Visiting Fairbanks, Alaska for the Aurora Borealis

November 13th-19th, 2018

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.

Cold Weather Prep

I’ve been slowly accumulating cold-weather gear. I brought my waterproof hiking shoes, warm wool socks, a few long-sleeve base layers, a hoodie, scarf, synthetic down puff jacket, and a beanie. I also added a set of long johns to the mix for this trip. It got as low as -6°F and I didn’t have any trouble staying warm.

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.

Moose meat

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!

Northern Lights

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!

One chapter ends and a new one begins. A eulogy to my home in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

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.


WordCamp Seattle, Pike Place Market, & San Juan Island

November 9th-13th, 2018

During early 2018, I was experimenting with video production and vlogging. I think the proliferation of video as a communication medium is drastically changing the world, and my goal was to learn more about the video medium, editing, and filming. I had a blast doing this, but producing a weekly vlog was very time consuming and I eventually reached a bit of a learning plateau.

One of my favorite parts about vlogging was the opportunity to document memories and adventures from my travels. I’m hoping to continue this via a different medium, long-form, multimedia-rich blogging and journaling…

Flying over California, through a thick haze, one day after the Camp Fire begins

Two days before leaving on this trip, a high fire danger warning starting making rounds through my neighborhood Facebook group. California had yet to see any significant rainfall and strong winds coupled with low humidity were in the forecast.

Early the next day, a friend from Northern California posted a foreboding message about a fast-moving wildfire kicking up in the mountains near Chico. Sure enough, it ended up being the Camp Fire which ravaged the town of Paradise, killing dozens and leaving a trail of ashes in it’s wake of destruction.

Roughly twenty-four hours later, I boarded a plane and flew over what would become the most deadly and devastating fire in California history. Flying over the Camp Fire smoke was like rubbernecking a car wreck on the highway. I couldn’t take my eyes away from the window and the apocalyptic haze blanketing the upper half of my home state. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t recognize this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness, from above, the sheer magnitude of nature’s most destructive element.

Eating around Seattle Washington & Pike Place Market

TL;DR: Radiator Whiskey, Jack’s Fish Spot, and Pasta Casalinga were my “would go again” spots for food and drink.

I’d never been to Seattle and it was near the top of my US city bucket list. I was excited about fresh seafood, clear weather, and the opportunity to see a few good friends from the area. After ditching my bag at the hotel, I walked over to Pike Place Market for some grub. I had a chowder craving and was directed towards Pike Place Chowder.

I laughed under my breath as I followed the novelty-long line, trying to make my way to the end. When I finally found it, I noticed Jack’s Fish Spot across the way with some fantastic looking live Dungeness crabs out front. I opted to grab a chowder at and it was choice!

Pro Tip: Skip the line at Pike Place Chowder and pop by Jack’s Fish Spot instead.

I kept exploring the market. It was teeming with tourists and locals alike. All sorts of sights and smells. There was a spectacular florist and many people were carrying lovely flower bouquets. I grabbed a pasta dish at Pasta Casalinga and a spirit-forward whiskey cocktail at Radiator Whiskey. I’d highly recommend anyone to do the same.

WordCamp Seattle 2018

I used to poke fun at people who went to lots of WordCamps. I’d joke about how they got any work done; now I am one of those people. At the time, I didn’t realize how isolating remote work can be. Camps are an opportunity to get out from behind the computer screen and meet with the people we interact with daily face-to-face.

WordCamp Seattle was an amazing camp thanks, no doubt, to the stellar organizing team, volunteers, speakers, and everyone that attended. I spent most of my time in the “hallway track” chit-chatting, but I did manage to squeeze in a few sessions.

One of my favorites was Chris Tiezel’s session about data responsibility. The talk was about the responsibility developers have to consider unintended consequences of their work. One example explained how the fitness tracking application, Strava, accidentally disclosed the location of a secret military base in the Middle East due to base personnel using Strava and their data subsequently being published on Strava’s Global Heatmap.

My new favorite WordCamp story happened after a slightly-rowdy group dinner. We were at an Italian restaurant on a third floor. On our way out, we saw, through a window, flashing lights and tons of people dancing in the building across the way. It looked like a perfect “next spot” for our group to keep the party going.

We made our way over and discovered the party was happening on the third floor of a hotel. I know how to play the game, but I’ve never been good at sneaking into places. Not knowing how to make our way from the lobby to the party upstairs, I walked into the hotel lobby like I owned the place, casually walked up to the concierge and said something this…

“Hi there. We met some new friends at the bar earlier and they mentioned they were hosting a party here. We didn’t catch their name, but they invited us to join them and I was wondering if you could please point us in the right direction?”

The woman gave me a long and suspicious look. With a raised eyebrow, she informed me that the only “party” happening that evening was a high school dance. Whoops! I quickly told her we must have the wrong place and gave the “abort mission” gesture to the rest of the group. We scurried outside, laughed, and looked back up towards the “party” to see, sure enough, they were all teenagers! We decided to call it an evening and go our separate ways, but, around this time, we noticed we were missing one from our group.

We did our best to find our friend, but we couldn’t contact him. His colleague assured us he would be okay, so we left it at that. The next day, we found out he had snuck off to the use the restroom in the hotel lobby. He came out to find we were all gone and assumed we’d gone upstairs. Naturally, he made his way up to the party and did a few dances before he realized we weren’t there and he was the oldest person in the room beside a few chaperones.

An epic Airbnb in Anacortes & San Juan Islands

The next stop on my itinerary was a visit with my grandparents who live on an island in the San Juan Island chain. I decided to stay on the mainland in Anacortes, then wake up early and take a ferry out for a day trip to the island.

The drive from Seattle to Anacortes took about two hours and I stopped by Deception Pass State Park on the way up. I was hoping to find some hiking, but Deception Pass was more of a drive-through, enjoy-the-view sort of park.

My Grandma warned me that Anacortes wasn’t her favorite place to spend a night, so I didn’t expect to find anything spectacular in terms of motels and lodging. As I was browsing Airbnb, I found a stunning in-law cottage on a bluff directly above the Pacific Ocean. Not only did the view look amazing, but the price was right also!

What I found when I got there was by far and away the nicest Airbnb I’ve ever stayed at. The view of the ocean and the islands were far better than the pictures led on. The cottage was quaint and tastefully furnished. The host even left a plate of fresh-baked goodies for me to enjoy during my stay. I arrived right before the sunset and took some pictures of hummingbirds dancing around a feeder with a west coast ocean sunset in the background.

That evening, I found a seafood restaurant and went to check out the local dive bar scene. I wasn’t disappointed. I wound up at the Brown Lantern Ale House for a few pints, then went in for an early night so I could wake up the next day.

The last time I’d been on San Juan Island I was eight years old. At that age, I wasn’t allowed to roam around without supervision but, because it was a small town on an island, I had free reign to go wherever I pleased. The only rule I was to follow was to stay out of the ocean…

I quickly made friends with a few local kids. We were playing around on the beach and found a huge piece of styrofoam that presumably drifted in from the ocean. The styrofoam was shaped like a raft and it certainly appeared seaworthy. Naturally, I launched the vessel out for her maiden voyage into the surf. As it turned out, it was not seaworthy. It quickly capsized and I wound up in the one place I wasn’t supposed to be, the ocean. My grandparents were not amused.

Visiting them 20 years later was a much different experience. I rode the ferry on to the island and was greeted with beautiful weather and my grandpa waiting to pick me up. Apart from the great company, the highlights of the visit were culinary. We popped into the San Juan Brewery for lunch and a drink. Two thumbs up! Later, my Grandma, who is a phenomenal cook, put together a fantastic dinner of Dungeness Crab and salad.

My last stop in Washington was back in Seattle where I met with a good friend and fellow traveler for lunch. She is an avid backpacker, climber, and outdoors-woman and I always enjoy hearing tales of her adventures. After a Cubano sandwich and some story trading, I headed back to the airport to continue to the next leg of my journey, Alaska!

Thórsmörk Volcano Huts – Iceland part 2

If you like watching people hiking, you’re going to love this one! Our Iceland trip continues at the Volcano Huts. We climb mountains and built a solid bonfire. We drank coffee and ate some amazing food.

I did a lot of filming out there, so I am going to do a 3rd Iceland video eventually. This one is really all about the Geek Adventures trip. Somewhat related: I have been listening to a bunch of Icelandic music recently for the vlog and they make some really good tunes out there.

Thanks a ton to everyone that came out and made this trip so much fun! 🙂

Iceland Part 1 – Chasing Waterfalls and Driving into Rivers

My European adventure continues this week in the land of ice!

I stocked up on party supplies in the airport. Meet my roommate. We go on an epic adventure to see the edge of the North American tectonic plate, geysers, waterfalls, cows, a secret lagoon (it wasn’t very secret afterall), and craters.

On day 2, we all load up into a bus and drive it straight into a river. What could go wrong, right?

London – Eating Blood and WordCamp London

I missed two weeks of posting vlogs, but I am back! I didn’t want to spend any of my travel time editing. Sorry.

For this week, Justin and I hit London for some sightseeing adventures and WordCamp London. We explored on the tube, had a few nice dinners, took a ride on the London Eye, ate black pudding, and capped it all off with a solid visit to WordCamp London where we got to meet a bunch of the U.K.-based Beaver Builder crew.

As my good friend once said, there’s nothing quite like partying hard with new friends in a new country and we had ample opportunity for that. Cheers, London! You sure showed a couple of Yankee wankers a proper time.

Flying drones and catching fish – Enjoying the California spring

This week, I was totally focused on packing and prepping for my London/Iceland trip so the vlog isn’t quite as action-packed as normal. I found a song that I really like about the springtime, so I did a spring-themed day and went fishing and droning. I wanted to get warmed up with the drone since I am taking it to Iceland.

It was going to be a REALLY slow week for the vlog, but then my plane got delayed for hours in LA. I took an impromptu beach visit, went swimming, then finished up the edit for this week on the plane!

I might be off a day or two on my posting days, but I should have a London and an Iceland vlog out over the next few weeks. Wish me luck!

Is Boise the BEST city EVER – Treefort Music Fest 2018

Boise was on my travel bucket list for the last year and I FINALLY made it out there. It was a super spontaneous, last-minute trip. I bought a one-way ticket ~12 hours before take off and I am so glad I did!

The Treefort Music Fest was awesome! I saw George Clinton and I saw a TON of bands and music that I hadn’t heard of before.

The food was great. The tech portion of the festival was fun. The beer was cold. The music was epic. I got to see it snow and wear shorts+tshirt on the same weekend. Not too shabby, Boise. Not too shabby at all!

Oh, and everyone I met out there was SO nice. You guys are beautiful.

Miami Part 2 – WordCamp Miami 2018

My Miami adventure continues with the work portion of the trip. WordCamp Miami 2018 was a blast. Over 1000 people attended the event. The weather was phenomenal. The team of volunteers that organized the camp did an amazing job. Thanks, guys.

Once I finally peeled myself away from the beach, I went on a few adventures into town. I saw some old friends and made some new ones. Smoked a cigar and had an all-around excellent time.

I can definitely see making WordCamp Miami one of my annuals. I am still kicking myself for the crummy focus job on the Chicago sunset timelapse, but I have a feeling I will redeem myself next week…

Miami — South Beach Spring Break MADNESS!

My original thinking was that I would come out to WordCamp Miami 2018 a bit early and have a relaxing beach to set up and do some work.

I had no idea my trip was smack in the middle of spring break. This trip brought me back to 90s MTV spring break specials. One of my favorite overheard quotes was, “I’ve never seen more bare asses in my life.” It’s true!

Miami was a beautiful city. Great people. Great food. Lots of new flavors, sights, and sounds. In part one, I am covering the “work-cation” part of the trip. Next week, I am going to share my time at WordCamp.