Find out who you are and do it on purpose – Dolly Parton
I’ve been writing an Annual Review for the past several years or so, but 2 years ago, I decided to make them public for the first time. I get a lot out of writing an Annual Review; not only is it a great way to encourage self-awareness, but it’s also a great opportunity to reflect, look forward and create intentions for the future.
However, an Annual Review, written once a year is too spread out, so coupling my love of writing with a proactive intention to introduce even more reflection into my life, I’ve decided to write reviews each Quarter. This is my first so I’m toying with the structure, so, like most things in my life, it’ll take its natural form over time through iteration and continuous improvement.
To be clear, I’m writing this Quarterly Review for myself, as a reflection and map for my own journey, so take everything with a pinch of salt. However, if you have any feedback for how the writing, style, structure or content could be improved, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. If you’re interested in bringing a bit more perspective into your own life by writing your own Quarterly or Annual Review –
Let’s get stuck in.
Reflections On Q1
It’s now 1st April, and Winter has passed – yippee. It certainly wasn’t as harsh as last year, but admittedly, the piercing cold and knee-height snow of Eastern Europe gets the better of me at times, so next year I’ll be putting plans in motion to escape Bucharest, either for a trip to South America, or to work remotely from somewhere warmer in Europe like Southern Spain.
Despite the winter weather, and given that I’m in training mode for my annual 1,000km pilgrimage along the Camino De Santiago in May, I managed to keep on top of my exercise schedule. Even though some mornings were blistering cold, regularly hitting minus 10, and the warmth of my bed was a much cosier option at 6 am, I got up and headed out to run, cycle or do hills/steps. And now that Spring is well and truly settling in here in Bucharest my fitness is thanking me for those lonely winter runs as I’m just about ready physically for those long and hot 40km days ahead of me this May on the Camino de Santiago.
Business wise a lot of things happened during the first quarter at Podstel. The team that has been 5 strong has returned to the original 3 musketeers – Sam, Jason and I. After an intense curriculum at Podstel, Ambrose decided that he wanted to pursue his childhood dream of taking humans to space and moved back to Canada to study Mechanical Engineering at university. It’s a shame as he was a great guy and a solid addition to our team, but dreams come first and hearing that his time at Podstel helped him realise he could do anything he wanted in life after years of not believing it was possible showed this chapter in Bucharest was a big success for him.
Henry, who originally volunteered at Podstel 2 years ago, and then joined us again in Summer after finishing university also headed back to the UK to be closer to family and to pursue a more focused career in Marketing. I’m blessed for the impact that both Henry and Ambrose had on Podstel, and even more grateful that they are both now laser-focused on pursuing their childhood dreams – best of luck on your path guys.
Personally speaking, it was an intense 3 months of travel and conferences. Asides from travel, Sam, Jason and I got serious about improving our personal relationships after we realised that the last couple of years had been all about Podstel and no time to stop, relax and do something together outside the business. We’d clearly forgotten the importance of taking time to enjoy ourselves, but made a proactive decision to change that (better now than never) which I’m going to go into in more detail about below.
In summary, my third winter was tough as usual Bucharest, but it didn’t dampen my spirits. Spring is my favourite time of the year, and everything is coming alive again, and there is a lot to look forward to in the coming months.
I’ve been laser-focused on training for walking my 5th Camino de Santiago. Physically speaking, I am healthy and feel great, but I’m leaner and lighter than ever before. Putting on weight is difficult and it’s something I want to address in Q2. I’m naturally skinny and I certainly don’t want to shed any more weight, but movement based exercise is important to me, and now that I’m only eating meat from time to time, along with no processed sugars or alcohol, a racing mind and a fast metabolism
Mentally speaking, I feel strong. Of course, I had my fair share of down days during Winter, probably due to the weather and being indoors most days, but I found that movement and nature always helped me to recalibrate – even if it just meant going for a simple 30-minute stroll in the afternoon. I love taking random walks and the simple curiosity that guides me, not knowing what route I am going to take or who I am going to encounter. Being on the move makes it easier for me to think clearly, brainstorm and make decisions, which explains why I enjoy walking the Camino so much.
I’ve been eating about 80% plant-based for the last three months or so. Other than the occasional piece of salmon, I haven’t cooked meat in the last several months at my apartment, and I am currently only eating meat or fish on special occasions if I go out to a restaurant with a friend, or if I am travelling and don’t have access to the facilities to cook for myself. My goal isn’t to become vegan or vegetarian, but rather to eat a predominantly whole foods / plant-based diet that’s rich in fruit and vegetables from as close to source as possible, with a little bit of meat or fish from time to time.
Finally, managing my attention and focusing has been a bit trickier than I’m used to this quarter. Over the last couple of months, I’ve noticed myself more easily distracted, fuzzy in the mind, and pulled away from the deep and important work. I know that travelling a lot throws my rhythm off, so I’ll be looking to reduce the number of conferences and events I attend once I’m back from the Camino.
In addition, I was wasting a lot of time on my phone firefighting at Podstel and of course, messaging/social media, so I decided to put some new measures in place. I deleted and blocked all my social media apps in the morning on my iPhone and installed a Mac application called Focus for my laptop which I can activate in the morning so that I can’t access any apps like Mail, WhatsApp, Slack or distracting websites on the internet. It’s great – you choose how much time you want to focus for, and that’s it – there’s no going back, and I have no choice but to get on with the important work that’s right in front of me.
The quality of my relationships is the biggest part of my life that I want to work on most right now, especially given that the majority of my best friends live 1,000s of kilometres away from where I’m currently based. Having said that, since Ambrose and Henry left, Sam, Jason and I have put a lot more effort in deepening our personal relationships, and we’ve become a lot closer.
I’m sure many other entrepreneurs can relate…. when you’re in the thick of building a business and you’ve got a lot of pressure on your back to simply survive at first. It’s tiring, constant, never-ending and I tend to feel guilty if I take time off because there’s a little voice in the back of my head subtly reminding me that there’s always something else that needs to be done.
We realised that although we love what we do, the intensity of work is not going to change. However, we knew we had to change how we approached work sooner rather than later otherwise our health and sanity would suffer. And that we did. We’re making much more time to relax, enjoy time together outside of Podstel. Funnily enough, we’re actually talking about other stuff other than Podstel again now!
Several weeks back we went for a hike through the snowy mountains, which Jason graciously embraced naked (nice picture coming up. Then just last week we went on an overnight trip together to Veliko Tarnovo which was great. This actually marked the first time we were all in a different country together since we were in Leipzig. This might not sound like much, but it means a lot to us.
Other than the odd message and call here and there, I haven’t had as much contact as I’d like with my family back home in England. Sadly, I missed yet another family Christmas get together for the 3rd year running. It made me think a lot about family and friends this winter and life in England. After almost 7 years away, I’m missing the culture and way of life of England and can see myself moving back there soon to be closer to my family and friends. When I say soon, that means some time within the next 2 years, once we manage to automate our businesses here in Bucharest.
The first quarter of the year is always the quietest time for Podstel, however, we always make sure we do our best to make the most of it. There were a few big wins this quarter. The first one was that we hired and trained 3 new staff so that Sam and Jason could finally step out of the day-to-day operations of Podstel, meaning zero of the original founders are no longer on the ground at Podstel! This may not sound like much, but it’s a big step forward on the path to automation and running a business that doesn’t rely on our input.
Since Podstel is our baby, we were worried that the quality would drop at both Podtels with us not being there as much, but we were pleasantly surprised to see that the opposite happened and both places are running great. In fact, Podstel Umbrella, our second location in Bucharest, is actually set to take over Podstel Bucharest (currently the best hostel in Romania) in ratings on all platforms, which is funny to observe because there’s a little bit of internal rivalry – friendly in nature – between our staff across the two locations.
As I mentioned above, Sam, Jason and I have been on a few trips outside of Bucharest so that we could spend more time with each other, but we also saw these trips away as a test to see how Podstel would operate without us being on call or physically present in the city. Those trips were a huge success with our staff doing superbly on both occasions with no problems to report. This is a big step forward in terms of delegation since now we have time to focus on actually building and growing the business side of Podstel, and looking further afield for new locations and opportunities, knowing that our two locations here in Bucharest are on track to run at a high standard without our input.
I love my lifestyle in Bucharest. It’s a great city to live in if you are just getting started as an entrepreneur and want to try an idea out. If we’d have tried to set up Podstel somewhere like London, I’m pretty sure we’d have been eaten up fast by the enormity of the city and the high costs of living. That wasn’t the case here, and now we feel like we are over the inevitable start-up mountain of learning that all founders must go through.
During January, I flew out to Rome, Italy with Henry for an informal hostel gathering at the lovely Beehive Hostel run by Steve and Linda who are originally from the USA. It was a beautiful couple of days enjoying our time with a nice group of hostel owners from all over Europe. We made fresh pasta together, ate loads of wonderful food, went on a couple of walking tours, and of course, got into plenty of conversations about the highs and lows of running a small business. I was super impressed with Steve and Linda’s hospitality. It was impeccable, so if you’re ever in Rome, be sure to go and stay with them – you won’t be disappointed.
At the end of January, I flew out to Ireland for this year’s Hostelworld Conference. To be honest, I was disappointed by how the conference panned out this year. The content and talks of the conference were weak, and it’s clear that Hostelworld is going through a rough patch. Last year they hired a new CEO in an attempt to turn things around. Being a big advocate of the type of guest that Hostelworld brings us, I sincerely hope that they can manage to do something before Booking.com eat them up.
While I was in Dublin I also visited Google HQ to catch up with my friend Ayesha from university and also headed over to Facebook HQ to catch up with my friend Marcello who I met in Australia 5 years ago. It was super interesting to see both offices, including all the perks that are on offer for employees including healthy canteens with an endless variety of food, on-site gyms, ice cream parlours, and an endless supply of snacks and drinks in dozens of vending machines dotted about the campus. It was clear that both Facebook and Google wanted to spread a feeling of abundance at work and care for employees. At first glance, all of this is seemingly harmless and a nice gesture from Google/Facebook, but I left feeling that there
Finally, at the start of March, I headed over to Berlin for ITB and the Berlin Travel Festival. I stayed with my good pal Gerrit for a week at his place, and what an awesome chance it was to catch up with him. I respect him a lot – his incredible discipline coupled with being laid back at the same time (if that’s even possible). It was great to deepen our friendship and spend time getting to know him while cooking, running and eating out at some nice restaurants.
I went to ITB 3 years ago, but was overwhelmed by the sheer size of it, and to be honest, nothing had changed. I found ITB quite daunting, and very focused on business-to-business relationships. In any case, the most value for me came from the talks. I attended talks about the future of hospitality, tech, AI and where the travel industry is heading, so if you’re interested in reading my notes, just send me an email and I’ll pass them on to you.
On the other hand, Berlin Travel Festival was incredible and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. I was actually going to Berlin primarily for ITB, but heard about BTF and decided to go along and check it out since the ticket came free with my ITB pass. And wow, what a festival it turned out to be. It was my kind of vibe and involved a whole load of awesome people, companies and talks based around the idea of ‘travel with a difference’. A lot of the companies there were ethically and socially minded, operating their travel businesses in a conscious way that benefited society and the environment. The most interesting talk for me came from a guy called Tomislav Perko – who travelled around the world without money and then wrote a couple of books about it. After his talk, I saw him eating dinner alone and went and sat down with him for a chat. After a nice interaction and a 10-minute chat about travel and the new bar he is setting up in Zagreb, he asked me if I had his new book, and pulled out a copy from his bag, signed it and gave it to me – what a very kind gesture indeed.
While I was in Berlin I also got to catch up with some friends from the travel blogging community too. There was a big party going on every single night, which is difficult for a non-drinker like me who likes to be in bed by
The Berlin trip wore me out. I was out the house at 7 am every morning and back at 2 am each day, so it took me a good 3-4 days to recover when I got back to Bucharest which brings me up to where I am now. I’m currently enjoying Spring and this weekend I’ll be heading off on my travels again to Prague for the next HostelSkills conference. First I’ll be heading to Vienna and then I’m heading to Olomouc to run an informal hostel meet up with my friend Eva at her wonderful design-led hostel called Long Story Short.
After Prague I’ll be visiting Julia in Leipzig for a couple of weeks and working remotely from there on Podstel which will take me to the middle of April. I’ll come back to Bucharest for a couple more weeks, and then I’ll be flying out to Seville for the start of my biggest adventure of the year – walking my 5th Camino de Santiago.
Since January I’ve been holding monthly mastermind calls with a few of my close friends. One of those friends is Jeremy (from the USA) who I met in Cambodia 5 years ago. We’re the same age and we’ve become very good friends since then. Jeremy is also an entrepreneur who is running two hair salon franchises in San Diego, California so we both find it very useful to catch up and share our entrepreneurial and personal struggles with each other.
In January I signed up to join a community of changemakers doing great things with their life called Lifestyle Engineering. I was introduced to the community through a friend of a friend. After a thorough interview process and video calls with the guys who started the community, I was invited to join. The community is made up of about 30 mission-oriented people who are passionate about personal development and consciously engineering their life towards a better future for themselves and humanity. It takes shape in the form of a very friendly and active Slack group where all the members share and discuss ideas about all kinds of different topics like relationships, personal development, mind, books, writing, lifestyle, amongst many other topics. The community also serves as a great way to keep accountable on one’s goals and mission, and there’s a mastermind video call on a new topic every couple of weeks.
If this is something that interests you, then take a deeper look and try your luck applying to join the community. It doesn’t cost anything and you’ll benefit immensely from the kindness, help and support of the people in the group.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being part of the community so far, and it’s sparked a lot of new ideas, and a new trajectory of personal development for our team at Podstel. Now, Sam, Jason and I have started holding vision sessions about the future, and rather than just working on the business, we are now actively trying to help each other improve and grow.
Even a simple couple of sessions like this have already proved to be totally invaluable, and now we’re going to take all our ideas and thoughts about where we want to go in the future with Podstel and our own personal lives, goals, dreams and intentions to create a Collective Manifesto. This will be our big task to get stuck in on for Q2.
Quarter 1 was filled with a several very important milestones. So to summarise, here are the small wins, both personally and collectively:
- Writing – I wrote another 80,000 words in the first quarter of 2019. Although I can write consistently, every single day now, I want to focus those words into something that more useful that other people can benefit from, rather than just writing for myself.
- It will be 4 years since I quit drinking Alcohol on April 11th.
- It will be about a year since I quit eating processed sugar by the end of April.
- Sam, Jason and I travelled to a different country together for the first time in 3 years!
- We won the award for best Hostel in Romania for Podstel Bucharest for a second year running and a surprise award for The 5th Best Hostel Worldwide for Solo Male Travellers 2019.
- All 3 co-founders stepped away from the day-to-day operations at Podstel, and now both Podstels are fully staffed and operations are running with limited input.
•Time – Having time to work on your goals is not enough. It’s very important to understand priorities, and that is comprised of understanding the difference between urgency and importance. I have a tendency to work on the urgent tasks first – the short term – but I’ve realised that just because something is urgent it doesn’t mean it’s important. I’ve realised that I need to spend as much of my time working on the important, deep work that’s concerned with vision, strategy and growth, rather than being swamping myself and firefighting the urgent tasks.
•Structure – Too much structure ruins the magic. There’s a fine line between chaos and structure, and it’s always a very intricate balancing act to find that line. In Q2 I’ll be proactively focusing on releasing myself from excessive structure to find that sweet spot.
•Firefighting – Hospitality and anything service based has 100s of moving parts, and a day won’t go by without a problem or issue occurring. Learning how to automate, systemise and delegate responsibility for managing and anticipating these issues, proactively, before they arise, is one of the most difficult skills to learn as a manager or leader.
•Leading – There’s a big difference between leader and manager. People work for a manager, people want to follow a leader. I’ve realised I’m currently a manager, with a lot of work to do to become a leader.
What’s in store for Q2?
Here are my goals for Q2:
•Write my Personal Manifesto & a Collective Manifesto for Sam, Jason and I – I want to set clear intentions for the future and get straight on my own vision and beliefs for how I want my life to pan out over the next 5-10 years. Once I’ve written my personal manifesto, Jason and Sam will bring there’s to the table and we’ll all sit down and draft up a Collective Manifesto for the 3 of us.
•Attending HostelSkills Conference in Prague – Another hostel conference, but after this, I will be cutting down on the number of conferences I attend. I have realised that, in many cases, conferences and events can be a subtle form of procrastination instead of doing the real work of growing my business.
•Walking the Camino De Santiago in May – I’m so excited about this. I’m trained and I am ready, physically speaking. I just need to do a little bit of research and planning for my trip, but as per usual, this is set to be the highlight of my year.
•Continuing to Systemise and Automate Podstel – Q2 will be focused on putting in the deep work to automate our two locations in Bucharest. Our goal is that we want both locations to work without us so that we can branch out and start applying what we’ve learned and scale Podstel in new countries and markets.
•Focused Learning – I want to become more deliberate with the way I learn. In particular, I am keen to learn more about business, social entrepreneurship and leadership. For me, it’s not just about learning something for the sake of absorbing new knowledge it, but actually applying it and testing the theories through our businesses here in Bucharest.
That’s a wrap for this first quarterly review. I’ll be writing Q2 once I’ve walked the Camino, so I’m sure I’ll have lots of stories and experiences to share by then. As a side note, I’m going to be documenting my journey from the road on Instagram and Writing Daily Journal entries which I will share on Facebook.
If you want to follow my Camino journey, here’s the link to my Instagram. Otherwise, if we’re friends on Facebook, you’ll catch the daily updates there.
If you managed to get this far, thanks for reading. I hope you learned something about yourself, or that it inspired you to write your own Quarterly Review.
If you have any feedback, I’d love to hear from you – just drop me an email.
All the best and keep journeying on,
Daniel Beaumont, Monday 1st April 2019
About the Author
Hello everyone, I’m Dan – a 28-year-old social entrepreneur and writer from the north of England, living in Bucharest, Romania. I’m currently writing my first book about my 4-year journey around the world seeking wisdom and life-lessons from everyday people I met hitchhiking and Couchsurfing.
I discovered that travel, if approached with the right mindset, can be life-changing, and a trip combining travel, purpose and introspection is a great way to learn, challenge oneself and change for the better. Now my mission in life is to share what I’ve learned to inspire others to embark on their own journey of self-discovery and use travel, entrepreneurship and technology as a means to make the world a better place.
I’m also the founder of Podstel – a vision to help humanity belong and grow by creating a worldwide network of ‘homes’ that bring locals and travellers together to share their stories, passions and skills. The first two Podstels are open and thriving in Bucharest, so if you’re passing through, be sure to come and say hi, or stay the night with us.
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