2015: A Year in Review

Sunset in Morro Bay, California

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:

  1. Fabulous Moments
  2. What Went Well
  3. Things to Improve
  4. 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!

Fabulous Moments

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.

Sunrise on Half Moon Caye

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!

Porcupine Rim above Moab

Porcupine Rim in Moab

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.

Loving the views on the north side of the Slovenian Alps.

Loving the views on the north side of the Slovenian Alps.

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.

A gondola glides through the canals of Venice.

A gondola glides through the canals of Venice.

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.

We cycled in Glacier and watched geysers in Yellowstone, then explored old mining towns. It was a powerfully bonding trip.

Exploring the east side of Glacier National Park.

Exploring the east side of Glacier National Park.

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.

Lobbying with the Humane Society of the US in Salem, Oregon.

Lobbying with the Humane Society of the U.S. in Salem, Oregon.

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.

Pausing for a moment in Bryce Canyon

My friend Reese pauses for a moment in Bryce Canyon

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.

Columbia River Gorge in the fog

Relaxing with a view of the Columbia River Gorge at sunset.

Writing more

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

Until recently, I never seriously considered pursuing video. It seemed outside my sphere – photography and writing were enough. After creating a few videos, however, I’m hooked.

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.

Our buddy Stevie from and her friend.

A perfect day in Yosemite at Vernal Falls with our friend Stevie from

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!

Grinning it up in Death Valley.

Escaping to Half Moon Caye in Belize

Sunrise on Half Moon Caye

Foreigners can stack up like pancakes in tiny Belize, which is less than 70 miles wide. Some hot spots felt like a factory designed to funnel sunburned tourists into attractions; others were remote, serene, and wonderful. We squeezed through caves in water up to our necks (one with full skeleton in it), canoed on rivers with orange iguanas eyeing us, ziplined (as tourists love to do), and generally jumped headfirst into eco-tourism land. It was great fun.

But for me, exploring nature is best done away from crowds, and that’s where Half Moon Caye shines. A tiny speck of an island, it lies 60 miles off the coast of Belize. Leaving the reggae jams of the coast behind (Caribbean influence is strong in Belize), a 2.5 hour boat ride ended with waving palm trees beckoning us to the sandy beach in the reef system of Lighthouse Atoll.

Hammock in the wind on Half Moon Caye

You can kick off the shore directly into a swirl of tropical fish, nurse sharks, barracuda, octopus, and turtles. From the hammock in front of our tent, the clear green Caribbean stretched out into the distance, waves rumbling in. Frigate birds soared overhead, stenciled into the sky. The serenade of a conch shell announced meals three times a day. Yep, I’m talking about a real, off-the-grid island adventure.

And the best part? No crowds. Thanks to oversight by the local Audubon Society, only 20 people at a time visit Half Moon Caye. It’s a remote paradise at the intersection of land and sky, Belize and the Caribbean. Red-footed boobies and the frigate birds nest together by the dozens, turtles lay their eggs on the beach, and hundreds of hermit crabs etch paths into the sand. As a German guy on the trip said, “I’ve never felt this close to nature.”

This frigate bird barfed up food for its juvenile kiddo, then flapped off to search for more grub.

This frigate bird regurgitated food for its juvenile kiddo, then flapped off to search for more grub.

Coordinated by fantastic guides, days began with sunrise yoga on the beach and then morphed into snorkeling, bird watching and kayaking the reef, plus a night snorkel where I saw my first sparks of bio-luminescence. Giant buffet meals were gobbled up and the travelers gelled into a group of friends. Under a full moon, we chatted nightly until the power went out, then started adventures anew in the morning for four luxurious days.

Full moon on Half Moon Caye

If there was any disappointment with the trip, it was the stark reality that you can’t escape the effects of civilization. Even hours off the coast, snorkeling around in a World Heritage Site called the Blue Hole (a collapsed cavern 1000 ft wide and 450 deep), plastic trash occasionally floated by. A bottle cap here, a wrapper there. It was easy to mistake remnants of plastic for a jellyfish, and I understood how a turtle might snap it up and choke on trash. A poignant reminder all of us leave a footprint that affects the entire world.

The famous Blue Hole. (Photo from Wikipedia.)

The famous Blue Hole. (Photo from Wikipedia.)

On the shores of the island, we launched a beach cleanup near the nesting area for the bird colony. Picking up toothbrushes, plastic utensils and straws, we hoovered up remnants of a society too comfortable with single-use disposables and packaging. Miles from industry or any big cities, the ocean delivered garbage from afar. Seeing this steeled our resolve to continue eliminating that kind of plastic from our lives. The simple stuff can make a difference – even while traveling, we carry reusable water bottles, refuse straws at restaurants, and bring our own take-home container to restaurants (Styrofoam is the worst!). It’s a drop of effort in a huge ocean of trash, but big movements start small.

A red-footed booby keeps her egg warm. (Photo credit Chelsea.)

A red-footed booby keeps her egg warm. (Photo credit Chelsea.)

Gents, don't try this at home! The frigate birds inflate a big air sac in their neck to attract the ladies. It can take up to 20 minutes to puff up to full size. (Photo credit Chelsea.)

Gents, don’t try this at home! The frigate birds inflate a big air sac in their neck to attract the ladies. It can take up to 20 minutes to puff up to full size. (Photo credit Chelsea.)

Our final morning, we headed back. Eyelids heavy from the drone of the boat engines, most of us dozed. Then someone shouted, “DOLPHINS!” At first, it was actually just a few short-finned pilot whales, blunt noses poking out of the water. Then came the dolphins, dozens of them, whisking through the waves. At least 50 stuck with the boat for a half hour, jumping high, zooming under the boat and shooting into the air on the other side. Some did full flips, others triple barrel rolls. No footage entirely captures the moment as they surrounded the boat, but I briefly tried (click here for YouTube video) before simply enjoying the display of nature’s awesomeness. A stunning experience and a fireworks finale to our trip.

Escaping to the remote magic of Half Moon Caye was hands-down one of the finest travel adventures I’ve had. Such a perfect place to enjoy nature – I can’t recommend this experience highly enough. Skip the craziness of Caye Caulker and San Pedro and head to the island for a trip you’ll never forget.

Here’s to your next adventure! More photos below too.


P.S. A great organization that we support is 5 Gyres. They conduct research and communicate about the global impact of plastic pollution. Check out their work, they kick butt!

P.P.S. You may have noticed a lack of underwater photos. Chalk that one up to me dropping a camera for the first time ever. Unfortunately, it wasn’t even mine – sorry, bro-in-law’s roommate. RIP, GoPro…I hope someone finds you on the bottom of the river in that cave. I’m still glad I swam through it.

Beached coral on the island.

Beached coral on the island.

A hermit crab traces a path through the sand.

A hermit crab traces a path through the sand.

The ever-vigilant frigate birds holding position at sunrise.

The ever-vigilant frigate birds holding position at sunrise.

Our fellow travelers and a couple of guides.

Our fellow travelers and a couple of guides.

Bottle caps show up in the stomachs of birds that skim the surface of the water to feed.

Bottle caps show up in the stomachs of birds that skim the surface of the water to feed.

Me, Chelsea, and her parents scouring the beach for trash. Not pictured is the fantastic Leilah from Toronto, who also helped out.

Me, Chelsea, and her parents scouring the beach for trash. Not pictured is the fantastic Leilah from Toronto, who also helped out.