Many people around the world have experienced a tumultuous year in 2016. One of the most brutal years of the Syrian Civil War were met with scores of refugees overwhelming Europe and facilitating a climate of anti-immigrant rhetoric and political instability with Brexit and the election of Donald Trump.
Politics aside, Westerners mourned the loss of countless beloved celebrities from behind their computer screens as musicians such as Prince and David Bowie were matched by the more recent deaths of actresses Carrie Fisher and her mother Debbie Reynolds.
While the overall 2016 was perpetually negative, I managed to travel widely with personal interruptions like losing my job and getting in a car accident that costed the life of my Subaru and caused inflammation in my neck.
Still, despite the turbulence in my own life and the chaos in the world, I went to Thailand, China, Mexico, Colorado, San Francisco, Joshua Tree, and Yosemite all in the same year.
I started the year off with a lull in my travel schedule. I had a consuming job and a full-time University schedule that demanded I did nothing except hate my life and refrain from adequate sleep. It was difficult to keep me in one place, though. I took a solo trip to Yosemite for a short weekend. I drove up overnight, managed to drive up Glacier Point Road because it was late March and the road had just opened. I stargazed above the valley at Glacier Point and felt an encompassing sense of serenity, solace that had my anxiety melting away. I slept in my car and hiked the four mile loop the next day, returning home after a short but much-needed trip.
Then, before I knew it was spring break and I headed to Colorado to see my dad. I consider the state my second home even though I’ve only been there five times. My dad has lived there for a while now and I get to explore the state whenever I go. It was still snowy in Aspen even though it was April so I didn’t get to hike around Maroon Bells. Even still, I got to catch some seclusion in Aspen, hike in the snow in Rocky Mountain National Park, and braved the slippery-steep trail up to Hanging Lake. Capping it all off with fusion ramen, Biker Jim’s gourmet dogs, some authentic papusas, the Denver Museum of Contemporary art, and plenty of local craft beer, I was a happy camper once again, appeased to wait until my trip to Thailand and Shanghai, China.
But, life, as it does, got in the way. The day before I left Colorado I got texted by my boss telling me I wouldn’t have a job much longer because they were selling the company. Feeling pretty bummed, I decided to make a negative thing positive. I chose to take way too many units and graduate a quarter early from UCI. When I finished school, I was a totally free man, ready to take in the culture and culinary delights of Asia. But, first I decided to take a trip to see my best friends in San Francisco.
Many of my oldest friends had moved to San Francisco and I missed them dearly. I took the Megabus up there because I had no money and all the time in the world. Going up was flawless, coming back down we lost a tire, making it a 16 hour bus ride. But, while I was in the gloomy city, my friends and I hiked in the Muir woods, drank a bunch of booze, went to the Musuem of Modern Art, drank Blue Bottle Coffee, ate tons of food, and pretty much had an awesome time. I went home with a light heart, ready for another adventure after a few weeks sitting around at home with no job and nothing else to do. Time dwindled as I waited patiently for the trip I had been longing for all year.
My girlfriend Thyme and I started our trip in Shanghai, exploring the vast sprawling city with our senses, but mostly our mouths. Dumplings, dumplings, and more dumplings.We went to the Jade Buddha Temple, drank on a rooftop bar, saw all the neighborhoods of the city, and went to great lengths to enjoy ourselves. An incredibly modern city enduring centuries of ancient culture, I am still totally fascinated by everything it has to offer and can’t wait to return.
Then, we had two weeks in Thailand to immerse ourselves in the culture as well as the nature, and of course, the fucking awesome food of Chiang Mai. We went to temples, palaces, markets, and museums in Bangkok, we enjoyed the Anadaman Sea and the nature surrounding it in Krabi, and hung out with elephants, ate tons of food, and took a spiritual break in many of the temples during Vassa. The Thai sensibility, cheerful and playful, gives me a deep sentimentality when I think about it now.
I returned to states and got a new job where I can actually write for a living. It was definitely the silver-lining in the shitshow that was 2016 home life. I spent a weekend with my friend Chris Estrada, camping on memorial day when the park was cool and secluded. We camped, rock-climbed, hiked up Ryan Mountain, and talked about life. Back home, one day commuting to work, I got rear ended by a gigantic Chevy truck, totaling my car. I am still currently without a vehicle of my own. I go to the chiropractor once a week to placate my inflammation and crooked back. My mom passed by, saw my car, and was happy I was a live. I am too.
Without a car, I was still determined to take my birthday trip to Baja. My girlfriend and I took a weekend in Ensenada wine tasting, eating massive amounts of seafood, and enjoying the super-friendly locals. It was a perfect weekend to end a crazy year.
2016 held good times and bad times throughout. I felt some of the shittiest feelings and some of the most blissful. All I’m saying is, with the right attitude, we can make any god-awful year into one of adventure. 2017 is here and I’m ready for it. Another year of shaking shit up, and I am not slowing down. I hope you’ll join me.