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My purpose? To create a ripple effect: where my small drop in the ocean expands outward, helping others lean into life, make waves with their work and shift from a place of confusion to a place of clarity.

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A Love Letter To 2016

January 6, 2017
Blogger ElanaLoo's Year In Review | Digital Nomads | Couple Entrepreneurs | via
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Blogger ElanaLoo's Year In Review via
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Sunset Dreams | Blogger ElanaLoo's Year In Review via

Sharing some of my favorite photo moments and the raw, real way my year played out. The post is long, but it’s from the heart. Wishing you the happiest new year! 

Blogger ElanaLoo's Year In Review via
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Blogger ElanaLoo's Year In Review via
Blogger ElanaLoo's Year In Review via
Blogger ElanaLoo's Year In Review via
Blogger ElanaLoo's Year In Review via
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Blogger ElanaLoo's Year In Review via
Blogger ElanaLoo's Year In Review via

2016 started off kind of a doozy – I had been hospitalized the night before NYE  for severe dehydration. Who knew spending a month straight in the tropics would totally dry up a girl from the desert? Clearly, not I! Once I got that in control, and reprioritized my health and routine, the year quickly began to turn around. We made a trip back to Utah to see friends, go back to the place that we fell in love (Snowbird), and then down to Arizona to meet up with Aaron’s brother and sister-in-law. Our first trip just the four of us! It was so fun and wildly beautiful.

We came back to Hawai’i and housesat a coffee farm. This was rejuvenating – seeing a different side of Hawai’i, setting goals for the year, embracing the lifestyle change. Oh! And the coffee farm pup, Chulie Boy, he made it pretty wonderful too.

In March, some of our greatest friends in the world, Chelsea and Nick, came down to visit us! They were our first visitors so it meant the complete world that they wanted to come adventure with us! And adventure we did. With Nick, we end up calling most of our outings and explorations “type two adventures” because they always involve something crazy, going off the beaten path and unstoppable laughter. He wanted to get up at sunrise and go, go, go until midnight nearly everyday. We celebrated his birthday here and had a blast. It was exhausting and hard to step away from work but looking back at it, those are some of the best days of our year and some of our best days in Hawai’i.

And another fun addition to their visit was that two of our other friends who we know through Chels and Nick had also planned a trip on their own down to Kona. They weren’t sure which island Aaron and I were on, had no idea Chelsea and Nick were headed down, etc. It was totally unplanned for us to all end up here together yet, here we were in the jungle shooting the shit with people we loved –  everything aligned perfectly.

After our dear friends left, it was back to business for a month or so while we planned our first island trip.

Our niece was born. We celebrated little wins. We went to the beach a lot.

In April, we made a hop, skip and jump over to O’ahu and in my humble opinion, I think we did it right! We thoroughly enjoyed our time there and I shared a whole post if you’re traveling there soon! 

O’ahu came at an odd time. The night before we left, we received news that my grandmother had suffered a stroked at the age of 95. Things weren’t looking up. We thought we would surely be rerouting our trip from O’ahu to Indiana that next morning. Although, her vital signs improved, her speech improved. She was doing much better. And since we had a trip already planned to see her in just a month, we held off and continued our trip to O’ahu. It was healing and revitalizing and looking back, I am so thankful for that. I had no idea what the coming month would hold.

We returned back to the Big Island from O’ahu and began to pack most of our lives into suitcases again to make our way to Maine. Before making our way allll across the country, we were going back to Utah to pack up our house officially, get it ready for renters and then we were DRIVING to Maine. Across the country. 2,555 miles in seven days. Yep, we’re crazy I think.

We went to Utah and those were some of the hardest, most stressful days of my year and probably my life (sounds dramatic, feels totally honest). I was elbow deep in childhood memories, stuff that no longer served me, sorting through things that weren’t mine, trying to figure out what needed to go on this journey with me. It just felt heavy. Like was trudging through this muck that I so desperately wanted to get out of. Then I received a call from my mother, in hysterics, who was still in Hawai’i working. She was saying that my grandmother probably wouldn’t make it through the day. I spent the rest of the afternoon sobbing, trying to book plane tickets at the fastest pace possible, to get my mother and I across the country to see my grandmother. To comfort her, to love her. I wanted time to stop, to hold on, to let me be there.

We did make it there. We did beat time.
My heart still aches typing this.

For the next ten days, I sat with my grandmother. The one who was there for me my whole life. The one who had so honestly and bluntly raised me to be a go-getter, to be unapologetic, and to be opinionated.

I wanted her to know that I was there for her as much as she had been there for me all of these years. These were the hardest days of my life. I felt scared, and heartbroken, and sad.

Yet, I honestly think that my family and I gave her the most respect and honor that we could. We brought her back to the family farm and gave her the beautiful view of the lake.

We held her hand and told her stories.

And when it was her time, god damnit, I was not ready. I was scared and never envisioned myself physically being there but I know it all was the way it was supposed to be. It was. I think of her everyday and try to find little ways to honor her in my everyday life.

Emotionally and physically exhausted, we headed back to Utah and packed. And mourned. And hurt. And packed. It was just such a challenging, unsettling, heavy time.

Room by room, box by box, I started feeling less and less heavy.
I could start to see that we in fact would be able to move forward.
We would actually be able to leave for Maine and that I wasn’t going to be stuck in this depressing pile of stuff for the rest of my days (because it started to feel that way).

Thank god for my saint of a mother and my rock, Aaron. We sorted, decided, packed and said sayonara. Aaron and I hopped in the car, due east. Initially I was excited! Excited to be free of that house, that stuff, on to big things!

Then it all came back, the severity and seriousness of what I had just gone through.

And we all go through it, by no means is this a pity party of one. This is an open conversation of how loss affects us as humans.

I know it’s a natural progression of life, and now months later, I see that my grandmother wouldn’t want me moping and sad because it is natural and she lived a very long life. Although, while I was going through it, losing the first family member of mine that I was extremely close to – it felt anything but natural.

Our drive was quiet through northern Utah and into Wyoming. I watched everything pass by the windows and thought, and journaled, and remembered. The next day was better, the next state more exciting. And the next day after that was even less sad, more joyous and anxious.

We explored every state we drove through, my favorites being Des Moines, Iowa, Chicago and New York! I shared more about our cross-country road trip here if you’d like to read. It was quite the adventure!

Once we passed the state line of Maine, we were ready. Tired, excited, antsy.
We boogied in the car, saw the light at the end of the tunnel and I asked one thing: ‘Can our first stop be York Beach, please?’

My grandmother had been there years ago. A few summer ago I found some old polaroids she had. The subject either being her, her best friend, the ocean or seagulls. They were beautiful. I was quick to ask her about them, and she was quick to respond “Yes, that was in Maine!” To my complete shock. “You’ve been to Maine, grandma? What part? You know that Aaron is from there and that I’ve spent so much time there. It’s near to my heart.” . . .

It’s like she didn’t understand that I would feel more connected to her by us sharing this connection. I did and I still do. She didn’t travel many places in her life, but where she did travel were significant and I wanted to see them too. Sure enough, on the back of one of those polaroids, it read ‘York Beach’.
That’s where we would go first.

It felt so extremely special and heart warming to dig my toes in the same place she had all those years ago.
To see the line of beach homes that were in her photographs. To experience that bitter cold water on my tired legs.
To feel her again. Not the sadness, but her. 

I knew I was exactly where I needed to be.

The rest of the summer in Maine after that day was beautiful and busy. With so many family transitions, we were constantly on the go, helping someone or other but I loved it. I loved being in such a different landscape and being able to soak it all up in my time, not the borrowed time of a vacation. I was able to find a routine, connect with family, explore what I found interesting. I love you, Maine, and I can’t wait to see you in July.

We went down to Portland a lot. My mother came to visit and met Aaron’s whole family for the first time. I proudly watched my mini me graduate high school and then later moved her into her dorm. The first one in her immediate family to go to college.

We went over the hills and through the trees to explore, explore, explore. We went up to Bar Harbor, and I loved it. Then down to Boston we went. And to Marblehead to spend time with my college girlfriend in her hometown.

We missed our Utah friends and were shitty at keeping in touch.
We made time for the outdoors and family and relaxation.
I took a step back from my crazy work schedule and tried to soak that all in.
We kind of had a ‘summer vacation’ in a sense. A good one.

Late in the summer, we made a road trip down to Vermont (my first time) to celebrate Aaron’s cousin’s wedding. I also celebrated my birthday the night before. First one away from Utah, which is weird, I know. We are really close to Harry and his now wife, Carla. They lived out in Denver while we were in Salt Lake City and we were the only two couples in the entire Haynes family that lived out of New England.

We traveled back and forth across the state lines to connect, celebrate and feel close to family even though we were all miles away from anything they’d ever known. Since then, they have moved back to New England, leaving Aaron and I as the only couple in the entire family to live away. (Hey! We live there in the summer! That’s something!)

After their incredible wedding weekend full of family time and maybe too much celebrating we went back to Maine, packed up all of our things again and headed to Utah for another joyous occasion: a wedding! My dear friend from high school married her sweetheart and it was a reunion for the books.

Fast forward back to Hawai’i – we had a lot of work to do. We were coming up on a year of officially working together and we wanted to do something monumental (or at least start something). So we did. And we expanded our business, brought on more incredible clients.

We started rooting ourselves here and building a community.
I started experimenting with eating a more whole food, plant-based diet.
We swam up close and personal with wild dolphins for the first time.
I had my heart broken by the election.
We had our first tropical Thanksgiving. 
We celebrated one year of officially being in business together and then our one year anniversary in Hawaii! (Some of our favorite milestones yet!)
We then traveled to Kaua’i for the first time.

And all of a sudden we’re back to Christmas and New Years. Which were spent trying to get over how odd it felt, making new traditions and going 109 feet under the ocean’s surface in a submarine.

How does a year go by so quickly?

Yet, I think about how quickly a day can go by. And there are only 365 of them in a year.

So, I guess I took away the idea that we need to make each one significant, or at least try.

I was on a plane a lot less in 2016 than the preceding years, although I can easily say that there was more consistent days that were adventurous, crazy, exhilarating year than the preceding as well. I got outside, explored, got in the water, challenged my photography, met incredible people and GREW. This is the year I expanded my idea of what ‘home’ is and learned to live differently.

As you might have read, my word for 2016 was INTENTION.
And I would say that creating my experiences in this year around word absolutely made an impact.

I was intentional about what I brought into my life, what I let go of, where I was spending my time, what I was doing with my business.
Empowering myself to be more intentional, educate myself more, challenge myself to do things consciously rather than letting life just happen to me…This made a giant difference.

This year, the word THRIVE is really speaking to me.
In a breakthrough make-it-happen kind of way.
I would love this word to inspire me in business, in life, in experiences, in love and in friendship.

2016, you were hard, but I loved you.
2017, I think I’m going to love you even more.

Meet the writer


Thanks for reading! I'm a photographer, writer & environmental advocate excited to be sharing regenerative solutions, ideas & concepts for our lives & businesses with you. 


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  1. Only the purest of souls could put such living, vibrant memories into an account of life like this one. My goodness, little Tootie! ????


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