#main-header { z-index: 9999; }

This is my most favorite blog post of the year.

A few years ago, I was in inspired to create an annual review for myself – a place to reflect on the past year and to think about how I want the coming year to go.  I knew other bloggers did annual reviews, and I am so glad I jumped on this bandwagon.  In 2014, I did my very first annual review. I also shared my theme of the year for everyone. I loved it so much that I did the same thing in 2015 . Now, it’s time for 2016’s annual review: the good, the bad, and what’s to come after the New Year.

“A year from now, you’ll wish you had started today.”  – Karen Lamb

This has been the most incredible year of my life. I have done more, seen more, and lived more than I ever have.

I know that this has been a particularly unique year, and I’ll probably never be able to recreate just how amazing it’s been. I’m fine with that. I know that my story is special. I know that my ambition and my lack of responsibilities are unusual. I know that life in 2017 might look completely different. I’m totally ok with that. While I’m not good at being proud of myself, I do feel proud about this particular year.

Just to refresh your memory, at the end of 2015, I quit my job working for the government in Washington DC. I sold everything I owned and moved to SE Asia with a backpack and a carry-on. When 2016 began, I was living in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I was still getting used to the heat and the fact that I’m apparently the only person in the world who doesn’t like Thai food. (Who knew!)

When the year began, I thought I would spend a few more weeks in Thailand and then move on to Cambodia. I thought I would fall in love with, what I imagined to be, a simplistic, unknown country. I thought I would explore and discover a beauty beyond what I had ever seen. Then, after a few months, I would move on. At some point during the year, I would end up in Bali – I assumed – but I didn’t know when.

I had no idea I would hate Cambodia. I didn’t know I would spend almost 6 months in Bali. I didn’t know that I would return to the US for a whole month and spend quality time with my family. I didn’t know I would get the opportunity to move to London. I couldn’t have predicted any of this.

Looking back at 2016, I feel incredibly grateful. I feel proud. I feel privileged.

Here’s a quick look back on 2016. I’m sharing the good and that bad. I’m sharing reflections and where I can make the effort to make my life, my business, and my relationships better.

What worked/Major Accomplishments

Traveling/digital nomading

In just these 12 months, I traveled to Thailand*, Laos, Hong Kong, Macau, Cambodia*, Indonesia*, Australia, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, United States*, Mexico, United Kingdom*, France, Belgium, and Iceland. 13 of these 17 countries were brand new to me. This is an incredible accomplishment and pushes me further toward my life goal of seeing 100 countries. As of today, I have been to 38 countries.

(*spent at least 30 days here)

Life as a digital nomad is awesome. You get to set your own hours, only work on projects you choose, and live anywhere you want. This was my first year completely self-employed, and I got to spend it as a digital nomad.

Learning how to scuba dive

On my birthday in 2015 (December 29), I earned my Open Water diving certification. This experience opened my eyes to a whole new world, literally! I thought I would like diving (because, duh), but I didn’t know that I would want to make it such a big part of my life. Within a few months, I earned my Advanced Open Water certification, and I’ve been on 27 dives.

Got a little more woo-woo

For a long time, I’ve resisted the woo-woo. I’ve never really believed in signs or listening to what the universe is telling me, but I’m much more open to the woo-woo life than ever before. I wouldn’t say that I’m a total convert, but I do wear 3 spiritual bracelets, I’ve been to see the spiritual healer (twice), and went to a Sound Medicine Meditation class, which I discovered was not for me.

Something that has really helped me tap into my woo-woo is meditation. Now, I’m soooooo not good at my meditation practice, but the CALM app has worked really well for me. Meditation helps calm my mind, relax, process information, and sleep.

I have begun to realize how much I need time to process information and to process experiences in my life. I need reflection time. (Maybe I’m more introverted that I used to believe.)  Taking the time to think, reflect on situations, and decide how I want my future to look has made me feel more stable and has massively increased my self-awareness.

Started my second business

I had no idea I was going to start a new business. I was in Bali with a group of women, and I was talking about where I wanted to go with Climb Out of The Cubicle. While they were supportive of Climb Out of The Cubicle, someone casually asked, “Don’t you love writing? Why aren’t you doing that?”

My initial response was that “I’m not a writer,” but really, that’s just an excuse.

I decided that I’m the only one who gets to decide if I’m a writer, and you know what, I am.

To begin a writing career, I used Bali as my inspiration.  I let my gut instinct lead the way.  I intentionally put the growth of COOTC on hold to see if I could really do this writing thing. Turns out, I can! I love tapping into this new field.  I have the chance to learn about the world of freelance writing and content marketing, which makes me motivated and excited to wake up every day.

What didn’t work/My failures

Monthly YouTube Series: First Mondays

This YouTube series did not get nearly the traction I was hoping for. I did 6 episodes of this series, and it didn’t go too well. I’m not too sure why it didn’t work (could have been me, could have been the topics, could have been marketing, could have been anything.), but it didn’t. After 6 months, I decided that I would spend my time and energy on projects that did better.


Podcasting has become such a fun hobby for me. Not only did I make iTunes’ “New and Noteworthy” category in just 11 days, I interviewed about 20 amazing people. The failure on my part is that I let the project fizzle out. At the end of Season 1, the podcast became less of a priority as I ramped up my writing business. I’ll be podcasting more in 2017.

Making Plans

When the year started, I had a general plan for myself. As a Type-A lady, planning is comforting. It makes me feel prepared. Beyond how I feel, I also genuinely enjoy planning. It’s fun to start researching my next step in life. Even though I had a general idea of how I thought my year was going to go, nothing went as I planned.

In May, I decided to leave SE Asia 4 months early. I decided to go back to Missouri for the month of August to spend time with my family. After that, I went to Mexico (more about that later) and then I had the opportunity to go to London for the next three months. I couldn’t have predicted any of these changes, but I’m glad that I seized these opportunities when they came to me.

What I discovered about myself

I discovered that when I pay ZERO attention to the news, I am a happier person.

I discovered that, while I love my Kindle, I read much faster with a physical book.

I discovered that my fear of riding a scooter is worth the feeling of freedom.

I discovered that seeing my family in the middle of my trip is worth it.

I discovered that I don’t feel like I’m missing out even though I don’t have any material possessions.

I discovered how susceptible I am to western commercialism.

I discovered that I love staying busy even when I’m in a place that doesn’t have a busy culture.

I discovered that taking care of myself is a weekly requirement.

I discovered how much more I get done without a TV.

What’s changing next year?

More podcasting

Like I said, I really enjoy podcasting. Season 2 will launch in Q1 of 2017. I don’t have an exact launch date yet, but it’s happening. If Season 2 goes well, I imagine there will be a Season 3.

More video

I really enjoy making videos.  In 2017, I am going to prioritize making video for both Climb Out of The Cubicle and The Amber Monaco. I better take advantage of the after Christmas sales to invest in a larger memory card for my camera!

More traveling

Honestly, I have no idea where I’m going in 2017. Literally. I think I want to spend some time in Mexico and in Buenos Aires, but I don’t know what the future holds.  I do know that these two locations have been at the top of my mind for a few months.

More personal development

My personal development journey is not at all over. In the coming year, I really want to work on my meditation, creating a morning routine, and writing. My personal development journey has become very important to me over the last few years, and this area of my life is not something I’m willing to part with.

North American Time Zones

I know it sounds silly, but after traveling around the world (literally – I was on 4 continents) in 2016, I am making a huge effort to stay in a North American time zone next year. It’s so much easier to talk to my family, friends, and clients when I’m in a North American time zone.

The highlight of my year

The highlight of my year wasn’t hiking my fourth active volcano on 4 continents or when a great friend came to Bali to take me on my first diving trip. No, the highlight of my year was the week I spent in Mexico with my best friends. My best friend asked me to officiate her wedding. Aside from wanting to make the ceremony personal and authentic, I wanted to make sure my best friend had the wedding of her dreams. It was an honor and pleasure to stand up with my best friend and officiate her day.

Theme for 2017

For the past few years, I’ve created a theme for the upcoming year. A theme sets the tone for the year and acts as my compass as I’m choosing which projects to take on, with whom I’m collaborating, and in which direction I want my businesses to move.

In 2014, my theme was finding my own way.

In 2015, my theme was movement.

In 2016, my theme was growth.

Usually, this is the easiest part of my annual review. The idea for my theme usually comes at me out of nowhere, and it instantly feels right. I, then, text my blogging bestie about the theme and do what any blogger does: doddle the theme into my planner, like a schoolgirl with a crush. Easy peasy.

This year, however, choosing a theme has been more difficult. The idea didn’t come to me in an instant. I have been volleying between two words, but after weeks of pondering, I’ve made a decision.


I am choosing REACH because my 2017 goals are big. (More on that in a minute.) To achieve these goals, I’m going to have to do more, strive harder, and be more disciplined. I’m going to have to commit to strict time management.

To me, reach means extending myself: broadening my online presence, stretching my personal development, and unlocking my potential to achieve great things.

I have a feeling that this is going to be a challenging theme, but it’s one that I’m taking on because I want to push myself to do better and to prove to myself that I can accomplish even the craziest of goals.

Goals for 2017

Goal setting is a huge part of my life.  Goals give me directions and purpose.  I’ve thought long and hard about what goals I want to work on over the next 12 months.  None of these goals were made lightly.  They all have real meaning to me, which is why I’m sharing them with you.


  • Earn 2 marketing certifications
  • Create 100 videos
  • Create 10 content upgrades
  • Develop a second income stream
  • 100 members in my Facebook group


  • Travel for at least 9 months
  • See 5 new countries


  • Double my income from 2016


  • Write and publish my non-fiction book
  • Publish 10 articles outside of my blogs


  • Read 20 books
  • Pass TEFL course
  • Dabble in lifecasting



This has been a lot to think about. That’s a lot of goals – 15!!!  And some of them (i.e. write and publish a book) are MASSIVE!

Now I’m going to get out my trusty Moleskine and create a plan for myself to get this all accomplished. Yes, 2016 was a big year, and I have a lot I want to accomplish in 2017.

I fully believe that, aside from personal discipline, the best way to stay accountable is to have a support system around you. You must have people who get what you are doing and support you without judgment. If you are looking for a way to stay accountable for your goals in 2017, I highly suggest you join my free, private Facebook group – The Second Shift.  We’re an intimate group of go-getters who are working hard to make our dreams come true.

So, tell me, what how did 2016 turn out for you?  What are you planning for 2017?

2016 Annual Review

by Amber time to read: 10 min

Pin It on Pinterest