Nearly every blogger does an end-of-year post that looks back on the things they’ve achieved, the mistakes they made, and what they learned in the last 12 months. We’re a reflective bunch; it comes with the territory. So a few hours ago, I cracked my knuckles, stretched out my arms, and dove into create some obnoxiously detailed spreadsheets, bullet-pointed lists, and numbers to quantify what I accomplished this year.
But after a few minutes spent staring at my organized outline for this post, I decided to scrap it. Why? Because this year wasn’t about all the little details. It’s not about how many miles I traveled, how many weeks I managed to do something adventurous and how much money I spent trying to live a life filled with extraordinary experiences.
This year was about one big, defining thing: This was the year I took a chance on adventure.
When I started this blog nearly three years ago with a personal challenge to seek out one experience every week that scared me, I never imagined I would end up living a life of full-time adventure. I thought it would be a fun little project to distract me from my otherwise all-encompassing career and give me something to look forward to on the weekend.
But as you know, adventure has a mischievous way of breeding more adventure, and after a year of planning and saving money, I quit my job in TV back in September, sold all my stuff and headed out into the world with only a backpack and the promise to never stop seeking out extraordinary experiences.
When I look back on 2015, I see 9 months that were short on thrills and brimming with angst and anticipation. Then, in October, an explosion of incredible life experiences that challenged my world view and provided a rush of adrenaline nearly every day, urging me to relish each moment, as long as I have the ability to do so.
It’s been a gorgeously dense life this year, all because I decided to make it so. I said no to complacency, I made a plan, and I executed it. It’s the kind of follow through I only dreamt I was capable of before this year. That feels effing amazing.
So instead of the number of miles I traveled or how much I spent on accommodation, I’ve decided to have a look at the timeline of my adventures in 2015, and allow myself a little pride. When I look at this list, I know that over half of the items on it wouldn’t be there if I hadn’t taken a scary leap into the unknown. Taking a chance on adventure was the best decision I’ve ever made.
But the proof is in the pudding – have a look!
I started the year off with a quiet day alone on the water, on the hunt for orcas. I didn’t see any, but I did see several other types of whales. Looking back, this was mildly exciting at the time, but now it seems a bit bore-o compared to what I got up to later on the in the year! But hey, you gotta start somewhere.
I finally managed my first solo camping trip – a chilly night on a nearly deserted beach at Point Mugu! It was such a peaceful 24 hours spent alone and waking up to the sound of the waves crashing only 10 feet away was a real highlight.
#3: Traveling all over the US for work
Since I spent the first nine months of the year working in TV (on my favorite show to work on!) I had to remind myself to appreciate my unconventional career and the opportunities it gave me. I got to travel all over the US and cause trouble with my co-workers at dozens of different karaoke bars! One of my favorite days was spending the first day of Spring filming in New York City……when it snowed.
#4: My 3rd year of Coachella
Third time is the charm? This year I went to my favorite music festival with the three best companions a girl could ask for, and it was my favorite Coachella to date. The highlight? Jenny Lewis surprising us with a mini Rilo Kiley reunion! (Portions for Foxes is my jam)
#5: Climbing Mount Baldy
The Brit and I tackled the highest peak in LA County, and it was no joke. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves in to, and by the time we reached the top, we were limping and exhausted. Good thing there is a restaurant near the top for victory beers and a ski lift that brought us back down to our car! After finishing this hike, I felt ready to say goodbye to LA indefinitely, a sad but necessary step towards a new future.
#6: An English summer wedding
Another adventure with the Brit: our first trip together to his homeland to attend the wedding of two of our very good friends. It was by far the most beautiful wedding I’ve ever been to, and though it was only five days in the UK, we still managed a visit to his village, a few hours at Leeds Castle and a crazy night on the town in London!
After selling all of my stuff in LA, the last step in simplifying my life was to drive my beloved car, Enrique, 2000 miles to my parents house in Texas. The Brit accompanied me, and we had a blast. Our two best pit stops were the Pima Air & Space Museum in Arizona and our detour to the quirky town of Marfa in West Texas. Check out this time-lapse I shot of the entire journey:
#8: Summer in New York
I’ve spent three full summers in NYC and countless shorter stays there working, and I never managed to become a big fan of the Big Apple (I know, New Yorkers are gasping) UNTIL this last summer, when it finally became clear to me why everyone freaking loves it so much: it’s sense of community. I think the game changer was finally living in a neighborhood away from the craziness of Midtown, or maybe it was the fact that I made an effort to hang out in Brooklyn more, but whatever the reason, it’s official: I could actually see myself living in New York City. Who knows what the future will hold for this burgeoning relationship….
#9: Turning 30 in NYC
You know you’re a lucky girl when four of your best friends in the world fly to New York to celebrate turning the big 3-0. We had a picnic in Brooklyn Bridge Park, a massive dinner, checked out a cool beer garden in Brooklyn then partied the night away in a club with multiple stages. I feel so freaking great about being 30 – and I’m 100% confident the next decade is going to hold a lot more craziness than the last!
This was the magic turning point of the year – once my work contract was up in September, I finally took a giant leap towards the dream of full-time travel I’d had since I was a kid and put my TV career on hold. After more than a year of planning and saving, it was finally time to make it happen and put my money where my mouth is. You’ll notice a major shift in the level of adventure for the rest of the year!
I was only heading to Mexico City because a tour I wanted to do started there, but I ended up falling head over heels for the city after spending five days there. It’s got plenty to do, it’s easy to get around, and is a much cooler place than I ever imagined.
Huffing and puffing up the side of the third largest pyramid in the world may have reminded me how out of shape I was, but it was super fun none-the-less!
This was SUCH a hilarious night. I cannot begin to tell you how much I laughed at this flamboyant and acrobatic wrestling display in Puebla. All I can say is if you go to Mexico, attending a Lucha Libre match should be at the very top of your to-do list. I mean, check out this move!
Hiking up to see a petrified waterfall is already exciting, but add in a cool soak in the (semi) natural infinity pools at the top and you have one of the most memorable days of my time in Mexico.
After a crazy morning winding up and down the mountain roads of Southern Mexico to avoid road blockages by the Zapatista separatist group, we finally made it to Misol-ha, a thunderous waterfall that left me breathless.
Having a crazy Mayan jungle guide like Gabriel take us deep into the jungle barefoot, eating termites from trees and climbing into centuries-old collapsed aqueducts was one of the most outrageous adventures I’ve had to date.
I ended up visiting nearly a dozen cenotes while in the Yucatan, but none compared to the last one I visited with a small group outside of Merida. Our guide told us it was called the Blue Cenote, but I can’t find it in any Google searches (“Blue Cenote” is the name for another more visited one, it seems). There was no one there besides us, and the water was bluer than I imagined possible.
#18: Visiting my 3rd of the 7 World Wonders
Crossing off Chichen Itza was a necessity, but it wasn’t so much an adventure as a study in all the ways mass tourism affects major sites like this one. There were thousands of packaged tourists there being herded around by megaphone-wielding guides and hundreds of vendors lining all the paths selling tacky made-in-China souvenirs. I’m glad we got there early, and I’m glad we left just as the madness was beginning.
If you’re interested in seeing some Mayan ruins in Mexico, I recommend Palenque – spectacular ruins with a fraction of the people around. Nevertheless, the pyramid at Chichen Itza still holds some some magic appeal – and now I’ve only got 4 wonders left to be able to cross this big thing off my life list!
#19: Getting my PADI Advanced Certification
Another accomplishment I was able to check off my life list was getting my PADI Advanced Certification in Playa Del Carmen, complete with a wreck dive and my first turtle spotting.
#20: Running my first Half Marathon
This isn’t something I ever imagined I would do, and while I should have prepared a bit more (whoops!) it felt pretty good crossing that finish line on Halloween in Merida, Mexico. Someday I’ll try again with a lot more training!
#21: Diving the Blue Hole
This is on every diver’s bucket list – I’m so happy I got to cross it off mine in Belize in November! AND see some sharks and a perfect island paradise in the process!
#22: Exploring Tikal
I geeked out for my adventure to Tikal in Northern Guatemala in my excitement to check out the Star Wars temple, famous from it’s appearance in Return of the Jedi. Climbing to the top was fun, checking out the view was even better.
This definitely ranks as the most daring adventure of my 2015 – jumping off the edge of a cliff strapped to guy I just met with the hope the parachute will catch in the wind……thankfully it did, and it made for one of the most exciting days of the year. (Ok, it wasn’t that dramatic, the wind kind of lifted us up to begin with…..but it’s a better story the other way 🙂
If you read the post, you’ll see a big part of the magic was Christian, the pilot I flew with. His enthusiasm was contagious, and made me realize what kind of passion I want to approach my life’s work with.
This takes the cake as the most hilarious thing that happened to me in 2015. Read the post if you want a good laugh – it’s too good to shorten here!
#25: Pacaya Volcano Hike
The final adventure to end my three months in Central America was a sunset hike to Pacaya Volcano outside of Antigua, Guatemala. As the sun set, we could see the red, hazy light from the lava at the top of the volcano looming above us in the darkness. It was unreal – and toasting marshmallows on the cooling magma at the base was a delicious treat!
I feel like I’m barreling into 2016 like an adventure junkie, already closing in on my next fix. I’m in Thailand, with no return ticket and only a rough idea of my travel plans for the next few months. I have nothing but deep gratitude when I think that I have another amazing year of adventure to look forward to.
However, that doesn’t mean I don’t have work to do! Last year was about making a change, and now I’m ready to make it permanent. I’ve met so many artists, adventurers, creatives, and entrepreneurs on the road who have made a life of full-time travel sustainable for them. And now I’m poised and ready to make it happen for me too.
But more on that later this week. Until then…..cheers to more adventure for all in 2016!