Looking Back on 2016 and Looking Forward to 2017

Looking Back on 2016 and Looking Forward to 2017

2016 was a big year.

Websites That Published My Writing in 2016

I started the year writing exclusively for Quality Nonsense — primarily limited to their WhoIsHostingThis? property. However, over the course of the year, my client base expanded considerably. As 2016 draws to a close, I’ve written over one hundred and fifty articles, blog posts, and reviews for the following websites:

Companies I Worked With in 2016

In addition to working as a freelance writer, I also branched out into editing and support in 2016. I filled these roles for two different organizations:

  • Editor for WordCandy: I worked for WordCandy as a freelance editor for three and a half months, beginning in August and ending in November. It was great experience, and I had the opportunity to edit posts that appeared on blogs like Elegant Themes, A2 Hosting, aThemes, and more.
  • Support Engineer for Kinsta: On December 5 I began to work as a Support Engineer for Kinsta, a provider of premium, managed WordPress hosting powered by NGINX and built on top of Google cloud computing. I’m learning by the boatload in this new role and honored to have the opportunity to join one of the most exciting companies in the WordPress community.

Places We Visited in 2016

This past year we put a lot of miles on our Ford Excursion and Heartland travel trailer. A year ago we celebrated the New Year in Toccoa, GA, and we’re back in the same town as I type this post on New Year’s Eve. However, in between, we saw a lot of the country:

  • Alabama: We spent one week visiting Mobile and Foley. The boys loved seeing the ocean, even if it was pretty damn cold.
  • Louisiana: We spent two weeks visiting Breaux Bridge, Lafayette, and Baton Rouge. We were able to connect with family and friends and check out a kid-friendly Mardi Gras parade.
  • Texas: Over the course of four weeks we visited Rockport, Corpus Christi, San Antonio, Bandera, and Fort Davis. We also spent a day hiking Santa Elena Canyon and sightseeing in Big Bend and decided that southwest Texas is underrated.
  • New Mexico: After our rush across Texas we slowed down for three weeks and stayed 10 miles north of Deming, NM. If you ever need a writer’s retreat, check out Temperate Zone RV Park. While you’re there, don’t skip City of Rocks State Park and make sure you take a day to drive up to the Gila Cliff Dwellings.
  • Arizona: We spent two nights in Maricopa and one day in Phoenix, then four weeks in Flagstaff, and finally one night in Page. We saw snow five times in Flagstaff, caught up with long-time online friends, and saw the Grand Canyon and the Petrified Forest National Park. In Page, we saw Horseshoe Bend and ventured northwest to the Paria mountains to see the most colorful hills in the country (as far as we know).
  • Utah: We spent a week in a ghost town, Thompson Springs, which we used as a home base while exploring Moab, Arches National Park, Canyonlands, and Sego Canyon ghost town. We also discovered that we really love a good dirt road. Next, we visited St. George for one week — perhaps the most beautiful part of the country we’ve seen — and made a day trip over to Zion National Monument.
  • Nevada: Vegas, where we spent two weeks, was a bit of a letdown, but the Hoover Dam and feeding the bass on Lake Mead made it worth the stop.
  • California: We spent three weeks in California, but it would best be described as a mad dash. We started just outside of Los Angeles, where we visited Joshua Tree National Forest and the beach at Malibu. Then we worked our way north to the Salinas area, where we visited Pinnacles National Monument and saw the sea otters at Moss Landing State Beach. We worked our way over to Coulterville and took a day trip to Yosemite. Finally, we slowed down for nine days in Nicolaus, but while we were there we made sure to explore Sacramento and also take a day to see San Francisco and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Finally, we spent two nights in Redding to catch up with old friends.
  • Oregon: We spent ten quick days in Oregon, and that was far too few. We started in Grants Pass, a great town west of Medford. From there we trecked northeast to Bend, making sure to route our trip so that we could spend the day visiting Crater Lake. In Bend, we met some virtual friends in person. Next, we traveled to the Oregon coast and spent a few days exploring Seaside and Astoria — the latter, a town I recommend to any and everyone who asks about our favorite places.
  • Washington: We spent a full six weeks in Washington, beginning in late June and stretching nearly halfway into August, but split that time between seven different stops. We visited Vancouver, where we caught up with extended family, saw Mount Saint Helens at a distance, and spent a day sightseeing up the Columbia River Gorge. We spent some time in Long Beach, just across the river from Astoria, and I did my best to get down to Astoria as frequently as possible — I love that town. We also spent a few weeks northeast of Seattle. While we were there we connected with family and old friends and did our best to find our way to the water’s edge as frequently as possible. Next, we struck north towards Canada and spent a few weeks in La Conner and Birch Bay. We connected with more friends, visited the San Juan Islands, explored Anacortes and Oak Harbor, spent a lot of time with extended family, played in the snow at Mount Baker, decided Starbucks doesn’t hold a candle to Whidbey Coffee, and finally understood why some of our relatives are so taken with Semiahmoo and Blaine.
  • Idaho: We spent just one week in Idaho, and that wasn’t nearly long enough. We camped in Cataldo, on the banks of the Couer d’Alene River, and saw enough of Couer d’Alene that we had to consult the yearly forecast to talk ourselves out of house shopping.
  • Montana: One week in Montana was enough for us. I know, I know, everyone raves about Montana, but it didn’t do much for us. You can have Montana, we’ll take Oregon or the northwest corner of Washington.
  • Wyoming: I am certain that there are more antelope that people between Billings MT and Casper WY. The coolest part about our stay in Casper is that while we were there they had to shut down the golf course for a day or two because there was a mountain lion on the course that wouldn’t leave.
  • Colorado: We were in Colorado for a little more than three weeks. Our fondest memories of the state revolve around the good friends we were able to camp next to for several days, the bat we ducked while hanging out in their RV, and two sets of virtual friends we were able to meet in person for the first time. Of course, we did also see the Rocky Mountains, where Lincoln bugled with an elk, Saint Elmo, where a chipmunk crawled up Lincoln’s back (much to his delight), and drove to the summit of Pike’s Peak.
  • Kansas: We spent one night in Belleville just so we could put the Kansas sticker on the side of our RV. We also drove by the world’s largest ball of twine but did not stop. Shameful.
  • Nebraska: Omaha’s a nice town, the zoo’s great and the Lauritzen Gardens are amazing, but we were really there to see some of our best friends.
  • Iowa: If you aren’t from the area, you may not know this, but Omaha is right on the border between Nebraska and Iowa. So, after spending two weeks in Nebraska, we drove five miles, set up in Iowa, and spent another two weeks visiting the same friends.
  • Missouri: We spent about ten days in Higginsville, which served as our home base as we explored Kansas City and Warrensburg. We were also able to meet up with family and visit an air force base.
  • Illinois: St. Louis is another town that sits right on the state line. In this case, the city is in Missouri, on the west side of the Mississippi River, and Illinois is on the east. We spent a week in Cahokia, IL and explored the city of St. Louis — we rode to the top of the St. Louis arch, visited the zoo, which is free and reputed to be one of the best in the country, and City Museum was probably the coolest place we’ve ever visited.
  • Kentucky: We spent a two-night stopover in Kentucky on our way to Tennessee. We did find time to visit Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area while we were there and saw a number of animals including a red wolf (at a nature center) and a herd of elk.
  • Tennessee: The last stop before heading back home to Georgia was Goodlettsville about ten miles north of Nashville, where we spent a full week. While we were there Meagan was able to visit some virtual friends and we also spent a day checking out downtown Nashville, Cumberland Park, and Centennial Park.

By Thanksgiving, we were back in northeast Georgia and we’ve spent the holidays catching up with friends and family back home.

A Year of Ups and Downs

By any measure, 2016 has been a big year. We’ve seen a lot of amazing places: the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Arches, the San Juan Islands, the Rocky Mountains. We’ve also been able to visit with friends and family all across the country.

However, living on the road is not without its fair share of challenges, and this year hasn’t always been smooth sailing. If you can believe it, supporting a family of seven as a freelance writer is easier said than done! Shocking, I know. We’ve also put a few thousand dollars into truck maintenance and repairs, and been stranded or left hot or cold by our RV on more than one occasion.

Anyone who tells you that living on the road is easy either hasn’t done it or has enough money that they can spend a few nights in a hotel, miss a few days of work, and drop a few grand on repairs, all without breaking a sweat.

The Times They’re a’Changing

As 2016 draws to a close, there are a lot of transitions either already underway or anticipated to occur in the next few months.

First, we’re transitioning from living on the road to stationary life. We’ve been location independent for almost two years and pretty soon we won’t be. On one hand, I’m ready for this. A little stability and routine is just what we need to sort some things out financially. On the other hand, I’m really going to miss the road, unplanned weekends spent exploring, and living in a new town every few days or weeks.

Second, we’re planning to transition out of our RV and into a house. Some folks love living in an RV, for us, the RV is ok but we really only live in it because we’ve been on the road. We’ll be in a house as soon as we can figure out how to make it happen.

Third, I’m switching from freelancing to working full time for a single company (while still writing on the side). It’s been interesting to go back to having to keep a regular schedule. The stability is exactly what I need to right our financial ship and I’m learning new skills every day. It’s a win-win.

Fourth, I’ve been a production-oriented creative for the past two years, while I’ll still be doing that a bit my primary work responsibilities moving forward are as a service-oriented engineer.

Looking Forward to 2017

2016 was an adventure. I believe I’ll always look back on this year as one of the best of my life. 2017 will be a very different sort of year.

This is the year of putting down roots. Our plan for this year is to buy the house that our kids will grow up in and think of as their home. Professionally, I plan to invest a level of effort that I haven’t been able to invest over the past two years due to the irregularity of my work schedule.

2017 won’t be as exciting as 2016. We probably won’t see the ocean from five different states in 2017 like we did in 2016. We may take a few trips, but nothing like the epic adventures of 2016. However, 2017 will be good and solid — the year we build a foundation for a good future.

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