2011 Annual Review Looking Back: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly!

Do you set most of your goals in your head or do you write them out and review them at year end?

I’ve never really been one for annual reviews except when I had to fill one out for work at the end of the year.

They always seemed pointless.

looking back

Up until last week, I kept all my goals up in my head. But now I’m starting to wonder if I could accomplish more by making a formal plan and reviewing it every so often?

Turning Over A New Leaf

This coming year,  I want to try something different. I want to really work on goal setting and doing an annual review to see what worked and what didn’t work in my life.

As I said earlier, I keep all my goals in my head, so this past year I didn’t write out my goals at the beginning of the year.  That doesn’t mean I can’t write out what worked and what didn’t and compare it to what I have logged in my head. This will also help me write a real, detailed plan for my 2012 goals and then I’ll have a written version for next year end .

I hope that in looking back at my successes, failures and shortcomings, I can become more aware and intentional in my choices and adjust accordingly.

The System

I don’t want a complicated system, just a high level over view of the good the bad and the ugly. If I make it too complicated, I know I won’t stick with it so I decided to take Chris Guillebeau’s format for an annual review.

His method is simple and concise. Ask yourself these two simple questions

  1. What went well this year?

  2. What didn’t go well this year?

“Answering these questions is an easy way to begin the process of being intentional about your choices in the forthcoming year. “

Alternatively, if you want a little bit more help to review your year and plan for the next than you should download this free worksheet my Friend Benny Hsu over at Get Busy Living Blog  made. Get it here, it’s free and really helpful

Here I go!!!!!!!

What Went Well For Me In 2011?


The biggest thing that went well for me and consequently for my family is that in January of 2011, my husband and I set out on a goal to take our three kids, aged 15, 13 and 4 to live in France for at least a year. After 7 months of planning and living like vagabonds with no home and being unemployed our visas were approved on September 25th 2011. We flew to France less than 2 weeks later on October 5th 2011.

I’m super happy about this because moving to France has been a dream of mine that I never thought I would be able to accomplish after I had kids.  It wasn’t easy though.  I had to convince my husband, persuade the kids, arrange the visas, find lodging, figure out where to stay while we waited for our visas and homeschool the kids while living between family and couch surfing for a year. Phew…. But we’re here now and I love seeing the world through my kids eyes.

Survived A Year Of Vagabonding With Three Kids In Tow


In October of 2010 we set out to move to the east coast to find jobs but ended up vagabonding and living semi nomadically between Montreal and Maryland for most of 2011. We somehow switched gears when we realized how bad the job market was and decided not to settle down until we found jobs. So we ended up vagabonding between Montreal and Maryland for close to a year.

Living semi-nomadically was stressful but it was also fulfilling. we got to travel, stay with both sets of family’s. Mine and my husbands and we learned just how hard we could push ourselves as a family.  It was necessary for us to experience it, otherwise I’m not sure we would have taken the next step and set a goal of moving to France for a year.

Reconnect With Family

aunthuguetteFor about 8 months my family and I lived in my aunt’s home in Montreal. My aunt is 80 years old and she’s the closest thing I have to a mother since both my step mom and birth mother passed away before I was 16.

With the exception of my younger brother, all the family I have in the world live in Montreal Canada.  By staying in Montreal, I got to connect with cousins, have family diners, do Christmas and Canadian Thanksgiving. It made 2011 just spectacular for me. Best of all, my 3 kids got to meet their extended family and improve their French.

Prior to 2011 we (my kids and husband) lived isolated in California with no family around. It made for lonely holidays and no family get togethers.

I also have a whole other side to my family that live in Thailand but I’ve lost touch with them due to language barriers and the fact that they are dirt poor and don’t have computers. But I digress.

I absolutely love having had the chance to spend so much up close time together. Never ever neglect or take your family for granted.

Blogging For Business And Life:

www.annieandre.com Practical adventurology

I started my blog Practical Adventurology at www.AnnieAndre.com as a way to help other adventure challenged people stuck in the grind re-learn how to live more adventurously;  something I lost after college when I started down conformity lane taking jobs I hated and measuring success by title and money.

My blog is my attempt at combining all my passions into one. It’s part business, part travel, part inspirational personal development with an emphasis on being more adventurous because life is just too damn short.

I Connected And Networked With New People:

I’m kind of a micro manager and a loner.

Connecting with people has not been my strong point. In 2011, I made a point to reach out to people.  This is huge because In the real world, I don’t know a lot of people who have had the same views or goals as me so I don’t get a chance to share my views very often.

Online, there are a plethora of people who get what I’m about and vice versa.  I have a wanderlust and entrepreneurial spirit and It’s nice to be able to connect with other like minded people and share stories rather than working in a vacuum. The internet has made this possible.

The first person I ever reached out to happens to be Benny Hsu at www.getbusylivingblog.com.  I found him on Twitter and liked what he had to say about personal development so I reached out to him. I’m really glad I did because it gave me the guts to connect with others after that. Plus I love cheering for him and seeing all his successes in life.

Learned My Limits:

cute_gift_idea_owl_sleep_maskI tend to try to be super human and do everything myself.

This year I am proud to say I asked for help.

Help from my kids and my husband.  I closed my profitable sleeping mask business because I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle running it in France while I start up a new entrepreneurial venture at the same time.

This was extremely hard because I worked on my home business for three years to get it to the point it was at.

I had to set a limit.  I was so stressed out over all that I had to do. Between, travelling, visas, the kids, cooking, making sleeping masks by hand, homeschooling and more, I was a miserable bitch. There I said it.

Allowing myself to let things go and ask for help has given me some breathing room and made me less irritable.

I also invested in myself by getting help from several coaches. I was able to achieve in a few months what would have taken me three times had I tried to go it alone. I highly recommend investing in a coach to meet with a few times a year. Or form a mastermind group. Both of which I do now.

Learned To Bake:


I love to cook and I’m not ashamed to say that I’m a pretty good cook too.

I cook Thai and Chinese food the most. Baking has always been my weakness. I’ve always wanted to learn how to bake especially cookies.

My cousins wife Diane is an amazing baker and she showed me how to bake her amazing cookies. Baking is like having a super power.

Not only can I make great tasting cookies, but baking is a great way to connect with the hubby and kids. Everyone wants to help and everyone loves to lick the bowl Thanks Diane. I love you.

What Didn’t Go Well In 2011

My Son Kieran

sailingOne of my regrets is that my son had to give up his sport of youth sailing when we left our home in California and turned into a vagabonding family of five.

We lived minutes from the San Francisco Bay, so sailing was just so spectacular for him and for us to watch.

By the age of 14 ,he had been sailing and racing competitively for over 6 years.

I hope he will be able to do some sailing this summer in the south of France, If we can afford it. Cross my fingers.

Homeschooling / Un-schooling

Because we lived like vagabonds in 2011, the kids did not go to a physical school. My husband and I had to homeschool them and let me tell you it was hard as hell. It was too much.

Between uprooting and moving our family to the east coast, living like vagabonds, running a home business and taking care of the kids, I did a terrible job of home schooling. Or at least, I didn’t do them justice.

I think I would have done a better job had we been in our own home and not moved but it’s water under the bridge now.

Not Enough Dating

CIMG0516My relationship with my husband means everything to me. I am very conscious about our bond and believe that a good relationship still takes a lot of work. Having time alone and doing activities together is one of those things I like to do with my husband to ensure our bond and keep having fun.

But, my  husband and I did not take enough personal time to develop our relationship in 2011.  We barely did anything all of last year. We were really busy with all that was going on, but that’s no excuse.

Next year will be different. I know it.

Not Enough Progress on my new entrepreneurial venture

I’m sad to say, I didn’t achieve all my entrepreneurial goals. I planned on writing an e-book and failed to finish.

I planned on coming up with a business model to monetize and turn my skills into a business. I didn’t execute.

I bit off more than I could chew by committing myself to some things I just didn’t have time to do. This is something that just couldn’t be avoided because making the move to France and vagabonding took all my effort and all my time.

2012 will need to be different. I can’t afford it not too be.

With my home sleeping mask business quashed for the moment, I  need to start a second source of income to be able to support and contribute to my family financially.

2012 will be about marrying my passion for travel, entrepreneurship, helping people and rolling them into a profitable business model. ANY IDEAS?  Post them below in the comments area. 

Well that’s it. There were other small wins and loses in 2011 but these represented the bigger ones that really effected me.


In looking back and evaluating the good and the bad, I can see that everywhere I failed was because I didn’t really sit down and plan my year and my goals.

All my goals were in my head. Had I sat down and prioritized I might have foreseen that I was biting off more than I could chew for 2011.

As a result I stretched myself too thin.

DSC_0826For 2012, I plan to write down my goals. I mean a really detailed plan so that I’ll have something to look back upon at the end of 2012.

Now that we are settled in France, I can really focus on doing some of the other goals that I didn’t get a chance to do.

  • Mostly, I want to work on turning my multi-passions into a thriving business while also helping people realize their own dream of travel and living abroad. Especially people who have kids. I’ve noticed there is a lot of talk out there about single people travelling but not a lot of families with kids. There is a certain mystery about it and I want to help clear the air about how more people can do what we are doing.

If I can make a positive impact on the world while also providing for my family, well, that would be idea wouldn’t it?

  • I also plan to try to have more fun especially with my kids. I’ve been way too serious for the past 2 years mainly because I’ve been worried about money ever since getting laid off and running my own sleeping mask business.
  • Lastly, I want to build strong relationships with new friends, old friends and be more adventurous by doing, seeing and experiencing more things in life.

Your Turn

Tell me what went well for you in 2011 in the comments below and what didn’t go so well.

Photo of Annie André: www.AnnieAndre.com

Annie André

About the author 

I’m A Bilingual North American With Thai And French Canadian Roots Who's Been Living In The South Of France For Over 10 Years. I Love Writing Weird, Wonderful, Interesting, Forgotten, And Fascinating Articles For Intellectually Curious People Amazed By France, French Culture, And World Travel.

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  1. Annie, so great to find your blog!

    I found it through Benny’s list of annual reviews. What a breath of fresh air to hear your story.

    My wife and I are also from the Bay also(Dublin, CA). We went nomad earlier this summer and have been in SE-Asia now for 6 months.

    Big dreams require big hearts, and big courage. Kudos to you and your family for banding together to enjoy life’s adventures.

    Can’t wait to hear more on it!

    1. Marvin,
      Thank you and Kudos to you and Jo too. I know Dublin but i don’t think I’ve ever been.
      I’m really happy to connect with other travellers out there. They are few and far between. Whats funny is before January of 2011, i had no idea just how many people were doing what we are doing. So when i say it’s nice to meet you i really mean it. LOL.
      I’ll be stopping by your blog to see what you’re up to and to say hello once in a while.

  2. What a nice, honest and inspiring review of the past year, Annie. I’ve been admiring you for your courage, optimism and passion since I first met you. And during our mastermind group calls, you’ve always inspired me more than I can ever explain.

    I know that you’ll shine even more in 2012.
    You have so many gifts you can share with the world and have the power and prowess to help many people. Reminding you what Derek Sivers has once written: “What’s obvious to you may be amazing to others.”

    I look forward to featuring your courageous journey in A Year With Myself soon. You’ll inspire many women there. Lots of hugs and talk to you on Tuesday! :)

    1. Thank you so much. It’s kind of amazing how making yourself vulnerable helps make your stronger. or atleast thats what i am learning.

      Our mastermind calls really do give me the boost i’ve been looking for. I love the fact that we can recieve help and give help to others. it’s definitely a good feeling isn’t it.
      speaking of Derek Sivers. I was just writing a post and referred to him in my post about goal setting. funny.

      2012 will be spectacular. It has to be. No complacency here because we’re under the gun and HAVE to succeed or else we’re in deep doo. LOL.
      happy new year.

    1. Wow thank you Noch,
      you men all the run on sentences, extra adverbs and wordy phrases didn’t turn you off? I ve been reading some of your content too and i love the way you clearly write too. It paints a vivid picture in my head so that even if i can’t relate to what you are saying, i can atleast empathize or understand how you are feeling. I love that.

  3. Hi Annie
    Thanks :)
    Yes much better now. I’ve found a lot of solace and strength in writing, and reading other people’s experience too :)
    All the best for 2012!
    noch Noch

  4. What didn’t go so well – relapse into major depression, or rather hadnt fully recovered but got impatient with myself so I went from bad to wrose

    What went well – spent more time writing on my blog and finally rediscovered my passion for writing – now I have a direction for 2012!!


    1. Noch Noch,
      I’m sorry to hear that you relapsed into depression. I hope you are doing better now and taking whatever steps you need to NOT let that happen . Probably easier said than done right? Thanks for stopping by. Hope you have a great new year and accomplish all you want to in the coming year. :)

  5. Hey Annie if I am right the count of your negatives in the year does not reach the count of good you had. Based on that, I am concluding that you had a beautiful year. Great for you and the family on the trip to France. Ironically France is a romantic city and it never had any impact on your relationship with your husband.

    Cya next year

    1. Damn Straight!! Dugommier here we come. We have to find a new place to go though. Someplace with more anonymity but lots of Bistro Charm.

  6. Since I was the first person you started stalking, it’s only appropriate I’m the first to leave a comment!

    It just seems like yesterday you started stalking me. I’m glad you did because it’s been a pleasure getting to know you!

    I have been rooting for you as well. Hearing you finally got the go ahead to go to France was exciting!

    It’s great to read what went well for you this year. Great things to be happy about. It’s also good to know where you came up short so you understand how to avoid the same results next year.

    What went well for me in 2011? I hit goals I didn’t think were possible. It was my first year really writing down, planning, reviewing my goals. It made the biggest difference in my life thus far.

    What didn’t go well? I lost a bit of momentum starting in August when my wife came over. Before I basically lived alone, so I spent all my free time doing what I wanted. Since then I’ve had to find a balance and focus even more when I do get time to work online. I’ve been slow to adjust, but am getting better.

    I know 2012 is going to be your best year yet, so look forward to supporting and cheering you on!

    “Chinese guy “signing off”

    1. Hey Chinese Guy,
      You are too funny with your nomenclature.

      You have had an amazing year, between your blog and folllowing, your iphone app, getting married and all the other little things you did that you didn’t even tell people about.

      i can totally sympathize with you about losing momentum because of family obligations, i.e. your new beautiful bride.
      You truly are an inspiration to me because i know where you started from. I’ve literally been watching your successes and it pushes me to do more in my life. So thank you Benny.
      Let’s make 2012 a great year and make all our dreams come true.

  7. Wow Annie, what an inspiring list of ‘what went well!” Managing to move your entire clan to France and follow the dream you’ve been holding for years! So admirable. Ever since I’ve been following your journey I’ve wondered just how you managed to pull this off! Thanks so much for this honest and moving account of your travels through the good, bad and the ugly in pursuit of your dreams.
    I’m with you on the idea of setting out my goals and putting some focus into the pursuit of passion.
    Happy Holidays and here’s to a joyous and prosperous 2012!

    1. Sarah,
      Goals, Focus. It is amazing how much one can accomplish if they put their mind to it.
      I’m sure 2012 will be a great year for you. You’ve already accomplished so much.
      Merry Christmas

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