central Coast.

Before I left the city, I saw Bon Iver at the Chase Center and squeezed in an afternoon of axe throwing with my friend Ronak.

I mainly focused on building out my new strategy for monetizing my blog and worked long hours through most of the month. 

October 

notes from a mexican rooftop

After many stops and delays, my new site design finally went live in October – 10 months after the project first started. I was ecstatic to finally reveal my new branding and design, it felt like a new era for The Atlas Heart.  

Mid-month, I road tripped down the coast with my friend Carrie to see Bre get married. She chose the grounds of a stunning historic mansion in Piru, California for her wedding, and the ceremony was beautiful in that happy tear-inducing kind of way.

Carrie and I reconnected with our college crew and had a fun night celebrating with Bre and her new husband, Sean. 

Right after the wedding, I moved down to Puerto Vallarta. I rented an AirBnB in the Centro district of the city and started exploring my new temporary home.

I found a good coworking space, ate a ton of delicious Mexican food, worked on my Spanish, and met a new group of awesome expat friends.  

November 

2019 yearly wrap up

At the start of November, I celebrated Dia de Muertos in Puerto Vallarta. It was one of the coolest festivals I’ve experienced abroad and I was happy to finally celebrate it in Mexico.

I went with my new friends to watch the parade of mariachis, dancers, and skeleton-themed costumes. We ended the night at an outdoor concert at a local brewery and cheersed to witnessing such a unique festival in such a special place.  

I didn’t explore too much outside of Puerto Vallarta during my time in Mexico due to working so much, but a few friends and I went on a road trip to Sayulita and San Pancho for a day before I left.

We enjoyed beachside views, cobblestone streets, and coronas on the beach. My last night, I invited everyone who I had met during my time in the city to enjoy a dinner and night out with me.

It started at a local taco restaurant and ended with my first club experience in Mexico. It was the perfect way to wrap up my time in Puerto Vallarta. 

I made it back to California in time for Thanksgiving, celebrating with my mom, sister, and step-dad. After a month and a half of living in Mexico, it felt good to be home and with family for the holidays. 

December

2019 yearly wrap up

December was low key, which was exactly what I needed after a busy year. I stayed with my mom in Central California, enjoyed a mother-daughter trip to Morro Bay, began writing my first book, worked almost every day, and reflected on this year and what I want to make of 2020 and beyond.

Christmas was relaxed with my brother and sister-in-law coming down from the Bay Area. We got hooked on the new Disney+ show, The Mandalorian and all things baby yoda. And then, before I knew it, it was already the end of the month. 

I just moved to the East Bay yesterday and I’m looking forward to going into 2020 with joy, determination, and a group of good friends by my side. 

Here’s to more growth, more learning, and more happiness in 2020 – wishing you all a very happy new year! 

*Make sure to check out my past six years in review here for 2018, 2017201620152014 & 2013!

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Mimi McFadden

Travel Writer/Blogger at The Atlas Heart
Mimi founded The Atlas Heart to create a community of travelers inspired to see the world. The Atlas Heart is a space where you'll find anecdotes on slow travel, craft beer, outdoor adventures, and all the eccentric bits in between that this world has to offer.
Mimi McFadden
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