This was a year marked by two new worlds: Garmisch and I spent six months living in the Philippines and two in Hong Kong. We experienced the full stretch of the urban spectrum; from the wide blue skies, leisurely pace (and mild chaos) of a provincial tropical island, through to Hong Kong’s unending bustle and its dense, concrete verticality.
It was our first considerable stretch of time overseas. Living in the relative isolation did bring some challenges, but we overcame them, and in doing so we became a closer couple and hardier humans. And we’ve left the experience with a new perspective on what’s important, and on how we run our lives from here (Hint: there’s still a little more exploring to do!).
This wasn’t the year’s only travel, either. The long stretches abroad were punctuated by visits elsewhere: Wellington in February for the magnificent Webstock, Australia in April for a group hug with my workmates, Singapore in May for RedDotRubyConf, and Tasmania in November for Railscamp 12. And outside all of this, with our own place rented out, we spent some quality time staying with our parents, firstly in Canberra and now in Adelaide.
It was a big year for Icelab. In January, we had five people: our Canberra office and Max on his own in Melbourne. In March, we merged with Inventive Labs, welcomed Narinda, Toby and Ally to the team, and assumed their office space in The Ironmongers on Brunswick Street. In August, Melissa joined us in Melbourne as a project manager. In September, David joined us in Canberra as a developer. In December, we moved out of our (then very crowded) office in Canberra into a bigger, much more comfortable space just a few blocks away. We finished the year with nine amazing people and permanent offices in both Canberra and Melbourne. And all of this while I was mostly overseas. A distributed team can really work.
The larger team meant we put out more work than ever. Plenty to be proud of, and plenty I wish I could have been more involved in. That said, I did get to ship a few large projects this year:
I had less time than usual this year to work on side-projects, but I did manage to ship gentlyremind.me in February. It sends you a daily email of your recently favourited tweets. I use it everyday and it’s nice to see my friends do the same.
I also found a little time to take a look into RubyMotion for building iOS apps. I put together an introductory talk and presented at a Canberra Ruby meeting and at Railscamp 12, where I also ported the bulk of the Decaf Sucks iOS app to RubyMotion in just a day or so. I expect I’ll spend a lot more time with this in the future.
A notable trend that emerged this year was my increased use of activity-tracking apps. Films I watched went in the lovely Letterboxd. My Decaf Sucks page continued to grow as I explored new cities café-by-café. In Hong Kong, I started using Foursquare so I could record the eateries and other interesting places I visited, and it’s stuck with me since then. I tried to take note of my general activities using Day One on both the Mac and iOS. It hasn’t quite become habitual yet, but anything I record there is a bonus. Finally, Rdio has become a daily source of musical wonder; my iTunes library is long since deleted.
One of the freshest, foremost things in my mind about this year is a hard slog in the last six months; Icelab was growing, and there were was just a big backlog of work that had to be done. To help, I bore down and worked harder and longer than ever before. We got past it, but it came at some personal cost. I lost opportunities for spending time with my wife, for exercise, exploring my new locations, and my own creative work.
After all of that, though, I feel we’ve arrived in a good position to create a more sustainable workload in the future, and I haven’t lost any of my passion for creating things. If I still feel like this now, I know it won’t change, and I know that I’ll continue to put lots of time into it. What I have learnt is how it feels to do it out of some kind of obligation, and I’ll do my best to ensure I don’t fall into that position again.
But the biggest story, and the story worth remembering, is that I could do all of this — the hard work included — while still sharing wildly new experiences and building a stronger relationship with Garmisch. I couldn’t think of a better friend and travel companion, and I’m ever thankful for her company and support.
I’ve finished the year with a stronger sense than ever of empowerment and direction. 2013 will be big!