2019 Review: The Grand Adventure

posted on: January 22, 2020

In general, this year felt like two years.  One year was a life characterized by living and working in NYC from January through June, and the other is an entirely different way of living since traveling full time starting in July.

Of course, choosing to take off and travel for this length of time is never without challenges.  Giving up my photography business and the clients I worked so faithfully to cultivate, trusting that we made all the right decisions along the way so that we would be fine anyway, putting myself in the passenger seat of life when I am so used to being in control... all have required layers of inner work to get here.   That inner work runs far deeper than I can write about in one blog post.  Releasing decades of conditioning around defining myself by my work in order to enter a space full of unknowns and insecurities is no small feat.  With each challenge, I remind myself that it is a choice, each and every day, and I can always go back to what is familiar, rather than entering deeper into the unknowns.


Living in the space of unknowns means figuring out how to solve new problems nearly every single day.  For example, this blog post has been written over the course of three days and three locations, which also meant finding three different locations that would be possible to work from while traveling.  Even the small things we take for granted in daily life- like how to request coffee a certain way, how to use a washing machine, which squishy tube is actually toothpaste rather than foot cream, and what outlet we need to use without frying our electronics- all need to be relearned in spaces where everything is different and using Google Translate still doesn't quite make sense of it all.  It requires regularly making mistakes- sometimes embarrassing or painful mistakes- and being willing to humble ourselves so that we can receive help and learn new things.

Every culture has different expectations and social norms, and being a traveler of the world often requires stepping back and being an observer in order to figure out what those are.  In some cultures, being too much of an observer and not enough of an active go-getter will mean never getting in a door, or never being served.  This creates a constant dance between personal moments of yin and yang, accidentally not moving fast enough or moving too quickly, and it requires multiple experiences to figure out what the cultural norms are, versus what is unique to one situation or environment.


One of my personal challenges during this grand adventure has been feeling a constant desire to move my work-agenda forward, and yet regularly being in situations where this is very difficult and occasionally even impossible.  Even as I attempt to course-correct by making different choices, or trying to put myself into a better situation that makes it easier, I still end up encountering challenges I didn't know would exist.  It's a bit like climbing mountain terrain every day to get somewhere and yet never actually getting there.  After a while, I have to ask myself if I'm insane for continuing to try, rather than completely surrendering to the whims of the universe.  Oh, how my entrepreneurial spirit desperately wants to have control and see immediate rewards for my efforts!  So, this has been a very real part of the challenges I'm learning from this year.

What have these challenges taught me?  Changing locations on a weekly basis makes it difficult to do more than be a tourist, observe my surroundings, snap photos, write some thoughtful paragraphs, share my prior experiences, pass on creative business wisdom when scheduled, give feedback on the fly, and occasionally do some healing and intuitive work.  Now, for many people, this is probably more than enough to feel creatively fulfilled.  By all means, my consistent daily output of images and words on my Instagram profile alone would qualify me as a highly productive travel writer.  With this awareness, I have to ask myself why I think I need to be doing more than this?!  Where am I feeling frustrated and unproductive?

It is entirely a problem of my own creation and expectation.  I feel I have failed myself and the people I set out to serve is by not having the headspace or stillness to set up a program to provide more creative business support.  I feel I haven't placed enough Pricing Workbooks for Creatives in the places they need to be.  I feel I haven't shared that body of work far enough or wide enough for it to make a drop of difference in shifting the culture of how creative work is priced or valued.  This is what bothers me and forces me to regularly rethink how I'm approaching the sharing of his work.  I have nailed how to sell and market photography and other creative services, but selling physical books and business education to a creative crowd who resists both is a new ballgame for me.

To that end, I have to ask myself, when will I actually be satisfied or feel as though I've done enough?!  When I see the culture shift around valuing creative work even at the most basic level.  When even a hardcore capitalist, who has spent years undervaluing people, begins to value each and every individual who works with their head, hands, and heart to craft something unique in a way that not only sustains their livelihood, but also supports their continued growth.  When business professors and strategists stop suggesting 19th Century business models for 21st Century work.  Maybe then I'll be satisfied.


Looking back at the year of work accomplished is how I take stock of what actually worked.  Of all the best laid plans I had, which ones actually manifested into reality?  Which ideas and actions made it from concept to output in the midst of traveling and meeting all of the challenges along the way?


This year I fully stepped out of photography as my main source of income and fully into the role of business strategy and consulting as my main source of income, while keeping reiki mentoring and healing work as a secondary source.  Selling and marketing myself as a creative business consultant without being an active photographer is absolutely a new ballgame and challenge for me.  Want to add another challenge into the mix?  My LinkedIN profile and Facebook Page were my primary sources of "street cred" for clients who didn't know me yet because my new consulting website has been in development since May.  *insert facepalm*  Sincere thanks to all the podcasters and interviewers who were still interested in the work I've done even without a website up- my heroes.

Consulting clients tend to be private about the work we do together because it can get kinda deep or because it's an organization with a lot of moving parts and no time to deal with more than the fires of the moment.  This means sharing the work and progress clients make falls on me, versus photography clients who are happy and excited to share stellar images of the work we created together.  I can talk about client projects in abstract terms, but need to be careful about specifics in order to protect client privacy.  So, the primary ways of sharing the work I'm doing in this realm with the general public is through publishing blog posts, articles for editorial outlets, doing interviews, presenting at conferences, networking, workshops, and submitting calls for proposals.  With all of this, most of my clients and opportunities still come from having a direct experience with me or from word-of-mouth referrals from people who are familiar with the depth of wisdom and experience that I bring to the table and how I can help others move their creative business or organization forward.

Putting myself at the intersection of creative work and business is also a tricky niche that not everyone fully understands, so there's endless education about what I do and who I do it for.  Likewise, I'm also still discovering what people think they want from me, versus what I think they need based on what's going on with their work, public presence, or behind-the-scenes challenges.  Sometimes what people think they need is vastly different than what will actually move them forward (and part of the reason they need help), and discovering those gaps in understanding is a never-ending process that continues to evolve as perceptions evolve.

With all of that in mind, the following documentation represents what I was able to make progress on in the midst of this crazy year:


by Anne Ruthmann, Released May 2019.
Just being able to push the publish button in May really is my biggest accomplishment this year, and it feels like it should be enough for a year.  Especially after it took over a decade to perfect this process into a workbook that is easy enough for people to do on their own.  Yet the work of promoting the book is never-ending.  My deepest gratitude to everyone who has shared this work or gone through the process for their own work.  Your help is immeasurable to creating that culture shift.  I am still far behind my goal, but also recognize that I have to start somewhere.


LibbyCo Interview: Perfect Your Pricing with Anne Ruthmann
by Libby Bryant, 36min, Recorded to group 12/18, Permission to make public: 6/5/19

Fit is Freedom Podcast: If You Couldn't Fail with Anne Ruthmann
by Kelly Howard, 25min, Recorded 4/10/19, Published 5/13/19

Tiffinbox: Anne Ruthmann, Pricing Workbook for Creatives
by Seshu Bandaranth, 20min, Recorded 5/7/19, Published 6/16/19

How to Be An Artist: Creator Profile: Anne Ruthmann

by Carrie Brummer, 29min, Recorded 6/4/19, Published 6/4/19

Thrive Podcast: Overcoming Your Fear of Starting Your Business
by Olga Muller, 66min, Recorded 6/15/19, Released 10/6/19

Profitable Photographer: Anne Ruthmann: Pricing for Creatives and Knowing Your Value
by Luci Dumas, 42min, Recorded 12/13/19, Released 12/24/19


Listen to Your Excuses
by Anne Ruthmann.  Published 6/11/19

Asking the Right Offer Questions

by Anne Ruthmann. Published 6/4/19

Managing Expectations & Deadlines for Creative Work

by Anne Ruthmann. Published 5/28/19

4 Things Professional Photographers Need to Like
by Anne Ruthmann. Published 5/21/19

Toxic Email Replies that Hurt Your Business
by Anne Ruthmann. Published 5/14/19

Before They Were Famous
by Anne Ruthmann. Published 5/10/19

Why It's Hard to Talk Pricing Publicly
by Anne Ruthmann. Published 2/19/19

Do I Need to Run Online Ads?
by Anne Ruthmann. Published 2/12/19

How Many Clients Do You Need?
by Anne Ruthmann. Published 2/5/19

Photoshelter Review from a Commercial Photographer
by Anne Ruthmann. Published 1/29/19


This is something I try to do wherever I am.  I hosted 3 events in New York City, 1 in Scottsdale, 1 in Kansas City.  Unfortunately 1 in Miami Beach and 1 in Singapore both ended up with 0 attendees- which is a very real and unfortunate possibility when hosting- as sometimes the timing just isn't good when I'm in a location where I don't know the regular working cycles and locations that work well for networking.  I also attended at least 2 networking events as well in New York City to help support my fellow creative entrepreneurs who like building community and connections as well.  I believe in supporting each other in whatever way we can, and I find that when we share resources and solutions with each other, we become the tide that rises all ships together.


Since writing is quite easy for me and I've developed some great SEO content strategies, I also did a lot of ghost writing and content editing for a different industry that I felt confident writing in.  This was a side-gig that came out of consulting on SEO and became a request to help develop some SEO-rich blog content for a fellow female entrepreneur who rocks the offline side of her business, but needed to boost the online search engine side of her business with some rich SEO content that would be useful to build her online audience.

We created a strategy in which I was able to repurpose some great content that she'd already created earlier in her career that was easily be upcycled and improved for SEO, plus I created a couple new blog articles each month, with her content suggestions that were designed to specifically target her audience online.  I'm happy to say that her visitors from search engine results tripled in just a few months.  I estimated it was going to take longer than that because of how crowded her industry is online, but I was very happy to see a boost in performance almost immediately.


At first I wasn't going to count this as a separate effort from publishing the book, but selling the book is actually a very different type of work than publishing a book, and it's a type of work that I really need to document and take seriously.  So many of these initial sales were me hand-selling each book one-by-one which is time-intensive and inefficient.  Even though the commission for a self-published book is higher than the commission for an industry published book- believe me when I say I'm being grossly under-compensated for the work I've done so far in selling a self-published book.  My sales target for the year was 300 books.  Obviously I'm way under that.  However, I also know exactly what I haven't been doing and what I really need to do, so I hope to improve on these numbers next year.  Either that or find a textbook publisher who wants to help me get this book into the hands of every graphic design, fine arts, and performing arts school in the world.  Any takers?


These clients were generally multi-month projects that required a significant amount of intensive time, research, strategy, and headspace.  Once the frequent travel and living on the other side of the world began, I honestly don't think I would have had bandwidth for any more than this while managing all of the travel changes, jet lag, and logistics.  In fact, I feel like I had it easy in that I didn't have too much overlap this year and only needed to manage one client project at a time, rather than multiple overlapping client projects.

This also represents that fact that multi-month consulting projects accounted for a significant portion of income that couldn't be distributed across a wider client base.  This is a far cry from the 400 projects I was cranking out multiple times a day with up to 20 photography clients in a week when I first moved to NYC.  The difference is that photo work required little to no headspace to plan, create, and deliver- it was just a streamlined system of capture and execution.

Consulting work has so many more mental constructs to sort through, collaborate around, and streamline with client participation that it just takes a lot of time to move from the starting point to the final development.  It is definitely the most challenging and the most rewarding work I've done (other than reiki work, which is generally less challenging, but equally rewarding).

When you look at most of the writing and interviewing I did above, you can see that the bulk of it happened in the winter and spring, and all of it was freely contributed to help support other entrepreneurs in one way or another.  Once my travels began, it was harder to create the space to write or find internet consistent enough to schedule interviews any length in advance.  Serving clients in the immediate moment was all I had energy to manage.


In a way it feels weird to document this work as work.  Often times it feels more like a gift that I get to do this work and serve others in this way.  That being said, it still requires me to prepare, have the appropriate resources, take good care of myself, show up, and stay focused in order to execute the work.  In that regard, I accept all of the work that comes with it by way of documenting how I've managed to serve with the time and energy that I have.

One of the things I'm currently in the process of sorting out is where and how I want reiki to sit in my life overall.  While I'm traveling, I've landed on being most comfortable with reiki as an individual healing practice and as an individual mentorship that I can offer when people request it of me.  It's a challenge to host pop-up healing circles or teaching workshops without having already developed an international following in reiki, so I continue to allow this work to unfold on its own timeline.  I'm still very dedicated to sharing more writings and understandings of the practice and what it offers through blogs, editorials, and online interviews or class contributions.


When I did an Advanced Medical Intuition workshop with Tina Zion last year, she liked the way that I talked about my experiences with reiki and invited me to share some of my reiki healing and distance experiences with readers in her upcoming book: Reiki and Your Intuition.  I sent over some of the articles I'd already written and she grabbed a few well-placed quotes and stories from my practice and experience to include.  It's a small contribution to documenting reiki experiences in print, but again, any start is better than none.


All of these classes were an extension of my Reiki 4 Teacher Training apprenticeship at the New York Open Center with Joanna Crespo of Reiki Rhapsody.  While I technically did not need to do the R4 Teacher Training, I've deeply enjoyed the students and environment of the New York Open Center and wanted to continue to stay present to ways of working with students in the development of their personal reiki understanding and practice, and being part of this particular program has been rewarding for me every step of the way.

Yoga teachers often talk about the amount of training hours they do for yoga teacher certification by quantifying it, like mentioning it was a 200 HRS program.  Well, I can tell you that I'm well beyond 1,000 HRS of Reiki Training and Development when you fold in my personal practice.  This is a daily practice for me, and every hour of practice that I've done since 2015 has given me new understandings, developments, and insights.  I'm very present to my practice and what it reveals for me, so when this is combined with all of the in-class training hours and apprenticing I've done, I feel very confident in my mastery while also acknowledging that I am never "done" with my practice because as long as I am alive, there is always more to learn and share.


4 Returning In-Person Clients
2 New In-Person Clients
1 Returning Distance Client
2 New Distance Clients

I definitely miss seeing my NYC clients regularly for their in-person sessions.  They all elected not to do distance sessions while I travel, so I at least hope they have found someone else they like or are at least continuing the self-care practices I've offered them for their own continued maintenance.  I find that in-person clients tend to treat reiki either as an ongoing therapeutic treatment of energy revitalization and clearing that they do at will (like getting a massage regularly), or they tend to use reiki to overcome a particularly difficult health or life situation (like cancer recovery or grief after loss.)  They appreciate the gentle touch element of reiki without the intensity that comes with massage, and they almost always report feeling lighter and happier after their session.  I also tend to give homework so that client will continue to engage in their own self-care and maintenance after each session.

Since I don't advertise anywhere, distance clients tend to happen in the most unusual ways.  For some reason, I have become a tummy whisperer of children, and tend to get the most random calls from parents who are struggling to help their child deal with digestive issues.  Everything from constipation that gets cured within hours of our session after days of not being productive, to strange tummy pains that end up getting cleared with an intuitively guided dietary change that comes up as a natural solution during the session.

Other distance clients have received intuitive confirmation for things they've been wrestling with.  One client used reiki and my intuitive body drawings as secondary medical intuitive confirmation that led them him to take his health more seriously and seek appropriate medical intervention.  Another client was feeling disconnected from her religious upbringing but had starting tuning into a more ancient form of spiritual guidance, but didn't really understand how to make sense of it all.  In her case, our distance session helped confirm her own intuitive hunches and experiences as real for more than just herself and provided more mentoring for working with this different type of spiritual energy.

Reiki work always fascinates me and no session is ever the same.  My process sometimes ends up being very different from session to session based on what comes through and what I feel I'm guided to do.  I am so grateful for the clients who trust me and invite me into this space of healing with them.  I love being able to continue this journey in the many ways the universe requests of me.


As I continue to deepen my understanding of energy work and energy healing practices even beyond the reiki practice, I continue to explore the various ways that we can move and clear the stagnant or dense energies we carry with us in order to make way for lighter and more divinely connected or inspired energy.  I believe this is really the heart of all energy work - to clear out energy or patterns that cause disease and pain in order to allow greater flow and alignment of energy that leads to an easier and healthier way of traveling in the world.  The cool thing about energy work is that so much of the clearing and pattern shifting can happen in ways that may not require conscious effort, and sometimes the changes can be so spontaneous and effective that years of healing can take place in a single day.  I continue to be fascinated by the tools and methods at our disposal that can help shift things for us, and I enjoy making myself a guinea pig first before I ever attempt to practice on others.


After writing out all of the work I did this year, I actually feel like I accomplished a lot in the time I had to really dig in and do the work!  These last few months have felt a bit like a wash of productivity because I've been changing locations frequently, so it's nice to look back and see that I really did manage to serve people in some deep and meaningful ways with my talents and gifts this year.  A part of me wishes I could find more inner self-worth outside of "working" so that I could be more gentle on myself, but I at least have awareness of this and am also deeply grateful to be able to offer gifts that other people value and can benefit from.

Of course, what this year was REALLY about starting a year of non-stop travel with Alex as a couple of global nomads.  When Alex and I traveled the world in 2012, we did it for 8 months on end.  So this Adventure Year is surpassing our previous expat nomad record of continuous foreign travel by 4 months and maybe even more depending on what happens in the year ahead.  I already mentioned some of the personal challenges of living in this way at the top of the post, so I'll just recap some of the adventuring statistics here.

Even before packing up our apartment to be sublet and our official takeoff date of July 1, I had already spent 97 days traveling in the first half of the year.  Once July 1, it was a non-stop 183 days of carry-on life until December 31, for a total of 280 days of living out of a suitcase this year.


Thanks to Alex's partnership with NYU Shanghai, we were able to secure an apartment in Shanghai between July-November.  This allowed us to be based in China for a large portion of this time.  However, the flip side of being based in China, or anywhere outside of US territory, is the need to observe our VISA limitations by leaving as required based on the VISA terms we were granted.

In the global nomad world, these are called "VISA Runs", which basically proves we still have the ability to leave the country as necessary, despite any other VISA constraints like not being able to work locally in the country.  My VISA only allows me to stay up to 2 months in China before I need to leave and come back.  Alex can stay 6 months before he needs to do a VISA Run, and he has the added authorization to work locally.  This also means my bags always need to be ready to go again, and acquiring too many things creates a travel burden, so a year of this life means never having more than what we can carry with two hands.

The great thing about being based in Shanghai for the second half of the year was the convenience of traveling to other parts of Asia that would normally be 12 or 13 hours time difference if we needed to go back and forth between the United States.  From Shanghai, the difference is greatly reduced so that we can enjoy more time exploring Asia and less time fighting jet lag.

In order to even remember what places I visited this year, I have to go back through my instagram posts.  It's pretty much the best way for me to keep track of all the day by day location changes.  Like, I completely forgot that we started this year by driving up the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, dipping our toes into natural hot springs on the way to hugging the huge redwood trees in the Avenue of Giants and then onto the waterfalls and bridges of of the Pacific Northwest.  I also completely forgot that I went to several different Caribbean Islands in the first part of the year.  If I didn't take photos for documentation, I fear I wouldn't remember anything at all!

Not everything has been documented in my Adventure Year posts here on the blog, so a lot of the links below lead to Instagram posts where there's finer detail and breakdown from each place.


Coronado, CaliforniaWrightwood, CaliforniaRiverside, CaliforniaSequoia National Park, CaliforniaEastern Sierra Hot Springs, California • Lake Tahoe, NevadaAvenue of the Giants Redwoods, CaliforniaWillits, CaliforniaPortland, OregonMultnomah Falls, OregonSeattle, WashingtonKingston, New York Fort Lauderdale, FloridaHollywood, FloridaPonce, Puerto RicoSt Kitts Scenic RailwaySaint LuciaGrenadaBarbadosAntiguaSedona, ArizonaCarnegie, PennsylvaniaMoster, NorwayStord, NorwayHindenesfjorden, NorwaySalhus, Norway •  Orebro, Sweden •  Bjorkborn, SwedenDrunk Ferry through Arland Island • Wonderland Songjian, ChinaDenpasar, Bali • Canggu, BaliSeminyak, BaliUbud, BaliNorthern Bali •  Uluwatu, Bali • SingaporeShenzhen, ChinaShanghai Disney TownColumbia Circle ShanghaiTai Po, Hong Kong •  Sha Tin, Hong Kong •  Hong Kong •  Tokyo, JapanAtami, Japan •  Kawaguchiko, JapanNara, JapanKyoto, JapanShinagawa, JapanMount Kurama, JapanMount Hiei, JapanYamagata, JapanBermudaAkron, Ohio

16+ PLACES REVISITED THIS YEAR (not including several family and friend visits):

San Diego, CaliforniaThousand Oaks, CaliforniaMiami Beach, FloridaPhoenix, ArizonaPittsburgh, PennsylvaniaBergen, NorwayStockholm, SwedenHelsinki, Finland Shanghai, ChinaBeijing, ChinaBridgeport, ConnecticutHolly, MichiganCleveland, OhioDetroit, MichiganKansas City, Missouri • St. Louis, Missouri


I realize it's not enough just to talk about the places I visited, because it's really the experiences and impressions they left on me that matter more.  While many of these have been detailed in the long descriptions attached to the photos above, some have not, so I'm sharing them here.

• Exploring the Natural Hot Springs of the Eastern Sierras
• Waking up in Lake Tahoe
• Hugging the huge Sequoias in the Avenue of the Giants
• Legally buying Marijuana based Edibles in a Seattle retail store
• Discovering the Arts Community in Kingston, NY
• Sharing a Bellydancing Dinner in NYC with family
• Gift of a 16 Course Omakase Tasting Menu at Sushi by Bou from Yelp's Team
• A Gifted Day at the Faena Spa in Miami Beach
• Learning about Spices in Grenada
• Hiking in Sedona with friends and feeling a magnetic "power spot"
• Exploring the new TWA Hotel at JFK
• Living on a Real Minesweeper Warship
• Deepening my family's Swedish Ancestry Documentation in Orebro
• Several Fantastic Digital Immersive and Interactive Art Exhibits in China
• Living in Bali for a Month
• Smelling the Osmanthus in the October Air in China
• Having a Singapore Sling in original Long Bar of Singapore
• Celebrating our 16th Wedding Anniversary at the Raffles Hotel Grand Reopening Party
• Looking out from the infinity pool at the top of the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore
• Learning about the many minority cultures of China at Splendid China in Shenzhen
• Being in Hong Kong during Protests, and seeing no Protests
• Traveling Japan with 20 other Reiki Practitioners and learning from them all
• Chanting with Japanese Buddhist Priests and attending Fudomyo Ceremonies
• Enjoying each and every onsen and hot spring I came across in Japan
• Seeing Mt Fuji, Hiking Mt Kurama and Mt Hiei
• Exploring Bermuda in an electric Twizzle
• Catching up with friends in NYC and realizing it feels like home there
• The Drive Thru Nativity in Highland, MI
• Exploring Detroit Zoo Lights with my 1 year old Niece
• Discovering the Real Life Dickens Village in Holly, MI
• Supporting my mom at her retirement party and final hurrah activities as the library director
• Finding a moment of stillness during the holidays by listening to the carillon at Kirk in the Hills
• Discovering the crazy fun that is Tuba Christmas in Akron, OH
• Exploring downtown Detroit and seeing a Hip Hop version of the Nutcracker with my Nephews
• Spending time with family for the holidays
• Exploring everything new in Downtown St. Louis with our Aunt

THE END!!!! 

(Phew! This took 3 days to write!!)

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