Swimming Pool Steve 2016 In Review
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2016 has just ended and this year more than any other I can remember I have much to reflect on. With the continued growth of this website I have been afforded a unique opportunity and in 2016 I made a concerted effort to make the most of it. For over 25 years my time was completely devoted to swimming pool construction, renovation and repair. Those in this industry know just how demanding the job is and just how much time you need to sacrifice to be a pool builder. I know that after 70+ hours in the sun every week I would seldom choose to go to a beach on a hot summer Sunday. All I would want to do is sit and relax in an air conditioned room.
As a small business owner the work does not end when you leave the jobsite either...the work day typically ends long after the sun has gone down and seldom would you enter the next day being well rested. In the fall of 2015 I made the decision to stop doing field work completely and write full time. 2016 was a big risk for me as it was the first full year away from doing field work and there were many times throughout the year that I strongly second guessed my decision to "retire" from pool work. Having now reached the end of 2016 I can say with absolute certainty that writing full time is the best decision that I have ever made.
Are you familiar with the term "digital nomad"? Most of you reading this will not be familiar with this new term, but being a digital nomad is something that I have been aggressively pursuing for over 10 years. A digital nomad is a person that works online and is able to do their job remotely and is not tied to a specific place for employment. While I loved the prestige, and income, of being a world class pool builder, having the freedom to travel or live remotely and bring your job with you was simply too much for me to ignore. The road to success as a digital nomad was certainly not straight forward for me, anything but, and I have learned a TON since I first started building websites. It took so much more work, and time, than I ever could have imagined but as with so many things - hard work will pay the sweetest dividends. 2016 was my first year as a digital nomad, and it was the best year of my life.
When Hard Work Rewards You For Your Efforts
People who know me know that I am the type of person that does not have trouble finding motivation. More often I am the type that needs to be reeled in so as to avoid
burning out completely because I just can't seem to "switch off". I don't have to stay up all night working, I could just go to bed if I wanted to, however I would
not be able to stop thinking long enough to actually fall asleep. Since I will not be able to sleep anyway then I might as well get some work done. Now that I work
from a home office, and writing is my primary work activity, this means that I can "be at work" basically 24/7/365. It became very clear to me, very quickly, that if
I was going to work from home as a writer then I needed to make some changes to how to how I do things. I chose to begin writing as my career so that I would have the
freedom to go where I want, when I want, but what ended up happening is I didn't go anywhere. I would just work night and day, around the clock, weekday and weekend.
This was the ethic I had developed as a pool contractor carrying over into my new life as a writer. Back in my younger days I would often lament about how restricted
I was at work since I was ready to work 16 hours every day however you can't really jackhammer a pool deck at three in the morning. Writing is different. I can write
night and day without restriction...and I did.
It became clear to me that I was used to a working culture, but what is the point of being a digital nomad if I spend my entire life sitting in my home office clacking away on a keyboard? In 2016 I made the decision to do something that I had always wanted to do - travel. I had never really traveled before, and I did not have anybody to travel with, but that did not stop me from going to Vietnam for a month. Even now, looking back on the experience, it seems totally surreal. When I talk about it, it feels like I am describing a scene from a movie as opposed to something that I experienced first hand. Perhaps it was the nature of it being my first travel experience, or perhaps it is because I was solo traveling, but I am very pleased that I decided to do it. It was extremely challenging for me. I don't really fly well. I don't like crowds. I like being in control of my surroundings. All of that stuff got tossed clear out the window when I decided to travel to Asia. Again, what is the point of being a digital nomad if I never leave my home office?
The sheer logistics of getting to Vietnam are almost comical. I had 4 flights in a row, with one of the legs being from Newark NJ to Hong Kong. This flight is 16 hours and 45 minutes long and is the 8th longest commercial flight in the world. When I arrived in Vietnam I landed in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) which is formerly known as Saigon. From here I caught another flight into the North end of the Country and the Capital city of Hanoi. Hanoi is one of the oldest cities in the world and has an estimated population of 10 million people. Even just being there was a completely life altering experience for me. It is one thing to know about other cultures, other ways of life and other places in the world. It is another thing completely to be there, in person, absorbing it with all of your senses.
The very first day in Hanoi I set out to learn how to walk around and cross the street safely. Crossing the street in Asia is something that takes some getting used to and I didn't want to feel limited with my mobility. Walking out the door in a city of 10 million people where I don't speak the language...priceless. This is what I have been working for.
So to set the scene a little more - I am in Hanoi. It's my first day there, and my first time traveling, and I am traveling solo. It is 35 degrees by nine in the morning. I am randomly wandering in one of the oldest cities in the world, surrounded by 10 million people buzzing around like ants in every direction. To say that I was overwhelmed would be a massive understatement. I was in total sensory overload. I had just left my hotel and walked less than 5 minutes before I turned a corner to find this familiar sight in an altogether unfamiliar environment: (picture right)
I had to laugh at the serendipity of seeing this old Pentair pump being worked on on my first day of travel in a strange and far away place. I was immediately reminded of where I was, and how I had arrived there. Such an innocent event, but the moment stays with me even now more than six months later. 10,000 miles from home and lost in a city where absolutely nothing is familiar to me...I saw something very familiar and it made me appreciate the moment and the hard work that afforded me the opportunity to have this experience.
In retrospect I think that I chose to travel to Asia just to prove to myself that this is all real. I have been writing and developing internet based businesses for almost 15 years, but through all of it doing swimming pool contracting was my primary day to day activity. Now that I have fully transitioned to my life as a digital nomad I have the availability to do things like travel. Going to Vietnam was something I needed to do but surprisingly was not the highlight of 2016 for me.
Smooth Sailing In 2016
By far the highlight of 2016 for me was taking 6 weeks in the summer to go sailing with my father. Summer activities in general are something that I have largely missed out on in my adult life. Summer for me usually means a never ending list of pool work and certainly never time for something like sailing. Taking the time to go sailing for six weeks was great - but getting to spend time with just myself and my father was priceless to me.
We spent most of our time exploring in a shoal draft 27' Bayliner Buccaneer that he rebuilt from the ground up over the last 10 years. While this boat has a rather dubious reputation among legitimate sailors, it provided more than enough opportunity for fun, adventure and bonding with my father. Neither he nor I are true sailors, but more people driven by exploration and adventure. Having the availability to take this time off with my father is something that is directly a result of the success of this website.
The area that we went sailing was in the Byng Inlet in Georgian Bay up to the mouth of the French River. We stopped and moored in Black Bay, the Henvey Inlet, The Bustard Islands and about a dozen unnamed locations. The fishing was amazing, though we both have a lot to learn before we can call ourselves real fishermen. The nature and beauty of this area where black bears outnumber people is incredible. Drinking a morning coffee while watching the sun come up over the water, surrounded by only the sounds of nature, is not something that I will forget. 2016 will be hard to beat for me, but I feel that I am on the right path already.
2016 saw a 400% increase in traffic to my website and to my YouTube channel. Over the course of the work year in 2016 I was able to double the content available on this website and I have some big plans for content development moving forward in the new year.
I personally find the milestone of starting a new year to be very motivating. My birthday is on December 31 so in addition to starting a new calendar year, every year marks a new age and new year in my life. 2016 was a big risk for me, but one that I am extremely happy that I took. Thank you for helping me realize this dream - if you are here reading this then that means you are helping me directly to achieve my goals. I hope in 2017 you will continue to use this website as a resource for learning about pools and spas as well as following me on my adventure as a digital nomad. Happy new year!
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