I am quite late with writing this annual review, but it is something that takes a lot of time, actual reviewing, summarising and thinking. Nevertheless, here it is and I did enjoy writing it.
What didn’t work?
Ah, the thing that I love to do, but somehow keep missing. As I said before, I think the big block for me on this one is finishing the blog posts for the trip in Iceland (2 years ago now). I hate not finishing something and I don’t want to start anything else
before I finish the first. Simply, I didn’t write enough. However, I did write some.
First I moved all the posts related to cycling/sport/adventure into a new space under the link http://smilyanp.com/adventure/. It is a place where I think it is more relevant to write about these mini explorations of the world and the main blog can be dedicated
to my other thoughts and impressions (as its title suggests).
I also wrote a series of blog posts about my trip to Macedonia with my friend Alex (a.k.a Sasho). You can find them on that new site: http://smilyanp.com/adventure/. They describe our seven day adventure of crossing Macedonia on bikes, the people we met on the way and my thoughts of the country and our experiences. Also, that was a very bonding trip and one that certainly helped me prepare for the cycling from Sheffield to London two weeks later.
Meaning to, but never really went out specifically with the purpose of photographing. I just never carved out the time for it as other things felt more important. As much as this didn’t work I must say that it also did. Specifically, I think I took one of the most important photos of my life (so far) on the 23rd of June (see below).
This semi-worked and mostly didn’t. I wanted to do a B1 level test in Spanish last year, but didn’t get to it. I also wanted to read a book in Spanish and I did found a really good rendition of Robinson Crusoe where every page was written both in English and Spanish. However, I didn’t manage to finish the book.
Nevertheless, as of the time of this post’s writing I have done 411 days of Duolingo strike practice. It might not account for much, but it keeps my exposure to the language on some level.
This section is always a difficult one to write I think because it’s not easy to measure empirically.
However, I do think that throughout 2018 I managed to spend more time with the people that matter to me the most, my family and close friends.
Most importantly, I feel that I’ve developed a deeper and very strong relationship with Andra. I can confidently say that I have friends on which I can rely,
which I can turn to and talk and as far as anything goes, that makes me a wealthy person and a happy one.
I didn’t read anything specific on relationships or how to listen and understand others, at least not for that purpose. However, at the end of the year I discovered
a podcast/audiobook that I really loved. It is called “Esther Perel’s Where Should We Begin”. It was a truly emotional and inspirational set of stories recorded and shared
by the therapist Esther Perel. It just highlighted strongly for me, how the definitions we give to relationships (‘family’, ‘couple’, ‘marriage’) and very abstract and even throughout socially we think of them as a constant, as a definition you conform to, in fact in real life they are on a massive spectrum between black and white.
Listening to those people’s honest stories, which you can’t even judge simply because they are what they are, it inspired me to appreciate even more the people around me. Time is limited in the day but at least when I come in contact with someone I can give them my full, undivided attention. I can listen to their voice, to how they feel in that moment and respond appropriately. I can be glad to meet them and be there, in that moment with them. It’s simple, and probably sounds obvious, but it can give much more from an encounter than just drifting through the conversations and interactions.
2018 has been a good year health-wise. No injuries, loads of training in beautiful places and achieving a fair number of my goals, although not all.
There is no doubt, I eat and live much better because of Andra. Her love for food and especially stuffing me has improved my day-to-day, my training, my sleep and overall quality of life.
As I committed to cook 2 meals per month (I know, not much but that how much I am allowed 🙂 ) here is the outcome:
- January – Done
- February – Done
- March – Done
- April – Done
- May – No
- June – No
- July – No
- August – Done
- September – Done
- October – No
- November – Done
- December – Done
I could have tracked what meals I did, but I didn’t go to that length. Maybe it seems overboard to track something like this, but when you commit to something, if you don’t track it then you are not accountable and in a way not truly committed. Even though I failed by simply not doing what I wanted for 4 months of the year it is a win in the sense that I tried as much as I did and that is the first step.
If you want to see more of what the meals throughout the year were like, I’ve recorded them on my instagram: https://instagram.com/smilyangp
Finally, good news here! In the beginning of the year I managed to get a spot with an NHS physiotherapist. She was a real professional and really helped me work through the injury and its limitations.
She identified that strength and flexibility are not issues as my legs had enough of both. The problem was the connection between the brain, the impulses it sends to the ankle muscles and how they were handled.
For every movement we make we need spacial awareness and the brain controls our balance and coordination based on that awareness. Throughout the injury and its healing process, naturally my body had isolated the weak leg and overcompensated with using the opposite one. This isolation lead the brain to underdeveloped the neurological connections it had for the injured leg and over time that lead to less coordination, incorrect coordination and even pain. Through a number of exercises including: jumping on one leg; high jump and landing on my toes; running on one spot on the toes; sitting on one leg and balancing on a pillow with eyes closed; those connections eventually strengthened again. The final tests was a hike we did in Bulgaria, climbing Vihren in the Pirin mountains in a day. Close to 2000m elevation gain and the drop in a single day, with rough terrain would challenge anyone’s ankles and knees. My ankle managed to go through the exercise without problems (which it had the year before). Moreover, I didn’t have pain the day after, which was the case most of the time.
When I told the physiotherapist she said that is it and I should keep doing the exercises and there’s little more she can do. I am yet to fully test the capacity of my ankle with more hiking, but so far I haven’t had any more issues.
The summary of my year in training stats:
- January – 13 workouts – 21:09h – 13661 kcal – 387km
- February – 6 workouts – 16:49h – 10598 kcal – 318km
- March – 14 workouts – 15:31h – 10539 kcal – 267km
- April – 14 workouts – 20:47h – 11477 kcal – 301km
- May – 18 workouts – 34:19h – 15743 kcal – 422km
- June – 18 workouts – 14:35h – 8313 kcal – 145km
- July – 18 workouts – 20:44h – 12810 kcal – 316km
- August – 10 workouts – 19:27h – 10725 kcal – 219km
- September – 12 workouts – 16:03h – 9998 kcal – 289km
- October – 19 workouts – 55:56h – 30644 kcal – 930km
- November – 14 workouts – 23:02h – 19178 kcal – 528km
- December – 9 workouts – 07:59h – 7175 kcal – 182km
Total: 165 workouts – 266:35h – 160861 kcal – 4304km
For my birthday I received a lovely present, a FitBit wrist watch which has been great at measuring my sleep. Since then I kinda stopped using the previous SleepBot app and have moved to the FitBit statistics which are a lot more accurate. However, here are some stats from both sources:
Number of records: 224 (including naps)
Number of days: 209
Total sleep time: 1495.7 hours
Avg. sleep/record: 6.7 hours
Cumulative debt: 176.3 hours
My last entry was in August 19th 2018, but there were a lot of inconsistencies throughout the past two months of using it.
First entry on the 14th of April 2018. Since then I’ve tried to use it all the time excluding probably 2-3 nights where the battery had died. Here are some average sleep times per week:
April – 5h 28m / 6h 38m / 6h 30m / 6h 40m
May – 6h 15m / 6h 51m / 6h 33m / 5h 58m
June – 6h 26m / 5h 44m / 5h 57m / 6h 17m
July – 6h 16m / 6h 45m / 6h 15m / 6h 37m
August – 6h 35m / 5h 52m / 7h 8m / 6h 39m / 6h 19m
September – 6h 5m / 6h 14m / 6h 15m / 6h 21m
October – 6h 28m / 5h 29m / 6h 14m / 6h 51m
November – 6h 42m / 6h 52m / 6h / 7h 14m / 6h 42m
December – 6h 40m / 6h 41m / 6h 29m / 6h 38m / 6h 42m
I actually prefer reading the data in the second (FitBit) format as it’s a bit more obvious when interpreting it. It’s pretty safe to say that my average sleep per day is around 6h 30mins. Which is pretty low, but it seems to be working for me. However, I would like it a bit higher than that, at least over the 7 hours mark.
The plan changed from cycling from Sheffield to Cardiff to cycling from Sheffield to London in 24 hours (about 300km or 200 miles). I used the opportunity to raise more money for the social care / orphanage in Yakoruda, Bulgaria.
The year was really, really though. We had snow all the way until May in the UK and the weather was miserable. I made three attempts to cycle the distance and two failed. The first one with intense knee pain after only 90kms.
The second one got me into a rain storm which broke the GPS on both my phones and I was lost around Milton Keynes after 200km. I was frustrated and annoyed. Finally though I knew I had to do it, even if not for my own goals at least because money had been raised for the children and I had to do my best. So towards the end of October I managed to do the distance of 334km in 16 hours and 47 minutes. Moreover, we raised £602 out of £500 goal. This for me is the true win!
More info to come on how the funds were used as I get updates from the organisation.
I had specific gymnastics goals which I was pursuing in the first half of the year. Specifically:
- Handstand 30s
- Advanced tuck planche 40s
- Handspring on floor
I was getting decent at doing the handspring in the gym into the foam pit. Also the handstand I can hold for about 15-20s. Splits… well, let’s say I am in a limbo there. And I could hold the regular tuck planche for around 40s, but not the advanced version.
However, half way through the year I had to leave the pursuit of those goals as they were holding me back from cycling and the overall time became too limited to do both, so I focused on cycling. Nevertheless, these goals are still on a back burner and they will come back once I complete some other challenged first.
I read regularly throughout the year, but more so at the end of the year when a big chance in my daily routine was forced. I am really happy with my reading and I did hit my goal of reading 5 pages a day for every day of the year apart from 1 week at the end of December and two weeks in the beginning of January (2018). That is about 350 days times 5 pages so at least 1750 pages. I know it’s not that much, but it is more than I used to before and the key is that I just tick if I read 5 that day, not how much I actually read. So the reality is that there were more than that.
Some of my favourite reads / listens (as I “read” audiobooks mostly):
- A history of the world by Andrew Marr – This book is a must read / listen for anyone I think. It is a beautiful journey through the history of the world as initially created for a TV series for the BBC. It quickly brings into perspective our current times and gives context for interpreting world events, political decisions and just everyday occurrences.
- Esther Perel’s Where should we begin (series of recordings) – The series of recordings from Esther Perel’s couple therapy practice. It is inspiring, humbling and both heartwarming and heartbreaking at times. Simply, it’s emotional and it highlights how our generalised social views on relationships are outdated and do not reflect the their reality.
- How not to f*ck up your kids too bad (series of recordings) – An entertaining, funny and also down-to-Earth conversations between fathers talking about raising their kids and how they approach general problems such as racism, drugs and just bringing a kid up in today’s world. Eye opening and also made me laugh.
- The subtle art of not giving a f*ck – A simple book with a harsh message in the title. It simply points on how one can bring themselves to worrying less at a time where everything seems to want something from us, our attention, money, time which causes stress, anxiety and other problems. The author draws a reality that we can access through a new perspective where we can leave all of these distractions and focus on what’s important to us.
- Walking the Americas by Levison Wood – A totally captivating story of how Levison Wood planned and tried to walk from the North to the South of the Central and South America. The problems that such a trip created both politically and practically, the people he met on the way. It is an inspiring (for me) record of an epic adventure such that is difficult to imagine nowadays.
Unfortunately, I waited too long and my free account at RescueTime doesn’t let me see data from the previous year (just the current one). It is my bad for waiting too long to write this 🙂 And I am definitely not upgrading my account to a paid one :))
For the first six months of 2018 there was no travelling involved as I wanted to train and also there were a lot of trips planned for the second half of the year.
– Budapest (Hungary) / Romania – May/June
A quick trip to Romania (while landing in Budapest and visiting the town for a day). It was very enjoyable to explore Budapest and it is definitely one of the more beautiful cities I have seen.
– Gibraltar – June
Probably the most important and memorable trip of the year. We went on a sailing course in Gibraltar to learn and qualify as a “Competent Crew”. This took us through a week of pulling ropes, making food, living on a boat, going out for night sailing and learning how skilled really a sailor must be. The course also took is all the way to the other side into Morocco and Northern Africa. We ate freshly caught tuna grilled by our captain. It was hard work, but also totally enjoyable, fun and challenging.
– Romania – July
Going to a lovely wedding in Romania.
– Greece – July
Straight to Greece after the wedding above and some much needed relaxing time with nothing more than sea, good food, sleep and some canoeing. The best part was that my parents were also there so we got the chance to spend some good quality time.
– Glasgow (Scotland) – August
There are two things no one can deny that are part of Andra’s passions – food and gymnastics (never know in which order). This trip took us to Glasgow and the European Gymnastics Championships. We took a city walking tour and while Andra was supporting the Romanian team I was working remotely from the AirBnb and we were exploring in the evenings.
– Bulgaria – August
Then a flight straight from Glasgow took us to Bulgaria and a week long adventure of going around with friends. We visited Sofia, Bansko, the seven Rila lakes and had a lot of great memories added.
– Amsterdam (Netherlands) – September
With a couple of friends and Andra we went for a quick weekend trip to Amsterdam. It was a lot of fun, we did quite a few tours and explored the city all around. For me Amsterdam still remains one of the most enjoyable cities as I can never get tired walking around the canals, looking for the little hidden places in the small streets.
– Romania / Hungary – September
The travel marathon continued with another wedding over a long weekend, but this time in Hungary while landing in Romania (to keep it interesting).
– Brussels (Belgium) – September
This was a trip with my previous company, for which I have worked for many years and feel very close to the people there. The trip was to celebrate the company’s 10 year anniversary and it was a great time, a lot of fun and I am glad I managed to join them as it felt a bit like my leaving party too.
– Macedonia / Greece / Bulgaria – October
Finally, at the beginning of October I took off to Macedonia to cycle across the country and down into Greece and all the way to Thessaloniki with a friend. As expected, we saw many beautiful views, ate delicious food and I personally discovered a country that has not been on my radar before unjustly so. More memories added and many stories to tell. In fact, you can read the series of articles from the trip here:
One of the goals for the past year was to keep referencing the goals set in the beginning, to track progress and better remind myself of what I want to achieve. This worked really well by simply creating another list in Trello and listing the goals for the year and keeping them up to date. That allowed for an occasional reminder and a checkup on what should be important.
It was a good year in financial terms as we managed to hit our saving goals. I kept the strategy the same as in the previous year. We’ve also tracked our expenses likewise. There were some increases in costs but the main it seems was on travel.
This is due to buying tickets for the main season when they are the most expensive. We didn’t have many choices there, but it is what pushed the expenses beyond the original estimate. Still though it was a much better year compared to 2016.
However, the end of the year highlighted the need for some changes. For example the Stocks ISA we use has fees that I personally would prefer to avoid and am planning to move the accounts elsewhere. Another key would be to better hold the cash we don’t use immediately but still want to have available (versus the one invested in stocks).
I set myself specific goals last year. To write certain applications, to do 30 days of design, etc., etc. I did not do most of them, but consider the year to have been a success since I moved to a new position at a new company. The interview process was lengthy, challenging and made me doubt myself many times, but the fact that I got the job and received positive comments on the way made me believe more in my skills and attitude. I have been suffering of an acute case of “Imposter Syndrome” for many years, mainly due to my lack of formal education in my chosen discipline. Having worked in few companies contributed to that as I didn’t know how I would stand “in the World”, outside my comfort zone. Landing this new job has changed all of those doubts or at least muted them for a while. In that sense, I feel that my professional development has moved in the right direction and even as I am writing this, I learn new things almost daily.
– One of the goals for 2018 was to apply for permanent residency in the UK as we have been here for more than 10 years now. With loads of pushing and persuasion from a special friend, both me and Andra managed to apply and get the residency cards. Next stop should be the citizenship!
– Another goal was to clear up all the gear that I am not using and don’t see myself using that has accumulated throughout the years. I’ve managed to sell about 90% of the stuff I wanted (I made a list of course), but a few are left mainly because they are still in use. One to move in the to-do list of 2019.
The most important day
Always leaving the best for last 🙂 The people close to me know how long I have been thinking of doing this. It has been on my mind for at least a year if not two. The good thing is that I was excited and happy, cherishing the feelings leading to that moment.
On the 23rd of July, on our last day of the sailing trip I proposed to Andra and she actually said “Yes”. All things aside, I could write a whole post just on everything before, during and after that moment, but in simple words it has put me in a permanent state of “happy”. Every time I see the ring on her finger I can’t believe that I deserve someone so dedicated, loving and caring. Every day I get to celebrate with a smile, coming home and seeing the person I love the most. In that sense, this gesture of proposal hasn’t changed much, it has stated something to the outside world, namely that I could not feel more grateful for the opportunity to spend the rest of my life in love.
Sneakily, I managed to take a shot of the proposal and would qualify that as the best one I have ever taken, both because of the moment, the complexity of taking it and for what it signifies.
Reading this, one would realise that it has been an eventful year. With small and large events, life has been challenging, rewarding and forever engaging. It was good to sit down, write and reflect on the events, even just to remind myself of them. Most importantly, it made me excited about the year ahead.