Lessons Learned In 2018

January 13, 2019
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I'm ElanA
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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Before rushing into the new year, I always love spending some time reflecting on the past twelve months. The highs, the lows and most of all: the lessons I’ll carry with me. I have experienced so many new things this year and learned a lot about myself, I thought I would share a few of the lessons learned in 2018 that have been powerful in all facets of my life from entrepreneurship to wellness to travel + sustainability. 

Here we go. . .


1. Outsourcing Isn’t A Bad Thing

Shocker! I know… But up until this year, I subconsciously viewed outsourcing as weakness and depending on the situation, unethical. 2018 taught me that actually, it can be a really good thing.

Outsourcing doesn’t mean that I’m not able to do my job – it’s an understanding that I can do anything, just not everything and that my sanity is worth preserving. As entrepreneurs we put so much pressure on ourselves to wear every hat in our business. Now, I clearly see that that way of working isn’t sustainable.

Outsourcing doesn’t mean that I’m letting go of control in my business but instead allowing myself to function in my place of creative genius and empowering another person to function in theirs. I have set down many things that I am not a genius at this year. For example, I built both this website and our Dérive Collective website, designed both our Sailing Through Social social media ebook and The Big Island Travel Guide. I am not a graphic designer nor a web developer. BUT I had the vision and thought it was ‘smarter’ as a business owner to just do it myself. Wrong. I was so exhausted by the end of it all and wasted so much time.

2018 taught me that it’s MORE THAN OKAY to hire that graphic designer and web developer I’ve been dreaming of, that having someone negotiate deals and help me behind the scenes is a beautiful weight being lifted, that asking for help is not weakness but instead, a strength. By inviting incredible people onto our team, I am only making us stronger, not diminishing anything we’ve built. This has been a huge mindset shift this year and I am excited to see what 2019 is going to bring! 

If you’re in a place in your business that you’re drowning, I highly recommending outsourcing. Whether it’s hiring an assistant, hiring someone with a different skillset that you need or hiring a coach/mentor – these will ALL grow your business and help you maintain a more healthy hustle.


2. The world needs us and I can’t keep quiet anymore

2018 was a big, fat environmental slap in the face for me! (Or kiss on the face depending on how you look at it!) 2018 taught me to look within, really examine my habits and lifestyle and compare them to my values to see if they were in alignment. Turns out, they weren’t. 2018 was the year I really WOKE UP to the impact we have as individuals on this planet and the damage we are causing by choosing convenience over consciousness.

When I see other people with ‘influence’ online (PSA: we all have influence on our friends, family + communities) carrying plastic water bottles and plastic bags in their hands, talking into IG stories like it ain’t no thang or promoting harmful, toxic products like sunscreen I find myself so damn angry I could scream! Subconsciously they’re communicating that it’s all normal and acceptable and not a big deal. . . It’s 2019 and if you haven’t woken up yet, it’s time to! Plastic pollution and things like chemical sunscreen are absolutely detrimental to our earth and our oceans. I encourage you to read about these topics and then put action behind your newly gained insight.

I am a HUGE believer in the concept that once we learn something, we can’t unlearn it. This was totally the case with plastic pollution, once I started witnessing more plastic than seashells here on the beaches of Hawai’i – I knew I had to do something. I had to learn more, I had to face whatever this was. After a lot of research and hard conversations with people more informed than me, I’ve learned about the shocking facts of plastic pollution and damaging effects of chemical sunscreen.

Like the fact that there is 150 million tons of plastic in the ocean, approximately 8 million tons more entering the ocean every year. At the rate we’re going, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050. I can’t even begin to fathom what that looks like. Last month, I hosted a beach clean up where we cleared out 325 lbs and that was a lot. We’re talking TONS, 8 million TONS entering the ocean each year. 

When people with thriving online communities continue to promote toxic, environmentally-damaging products – my heart sinks. So I said no more. I decided to draw a line in the sand and not only change my personal behavior and choices behind the scenes but to use my voice online and in my community to influence others to do so too. 2018 was a wildly transformational year where I had to challenge ALL of my habits, behaviors and products in our home. I was harsh on myself and learned a lot of lessons and I’m not yet zero waste and far from knowing all the answers BUT I’m on my path and am thrilled to encourage others on theirs. Our world needs us. Our oceans need us. We as humanity have to make some BIG changes.

Here are some wonderful resources to start with:

What is plastic pollution doing to our world?
How To Give Up Plastic by Will McCallum 
How Does Plastic Affect Our Health?
Alison’s Adventures: Global Plastic Crisis
Trash is for Tossers


3. Dreams may look different than we planned

The reality of what we dream about may look different than the picture in our heads. 2018 definitely taught me this lesson and it’s one of my favorites.

Living on both coasts of the country has been a dream of mine for the past few years but what it has looked like is much different than I pictured when we started this journey and when I wrote the dream down in my journal. Those many entries where I pictured myself in my sunroom, looking at the ocean with book in hand…

HA! What a contrast to what it’s been. Living on both coasts means that when we’re in Maine, we’re living out of suitcases, cramming our car to THE BRIM with all of our belongings, moving from place to place. It means life is chaotic in the midst of beauty. It means that our days lack routine and that I question this dream constantly.

But part of the reality IS how I pictured this dream — surrounded by the tranquility of Maine’s beautiful coastline that I love, days spent on the lake, kayaking or on the boat. Slower, more intentional time with family rather than how rushed and quick it used to be when we visited for a week or two. Lobster bakes in the backyard. Sun on my skin while I read a book (even if it’s not in my own sunroom, yet). Getting to learn from salt of the earth people whom I truly admire. Exploring all the untouched places I have yearned to since I first stepped foot here.

Every dream has steps, some more than others, and just because the dream doesn’t look exactly how we planned at the moment doesn’t mean it’s not meant to be or that it won’t eventually. No matter if these dreams are for your business, yourself, your relationships, travel – whatever they may be.  2018 taught me to love my dreams just as they are, in every step, even if they aren’t exactly what I pictured.


4. Feeding your creativity can (and should) be viewed as a work task

Best said by my friend Abbey of Wayfarer Design Studio. 2018 showed me this FRONT AND CENTER. This year I created more, produced work that I’m most proud of, grew our business significantly, took risks and they paid off. What did I also do? Fed my creativity. I learned to embrace play and acknowledge it’s effect on my work + my sanity. I got outside more, paddle boarded more, swam with the most magical animals in the ocean more, had more sex, hiked more, read more, traveled more. I took a seat and watched the world unfold around me more. Feeding our creativity looks different for everyone but it’s affect on our work is universal.

I don’t know if you can relate, but I have a feeling you will – ever since I first began working for myself, I have felt this deep pressure and expectation to constantly stay inspired, continue cranking out newer and better work and to push myself farther and farther. In the midst of this, I felt that taking time away from work was just that, a distraction. But when your head is constantly down working, it’s impossible to stay inspired because you can quickly lose sense of your WHY, the why that brought you here, the colors and the textures and the message and the very things that inspired you to start. 2018 taught me this. That feeding our creativity is part of the job, part of building a sustainable business, part of it all. So in 2019, I’ll be out in the waves, talking with people, chatting about BIG ideas and photographing little moments. After all, this is why I started.


5. Mental and physical health cannot take a back burner to work

And that my work thrives when I am happy and healthy! This year taught me that I AMmy greatest project in life. My health and happiness shouldn’t (and won’t any longer) be a secondary, “oh, I’ll get to that when I can” aspect of my life. It IS my life. In 2018, I learned to prioritize and value my food, movement, cleaning, taking care of my body (massages, sleep, etc) and stopped viewing them as extras or as ‘treats.’ Throughout this year and the years to come, I will continue to schedule in time for me without feeling selfish and without the thought that it’s taking away from my work. My work is not my worth and taking care of myself is now my first priority!


6. Mother Nature is in Control

This year has humbled me and scared me in many ways. In 2018, Hawai’i experienced volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, horrendous vog and unbelievable flooding. We were actually on the edge of a waterfall while one 5.7 earthquake hit our island and on Kaua’i in the midst of all the flooding (our Airbnb even flooded a bit). We helped locals collect their belongings in the wake of the floods and heard one man tell us about how he literally pulled his horse out of the river that morning. Meanwhile, fires and tsunamis are occurring in other places on the globe.

Grouping these huge natural disasters into a short list in a couple of sentences flattens them into something small and skim-able and that is not my intention. Each of these events had huge impact on people’s lives and had ripple effects that are still in play today. I’m still stunned by everything that’s gone on.

I remember when the volcano started erupting on our island this year and I received many sweet messages from family + friends making sure we were safe. My initial reaction was to put up something on social media to let my community know we were safe + that my heart was with those who were affected by this “tragedy”. I received a message I’ll never forget which was from a native Hawaiian woman I have befriended since living here – she reminded me that the entire island we inhabit is lava, formed in the same manner that we were experiencing, and that it wasn’t a tragedy or disaster but a beautiful part of this world, new land forming in front of our eyes. This was a big AHA moment that reminded me, we are part of nature, not detached from it. Yes, as an empath, my heart is still naturally with those who lost homes and the animals that were trapped and harmed but it’s interesting to think of a wider understanding of this world and the fact that we neither truly own or control it.

Living through these wild occurrences here in Hawa’i, I am reminded very boldly that Mother Nature is in control. We cover her in asphalt and our home and skyscrapers and act like we are in control but there is still earth under our constructs and our human behavior is absolutely causing change in our climate. I view the world so differently after all that happened in 2018 and am working harder than ever to understand that we are simply part of this earth, not in control of it, and to live mindful of that.


7. That I want less time on my phone, now more than ever

Are you feeling this same way? 2018 was the year we were given the gift of screentime trackers which monitor how many hours we spend on our phones and allow us to set limits (if we’re bold enough to actually listen to it). If that doesn’t say something about the direction of our society, I don’t know what does. (Well, people sitting at a dinner table alllll looking at their phones, that says something too)

I am so saddened when I see groups of young teenagers all on their phones, barely talking to one another. But it’s happening in adults too. Human interaction is drastically changing and it crushes my soul.

Although much of our business is online, it doesn’t mean that I love being on devices. Quite the contrary. When we’re sitting at a table together or at the beach, you’ll notice that I never really know where my phone is. That’s because my face to face interactions mean the world to me. Putting the phone away sends the exact message I want it to: You are more important than anything going on in my phone. 

When I’m not working, I don’t need to be on my phone. Aaron and I are working on setting stronger and stronger boundaries with our phones. The first boundary we set in 2018 (might have been 2017 actually) was sleeping with our phones in the kitchen. It’s better for your health, your sleep and your sex life. We also tend to get off our devices pretty early in the evening but I want to get even stricter about this. I would LOVE to hear your strategies and boundaries you’ve set to really free yourself of screentime! They’ve become so ingrained in our lives that it really does feel like a rebellious act to challenge their place in our lives and I for one am ready.

This video makes me sad and challenges me at the same time.
Have a watch: How smartphones are affecting our relationships

There are many, many other lessons this past year has taught me but these are the ones on the forefront of my mind. 2019 is the year that I put action behind these lessons and I’m excited to see how it will unfold! I’m curious to hear your lessons from this past year. Feel free to comment below or share with me on Instagram!

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. These are ALL beautiful takeaways from 2018. Thank you so much for sharing as I was able to use them as stepping stones when writing in my daily Charm Journal as personal reflections I want to see moving forward. As always, thank you for the continued inspiration!


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