I've been SO excited to tell this story for weeks now, but I had to wait for a few of the pieces to come together…
In what feels like a past life these days, several years ago I was doing a bunch of traveling and taking a bunch of photos. I uploaded all my favorite photos to a website called Unsplash and essentially gave them away to anyone that wanted to use them for designs or whatnot.
One of the highlights of my travels was doing a group photography trip to Japan with a company called Moment. I made great friends and had the opportunity to experiment with a lot of different photography styles that I otherwise wouldn't have been comfortable with – mainly street photography and candid portraits.
A couple of weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised to be tagged on an Instagram post of an amazing painting that was based on one of the photos I took in Japan! The artist's name is Jasmin Dobrovsky and she is based in Austria.
I was blown away with the painting and, after a night of thinking about it, decided to buy it and worked with Jasmin to have it shipped across the world.
It finally arrived and is now hanging on my wall!!
I could hardly wait to share the story and give plugs to the people that made it happen. Thanks a ton to Jasmin for capturing a moment from my life with her unique talent and perspective. Shoot her a follow on Instagram and know that she's got experience shipping overseas if any of her pieces catch your eye!
Your future self will thank your past self for recording this history.
This whole starting a new habit thing is tough. I fell off for a few days, but I happened to stumble on an article about journaling this morning and going to try to get back at it!
We're back from Yosemite. Our retreat went great. We spent a good amount of time talking shop and a good amount of time having fun. I'm glad we got to spend some time with my Aunt and Uncle. We had a great time in the park snapping pictures and exploring. We ate at the Ahwahnee – I'd never been there before – and I got a new sticker for my collection.
The last day or two back at home have been “transition” days. I still need to do my laundry from the trip. I was only home for a couple of days in between road tripping and the Yosemite trip, and I spent a lot of that time preparing. I think my body was tired as I keep sleeping in way past the normal amount of time I usually sleep.
Brent got some fantastic photos during the trip. I am shamelessly stealing one to use as the featured image for this post.
It's super Tuesday. Beer virus and the stock market crash/swings are dominating the news.
I've been daydreaming about buying a house in Tahoe recently. I'm feeling the need for a new project in my life and to establish a home base that isn't my mom's house. The thought of having a new house opens the door to a bunch of fun micro-projects like building out a new workspace and or a garage, setting up a hosting and entertaining space, and getting the opportunity to explore deeply a new part of the world.
Brent and Anthony got into San Jose today and we took off for Yosemite! I broke down the “camper bed” set up in my car and put the back seats back in. We left the Bay around 1:30 and did a late lunch in Los Banos around 3 pm.
We got to the pines a little before 6 pm just as the sun was setting. We popped by the Pines Bar, then did dinner at Ducey's. Both were enjoyable and tasty! Then we went to my Aunt and Uncle's house for a nightcap and some time by the fire.
Yesterday was the last day of prep for our team retreat in Yosemite. I got my hair cut and I worked from the coffee shop across the street from my barber for a bit. My sister invited us to her house for dinner. I unsuccessfully tried to get her cats to like me. My sister lives in San Carlos in a house that I used to live in. My old room is now my Dad's room. I hadn't been in there in a while, but I had a chance to relive some old memories from that room yesterday.
Chrissy made chili and beer-batter bread. We talked about potentially watching the democratic debates; then we didn't. We all made an effort to wish my Great Uncle a happy birthday. He turned 81(?) yesterday.
Yesterday was uninspiring, I guess. All of three days into daily journaling and it feels like today is the first day where I am having to force it. I've been trying to get into the habit of writing about the day before with my cup of coffee each morning.
Chrissy came over yesterday. She was going to a movie in the evening with a friend, but she hung out at Miranda during the day.
I got the oil changed in my car. The car had been making some odd noises and the oil change seemed to eliminate all of them. It's officially ready to go for our trip to Yosemite tomorrow. The guys are flying in in the early afternoon and we're hitting the road to head to the Pines Resort on Bass Lake.
There are a few articles making rounds in the WordPress world about MAGA hats and WordCamps. I spent some time thinking about it yesterday. Part of me wants to comment on it and part of me doesn't. The WordPress community is predominately left-leaning and that was one of the things that attracted me to it in the first place. As a community, a lot of time and effort goes into making WordPress as accessible as we possibly can. I find it mind-boggling that despite all that, some folks are arguing to disallow others from attending WordCamps based on their political preference. It seems like a major regression to me.
The stock market was tanking yesterday, so I picked up some Tesla and added to my Apple position. I think today I will put some more cash in Wealthfront. I have still been eyeing houses in Lake Tahoe, so I want to keep some cash around for a potential down payment.
I went to Sumika for dinner. I've done this a few times now and I think it's going to be a new tradition for me when I am in Los Altos. Walk to Sumika, sit at the bar, then proceed to drink an entire bottle of Sake and gorge on Yakitori, rice, and salad. It's an upscale restaurant so there is always an interesting crowd there. From early “I want to impress you” style dates, to high-power business meetings, to “crazy rich Asian” family dinners. It's one of my favorite places!
In all honesty, it was a pretty uneventful day. I continued to knock out errands and veg out after returning home from my road trip. Laundry was done. I believe I successfully troubleshot an issue with my Macbook Pro's charging cable. I bought fresh coffee and fresh beer. I got groceries, er cheese. I went to the grocery store and bought nothing but cheese. I got my car washed.
I don't regularly wash my car. I like it to have an armor of dust and grime. My coworkers, Brent and Anthony, are coming into town on Wednesday for a team retreat in Yosemite, so I wanted the car to look nice for them. It was also extremely dirty after driving around in the snow and grit.
The stock market began a pre-market tank that is continuing through today. Fears of the Coronavirus are starting to affect the market. It will probably be a good day tomorrow to move some money around and pounce on some deals. It's been a while since I've bought stocks. I've been saving cash with the idea that I would like to put a down payment on a house soon.
I found the house I want too! Although, I have never seen it in person. It's on Kingsbury Grade on the Nevada side of South Lake Tahoe. It's been over a year since I have had a home base outside my mom's house. After the Yosemite trip, I am planning to do at least one more week up in Tahoe to go check out the house and go snowboarding. After that, I am loosely planning to head to Europe and particularly Kyiv to visit my friend Sabrina.
We went my favorite restaurant last night for dinner, State of Mind. My friend Lars was there and so was my friend Michela. It was great to see them both. We watched basketball and drank a few beers. I fell asleep watching late seasons of The Office. It was a good day.
P.S. – The only photo I took yesterday was of the cat.
I'm back home. Well, back at Mom's house in Los Altos after spending a month on the road. It was a gorgeous day in the Bay Area yesterday. The cherry blossoms are in full bloom. The sky was sunny, it was warm, and a steady wind was blowing the blossoms like snow all over my shorts, tshirt, and sandals as I was unpacking my car.
If I had timed it better, I think I could have caught a Bernie rally in Nevada. I am not a fan of his policies regarding taxes, but I do appreciate (which I appreciated about Trump) the way the internet is affecting our democracy and seemingly giving people and grassroots political efforts much more impact. I would have definitely visited a rally if I had the chance because I bet it's one hell of a party and a good way to meet cool idealistic women. It would love to grab a sticker too!
Speaking of stickers, I put some new travel stickers on my cooler. It's become a tradition when I get home from a trip. Reviewing my sticker haul and placing a few either favorite or appropriately sized stickers on the ongoing Yeti collection. I chose my Yeti cooler as the home to my favorite stickers because the thing is built like a tank. It will probably outlive me and dressing it up with stickers, I hope, will make it less enticing to thieves.
Mom and I went to Casa Lupe for margaritas and Mexican food. We both caught a little buzz from the extra-strong ritas they serve. Jamie is still in a baking phase, so I came home and feasted on a variety of week-old cakes, frosting, chocolate ganache, and homemade jam; then immediately felt guilty about it.
I went from a pretty sedentary existence to hiking and snowboarding 5 days a week. I wasn't eating clean on my road trip, but I was sticking to mostly one meal per day. I was excited to come home and see the end-of-summer weight I put on had melted away. Instead, while I definitely feel more tone and muscular, I was only down a pound or two from where I started.
I'm continuing to be conscious of working to generate some new healthy routines. Journaling, being more active, and stretching are the three current focuses. Oh, also I want to take at least one picture each day to add to these journals.
I just finished up a month-long road trip; ~3300 miles, 6 states, 1 WordCamp, 2 national parks, 4 ski resorts, ~150,000 vertical feet of snowboarding, 4 hotels, 3 AirBNBs, 10 miles of hiking, 3 breweries, lots restaurants, lots of bars, and lots of coffee shops.
Driving is therapeutic for me. Similar to being in the shower, it's time where my mind can wander without the normal interruptions of life. I usually listen to music, but on the drive home I put on a few podcasts. I love music but it feels like escapism whereas podcasts seem a much more mentally stimulating way to pass time. Tim Ferriss' interview with Penn Jillette made the miles and the hours melt away and I was inspired by the conversation about journaling.
I've never written a daily journal before in my life, but I am planning to give it a try. When I was traveling through Asia and Europe, I kept a loose “journal” of quick notes about the places I'd been and the things I'd seen. Memories that I didn't want to lose to the fog of time. Those notes are something I cherish now and they genuinely help jog my memory and bring me back to those times. I love the idea of being able to read back one week, one year, or one decade ago and get a glimpse into my past and what my thoughts were on that day.
My plan is to publish journals on my blog, but they're really only intended to be read by me. I won't be doing extensive proofreading or much effort to make them cohesive or entertaining. If someone happens to stumble upon them, though, I am okay with that.
I woke up in Park City, Utah knowing exactly what was in store for the day. I wanted to get to Tahoe around dinner time to meet with my friend Katie. That was going to be about 8 hours of driving, so I needed to get on the road early. Katie is from Minnesota, but she was visiting Tahoe that week. I skipped my daily ritual of making and drinking a cup of coffee. I quickly packed up all my gear into the car and stopped by Starbucks to get a cup of coffee for the road. Starbucks isn't my favorite, but it's always consistent and good enough; you know what you're going to get.
A few days earlier, I drove into Salt Lake City to see a Murder by Death show. It was dark when I was driving, so I didn't get to see any of the landscape, but the city and the lights were impressively sprawling when I came out of the mountains. SLC is a city surrounded by beautiful, snow-capped mountains and I was taken back by the scenery when I drove down during the daytime. There was a surprising amount of smog that created a stark contrast between the clear view of the mountains and the haze encompassing the city below. It looked like an inversion system was preventing the smog from rising and locking it in the valley between the peaks.
Utah had a subtle but noticeable conservative and traditional vibe to it. Lots of families. Lots of clean-cut blonde humans. While I enjoyed my time there very much, I couldn't help feeling out of place. I was excited to leave the state.
I drove past Salt Lake(?) and through what seemed like salt flats for several hours before arriving at the Nevada/Utah state line. While state borders are totally arbitrary, it was like the landscape immediately changed from salty, hazy, mountainous terrain to the dry, high-desert landscape that is synonymous in my mind with Nevada.
I started smoking a bit on my trip and I was tempted throughout the Nevada leg of the journey to pop into a dispensary and see what they had. I didn't end up stopping until I reached Fernley, NV. My uncle, aunt, cousin, and their extended family lives in Fernley. I'd been there before so it was familiar and easy to navigate. I didn't realize the route would take me through there otherwise I would have reached out to all of them ahead of time.
I stopped by the casino where my uncle works and, by chance, happened to catch him there. We chatted for a bit. He was quite surprised to see me out of the blue. It was great to see him and, after a quick visit, I got back on the road for Tahoe.
I had a bit of time to kill, so I stopped by Alibi brewery's new taproom in Incline Village. After a salmon toast and a pint, I picked up some Contradiction cans and started heading to meet Katie. We had another drink and watched a two-man string band play a few songs. One of the guys was playing bass on a pedalboard at his feet while singing and playing the guitar; it was impressive!
I met and chatted with Katie's friends and left them to enjoy their dinner while I knocked out the last couple of hours of driving. Passing through Auburn is always exciting since I was born there. The drive from Tahoe to Sacramento felt like it went faster than I expected, but the drive from around Davis back to the Bay felt like it was dragging on.
Mom was excited to see me when I got home. The cats took a few minutes to remember who I was, but they started following me through the house as I unloaded the car once they remembered. Jamie got home a few minutes after I got in the door. We chatted and quickly caught up then started heading to bed.
It was nice being able to comfortably walk outside in shorts and a tee-shirt. The day started at 7000 feet of elevation and single-digit temperatures and ended at sea level and a comfortable mid-sixty-degrees. As I started to fall asleep, I started to get excited about waking up and having my regular cup of coffee: fresh-ground Philtered Soul out of the Aeropress and a dash of real cream.
After spending a few days exploring Washington State, I continued north to Fairbanks, Alaska. I'm a native Californian and, prior to this trip, could count on one hand the number of times I'd seen it snowing. Visiting Alaska was a chance to break out of my temperature comfort zone, learn how to drive in the snow, and experience the Alaskan culture and landscape which was lauded as totally unique to the lower 48's. I was excited to explore in Alaska, but my biggest motivator for the trip was a chance to see the Northern Lights!
Earlier in the year, I visited Iceland and, while in the right location, didn't get a chance to see any aurora activity. After being so close and missing, it decided I would have to make another attempt as soon as I could.
I go back and forth between over-preparing and winging it when it comes to travel. For this trip, I did a fair amount of research and planning ahead of time. I wanted to stay somewhere slightly outside of the city so I could avoid light pollution and see the Northern Lights from where I stayed. That meant I needed to rent an AWD vehicle as opposed to relying on taxis (Lyft/Uber were just starting to operate in Fairbanks at the time of writing this and not 100% reliable).
I joined and started following a Fairbanks, Alaska Facebook group and subreddit. Lots of potential travelers have posted questions, so there was a wealth of helpful information. I rented a vehicle through one of the airport-based rental companies and I grabbed an Airbnb that was a few miles outside of town. In hindsight, I would have tried to find an Airbnb that was on the other side of the ridge as I didn't have a great view of the northern horizon.
Layering combined with really warm socks and a beanie+hood seemed to do the trick. Granted, I tend to run warm and, by Fairbanks standards, -6 isn't all that cold. If it were much colder, a pair of insulated boots and a more significant jacket probably would have been necessary.
First time driving in snow
I feel a little silly that, at 33 years old, I'd never driven in snow before. It was a little bit nerve wracking at first but, once I got comfortable, it was actually pretty fun. There was about a half foot of snow on the ground when I got into town.
Driving in the actual snow was a lot easier than driving a few days later when the snow melted and the roads iced up. To be honest, it reminded me a lot of the ice levels in Mario Kart. Once I made that connection, things got a lot easier. Anticipate the slide and hope your wheels catch when they need to.
I love tasting local flavors when I travel, so I did some research about Alaskan game meat. Restaurants can't serve “wild” meat like moose or bear, so I made a post in the Fairbanks Facebook Group offering to bring wine and snacks if any hunters wanted to invite me over for dinner. Unfortunately, there were no takers.
In a stroke of good luck, I was drinking and chatting with a few locals and mentioned I was scoping out the local dive bar scene. One of them suggested The Mecca which was a well-known hangout spot for Native Alaskans. I popped by and, again, got to chatting with a few of the regulars there. They suggested heading to the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center where there was a Gwich’in Fiddle Dance and potluck!
At the potluck, I got to try some moose stew and it was delicious! To be honest, the flavor of the meat was hard to distinguish from the rest of the stew, but it was a nice warm meal on a chilly evening and a check off the Alaskan experience list.
Chena Hot Springs
Just about everyone I talked to recommended making a visit out to Chena Hot Springs. It's about 60 miles outside of town through some serene and gorgeous Alaskan wilderness. I was told to keep an eye peeled when driving over bridges as the creeks and rivers are like highways for all the wildlife. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of a moose or a bear, but alas I didn't see any. I did see several mushers with their dog teams, though!
The road to Chena was relatively straight and flat, well maintained, and frequently travelled, although I understand it can get very slick and treacherous during winter storms. After arriving I grabbed lunch and a brew at their restaurant. I bought a sticker to add to my collection and then went exploring. They offered dog sled tours, but I found it way more fun to visit with all the dogs in their kennels. It's a great spot for animal lovers—they also have reindeer! After playing with the pups, I took a little hike through the surrounding valley.
After an hour or so of hiking in the cold, I popped into the hot springs to warm up. It was a sensational experience! The springs were surrounded by colorful lights that illuminated the steam and made for a super peaceful experience. It was below freezing out, but I only noticed when my hair would freeze up from being out of the warm water for too long.
Alaskan History Museum
Sometimes I wish I were more interested in museums and culture and stuff like that. Checking out the history museum was a bit of a novelty for me, but I had a half day to kill and it was close by.
That said, it was pretty sweet! The building was totally photogenic and there were some really impressive exhibits. One stand out was the giant grizzly bear taxidermy! I didn't appreciate how big grizzly's could get until I got to walk up face to face with this one.
Another interesting one was The Place Where you go to Listen, a “musical ecosystem [that] gives voice to the rhythms of daylight and darkness, the phases of the moon, the seismic vibrations of the earth, and the dance of the aurora borealis.” Pretty psychedelic!
I was excited to visit Alaska for more reasons than just seeing the Northern Lights, but it was definitely #1 on my wish list. After staying up late each night and waking up early each morning, it was my last night in AK and my last chance at seeing the lights.
It was overcast the whole day, but there was a window of clear skies predicted from 2-4 am. The clouds were so thick I was skeptical it would happen. The aurora predictions weren't great either, but they were better than the previous two days; a 17% chance. The trip had been amazing and I wasn't discouraged that I hadn't seen the auroras, but I was already thinking about how and when to make another trek north. 🙂
I was sitting in the car reading a book, under a dome of thick clouds, and noticed a strange glow peeking through. I couldn't tell if it was just the sky or the moonlight shining through the clouds. I whipped out the camera, took a long exposure and, sure enough, it was green! I saw the lights! I was super jazzed at that point just to see a faint green glow poking through the haze.
Then, the clouds started to clear and the real show started up! I've never seen anything like it. There were the most gorgeous natural gradients of all sorts of colors and a wild random dancing and fluttering of the lights.
Two other tourists showed up and we got to share our overwhelming awe of what was going on around us. The peak lasted almost an hour. I was running around in 6 inches of snow all night and, by the end, I couldn't feel a single toe, but I was totally unbothered. I couldn't have asked for a better way to cap off this life-changing adventure!
After countless grueling trips up fifty-five stairs, lugging boxes and gear, I'm completely moved out of my cottage. It's bittersweet.
For the last five years, I've lived and worked from a spectacularly beautiful spot in the Santa Cruz Mountains with a sweeping view of the Lexington Reservoir. I've been immersed in nature and regularly watched the deer, turkeys, bald eagles, foxes, coyotes, bobcats, beavers, snakes, and all sorts of other critters from my windows. I could walk out the door and be steps away from fishing, hiking, and mountain biking. Stumbling on that little lakeside cottage was one of the luckiest moments of my life, but it's time to say goodbye.
With windows and doors wide open it was maybe 350 square feet, and I managed to utilize every nook and corner. I had HDMI, Ethernet, TRS, power, and various other cables neatly snaking through, all well-managed and more-or-less hidden from sight. I had some amazing and arguably tasteful artwork that was given to me and created by my great friends on display. I had a full-fledged media studio capable of producing just about any sort of digital content imaginable. I had a “dining” table that served as a staging ground for fishing, biking, camping, camera, and festie gear.
It was the best of both worlds. A quiet and peaceful mountain cottage, with blazing fast internet and connectivity, that was only 10 minutes from bougie restaurants and civilization. It was a damn good home.
I heard something recently about the importance of one's room or workspace. Building and designing a room forces you to think about the purpose of that room. I lived and worked from my “room” and put a tremendous amount of thought and care into dialing it in to near perfection. It was an ongoing existential exercise. What's important to me? How do I want to spend my life's time? What do I want to produce? What do I need close by to be the most satisfied, content, and productive with my life?
My plan for 2019 is to violently break out of that meticulously curated comfort zone. Thanks to the overwhelming generosity and flexibility of my family, I'm now a proper boomerang millennial! They've graciously cleared some space for me to store my gear at their house and I am planning to experiment with a nomadic existence in 2019 and beyond! Full-time traveling, both stateside and abroad.
I'm in a bizarre and fortunate place right now where I have absolutely nothing connecting me to any particular spot on this planet. So to me, the logical thing to do to take advantage of that circumstance is to wander. I'm hoping to spend a few weeks or months here and a few weeks or months there. I'm almost definitely going to spend some time in Europe, SE Asia, Japan, and South America. I'm hoping to visit India. I'm thinking about an extended cross-country road trip around springtime. Maybe I'll do a tour! The only definitive plan right now is rambling.
So, if you need a travel buddy let me know where in the world to find you and I'll do my best to be there! Thanks to everyone that inspired this life change and helped make it a reality. Goodbye, house. Thanks for all the good times.