Joel's Year in Review 2017

There’s not going to be any grand revelations, deep insights or life lessons in this blog. 

Trying to wrap an entire year up with a neat little bow, like some kind of late Christmas gift, is impossible. 

I simply want to take you all on a tour of the year that was in the life of Joel, while also sharing some of my favourite images I produced from my camera over the last 365 days. 

Now, full disclosure, I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, I think that we should always be thinking about ways to improve our lives, our health and our habits, and not just when it’s convenient at the end of the year. 

It’s also a lot easier to…let’s say…make a resolution for the month of January than it is for 2018. I feel like managing 31 days is a lot easier than 365. 

So, let’s take a look back. 


- January to March - 

The year got off to a great start as the end of 2016 saw me complete my latest novel (update on that coming soon in a separate post), and start some preliminary testing of the waters toward finding a creative funding source to self-publish my book. I’m really drawn to the idea of creating this first book completely on my own, and I think 2018 will see some serious steps in that direction. 

To celebrate the accomplishment, M and I went for a big dinner, it was right around my birthday too, so that was pretty special. 

Later in January, M and I took our first of many trips of the year, driving down the length of the Highway 401 to Montreal to see the sights and get away for a few days. 

In the early months of 2017 I also fell in love with making videos. I started carrying my camera around with me everywhere and creating vlogs to accompany the daily journals I was posting, inspired by the likes of Ben Brown, Steve Booker and Sam Evans. It was a super fun experiment, but in the end, I realized that the medium was just not for me. However, I am now a fairly competent video editor, so the experiment wasn’t a complete waste. The video of my trip to MacGregor Point is turning into a work of art in my opinion, but I’ll get to that at later day. 

The early part of 2017 also saw M and I celebrate our one-year anniversary, something that put a smile on my face and warmth in my stomach. That feeling hasn’t left. 

Finally, my career got a nice boost in February when the nominations for the Ontario Community Newspapers Association awards were published and I was nominated for not one, not two, but five awards, in education writing, investigative reporting, feature writing, news writing, and for reporter of the year. 

It was pretty mind boggling. 

Other highlights of the first quarter: tobogganing with Mike and Larissa (surprised my camera survived that one), mini adventures to Lake Ontario.


- April to June - 

As the year moved on, the adventures started coming one after another. Early in April, M and I took our second trip of the year, this time, a significantly larger undertaking than the short jaunt to Montreal in January. 

The nine-day road trip to Florida was definitely one of the highlights of the year and saw side-trips to Washington to visit the White House, and to Charleston, South Caroline to wander the warm, historic streets. 

However, before we left for the trip, literally the day before, was the OCNA awards ceremony. So, it was black-tie gala mode to road trip mode within a matter of hours. 

With my five nominations, I was honoured to receive first place in education writing and feature writing, third place in both investigative reporting and new writing, and the runner-up for Reporter of the Year.


After our nine-day trip south, I was back in Oshawa for a short week and a half before taking off once again, this time to spend a few days in MacGregor Point Provincial Park with my three brothers. It’s a trip we’ve made into a tradition over the past couple years, and generally sees us spend a lot of time on the windy coast of Lake Huron, eat delicious steak dinners and drink perhaps one too many beers. 


Other highlights of the second quarter: eating my words and riding a Hippogriff, airboat rides in the Florida swamps and photographing Osprey, mega bed, 12,000 views.



- July to September - 

As the summer approached, my mind started to shift away from the daily journal I’d been maintaining for months. I’m not sure why, but I think in the end, the workload, combined with the desire to stay outside, along with the fact that it had been a bit of a lull in my travelling that eventually saw my writing motivation dry up. 

However, in July I got back to the keyboard after an amazing weekend in Grand Bend with M and some friends. We spent the weekend in a beach house right on the main strip of the beach town. I’ve always been drawn to the dichotomous beach towns and how they can be so vibrant in the summer and absolute ghost towns in the winter, and spending a weekend in the vibrant core of Grand Bend was pretty great. 

And as the summer months tend to do, they passed by in a blur. However, it was in August that I started my latest novel, a project that has now surpassed the half-way point, and one that is reinvigorating my love for writing. 

The whirlwind of travel was also just about to pick up again as fall started to enter it’s prime stages, M and I took a trip to Algonquin with my friend Mike and his wife Larissa. It turned out to be an amazing trip, filled with great food, good talks around the campfire and some great hikes. 


Other Third Quarter highlights: the cooky landlord in Grand Bend who delivered us a second fridge, took a shot of whiskey and left; Killbear Provincial Park, visiting the Back Door Mission; Toronto Zoo, Paris Fall Fair, Pennywise, Down-Jaw Fangs.


- October to December - 

The final part of the year has been nothing short of amazing. 

It started off with an incredible vacation to Jamaica with M. I put the blogging away and only focused on writing and lifting my camera when the urge came over me. It came over me at times, but mostly I focused on being with M, cold beer, and soaking up the warmth of the sun, the saltiness of the ocean, and the sound of the breeze. 


I came back from the trip feeling more refreshed than I had the entire year. 

That was a good thing too, because the week we returned from Jamaica, M and I moved in together in Toronto. 

It was a big step, but one the two of us had talked about for months, it was just a matter of finding the right spot for both of us. We’ve been living here for a few months now, and aside from a few fixer-upper tasks around the apartment, it has been perfect. 

The final months of year have also seen me prioritize more toward the things I really want to focus on, which in this case, has been my fiction writing. I’ve dedicated more of my mental energies toward moving my novel forward, which means this blog has suffered.

It also didn’t help that my old website platform was deleting my content without my knowing and after working tirelessly to solve the issue, I was forced to switch platforms and learn a completely new way of blogging (something I’m still trying to do). 

However, I do miss hitting the publish button more often and I do miss sharing my life and my writing progress with all of you, so I’m looking to get back to that in 2018. 

Finally, in a bit of life coming full circle, M and I finished the year kind of where we started, with a trip to Montreal. We went for a few days following Christmas, and despite the extreme cold that had fallen over most of this part of the country, plunging temperatures into the range of -30 with windchill, it was another great trip. 

Fourth Quarter highlights: Pingles Corn Maze, getting locked out of our hotel in Montreal (HOW?)

If you’ve made it this far, thank you so much for reading. It has been an amazing year, and I thank each and every one of you who take the time to check in and for reading my words. I wish you all the best for the new year!



Joel Wittnebel