Joseph Naberhaus

2023 In Review

January 2024

This page represents the second time that I'm sitting down to summarize a year of my life. That, of course, means that my annual "Year in Review" is no longer just an aspiration; it's a tradition. Like last year, I will do my best to paint the broad strokes of my life without approaching anything too personal for the internet. In practice, this means that I will be saying more about what I did than about things that happened in my life.

The main theme of 2023 for me would be change. I'm using that one word for two different chronological scales (otherwise I would have needed two central themes). In the long term, my life was altered in many ways. For example, people I hold dearly moved or entered new phases of life, my work offered new opportunities for me, and I took up new hobbies. In the short term, I changed up my everyday life by spending much of the year experiencing new places and things.

Before beginning, I want to add the disclaimer that I am the primary audience for this page. Feel free to read on, but just know that you're probably not going to be entertained.


The year started off by celebrating Christmas with my family. These gatherings are always a bit chaotic. I'm blessed with 8 siblings, a few of which are married and have children. Thus, there's a lot of noise and activity happening at once. Luckily, all of my siblings are great people, and it's always fun being around them.

The cabin we stayed at

Much of the remainder of January was spent counting down the days to a camping trip. A friend and I had scoured the web for the most primitive cabin available for stay. We wanted something with dirt floors and drafty windows. However, we settled for a cabin in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan that was at least private and had no electricity. Everything was perfect. More than two feet or snow already coated the ground, and it was plenty cold to put the wood fired stove to good use.

For our full day, we did nothing but snowshoe. During that hike, we unwittingly climbed the tallest hill around and earned a beautiful view of the surrounding area. By the time we got back I was completely exhausted. But that didn't stop us from going late into both nights talking about life while sipping on martinis. Despite being only two days longs, this trip was still full of fond memories.


During this month I finished my last unread Sherlock Holmes story. This was a significant moment for me. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes was the first book I ever truly appreciated. I remember devouring my parent's copy at a young age. For some reason, I left the rest of the series untouched until now. My favorite thing about Sherlock Holmes is his relationship with Watson. Both characters are glaringly unrealistic. Sherlock for his genius, and Watson for his humility. Yet the way they care for the other is a model for the type of friendships I want in my life.

The Missoula peace symbol. An iconic peace of art for this city

Speaking of friends, I went on a great trip with one in the middle of February. This friend and I both work for Workiva, and our goal was to visit the Missoula, MT and Bozeman, MT offices. We started by driving straight north to the Amtrak station in St. Paul, MN. There we boarded an overnight train to Whitefish, MT. We had originally purchased coach tickets, but through the bidding system we got upgraded to a sleeper cabin. I adore taking the train, and doing a sleeper cabin was an item off of my bucket list.

A bus whisked us from the center of Whitefish to Missoula. I was struck by how perfectly this city was suited for winter. The snow covered mountains and the icy Ford Clark River were perfectly accompanied by the understated downtown. In addition to enjoying the city, we also got to hang out with coworkers that we had previously only know virtually.

Eventually, it was time to take another bus to Bozeman. Unlike our first bus (which was just a Ford Minibus that never had more than 4 occupants), this was a proper Jefferson Lines bus, and it was packed. Evidently snow had delayed the normal bus schedules, and there were 3 days worth of passengers crammed with us. At one point, a few of the passengers got into a fight. Our bus driver put a stop to it by threatening to call the police. In short, it was a memorable journey. Once in Bozeman, we worked one day in the office, met some more coworkers, and then got on a plane back to the Twin Cities.


The Golden Gate Bridge

I spent only 7 full days in Iowa this month. The start of the craziness was driving to a church in Michigan for a weekend. One of my friends had been pastoring this church for the last few years, and it was time for his last Sunday there. I was honored to be invited to join him on this important day.

A few days later, a friend and I flew to San Francisco. It was my first time in California, so this trip was full of new experiences. During the first day, we explored the parks around the Golden Gate Bridge. Despite being in a rainy season, we got lucky and had beautiful weather all day. The next day, we drove up to Muir Woods to see the Redwoods. It was pouring rain the entire time, which left some of the members in our party feeling miserable. Thankfully, my Carhartt coat kept me feeling dry, and I loved this weather too! We spent the next couple of days in the Big Sur area. Again we got lucky, and it was lovely weather for hiking along the coast. My friend stayed a few more days past this, but I flew back so that I could make my next trip.

Bag End in Hobbiton

Once back home, I joined up with a different friend and flew to New Zealand. This friend's brother and a couple of mutual friends were on a study-abroad program in Christchurch. Our ultimate goal was to visit them, but we started by landing in Aukland. Immediately after landing, we rented a car so that we could drive to Hobbiton. Neither of us are huge fans of the Middle Earth Saga, but it still seemed like a place we needed to visit. I enjoyed seeing Bag End in particular. That night we arrived back in Aukland where we returned the car and then took a couple of busses and a train to our hotel.

The next morning, we boarded the Northern Explorer train to Wellington. During the journey we got some great views of Mount Ngauruhoe, which is used as Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings movies. Wellington was my favorite city we visited. It felt very walkable, had lots of beautiful views, and a Funicular was a regular piece of public transportation. We toured the city, visited Matiu Island, and ended the day at the Museum of New Zealand. The museum featured an excellent exhibit about the New Zealand soldiers that fought in the failed invasion of the Gallipoli peninsula during WW1. I left feeling an emotional connection that no other exhibit has reproduced.

Inside the cave we explored

We got lucky the next day and were able to board our ferry to the South Island. Every other ferry before ours had been cancelled because of weather. Unsurprisingly, it wasn't smooth journey, but it was much better than I had feared. We landed in Picton where we boarded a second train, this time to Christchurch. Finally, we had grouped up with our friends. The next day, we explored their college, and then drove to some of the beaches and towns around Christchurch. There was one beach that had the most gradual slope I had ever seen. After walking nearly a hundred feet out my knees weren't even close to the water. The following day was the last and best of the trip. We started by driving to Castle Hill where we climbed around the giant rock formations. Then we drove to the nearby Cave Stream, which is an underground river that you can spelunk through. We started on the downstream end, and an hour later emerged on the upstream end. It was slightly terrifying, but so much fun.

The next day we managed to fit in a Sunday service, and a trip on the Christchurch Gondola before it was time to board our flight. We weren't flying back to Iowa, though. Instead, we had booked tickets to Nashville for a week-long work conference. The highlight of this week was spending time with my team. We got dinner most nights, and even got breakfast at a Waffle House by my insistence. Eventually, it was time to head home, and by then the month of March was about to end.


This month couldn't have been more different than the last. I didn't go on any trips, or even leave the state. Instead, I got plenty of time to visit with friends and family. During this time, two of my close friends committed to moving to Milwaukee in the coming months. Additionally, one friend had already moved to a different part of Iowa, and another was graduating and moving soon. It's hard see people you care about less frequently, but it's easy to still be happy and supportive of them. Especially since they're all doing well!


Unlike April, May wasn't quite as simple. First off, the weather started turning warmer, which marked the start of fishing season for me. I'd picked up this hobby last year, and enjoyed doing it throughout the next few months.

The Grand Canyon

Halfway through this month, I went on a short trip to Arizona with a friend. We flew there on Saturday, and then spent a day at the Grand Canyon. It was my first time seeing it. Thankfully, we had lovely weather all day. At night we booked a couple of self-driving Waymo taxis to take us around Phoenix. As much as I loved the Grand Canyon, I have to say the self-driving taxi was much more memorable. The next day we worked at the Scottsdale Workiva office and hung out with a coworker. That evening we flew back to Iowa. It was a short trip, but that's what we intended it to be.

Later that month I visited a couple of friends. The first visit was to Orange City during their Tulip Festival. It was not unlike any other small town celebration, but with many fun splashes of Dutch culture. My favorite thing was a self-playing organ that had been imported from Europe. I had a great time, but I wouldn't say it's something I'll be doing again soon. The other visit was to my friend who had moved to southwest Iowa. I made an effort to visit him through the remainder of the year. We share many similar interests, and I always enjoy catching up with him.


One of my friends got married in June, and I held the honor of being one of the groomsmen for their big day. I remember walking down the aisle with a big grin on my face, unable to contain my excitement for him. It was an exhausting weekend, but one that I'll cherish.

It was also during this time that I bought my kayak. This proved to be one of my best purchases of all time. I absolutely love driving to a lake after work, putting on a podcast, and paddling around. Not only is it great exercise, but it is also relaxing. Going kayaking has become a regular part of my routine during the warm months.

The last significant thing that happened this month was my promotion. My title changed from Software Engineer to Senior Software Engineer. I had been working hard towards this goal for the last two years that I had been employed, and it was gratifying to see it come into fruition.


There were two particularly notable things that happened this month. First, I went kayak camping on the Des Moines River with a friend. After winter camping, this has to be my favorite way to spend the night outdoors. It was also a great way to test out my new kayak. I'll definitely be doing this again.

A big military airplane I saw at the Air Show

A couple of weeks after that, I went to the EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, WI with a friend. I'm not a huge aviation nerd, but I still enjoy all things that fly. I especially loved walking around the enormous military transport aircraft. Another highlight was the exhibit about the Voyager aircraft at the EAA Museum. I had just listened to a podcast about this and enjoyed seeing the reproductions of it. In all, it was an enjoyable weekend with many fun sights.


I have a dream to visit Europe once a year. During this month I accomplished that for the second year in a row. With me was my good friend and coworker, and we had a goal to visit some of the European Workiva offices while we were there. We started by flying to London in an A380. I enjoyed the experience of riding on the largest passenger aircraft, but definitely think Boeing 787s are more comfortable. Our first day there was spent getting to London via the Piccadilly Line, visiting the office, and then recovering some sleep in a hotel by St. Pancras Station.

The next day we boarded the Eurostar Train to Amsterdam. Riding a train through the channel tunnel has been on my bucket list for years, and it was amazing to experience. I've seen the section of the English Channel the tunnel crosses, and it's hard for me to fathom that there are trains running underneath it.

After arriving to Amsterdam Centraal Station we used the subway to visit the Workiva office there. Then we checked into our hotel and explored the city. As a public transportation nerd, Amsterdam was heaven. They have a very developed network of subways, trams, buses, and ferry's. Getting around on foot is a breeze. In addition to all of that, bicycling is also very common and safe.

Speaking of which, my favorite day there was spent cycling. We rented bikes in the center of Amsterdam and rode them to Zaanse Schans. Part of the journey involved riding our bikes onto an electric ferry to cross a canal. I loved that taking a ferry is just a normal part of a getting around. It was even free of charge! Once there, we toured the historic windmills and the shops featuring Dutch goods. At the cheese shop they handed out delicious free samples, and I walked out quite satisfied. Exploring the inside of a windmill was really cool. The one we toured was being used to make peanut oil, and they allowed you to climb up and see all of enormous wooden mechanisms doing work. Before leaving, we even saw them stop the windmill and roll up the sails.

Of course, we also ended up doing one of the obligatory canal tours and visited the Rijksmuseum for a few hours to see its famous collection of Rembrandt paintings. On a different day we took a train to The Hague. There we saw the International Court of Justice, a museum featuring the work of M. C. Escher, and spent some time on a beach of the North Sea.

From Amsterdam, we took a high-speed train to Paris. We only had one full day there, but we managed to pack a lot in, especially considering we had done almost no planning beforehand. To start with, we visited the Arc de Triomphe. The highlight, for me, there was the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Soon after, we went to the Eiffel Tower and got a great view of the city from it's second floor. For lunch, we got sandwiches at a lovely outdoor cafe. Nearby a woman was singing, accompanied by a mechanical organ. It was very enjoyable to just sit there and take in the moment.

We started the afternoon by visiting the Liberation of Paris Museum. There, for the first time, I got a glimpse of WW2 from the French perspective. Next we went to the Pantheon. It was an impressive building and it was neat to walk in the resting place of many great French citizens. There were also many great paintings, but the plaques were written in French, so I didn't know what most of them represented. With the daylight running short, we ended the day by seeing Notre Dam Cathedral, which was under construction following the fire. Finally, we capped the evening off with a nice meal.

A full english breakfast that I had

The following day we got back on a Eurostar train and headed for London. I absolutely love being in England. My favorite part has to be my morning routine. Every day, I leave my lodgings and head straight to the local shop for a newspaper. Then I enjoy a full english breakfast while learning about British politics.

Besides breakfast, we did some other fun things. The best of all was touring the Palace of Westminster. I have read so much about the debates that have happened in the House of Commons, and it was amazing to see it in real life. Another great day in London was spent at the Imperial War Museum. We were there for many hours, but only made it through the WW1 and WW2 exhibits. Both were excellently done.

On a different day we took a day trip to Dover Castle. I had seen the castle from a distance before while visiting the White Cliffs of Dover, but this was my first time inside. There was lots to explore, including a lighthouse that was built by the Romans in the 2nd century. In addition to the ancient history, there was also lots of WW2 history to see. The evacuation of Dunkirk had been orchestrated from inside nearby tunnels which you can now walk through. After we were done at the castle I forced my friend to hike around the cliffs for a little while. That's one of my favorite places in the world.


Towards the end of this month I visited my friends who had moved to Milwaukee. Rather than drive straight there, I elected to first go to Osceola and then take the train. This took much longer, but I'll take any excuse to ride one of our trains. I had a long layover in Chicago, so I met up with a couple of coworkers and worked at Starbucks. They were serving Oleato beverages which were interesting to try. A few hours later I boarded the Hiawatha to Milwaukee. I'd never taken that route before, and was pleasantly surprised by how modern it is.

In Milwaukee, I got to spend lots of quality time with my friends. One of them really enjoys the beach, so we spent a good chunk of our time there. We also did some light hiking, visited one of their offices, and went to one of Milwaukee's famous frozen custard shops. On Sunday, I went to a church they were thinking about joining, and I really enjoyed the community it had. Unexpectedly, this trip had a big impact on my future plans. I had committed myself to move somewhere new in 2024, but before this I hadn't seriously considered Milwaukee as an option.


In October, my work life changed significantly. Up until then I had only worked on the Presentations team at Workiva. I was very content with this arrangement. My coworkers were smart, fun to work with, and many of them were located in the same office. However, I got approached my management to join a brand new team. Even though the idea brought me many worries, it was still immediately obvious that it was the right move for me. In some ways, it was a perfect fit. I'm soon planning on moving and switching to fully remote work, and I'm glad to be on a team of people that are in the same boat. It's also really growing to be on a greenfield project. Much of my work before now has been on legacy systems, and this new work exercises a completely different muscle.

With the weather turning cold I tried to fit in as much kayaking as possible before it was too late. I also started off my camping season. First with a group of people at a small campground in Iowa, and then a solo-night at Ledges State Park. It hadn't gotten as cold as I like for camping yet, but both trips were still fun.


A week into November I joined some of my close college friends for a weekend hangout. All of us had been in the same Bible Study, and I really enjyoed being back together again. Most of the time was spent playing through many games of Terraforming Mars. It was super fun. We finished off the weekend by watching Goodfellas, my favorite move.

My backpack loaded up for camping

Just before Thanksgiving, I went on a solo camping trip to the Loess Hills. This is one of Iowa's only parks with backpack camping. The sites weren't as private as I would have liked, but it was still a nice place. While out there, I turned off all technology except for my Kindle. I even used a kerosene lantern instead of a flashlight. For me, this made the trip much more gratifying. Somehow, the simplest experiences in life are always the most enjoyable.

After camping, I went to my parents for Thanksgiving. Almost everyone was there, so there was plenty of activity. We ate all the traditional foods, talked, and played some games.


Early in this month I went for a one night stay at Stephens State Forest. This ended up being a lovely place for backpack camping, and one that I'd definitely go back to. The only negative was that it was hunting season, and I felt like I was at risk for being shot. I went there hoping for a little snow, and instead only got a tiny bit of sleet. But the night was still an overall success.

Later in December, I went camping with a friend. We do this every year, and usually go to Ledges State Park. But this time we discovered that the campground was closed for a controlled burn. Instead, we settled for Hickory Grove. This hardly put a damper on the evening, though. We still passed many hours of great conversation before retiring for the night.

Christmas came and went too quickly this year. It felt like I didn't have time for all the things I like to do. On the bright side, I did manage to complete the Advent of Code for the third year in a row. Also, I baked cinnamon rolls for my family, which is a yearly tradition for me. I didn't, however, have any evening to sit back with a glass of fine scotch and relax with a good book. Nor did I get as much time with my family as I would have liked. But I did get time with them, and it was a good Christmas.

My tent set up at Ponca State Park

I didn't end my year just yet. Before New Years I drove north and spent the night at a friends house. He had graduated recently, and was just about to move to Kansas City. So I wanted to make sure I got time with him before life got too busy.

Soon after that, I drove to Ponca State Park in Nebraska for some camping. I've already written about this trip, so I'll just say this was the perfect way to end the year.

And that wraps up my 2023.