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4 Tactics For Becoming an Unconventional Tourist

The following is a guest post. My love of unconventional travel started when I was 12 years old. My dad had decided that, of all the ways to spend Christmas, we should go on a cycling tour around Cuba. And so we did it. We figured out how to...

I Hate Hair: Reasons Why Shaving Your Head Skyrockets Confidence

Welcome to #DifferentLifeStories, where Without Boxes is sharing how people are living differently right now in the real world. Enter Aron James: Hair loss is something that happens to our grandfathers. It is the sign of the wisdom that comes with old age; a rite of...

How to Be a Solo-Female Hiker: Put One Foot in Front of the Other

Welcome to #DifferentLifeStories, where Without Boxes shares how people are living differently right now in the real world. Enter Hayley Turner (a.k.a. Little Foot): I can still remember everything about that day, from waking up and walking 12 miles by noon, the dogs...

Do You Really “Find Yourself” When You Travel?

"I know this sounds cliché, but I have to ask—do you really 'find yourself' when you travel?" the girl asked me. Her young friend crouched next to my table, gently stroking the cats as they slept. Café Neko is a small coffee shop in Vienna that allows cats to wander...

When Not Everything Goes as Planned, It Still Goes: A Story About Finding Your Passion

Welcome to #DifferentLifeStories, where Without Boxes is sharing how people are living differently right now in the real world. Enter Jen: As a kid, I was told that I was lucky that I already knew what I wanted to do with my life. From age four, I knew I wanted to be...

The Digital Nomad’s Roadmap – A Complete Guide: Successfully Live, Work, and Travel Anywhere

So you wanna be a digital nomad. I’m not surprised: the future is bright for freelancers and location independent workers. Statistics show 40% of Americans will be contingent workers by 2020. That’s a lot of potential for digital nomads! Yet there’s no hands-on guide...

Limitations: Why the 9–5 Job Doesn’t Need To Stop You

Over the years I’ve had a number of conversations with people who talk about cool things they want to do, see, or make. A lot of these conversations end with “Well, I’d love to do it, but unfortunately I have XYZ,” and many times those XYZs are very valid limitations...

Stealing Second Base: From Side Gig to Self Employed Full Time

Welcome to #DifferentLifeStories, where Without Boxes is sharing how people are living differently right now in the real world. Enter Katherine Stimson: “You can’t steal second base with one foot still on first.” In the spring of 2010, a Facebook ad posted by a total...

Dreams Are Like Pirate Treasure: Hard to Find, But Worth the Risk

All dreams start somewhere and typically, no matter the size of the overall dream, most dreams start small. Let’s say yours is to feel better at work every day. You focus on sitting up straight in week one. Week two finds you taking a 10-minute walk at lunchtime. Week...

Failed Resolutions: Brace Yourself For Disappointment in 2013

It’s almost a meme to even try to make a New Year’s resolution anymore.

The problem with our resolutions is that we think of life as static, motivation as something we can conjure at will, and inspiration as a stagnant pool.

Life changes, our goals morph and priorities shift. But does that mean you should never make resolutions?

I’m not so sure about that.

Allow me to share with you the personal treasures I’m chasing for 2013. (And how I’m going to allow for the unexpected.)

Skill acquisitions:

  • Hip hop dance.
  • Rapid development with Ruby on Rails.
  • Better storytelling.
  • Begin learning 1 new language.

I have a million new skills I want to learn, but these are the ones I think I can add to my arsenal of awesome this upcoming year.

After all, a pirate ninja has no shortage of new and interesting skills.

Learning Hip Hop dance in San Diego

How I plan to follow through:

My success in these skills will largely depend on the people I surround myself with. My current network of friends will not be of much help to me.

My current network doesn’t really dance, doesn’t develop with Ruby on Rails, and don’t care much about the actual art of story telling. It’s not that they’re against it or holding me back – they just don’t bring these things to the forefront of my mind or challenge me to do better. In fact, they probably support my endeavors… but I can’t actually learn about these things from them.

The solution: Find myself a network of people who live and breath these things.

Yes, at times this will take a small monetary investment on my end. But, I’ve already begun my adventure:

  • Joined my local dance studio with an unlimited month of classes
    ($105 on a holiday special)
  • Found and plan to attend the local San Diego Ruby group from
    (Mostly free)
  • Will be experimenting with a local starter/entrepreneur group, also on
    ($10 per meetup)

(I am still figuring out which language I want to learn, so I haven’t found a network for that yet.)

Experience acquisitions:

  • Moar travel!

Originally, I planned for 2013 to be a year of vast, round-the-world travel and major skills acquisitions. Unfortunately, it’s looking like I won’t be financially equipped for that.

That said, I still have a few options.

  • More road trips to revisit and more deeply explore the USA.
  • Move to a different state and city.
  • Doing one leg of my world-tour, starting with 2-3 months in Brazil and studying capoeira in Salvador.*

* The more Brazil looks like an option, the more likely Portuguese will be my language of choice.

More adventures and travel.

How I plan to follow through:

The problem with travel is that I have more than myself to consider. I’ve got family and relationships I can’t ignore that make picking up and leaving more than just a whim.

But yeah, it’s still mostly going to be on a whim.

I only have two major considerations:

  • Travel partner. If she decides she wants in on my adventure, she’ll need to be ready for the trip, too.
  • Teaching job. Classes are 6 weeks long, so if I leave it needs to be in enough time to finish teaching whatever class I’m in the middle of.

Not quite the romantic, leave-in-a-half-hour-when-the-mood-strikes picture I have in my head, but that’s not too bad.

The biggest potential barrier is my finances – which has less to do with how much I’m making, and more to do with how I’m spending it. As an impulsive spender, I need to constantly remind myself of what I really want before I frivolously spend it all away.

Bonus treasures:

These are not primary treasures I’m chasing, but bonus things I think will come if I truly focus on the goals above.

  • I’ll become a BAMF through my new dance skills
  • I’ll be able to deliver not just interesting ideas, but actual tools for accomplishing them
  • I’ll be able to craft an entire career around my words and stories
  • I’ll have great experiences and stories to share

Measurement, disappointment, & recuperation.

Guess what? These are not my resolutions. These are the treasures I want to be pursuing through 2013.

How will I know whether I accomplished any of these things?

What if I partially finish some, but don’t really follow them through? How will I know how close I was to my final goal?

Easy. I’ll define how to measure success:

Hip hop dancing: I should be able to get through a beginner hip hop class without feeling like I’m the obvious new kid.

Ruby on Rails: I should feel comfortable going from zero-to-basic-application in Ruby on Rails without much hiccup.

Storytelling: This may be the hardest to measure. I want to be able to look back to my stories today and see that I indeed made progress with my storytelling skills. The easiest metric will be the growth of projects where I employ my storytelling skills.

Language: I should be able to hold a basic conversation in my language of choice.

Experiences: This is easy. I’ll either travel, or not.

What happens if I don’t succeed?

Measure your New Years resolutions.

The trick to my goals is that I’ll be spending time in a worthwhile pursuit. Even if I fail, I’ll have gained something.

Is it really a waste of time… to be active? To learn body control and rhythm? To attempt hip hop dance, even if I can never really get through a dance class without feeling like a fool? Not at all.

Is it really a waste of time… to sharpen my logical and processing skills? To learn better programming, even if I never get through without mistakes? Not at all.

Is it really a waste of time… to consider the psychology of storytelling? To learn how I can make a better impact through those stories? Even if I only understand the concepts a little better, I would still say: Not at all.

Is it really a waste of time… to stay motivated and inspired by the world beyond my front door? Even if I’m not able to make it into that beyond? Not at all.

Each of these goals has its own merit, whether I succeed in actually accomplishing them or not. The journey is as important as the treasure at the end.

Maybe I won’t be a professional dancer, but I can bet my coordination will be much more developed. The inspiration I find through the art of dance may give me better solutions in programming. The rigid logic and pragmatic approach of programming may give me a unique spin on my dance technique.

Each of these treasures, goals and experiences will help me to see every other moment of my life through a new light.

Even in failure, I haven’t lost. It’s like a scavenger hunt – even if you don’t find all of the items, you still have a pile of new and interesting things in your treasure chest.

It’s all in the way you understand failure.

And at the end of the year…

If I truly pursue even one of these treasures, I will be a completely different person by the end of 2013.

Learning these skills, focusing on these adventures will change me. My perspective on life will change. The people I meet along the way will make me learn new things about humanity, relationships and love.

The treasures I pursue will define who I become within another year.

The adventures will change direction, the chase will morph, the stars will shift. I will move with them. I will learn more about myself, and in doing so I will become better for it.

I don’t plan on wasting a single moment of the year chasing things that don’t matter. The things that don’t matter cause you to waste your life away.

Even if what matters feels distant and unreachable, you have to focus on such things. Otherwise, a whole year will pass and you’ll be the same person. No growth. No adventures. No future. You have to define your own legend, and throw your sails into the winds that will take you there.

What are your treasures?

The treasures you choose to focus on this next year will define who you become.

You’re going on an adventure. Where do you hope it will take you?

Do you need confidence? Learn a physically enabling skill, like dance or martial arts.

Do you yearn for a taste of the exotic? Travel or learn a language, or both!

Do you wish you had a brain booster? Learn something mentally strengthening, like programming.

Do you want to relate to people better? Focus on soft skills, like writing, psychology and articulation. Oh, and put yourself in a position to meet new people.

These are just to help you choose your treasures.

Don’t focus on things like losing 10lbs. Why do you want to lose 10lbs? To feel like a bad-ass? Focus on learning a bad-ass skill instead. The pounds will go as a side-bonus.

Don’t focus on repinning photos of Paris. Focus on raising money to actually go there. Maybe you’ll start selling your arts and crafts on Etsy. Maybe you’ll start selling your belongings on Craigslist. Maybe you’ll learn more about passive income. Maybe you’ll take a French class at your local community college. It’s never too late to start attaining your goals.

You get the idea.

What will you actually try to get out and do this year?

Where will your treasure take you?

– Anne
Captain of the Pirate Ninjas





  1. Avatar

    Annie- If you do end up starting to learn Portuguese, or going to Brazil, I just thought that I would inform you, in case you didn’t know, that my best friend’s entire family speaks the language, and pretty much everyone on his mother’s side lives in Brazil. Just in case that is at all useful.

  2. Avatar

    I’m not sure how relevant it is, but this post reminded me of this other post: which was awesome, and deeply inspiring. I love finding things like this, and like your post, that remind you what you’re doing, and why.

    I haven’t quite fleshed out my resolutions for 2013, but it’s something I’m working on, and something I’m gaining more clarity on as the days go by. Exercise is definitely one of them, eating right, and of course, writing. I just need to pick more specific goals for these fields and figure out how I’m going to gauge my success. 😀


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