Personal Stories

A Mantra for 2016

My blog posts likely contain affiliate links, including for the Amazon Associates program.
If you click, book, or buy from one of these links, I may earn a commission. Read more in my Privacy Policy.

If you read even one other travel blog, you’ve probably noticed that basically everyone is doing “end of year” posts — looking at where they traveled; re-sharing old photos, stories, and posts; putting in one final “follow me for adventures in 2016” call-to-action.

If you read my blog, you know it’s been a quiet month in the casa de V&V.
I published a total of seven posts this month.
I redesigned my site.
I prepared to launch Maps Not Apps.
I shut up on Twitter and  Facebook.
I worked on the MatadorU writing course.
I read a lot of Lonely Planet stories and a few bloggers I love reading.

I started thinking about what I wanted from this blog, and this upcoming year.

It was a quiet, restful month, and when I lay down each night, my brain is full of ideas and stories I want to share; not SEO friendly listicles in bite size format with the requisite number of subheadings and implicit exclamation points.

Instead, I am filled with stores: personal stories, crafted and distilled over time in my mind. Stories that share who I am through the lens of where I am, rather than the opposite.

My friend Malia of Shoyu Sugar does a wonderful post each year titled “Letters to the Universe.” The post explains her retrospection about the previous year, and her goals for the coming one. In particular, she highlights choosing a “Word of the Year,” a process which reconciles the two years upon whose cusp we stand.

Inspired by her post, I have decided to choose a word. I spent several days deliberating about what I wanted my year to look like, and where I wanted to direct my focus.

Do I want to travel more? Maybe ‘journey’ or ‘go.’

Do I want to make more money? Maybe ‘work’ or ‘wealth.’

Do I want to achieve goals and resolutions? Maybe ‘discipline’ or ‘commitment.’

At a rare moment each year where aspiration and achievement are praised and encouraged, I was seduced by the idea that a single word could somehow help me check boxes on my to-do list, accomplish goals I haven’t yet set, and look back in 364 days with a glowing sense of pride in how far I’d come. Expansion, acquisition, and a sense of well-intentioned selfishness are common around this time of year.

Instead, I realized that I want the opposite. I want to consolidate, figure out what matters, and just spend time on those things.

I chose the word ‘minimize.’ I will repeat it as my mantra throughout the year.

reduce to the smallest possible amount or degree.

I want to minimize the distractions that keep me from being disciplined about work, fitness, and health.

I want to minimize the noise in my life that keeps me from giving my attention to the people and projects I care about.

I want to minimize the objects I own so that I can pack, travel, and move more easily.

I want to minimize the amount of debt I owe to help me feel more wealthy with what I have.

Many times, we write resolutions and set goals and mantras and fail to get specific and quantify what we are actually hoping to achieve. Here are some more specific goals:

  • I want to turn off the TV more frequently than I turn it on.
  • I want to unfollow many of the accounts that just make noise in my life.
  • I want to connect with the travelers that I care about and whom tell great stories.
  • I want to focus on this blog, Maps Not Apps, and my homesickness book, Far From Home.
  • I want to pay as much debt as possible — all my credit card, and at least 2 of my loans.
  • I want to figure out a “capsule wardrobe” for my life.
  • I want to reduce my reliance (emotional and financial) on people who drain me.
  • I want to write here when I have something to say, not just my calendar says to do so.

What does this mean?

You might hear from me a lot less — or maybe a lot more. Here on my blog (and social media), I want to foster connections and relationships over “influence” and “authority.” I want to feel like I’m building something I want to be a part of — something I’m proud of — whatever that may end up being.

If you want to stay in touch during 2016, I would love to connect. I can’t promise what adventures the next year will have in store (I have some really exciting irons in the fire that I can’t quite share yet), but I can promise I’ll be here to share whatever happens along the way.

Happy New Year!

(P.S. If you do want to stay in touch, please make sure to ping me here or on Twitter so I keep you on my list!)

(P.P.S. Do you have a word? I’d love to hear what silent mantra you’ll be repeating all year.)

Help others discover this post too!

Avatar photo

I was born on the East Coast and currently live in the Midwest – but my heart will always be out West. I lived for 15 years in Alaska, as well as four years each in California and Washington. I share travel resources and stories based on my personal experience and knowledge.


  • Linda Bibb

    Minimize. I’m loving that idea, Valerie. We sold everything a few years back and it was incredibly freeing to not have all that “stuff.”

    Too, so much of our day is spent in pursuing minimally beneficial activities, whether at work or at home. It must be contagious because, coincidentally, I am planning to reassess my blogging activities in the next few months as well.

    • Valerie

      Linda, thanks so much for commenting! I’m glad my post could help you think a bit about what you’d like to focus your 2016 on — I think that’s my favorite part of Malia’s ‘word of the year’ idea (that it makes you think).

      Happy new year!

  • charlesmccool

    Excellent. Definitely eliminate (or drastically reduce) that credit card debt. That is a major mental strain. BTW, I refrained from all that 2015 recap nonsense. I love the minimize mantra.

    • Valerie

      Yeah, that’s the first big goal on my mind… will have to do an update if I actually succeed this year!

      Glad I wasn’t the only one horribly annoyed by the recaps — it’s just a post to try and get people to read old posts or relive your travels; doesn’t add any extra value for the reader!

  • Tanja / The red phone box trav

    I like your re-design of the blog. I’m not sure yet about this year, it hasn’t started off to a good start, and there’s nothing I can do about that except provide my support to my family.Hopefully things will be better. I wanted to feel less frustrated and anxious about certain things this year, I’ll see whether I’ll achieve it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *