Several years ago I began the annual tradition of the “Best Days Exercise.” When I started out, I did it only professionally, but after a year or two I realized I got so much out of the exercise that I began doing it personally too. Now, the line is so blurry between professional me and personal me that the lists have been merged into one.
What is the Best Days Exercise?
It’s simply asking myself, “What were my best days in the previous year?” I used to keep a very detailed calendar and would even add things to my calendar after the fact. Back in those days, all I had to do was take out my calendar and begin the process of selecting my best days. Now, operating under the belief that if I can’t keep it all straight in my head I’m too busy, the best days exercise requires the assistance of my private journals, reviewing my Facebook posts, and this blog.
Looking at the list all complied is an incredible thing.
And then I ask myself, “How can I have more days like this in the year ahead?”
Personally, I think the system is brilliant.
Every year I have more and more best days. Every year my life gets better and better.
(Well, that’s not always true, but the system does work).
A few nights ago my wife and I sat by the fire and talked about our best days of 2012. The conversation was a primer, and the next morning I went through the exercise in its’ completion. Looking at my best days in 2012 give me a road map to help me understand how to plan for the year ahead.
Here are some of my best days.
January 13-16: Time with the kids. I returned from a business trip late in the evening, flying into Reno, Nevada, which is about 90 minutes from our home. Monica and the kids were at a nearby hotel and I took a cab to the hotel, not willing to wait an extra 25 minutes for the free shuttle when $10 would get me to the hotel within a few minutes. The cabbie began pouring out his heart to me and I ended up giving him a big tip. It wasn’t until I gave him such a big tip that he realized what he’d been doing. He tried to give me some change back but I just told him that some days you’re up and some days you’re down. On this day, I was up and I was happy to help him.
The next morning, my wife caught a flight to Santa Barbara to spend a few days with her family and I then spent the next 3 days just hanging out with my kids. It was a magical time. Shortly afterward, I wrote about our time together, but it was a really special time for the kids and me — from time together in the pool at the Atlantis Hotel to playing with all the toys at K-Mart.
January – April: Great ski days. A few of these days make their own appearance later in the list, but from Opening Day on November 18, 2011 to closing Day on April 30, 2012 I got 51 days and more than 600,000 vertical feet in on the slopes. Within those 51 days were some incredible ones. Even in a lackluster year in terms of overall snowfall, we still had some great powder days. Skiing is my ultimate escape. When I’m pounding powder all I can think about is my next turn. I can’t think about my work or my bills. I’m living in the moment. From January to April there were plenty of moments.
March 4: Skiing and Basketball on my birthday. March 4 is my birthday, and I just so happened to spend my birthday skiing. A friend watched our kids so Monica and I could ski together. Afterwards, we were joined by friends at a local bar to watch the Indiana Hoosiers take on the Purdue Boilermakers on the hardwood — a great game for a kid from Indiana to be able to watch on his birthday. And the Hoosiers mopped the floor.
April 10 – 16 / April 27 – 30: Bachelor Ski Bum in Tahoe. I was alone in Tahoe. Monica was just done with winter and was longing for time in the sun in Santa Barbara. I however, wanted to ski every last day possible. So we separated. Not only did our time apart lead to one of the all-time most read posts on this blog — Love, Sex, and what makes a successful marriage — I really enjoyed my time in Tahoe alone. I skied all day without thinking about how my absence may be affecting my family at home. After I skied, I’d head to Lakeside Casino where I could get a free beer and some of the best fish tacos I’ve ever had. At night, I wrote. It was a great time.
April 8: Beach and Ski. On April 8th I hit the beach and I hit the slopes. Yes, in the same day I was laying on the beach and playing in the sand with my kids I also went skiing. Just another spring day in Tahoe.
April 15: Closing day at Northstar. Northstar is a ski resort just about an hour from my house. I don’t ski there a lot, but last season I got 10-12 days in there and I love the mountain. The second week of April we got some good snow storms, so on closing day there was still great coverage and great skiing at Northstar. There’s something about going out with a bang. With the late snow, some resorts stayed open later in the season, but they seemed to close with a whimper. Northstar went out proud. I watched the pond skimming competition, which was great fun. Around 3:00 — an hour before closing — I stopped at a lodge for a beer. I enjoyed a little sun. Then clipped in for a few final turns. My last run I skied Top to Bottom and screamed, “Thank you, Northstar!” as I came down the final stretch.
Early May: So Cal / Disneyland / Pasadena / Back home in Tahoe. After I left Tahoe at the end of ski season, I reunited with my wife and kids in Santa Barbara. As much as I wanted to ski every last day possible, it was great to get in some beach days in Santa Barbara. Then we headed to Disneyland for 3 days. How could 3 days at Disneyland not make this list? Following our time in Disneyland, we crashed at my wife’s uncle’s house in Pasadena. We thought we’d just spend the night, but we ended up spending 3. We had a great time hanging out, swimming in their pool, and enjoying the magnificent Huntington Gardens. Our very first day back in Tahoe, we kicked off the summer here with an evening dinner cruise to Emerald Bay on the Tahoe Queen.
Mid-May: Camping with Life Changing Year at Yosemite. We love Yosemite National Park, but in May we had a very special time at Yosemite when we met up with the crazy family behind the blog Life Changing Year. Tracey, Gert, Brittany, Kate, and Jono are an Australian family who we met on-line and were at the time in the middle of a year-long trip around the world. They’re a hoot. We had a great time with them. They’ve since returned to Australia but are now planning how to achieve a more permanent life of travel. Here’s a blog post Tracey wrote about our time together in Yosemite. It was also very special for me to read this post by Tracey with her reaction after meeting us.
June 12 – 13: Our Anniversary Hike. After a little reprieve (HA!), Life Changing Year descended on our house in Tahoe. They spent short time with us in Tahoe after I did a big sales job about how incredible Tahoe is. Then, we entrusted our children to this crazy Aussie family while my wife and I took off an an anniversary hike. Yes, for our anniversary we went on an 18-mile overnight hike covering more than 7,000 feet in elevation change. How romantic. It was an awesome two days. Exhausting at the end, but a real adventure. You can read about our hike here.
June, July, August, September: Epic Summer in Tahoe. It’s hard for me to express what an incredible summer we had here in Lake Tahoe. I tried. I wrote this summertime reflection, which I still feel falls far short of expressing the way I felt about such a great summer.
I’ll always remember as a part of this summer the very special times I had — just me and the kids — at Baldwin Beach. Monica was knee deep in a project and I spent most days this past summer with the kids while she worked. We’d hang out at Baldwin Beach everyday and then ride our bikes to Camp Richardson for ice cream. I’ll never forget those days.
We must’ve had at least 20 of those Baldwin Beach days this past summer. There were a few other special beach days that really stand out, like an incredible day at D.L. Bliss State Park where my wife captured this moment with my son.
Later in the summer, Monica’s aunt and uncle came up for a family reunion with some friends of theirs. I guess you could say we sort of crashed a family reunion, but they had rented a house right on the beach in the Glenbrook community. It’s fun hanging out with people who are in total vacation mode. We had a great time with them and before the end of the weekend, we actually discovered that we were all distant relatives.
The weekend after Labor Day, with summer still in full swing, Monica’s family came to Tahoe on a surprise visit. It was so cool. We were still in bed one morning when they texted to ask if we wanted to join them for breakfast. The next few days were magical, but a day at Cave Rock Beach was especially memorable.
I’m almost afraid to even think about next summer because I have a hard time imagining how it could possible compete with last summer. Days at the Potholes and Nevada Beach and going out on a friend’s boat from Sand Harbor. Days at the Angora Lakes or Fallen Leaf Lake. Kids riding bikes in the street. That random night we heard music loudly playing somewhere in our neighborhood and we all went on a walk to find the party.
The summer of 2012 was an epic summer.
September 1: The Launch. All summer Monica was knee deep in a project. On September 1 we launched Gen-Apps. Using our cloud based platform, our goal was to make mobile apps that were faster, more robust, and less expensive than ever before. Of course there have been some hiccups since our launch, and things have not gone as well (of fast) as we hoped, but we remain very excited about the potential of Gen-Apps as we move into 2013.
September 13: I went on a 72 mile bike ride. Early in the summer, after I’d gone on a few <10 mile bike rides, I mentioned how cool I thought it would be to ride around Lake Tahoe. Before I knew it, I was registered to ride in the 72 mile Tour de Tahoe. Not only was that a great day, but every day I went riding as a part of my training for the Tour de Tahoe was a great day. You can read more about my Tour de Tahoe experience here.
September 25: BABY!. Although we’d let friends and family in on the secret earlier, September 25 was the day we announced to the world that we’re having another baby!
September 29. Apple Hill. You have no idea what Apple Hill is. Unless you live within a couple of hundred miles of of Sacramento, California you most certainly have no idea what Apple Hill is. But on September 29 we had one of those perfect days. You know what I’m talking about. It’s wasn’t remarkable. It was just… perfect… Monica wrote about our Apple Hill Day here.
October 6: The Fall Party. 2012 marked the 10 year anniversary of our 90 foot fall from a cliff in Santa Barbara. Each year since we’ve hosted a party with our friends to celebrate this beautiful thing we call life with our friends. It’s a night we look forward to every year, and this year did not disappoint.
October 10: Leaving. We’d been talking about it all year, and then on October 10 we boarded a flight in Los Angeles for San Pedro Sula, Honduras to begin 6 weeks of travel through Central America.
Our time in Central America was filled with so many best days. My wife and I talked a lot about this, and I really ended up having a pretty strict description for what qualified as a “best day.” All along the way we had incredible experiences. There were 4 days, though, that really stand out.
- Water Cay. Not sure of the date. Somewhere between October 15 and 20. We had our own private island for a day. We were on the island of Utila and arranged for a fisherman to take us out to one of the little cays off the island. About 30 minutes by boat and we were in our own little world. The island couldn’t have taken more than 1 minute to walk across the short way or 5 minutes the long way. That night, back on the “main” island of Utila, we had 2 serendipitous encounters with other traveling families, one who started the conversation by grabbing my arm and saying, “Are you from California? I think I’m supposed to meet you….” You can read more about our time on Utila here.
- Jackson’s Birthday in Antigua, Guatemala. So what did you do for your birthday this year? Our son Jackson turned 5 and he rode a horse to the top of a volcano where he roasted marshmallows over cooling lava. Later that day, though, Monica was at the hospital. In the end, no big deal — just a virus and a parasite. But that hospital visit and getting her prescriptions filled set us back $60. Now, if you think about it, that’s pretty good. Professional medical care and medication for $60. But we were traveling on a budget and had so little room for margin that an unexpected $60 bill really stressed us out. Yet, since it was Jackson’s birthday, we decided to do what he really wanted to do for dinner, which was have me go out to pizza and bring it back to where we were staying. While out, I got a spring in my step. Soon, I decided we’d figure out the money, and I went about walking the streets looking for a bakery. In not too much time I found a bakery, where I got a cake for Jackson’s birthday. Soon, we were all sitting around a table in a courtyard eating pizza, drinking Pepsi, and indulging ourselves with birthday cake. This was most certainly a best day.
- San Marcos, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. We ended up spending 3 or 4 days in San Marcos, and it was one of the places we visited where I really did wonder if I could live there someday. Our best day in San Marcos, though, was spent with the Denning family from Discover. Share. Inspire. It was such a magical feeling coming into San Marcos and walking down those little alleyways. Soon, all of our kids, including our son Jackson (who just turned 5) and Emery (who just turned 3), were making a 30 foot jump from a platform and into Lake Atitlan. We found a great place to stay and settled into San Marcos. This was a great day to be followed by many more great days.
- Flying home. We were at our end. In so many ways. But there we were at the San Pedro Sula International Airport and we did not have enough money to pay our exit fees. Death and taxes. They say those are the only things certain in life. I don’t know about that, but at that moment anyway, the taxes were absolutely certain. What was also certain was that we did not have the money. And then, when we were in complete desperation, strangers stepped in. It was a powerful moment. My wife, who is not given to tears, was crying. People walked up and started giving us money. And soon, we were on our flight and on our way home. You can read more about the experience here.
Thanksgiving Day. Talk about perfect travel timing. We flew home, had a day to re-coup, and then enjoyed Thanksgiving Day. With some subtle differences, Thanksgiving Day is special to me in the same way it is special to you. I’m very thankful for a day to focus on the the things that we already have instead of the things we want. A big part of our Thanksgiving is the “Thankful List” tradition, which you can read about here.
November 30 – December 3: Honeymoon. Monica and I had 3 days. Just the two of us. We’d been staying at Monica’s parents’ house in Santa Barbara but they booked a trip to Tahoe…. while we had an annual dinner party scheduled for the night of December 2. “What a terrible turn of events.” Our kids, who couldn’t bare to say goodbye to grandma and grandpa, ended up going to Tahoe ahead of my wife and I. The kids spent the next few days in the pool and at Kids Camp at the Marriott hotel while my wife and I re-entered the honeymoon phase of marriage. We spent some time getting our minds around big work projects, but mainly we relaxed. We walked around downtown Santa Barbara amidst the Christmas lights. We dined. We went shopping at Lazy Acres and cooked our own gourmet (and kid free) dinners. On the night of the 2nd we went to our annual dinner party. On the 3rd, we made the drive to Tahoe, but without two kids in the backseat. It was like a honeymoon. 3 days that only self-employed parents could fully appreciate.
December 3 – 5: Tahoe Family Vacation. Back in Tahoe, we were still in vacation mode as long as my wife’s parents were at the Marriott. For the next few days we hung out, sat in the hot-tub, kids camp for the kids, a few dinners, and even a few turns in on the slopes. At high-noon of the days the in-laws were leaving my wife had an ultrasound. It’s a girl.
Christmas 2012. Sure, Christmas Day is special. But it is hard to narrow it down to one day. Heading out into the forest and picking out our tree was special. Our day at Northstar, ice-skating, decorating cupcakes, and meeting Santa was special, the whole season was special. And Christmas Day was special. The gifts we’ve gotten our kids. The food and the champagne was special. Christmas is just special.
And there it is.
That’s my list of best days from 2012. I’m likely to have missed some days.
I have certainly missed some moments.
But looking at the list — the things that I pick out — tell me a lot about myself.
If these were my “best days” from 2012, how can I have more of them in 2013?
Until you figure out your “best days,” from the previous year, you’re not ready to write your goals for the year ahead.
Now, I’m ready.
If you’re new to Family Trek, let’s get connected. We’re on a quest to work less, live more, and travel the world as a family. We’re trying to live deliberately, examining every aspect of life to ensure that our life actually matches up with the things we say we value most. You can like our page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!