After a tough Super Bowl loss by the Patriots, I reacted with a beer to my head

2018 Sucked

Over 70 days of 2019 are now in the books but I need to get something off my chest. 2018 sucked really bad.

I had big aspirations for 2018. I said goodbye to my twenties at the end of 2017 and I was coming off the high from my 21 country trip around the world. Just before 2017 was about to close, I sat down to contemplate on the year that just passed and the year that was ahead of me.

A post from Chris Guillebeau (New York Times best-selling author and Speaker) inspired me to conduct an “Annual Review“. An exercise that he himself has been doing for a while now. I’ve never done anything like this before but after going through it, I was confident in the plans I had made for myself after reflection and thinking about my goals for the upcoming year. I even placed a star on the Google Sheet I wrote everything down on and marked it as “Very Important”.

The biggest thing I wanted to accomplish in 2018 was to tell as many stories as possible from my travels. I spent 387 traveling around the world and I was filled to the brim with tales of the mundane to the unimaginable. To put some specifics to this goal, I wanted to write 100 blog posts and upload 100 YouTube videos that centered around my travels.

Seems doable, right?

At the beginning of the year, I tried to make my Instagram account my storytelling platform but that lost steam after a few weeks. By the time 2018 had ended, I had not published a single post nor YouTube video (I’m not counting my short-lived Instagram Vlogs).

If you look at the WHOIS record for the domain of this blog, you will find that it was registered in March 2018. It was around the same time that I also tried to start a weekly email newsletter, which was also short-lived.


As the months went on, I become more and more of a digital hermit leaving all my social media accounts dormant. Thousands of pictures and videos I took whilst on my trip remain unedited, collecting digital dust. I was growing increasingly frustrated at not being able to keep at anything for longer than a few weeks which was the complete opposite of what I had set out to do. I couldn’t quite pinpoint why I was acting this way either.

Nico looking at a computer screen

After coming back from my year-long trip in 2017, I joined a very promising Sri Lankan startup doing Product Management. This full time role put me at the forefront of leading a team of 12 to develop a mobile application.

It didn’t take long for this role to start taking its toll on me. The strain of it was two-fold. First, the typical startup grind mentality that will beat anyone down. Second, the culture shock of working in Sri Lanka (i.e. the developing world) after only working in the U.S. before.

The company grew fast and I was spending a lot of late nights working with my team and putting out fires. As I spent more time with the company, it became clear that my A-type personality didn’t gel too well with the more laid back nature of my colleagues. Management expected everyone to sprint fast but didn’t make anyone accountable. They were content enough to see us skip along without much urgency. I tried very hard to inject some gusto into my team but their resistance broke down my rigor and spirit a lot of the time.

Working full time also meant that I had to contend with very limited time off. I only had 14 days off per year with a few more thrown for sick/personal days. The demands of this full-time gig ate up all my time and creative energy with nothing left over for the content I wanted to create.

I had also come back from a 2-week trip to the U.S. for my close friend’s wedding where I also “invested” in some nicer video equipment. I was hoping that all the new toys would spur me on to create, but sadly, it did not. Just like all the photos and videos I had taken on my world trip, it all collected dust in my bedroom as it laid unused.

By the middle of 2018, I had completely given up on writing and creating videos after succumbing to my full-time job. I became stagnant and content with collecting a paycheck. The monthly deposit silenced any workplace grievances I had for a brief moment in time before it reared its ugly head again a few days later.

My girlfriend started to grow increasingly worried about my frame of mind. All I would do is complain about my work day and dwell on what-ifs. She urged me to quit but I didn’t listen. This stubborness put a huge strain on our relationship and has proven to be the biggest test for us thus far.

The emotional downward spiral I was on was similar to the scene in the movie “Get Out”, where the protagonist fell into the “Sunken Place”. As the days went by, I was starting to be on the outside looking in. I sought answers and I turned to what gave me to the biggest clarity – travel.

Taiwan was a country that I’ve always wanted to visit but didn’t get to go to on my trip. Luckily for me, an excellent flight deal popped up that I pounced on in July and I was in possession of a ticket to Taiwan for later in November.

As I got closer to and closer to my trip, I knew that I had to make a drastic change. I finally listened to my girlfriend and handed my resignation in a few months later in September. Company policy mandated that I provide an asinine 3 months notice and I complied, with my last day being the end of December.

It took all the courage I could muster to resign because I am very risk averse when it comes to my finances and I was in no financial position to quit. Instead of listening to my logical self, I listened to my heart. It told me that I needed to do this to rebuild myself in order to execute what I actually want to do.

Hot Star Chicken in Taiwan
Eating fried chicken the size of your face in Taipei, Taiwan

I came back from Taipei reinvigorated in more ways than one. The last 2 months of the year was not smooth sailing as I was tasked with a few massive projects before my departure. I bit my tongue, got through it in one piece and said goodbyes after Christmas. That very same day, I boarded a plane to Bali where I began to heal myself and also started putting this new blog together.

Fast forward to today and I am feeling a million times better. I’ve entered the scary world of freelancing where an income is not guaranteed which frightens me a great deal. But, so far, so good. The gift of time is on my side as I experiment and create what my heart desires.

I let out a big sigh as I typed this sentence because writing this post has helped me come full circle and find some closure. If you have read this far, thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. This is by no means a pity party. Instead, I am hoping that this is the start of something great.

Keep watching this space!

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Nico Atienza

Chief Storyteller

An expat remote worker based in Colombo, Sri Lanka with a penchant for window seats on planes, travel, and technology that makes everyone’s lives easier.