10 Things I Loved in 2018

It’s hard to believe the New Year is almost here. Where did 2018 go?

I’ve been reflecting over the past year, in between holiday parties and travel. I’ve thought about a few of the highlights and disappointments, and compared where I am today with where I was last year, five years ago, and so on. While everything didn’t go exactly as I’d planned, I like my life and can take satisfaction in the fact that I’ve given this year my very best.

If I’d had a theme word for 2018, it would have been “new chapter” (I know, two words…). The year was a period of transition from my family, (courtesy of the military), and like all seasons of change, there was much excitement and stress. For the first time in our married lives, we had the choice of where we wanted to live, what we wanted to do for the living, and how we wanted to spend our time – a level of autonomy that was admittedly rather overwhelming at first; however, we eventually cleared a path through the jungle of uncertainty.

Overall, 2018 has been kind of like riding a roller coaster – lots of suspense, some cursing, the occasional anxiety-induced puking, and the satisfaction of surviving the unexpected twists and turns that make it “fun”. I invite you to join me on a quick recap of an exciting year and gain a sneak peek into where we’re headed.

Here are ten things I loved in 2018:

things I loved in 2018

Becoming millennial homeowners.

2018 was the year my home ownership dreams came true. After an eleven-month-long distance house search, we finally found a horse farm that met all the requirements (well, most of the requirements – we had to do some budget-friendly renovations) on our real estate must-have’s list. Becoming millennial homeowners was definitely one of the biggest highlights of my year. Having a place to (finally) put down roots and call “home” has been a high priority on my bucket list for a long, long time.

Read more about our house hunting adventure in The Millennial House Buying Guide.

Putting my location independent business model to the test.

Moving my family meant moving my business – something a completely freaked me out.

Thanks to the military, this wasn’t the first time I’d moved my business; however, my business had grown a lot since my last move and I was worried that my location-independent business model may not stand up to the test of a geographic transition.  I’m one of those people that’s comfortable in ruts (do I see some hands?) and moving across the country is a surefire way to force me out of my rut (and my business comfort zone).

My company had seen a lot of growth over the past three years, and I worried that moving might mess with the positive momentum we’d been steadily gaining. Rationally, I knew there would be no disruption in the quality of services my company provided (it’s all remote based); however, a move introduced unknown variables (don’t you just hate those) that make it hard to project cash flow. I’d developed a location-independent business model intentionally (you know, in response to the whole military thing) but moving to Florida meant I had to put it to the test.

If you’re interested in an under the hood look into how I structured my location, read How I Run a Business from the Beach.  

Spent a lot of time with my horses.

One of the biggest benefits of self-employment and moving to a warmer climate is that I get to spend a lot more time with my beloved horses that I did when I was freezing my tail off in the Midwest, braving hour-long commutes in the endless winter weather. Florida has a TON of equestrian activities, as they are actually ranked third in the nation of states with the most horses. Florida is home to the “Horse Capital of the World” (located in beautiful Ocala, FL) – a community that’s known for their Thoroughbred breeding programs. Since moving to Florida, there’s been no shortage of horse shows, trail rides, and training clinics to attend!

Exploring life in sunny Florida.

I’ve always loved Florida; however, the majority of my time in the Sunshine State was spent at a beach resort or theme park. Sure, Florida was one of my favorite vacation spots, but I wasn’t too sure what it would be like actually living here twelve months out of the year. My spouse (a native Floridian) assured me hurricane season wasn’t that bad (he had to eat those words when Hurricane Michael slammed us a few weeks ago).

Over the past few months, we’ve been exploring Florida’s many offerings – spending weekends on the beachesspelunking in the caverns, and kayaking its many waterways. We’ve even taken a few trips (for work and play) to Atlanta, Orlando, Nashville, and historic Mobile (it’s a port city in Alabama, ICYWW).

Get more info on our snowbird return to the South in my spill-all-the-dets blog post, Life in Sunny Florida.

Started plugging into my local community.

Moving is stressful, in its own right. There’s the packing, the house search, the unpacking, the address forwarding, etc. – something my military family knows all too well. Throughout all my moves (there’s been nearly thirty of them, and I’m not that old…), one of the biggest signs that we’re getting settled in is when we are able to start plugging into the local community.  For me, this usually looks like making new friendsvolunteering with area nonprofits, and sampling some of the local culture.

Here’s an example of the local culture we encountered down here in sunny Florida:

Going back to graduate school.

My higher education experience has been a lot of start-stop-start-stop, thanks to the war. I graduated with an MBA in 2015, and have been exploring different graduate programs in hopes of finding one that will help me continue my education. This year, I enrolled in a graduate certificate program focused on the nonprofit sector (my company’s client base) and have thoroughly enjoyed the coursework. While it’s stressful to juggle working full-time and blogging part-time with graduate school, I enjoy learning and hope my educational investment will result in positive returns down the road.

The graduate certificate program is almost over, and I’m currently weighing my options between a doctorate in business and a technology-focused masters degree. It’s challenging to find a well-ranked school that is willing to work with the demands of my family’s postwar life. I’m still shopping around for a viable program that offers flexible scheduling and quality instruction. If you know of a well-ranked, military friendly business and technology graduate program (DBA or MS – I already have my MBA), please send it my way!

Are you going back to school? Check out: How to Ask for Letters of Recommendation.

Soaking up the sun on the Emerald Coast.

Our farm is just a few miles from the beach, so when I’m not working or riding my horse, chances are, I can be found catching some rays on the lovely Emerald Coast.

Seriously, y’all, have you ever seen a beach so beautiful?

The Emerald Coast is world renowned for it’s “sugar sand” and distinct water color. It’s consistently ranked as one of the top ten most beautiful beaches in the United States and is kind of a best-kept secret. I absolutely love living so close to such a beautiful beach. While traveling has always been a big part of my life, I start having beach withdrawals within hours of going anywhere else. My spouse did pry me away from the Emerald Coast long enough to visit the French Quarter in New OrleansBellingrath Gardens & Home in Mobile, and for some fall hiking in Pine Mountain, Georgia.

Turning the blog into a pretty serious side hustle.

I’ve been blogging at The Motived Millennial for going on five years now; however, it’s been an on-again-off-again project that kept finding itself stuck on the back burner as I got busy with life. This year, I decided to be intentional about the blog’s growth, prioritize its social channels, and stick to a regular blogging schedule of twice a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays). I knew that if I’d focus my energies towards the blog’s growth, I could be rewarded with a rewarding side hustle that developed into consistent passive income.

I toyed with incorporating ads and affiliate programs into the blog content but just didn’t feel like either was a good fit for me. I’d worked with reputable brands in the past and enjoyed connecting blog readers with the services and products I used to run my business and make my daily life easier, so I decided to stick with a 100% sponsored content revenue model for the blog.

Sponsored content can be time-consuming – there’s the writing, the photography, and the brand coordination; however, it’s been fun and has evolved into a pretty serious side hustle – serious enough that I block out ten hours per week to devote to this passion project. I’m excited to see what 2019 has in store for my internet ramblings.

Interested in blogging? Check out How to Start a Blog That Makes Money , where I dish on all my blogging trade secrets!

Connecting with members of our military community.

Florida has a large military presence – both active and retired, which was one of the motivating factors in our move south. It’s comforting to have other military families in our community that “get” what we’ve been through and are interested in getting to know us.

I’ve been able to connect with several military-focused organizations since moving to Florida, including Hiring Our Heroes and Military Officers Association of American chapters. One of the highlights of my year was sharing how being a military spouse had influenced my career with other military families at Eglin AFB and Hurlburt Field’s Transition Summits:

To learn more about military spouse career challenges, read Help! I’m a Military Spouse Job Seeker That’s Not Getting Hired! 

Got serious about my long-term investments.

I finally decided to face one of my biggest fears head-on in 2018 – my financial future.

No woman in my family has ever been financially independent or had a self-earned, comfortable retirement. Over the years, I’ve watched my female predecessors struggle under the strain of being financial unprepared and vowed the same fate would not happen to me.

This year, I decided to stop worrying over my financial future, and do something about it. I started investing and shared my do-it-yourself investment steps over on the blog in The Millennial’s Guide to DIY Investing . If you’ve ever found yourself thinking about retirement planning, but putting it off for another day, I encourage you to go read that blog post and get the tools you need to take control of your financial future. Don’t put it off – start investing today (I share in the blog post what to do if you don’t have any extra money laying around to invest, so that’s no longer a valid excuse).

Are you a fellow first-generation financially savvy woman? Check out 7 Investing Tips for Women for additional gender-specific investment strategies.

What are some of your favorite things from 2018?

Share the highlights from your year in the comments below!