On Christmas Day, Chelsea and I talked about 2015 during a walk along the sea cliffs of Santa Cruz. Instead of throwing out new adventures and aspirations, we studied the rear view mirror.
We are currently landed in Santa Cruz enjoying the sunshine and excellent local trails. This stillness affords reflection on what we’ve done, seen, and experienced this past year. (To see what we’re up to anytime, check out a new page I added, inspired by Derek Siver’s movement.)
Sitting down to write after a few weeks off, I broke things down into four categories:
- Fabulous Moments
- What Went Well
- Things to Improve
- What I’m Excited About
This is also a chance to share some of my favorite photos from 2015. Let’s begin with the fun!
Exploring Half Moon Caye in Belize
We kicked off 2015 by snorkeling and kayaking in Belize with Chelsea’s family. With warm blue water, incredible birds, and a friendly group of other travelers, (luxury) camping on this tiny island was an unforgettable trip.
Mountain biking and building community in Utah
I can’t get enough of this red rock playground. I certainly mountain biked my legs off, yet my April trip through Utah was also about community.
I met up with half a dozen friends from Oregon, California, and Colorado, crossed paths with various blog readers, and built a friendship with the Keys to Freeze crew. There is nothing like spending time in nature with great people!
Cycle touring Europe
A highlight of 2015! If you are into cycle touring and haven’t experienced the car-free bike networks throughout western Europe, I can’t recommend it enough.
Over 3.5 months, we biked 2,500 miles through 13 countries, taking plenty of time to relax and explore along the way. Experiences like volunteering to help refugees in Salzburg, pedaling with buddies in Croatia, and exploring the deep history of the continent only whet my appetite for Europe.
We finished pedaling in Prague, a special place for me and Chelsea since we met there nine years ago for our first date. It was a treat to return to the romantic Czech Republic and walk down the cobbled, uneven streets of memory lane.
Road tripping with my dad
I’ve wanted to take my dad on a trip for years. As fall colors faded and October wrapped up, we finally did it, rolling out in the Sprinter van to explore Montana for a couple weeks.
Things That Went Well
A stronger relationship with Chelsea
People ask us how we tolerate so much time together. (“I’d go nuts being around my husband all the time.”) While we have some tips, the summary is that long-term travel brings us closer together because it requires mutual support.
If there’s an issue on a bike tour, we’re the only two there to get through it – together. We can’t just sweep arguments away to be dealt with another day. Handling it immediately removes the potential for a tiny fight to fester and become gangrenous. Two years traveling together has bonded us more than ever.
Living a vegan lifestyle was easy
Shifting to 100% plant-based in 2013 felt like a big change. These days, it’s both easy to navigate and authentic to who we are.
We’ve traveled through 16 countries, eating amazing food and encountering great support along the way, all while living true to our values. As an added bonus, the selection of vegan options for yogurt, meat, cheese, milk and beyond continues to expand. (You have to try Miyoko’s off-the-hook vegan cheeses.)
If you’d like to try a month-long vegan adventure in the new year, Veganuary is a great free resource and community.
Lots of reading
Immersing myself in a book remains one of my favorite pastimes, and I’m happy to say I read more in 2015 than in any other year. Picking up a book is like taking a class with an expert for free (via the library) or for the bargain rate of a $10 ebook.
Business more streamlined than ever
This year marked the first in nearly a decade where I didn’t work directly with clients. While less profitable overall, managing my business instead of client expectations is both less stressful and frees my time to pursue other passions.
I’m still involved on a daily basis, but my mental energy isn’t drained at the end of the day. It was scary letting go of the day-to-day interactions with clients, but remains one of my best decisions. To those of you deliberating over hiring someone, I say do it.
Things to Improve
Less pressure on myself to constantly explore
The flexibility and openness of our lives sometimes creates a compulsion in me to string adventures together the way we did in 2014. While I’m (usually) aware of this, I still find it hard to be content just being instead of constantly doing. In February and March, I struggled to feel centered in Portland and mostly dreamed of leaving again.
Constant motion makes for an interesting life, but eventually it decreases my appreciation for an activity or location. This is not a good thing. While the list of places I want to explore is long, I don’t have to visit them all in the next two years!
The other downside of constant motion is that routines are tougher to uphold. Practicing the guitar or finding space for yoga is tougher (my tight hip flexors will attest to that). Focused time for deep work doesn’t just materialize; it must be a priority. Pausing in one place provides the platform for all of that.
This coming year, I want to embrace pauses as creative periods and time to reconnect with friends and the routine of a grounded life. Hopefully we can then launch into new experiences with vigor and energy.
I’ve consistently written here, and in 2016 I’m also aiming to write two articles per month for outside publication. This means I need to write more, a challenge I’m excited to take.
What I’m Excited About
More videos and interviews with people we meet
My primary desire is to tell better stories. Video is a perfect way to do that, and I’m looking forward to making more of them in 2016 and sharing them with you.
More music and art
No, not just Macklemore at full blast in the van. (Been awhile since we did that.) Guitar! I’m a few weeks into online lessons to finally crack through the intermediate-level swamp I’ve been mired in for ten years.
Chelsea is digging into watercolor pencils and is far too good already. I may give it a whirl, but I sure as hell am not sharing the result here. I respect you more than that.
Here’s to looking back and congratulating ourselves on a year well-lived. For 2016, Neil Gaiman says it well:
I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.
To everyone out there, thanks for sharing this journey with us, both on the road and on the web. I hope 2016 is full of adventure, growth, and creativity.
Happy New Year!