While the 2016 memes proliferate the internet showcasing how bad this year was for many, I look back on 2016 as one of my favorite years of my life thus far.
There are so many highlights to recount – let me begin here, at the beginning:
1. Traveled to Italy, Switzerland, and Paris.
Since traveling to Europe for the first time in 2013 (read about it here), I promised myself that I would return at least every two years. I knew that was a big plan but the trip had done so much for my expanding my horizon, pushing the boundaries of what I was capable and I learned so much about many other cultures. However, as 2015 came to a close, it looked like that promise to myself wasn’t going to be fulfilled.
Then it happened. My best friend said the words “You should go to Europe.” And so I did. Five weeks out, I booked “The Western Rocker” trip through Contiki. You might be saying “Con-whaty?” I don’t blame you. Contiki isn’t big in the United States, but where it is widely known is – is in Australia. How do I know this? Because there were 30 people total on the trip, and ~25 of them were Australian. G’day, mate!
On this trip, I visited Rome, Pisa, spent New Year’s Eve in Florence, Lucerne, Switzerland and ended in Paris. It was 9 days of high-speed travel through so many parts of Europe with people looking to expand their minds through other cultures.
Some of my favorites of the trip were visiting the Sistine Chapel in Rome (especially the history behind the Last Judgement scene being created), seeing The David in Florence, taking several gondola rides to the top of Mount Pilatus in Lucerne, rising to the top of the Eiffel Tower – and, of course, meeting my now fiance, Ken.
Here are some fun photo highlights:
2. Met my Ken, my fiance.
I landed in Rome on December 29th, 2015 and quickly found myself surrounded by thousands of other tourists at the Colosseum. It was chaotic, but as I mentioned above exactly what I needed as a way to end 2015.
After a day of solo-traveling, I met up with the Contiki trip leader to be the recipient of everything I needed to know about the trip. Where we were going, the additional extras for dinners if I chose to attend, tours I can join, experiences and such that she had planned, and some information on the group of people myself and the three other newbies would be joining. This was apparently the last leg of a 30-day trip for 50+ people. A large group of them had left the trip in Rome earlier that day, and this evening four more people were joining. She shared this to make sure we understood why everyone was already so friendly with each other at dinner that night. I’ve never been the new girl in school, but I imagine it to feel a lot like this did.
We had dinner the first night and the next morning took a tour of the Vatican. By the way, holy shit, I require you to see the Sistine Chapel if you’re ever in Rome. Learn the history of it first, and then visit it – it will absolutely blow your mind.
After a nerve-rush of a tour, I invited myself to join a group of people who were grabbing lunch. They’d grown close over the past few weeks, and actually one of the few Americans on this trip was in this group of people – they seemed nice.
That lunch is when I met Ken.
3. Traveled to Australia, twice.
After meeting Ken in Rome. He sat next to me on the bus to our next location. He was nice and was interesting to talk to. He was passionate about history and our first long conversation was from Florence to Pisa and then Lucerne. He spoke at length, ~ 5 hours, about World War II. I learned about history in school, but never before like this. His passion turned me into a vacuous little girl. Like those teenage years of timid awkwardness that are impossible to hide when you’re so impressed. Ken knew more about history than I knew about anything in this world, and I liked that. We enjoyed each other’s company and traveled throughout Lucerne and Paris together.
After we said goodbye in Paris, I knew that I’d never see Ken again. Nor did I care too much. He lived in Australia – a place I’d never been to and didn’t know too much about. Oh, and he just turned 25 and I was turning 30 that year. Ha, this still makes me laugh.
Although. After sending Ken a ton of photos I’d taken of him throughout the tour (his camera battery died toward the end and didn’t any photos) – I’d decided to call him. I’m not sure why, but I did. That first call lasted for hours. Then I called him the next day, and that call lasted for more hours. Then Ken called me the next day and we talked even longer. This continued every single day for months. What I found most interesting is that – most people who meet spend the majority of their time together, in-person. I realized that just because you’re in the same space with someone, it doesn’t mean you’re together. I’ve spent a lot of time with partners in the same place watching tv, eating delicious dinners out, seeing great music or comedic acts, and more. With Ken, we only had the phone conversations. I found the phone being the most intimate medium of all because all we had was each other’s voice, the stories we’d tell, and the details of our lives that we shared.
After two months of conversations, Ken recommended I visit Australia and so I did.
The first trip was full of travel and sightseeing. We visited the Taronga Zoo and did a ropes course in the rain. We hiked parts of the Blue Mountains and camped out at a beautiful outlook. We drove the most windey road in the world at too high of a speed for me to visit the Jenolan Caves. We had the best fish sandwich ever in Centennial Park under 1,000 of Fruit Bats. We took a few runs along the beaches of Sydney, more specifically Spider Alley. We swam in the rock pools of Coogee Beach.
Here’s are some of my favorite photos:
And the second time I visited Australia in May, I met his mother. We attended a Waratahs rugby match. Ken studied for his last final ever, and I worked remotely. And lastly and one of my personal favorites – Ken proposed.
4. We got engaged.
On May 25 in the most low-key but beautiful way, Ken proposed. Was I surprised? Not really. Ken and I had been talking about this step for some time and we knew we were ready. Was I happy? Absolutely. Knowing that I’d get to spend forever with Ken was the most content feeling I’d ever experience.
How on earth did we know we were ready for this massive next step together? I’d love to say we just knew, and while we did. We tried to approach this seemingly insane idea in the most logical way we knew how. Ken’s thoughtfulness and intelligence permeated my love-struck brain and wouldn’t let go, but I was going to make damn sure we were as good a fit as we thought we were – and so did he.
One thing we did that I loved is we took out any speculation or confusion and asked each other every single question in “the book.” We candidly discussed our deal-breakers. We talked about our needs for our lives and what we need in a partner. And when we realized that we don’t know what we don’t know – we sought the help of experts. We found some really great articles online about how to be sure the person you love is the right person for you. They go beyond lust, love, and chemistry to surface the necessary factors which make relationships successful that a lot of people don’t discuss.
Here were a few of my personal favorites:
To explore one another:
To know if life-long marriage is right:
- 100 Questions to Ask Before Marriage
- 15 Questions to Ask Your Partner Before Marriage
- 13 Questions to Ask Before Marriage
- 20 Questions to Ask Before Getting Married
Here’s a photo of us:
5. Bought a condo.
This was an item which unexpectedly made it to my year. I recall at the ripe age of 22, setting a plan with my financial advisor to buy a home when I was 30. However, as the years started and ended, I never really saw it in my near future. And even when I started this year – I wasn’t quite sure I was ready for such a big change.
However, with the prospect of Ken moving to the United States and discussing all things money, investments, desired living situations – we realized it was the best thing to do.
We now own an adorable condo in Medford which we happily pay our mortgage to every month. Here are some fun photos to capture the journey:
6. Traveled to Europe, again.
This was a bonus item for me. I traveled to our Dublin office for work and was lucky enough to start the trip over the weekend with a few days in Amsterdam. Amsterdam was on my personal bucket list, and so it felt nice to be able to check that off. It was beautiful but still didn’t top my favorite, Barcelona.
I will say, there’s something about the people I met and connected with in Dublin that makes me feel home. Maybe it’s the humor, the kindness, or the honesty that I really loved. If I were to be offered the opportunity to live there, it would be easy to say yes.
7. Released a new way for our HubSpot Academy students to learn.
Taking a side-step toward professional highlights, this year the HubSpot Academy team launched the Learning Center. The Learning Center is HubSpot’s new way to highlight the Academy and to help students learn more, at their own pace and to support them through the process.
This was a massive undertaking as it was a design which hadn’t been revisited since 2012, and the design didn’t develop as HubSpot’s design did, nor was it designed for the scale that we see with our increased number of certification courses or increased users.
We are so proud of this new intuitive and enjoyable space for people to learn. Give it a try by signing up for a free account here.
8. My fiance moved to the US from Australia
Moving from Australia to the US doesn’t really seem like that big of a big change, however, it’s a transition which shouldn’t be overlooked or downplayed. It is sneaky difficult. Why? Because expectations of just how difficult it will be are low. Unlike with so many other moves to foreign countries, there is no language barrier to deal with. Our cultures are fairly similar. People look the same. On the surface, the only differences appear to be the political system, that they have universal health care and everyone makes a living wage (minimum wage is $20 AUD), and that in Australia you drive on the opposite side of the road. But there is more to it than that. We tip here. Americans are more religious. Race and equal rights are commonly discussed issues that we need to solve. We have guns (and apparently lots of them). There is more crime here. We don’t openly talk about how much money we make. We focus more on pleasantries. People regularly engage in small talk. We have weather that gets into unbearable temperatures. And we just voted to elect Donald Trump as our nation’s president.
Moving to another country is an adventure and this shouldn’t have been treated differently. Thankfully, with a creative outlet and tons of communication, Ken and I have been able to learn more about the differences and solve any problems/obstacles as they arise – as well as help others learn about them too. Did I mention Ken has a blog?
Ken and I spent the summer camping, traveling to Ikea to buy furniture, moving into our new condo, running the streets of Boston, hanging with friends and making new ones, and learning to cook together – my personal favorite hobby we share together.
9. At work, we grew course content catalog by 100%.
Our HubSpot Academy team aims to educate and inspire the world to transform the way they do business and creating certification courses to help people achieve this is a big honor and a big operation. Each course takes multiple months to create as there are many steps from researching, planning, creating, and there are also many different teams involved with their creation and launch.
I remember starting the beginning of 2016 thinking this was going to be a wild ride of a year, and wow, was I right.
We created 5 new certifications this year, and now offer 10 certification courses for marketers, sales and design professionals. Altogether, they are as follows:
- Inbound Certification
- Inbound Sales Certification (NEW)
- Email Marketing Certification (NEW)
- Content Marketing Certification (NEW)
- Growth-Driven Design Agency Certification (NEW)
- HubSpot Marketing Software Certification
- HubSpot Sales Software Certification (NEW)
- HubSpot Design Certification
- HubSpot Contextual Marketing Certification
Interested in learning more? Find them and sign up here.
10. At work, we more than doubled the number of certifications awarded for the year.
Toward the end of 2014, I took over the certifications program and we finished the year with awarding ~8,000 number of certifications. In 2015, we awarded ~27,000. And in 2016, we’ll end with more than double that.
That is incredible and exciting growth.
12. At work, we researched, designed, created, and released our new Learning Center.
Besides meeting Ken, this is one of my favorite parts of 2016 as over 15 people from 3 different departments and two countries came together to make this happen.
This year, we took what was a simple certifications app and redesigned it into an incredibly intuitive learning application to further help the world learn about inbound marketing and sales. The best part? Not only can we focus on helping people learn more from the improved experience, but we’re now also able to better tie our Project Templates and free tools into the learning experience. Helping people to learn from certifications, apply their knowledge with Projects, and achieve results for their business in the software is a magical moment I’m excited about pursuing.
Sign up for your own Learning Center account today and access over 7 certification courses.
12. Traveled to Europe for 30+ days on a work sabbatical with Ken.
Lastly, but definitely not least, Ken and I traveled together for 30+ days. I had been at HubSpot for over 5 years which unbelievable affords me 1 full month off (pay included).
We planned this trip for months and months and months together. In the end, we traveled to Casablanca, Marrakech, and Essaouira in Morocco. Then Prague city and outside Prague for a wedding with Ken’s cousins. Then Budapest, Hungary. Then Zagreb, Plitvice Lakes, and Split in Croatia. Then Mostar and Sarajevo in Bosnia. Then back to Croatia – Dubrovnik. We ended our Europe trip in Kotor, Montenegro.
(PS Is this real life?)
As the year comes to an end, I’m so happy that I have the chance to take time to reflect on the last 365 days of my life. Or in other words, 8,760 hours and 525,600 minutes. I include hours and minutes because as I grow older, I notice just how important not only months and weeks are, but days and minutes too. Minutes make up the hours, which make up the days, which make up up the way I choose to live my life. And every year, the only thing that seems to grow in importance is the only thing that I have less of as years travel by – time.
As I said, easily the best year of my life. Here’s to an incredible 2016 and many more years like it!
PS Ken wrote his own 2016 year in review post, you can read it here.