2016: My Year in Review

2016 was full of changes and adventures. I’m not going to write about the losses of the past year (ie Prince, David Bowie, George Michael, Carrie Fisher, to name a few), nor will I talk about our president-elect, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Instead, I want to review, mainly for myself, the amazing things I was able to do because of the life I’m lucky enough to have.

So, here goes…

I started off the year living in my parents’ basement while getting my affairs in order for a great upheaval of my life, that would include putting most of my belongings in storage and heading to Minneapolis, MN for a travel contract job. I’m now self-employed and, though that causes stress at times, it allows me the freedom and flexibility to go on month-long adventures without anyone telling me I don’t have the vacation time to use. It’s lovely.

With that freedom, I spent 3 weeks traveling around the US with Kathryn Budig supporting the release of her 2nd book, Aim True.

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I took a month off and traveled to Western Australia (Perth, Yallingup, and Margaret River), Cambodia, and Vietnam with my platonic life partner of Burning Man and Iceland “fame.”

I saw kangaroos in the wild, which is like seeing deer in the US, but to me it was AWESOME!

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I saw some of the most stunning wine country in Margaret River.

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I visited Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples in Siem Reap.

 

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I kayaked and sailed around Ha Long Bay in Vietnam.

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As if that isn’t enough, I was one of the extraordinarily lucky people to have seen (mostly) the original cast of Hamliton: An American Musical on Broadway. This “luck” was due to the well-connectedness and generosity of my friend Kate Fagan. Seeing Hamilton was not just a highlight of the year, but of my life, I think. Look at our seats! I mean, feel free to hate me…

 

I made my first visit to Duluth and Lake Superior with my lovely friend Becka and, all I can say is that it’s totally worth the trip. If you’re looking for a charming B&B in a great location, look no farther than Solglimt.

More Lake Superior vistas…

 

No travel list is complete without a little exertion and effort… to that end, I took a backpacking trip with fabulous friends to and around Havasu Falls (shout out to the super company Wildland Trekking). I highly recommend the trip and definitely the trekking company. If Dara Kelly happens to be your guide, you’ve won the lotto.

 

After close to 40 years, my parents left the state of Virginia, rendering me somewhat homeless officially nomadic. The upside is that I’ve been calling the frozen tundra of Minneapolis “home” and my ‘rents moved to the Gulf Coast of Florida, which, as it turns out, is so charming and lovely… and is a nice warm free escape from the Minnesota winter.

 

In addition to travel, I had the great fortune to dine at some of the best restaurants in the country. If you love food as much as I do, this was a highlight.

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” ~Virginia Woolf

“People who love to eat are always the best people.” ~Julia Child

My list includes St Genevieve, Corner Table, and Spoon and Stable in Minneapolis, Pineapple and Pearls and Rose’s Luxury in Washington, DC, and Giant and Alinea in Chicago.

If I learned anything about my dining preferences, it’s that I’ll take delicious, casual, and friendly over fancy ANY DAY OF THE WEEK. Because of that, my favorite restaurant experience was Rose’s Luxury x 2, with Giant coming in second place. Though Giant’s food was every bit as fabulous as Rose’s, they didn’t serve up happiness as well–part of Aaron Silverman’s (the chef and owner of Rose’s Luxury) goal is to make people happy and if you aren’t happy at Rose’s, you’re the problem… no matter how long you waited to get in. 

I’m also obsessed with Corner Table and St Genevieve in my newly adopted home of Minneapolis. The wine guy, Nick Rancone (and co-owner), of Corner Table seriously impresses me with his truly unique pairings, which go so well with the positively scrumptious food of chef Thomas Boemer. St Genevieve is a charming French bistro style restaurant with delicious food and a top notch champagne selection (my reason for existing).

Here are some photos from a few of these places:

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Rose’s Luxury

So fabulous you may just lick your plate and worth a possible 2 hour wait (made easier with bourbon in a purse). They may say “fuck perfect,” but they’re pretty fucking perfect.

 

Pineapple and Pearls

Rose’s Luxury’s  2 Michelin-starred, fancier (and not as good, in my opinion) sister.

 

Needless to say, I’ve had a great year, but I’d be remiss if I failed to mention the heartbreaking loss of my beloved Bailey–the cutest, sassiest, most easy-going corgi in the world. We went through life side by side for more than 15 years and he crossed the rainbow bridge on October 6, 2016. Cheers to you, sweet Bailey! I miss you terribly.

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Bring it, 2017!

My Next Adventure…

Over the past few years, I’ve found myself getting deeper and deeper into what I call a “life rut”. Not any one thing is really the culprit and, objectively speaking, I have an amazing life, full of love and adventure, but still… something is missing.

This feeling started creeping its way into me around 2012, so I changed jobs in an effort to mix it up, challenge myself in different ways, and see if that would help. It didn’t. In the course of that change, I met some amazing people (both professionally and personally), learned some new job skills, and, most importantly, proved to myself that I could excel under pressure.

Still though, I wasn’t happy, and made another job change, hoping simplification would improve the situation. Much to my dismay, that didn’t work either, and I found myself constantly trying to escape–by traveling at every opportunity and spending WAY too much money. Don’t get me wrong, traveling at every opportunity is not a bad thing, unless the kind folks at Visa and Amex are paying for all of it.

Let me preface my woes by saying I am extraordinarily lucky for my station in life. To have family and friends who support me, a successful career, the means to travel and experience amazing things is a gift. In spite of all that, I have the audacity to want, dare I say it, M-O-R-E.

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.

~George Bernard Shaw

An offhand comment to a friend about my “unhappiness situation” had me set up with a lifecoach (Mike Halsey, in case you need one), something I never would have pursued on my own. Mike was unique to me–a little older than I, a former naval fighter pilot, current commercial pilot, AND lifecoach. Someone who had already experienced so much of what life can offer and I trusted to push and guide me. Several months of work with Mike, along with the unfaltering support of my best friend Kathryn Budig, a wonderful talk with the brilliant Marla Gottschalk, and I had a plan to depart my current situation.

I tossed around the idea of quitting my job without any prospects, but due to my ridiculous student loans, car payment, and overall life expenses, decided that wasn’t the best idea I’d ever had. Plan number two: take a temporary position of the 1099 variety, therefore rendering me… self-employed and holding all the control over where I go, when I’ll work, and how much. I’d love for this blog to pay my salary (I have a handful of regular readers, so I’m about as far from that as one can get). I’d love to travel, write reviews, and give my opinions to make a living. Since I haven’t figured that out quite yet, I’m staying in my current profession, but changing the rules of the game a little.

I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.

~Gilda Radner

So, on December 19th, 2015, I packed my possessions into a storage unit and moved in with a couple of roommates my parents to save a little nest egg and sustain the upcoming adventure. My last day at work is March 25th, after which I’ll join Kathryn on our her Aim True book tour around the US. A few weeks of that, and I’m off to Minneapolis, MN for a work assignment. I will write entries along the book tour on anything that is worth sharing–with regard to cities, hotels, restaurants, and so on.

Once in Minneapolis, I’m going to shake things up and try to break my rhythm. I’m an incredibly routine-bound person, which is part of what currently ails me. I go to work, hang out with the same people, spend a fair amount of time alone (which I love), and stick in my oh-so-comfortable rut.

NO MORE!

I am doing this to force myself out of this comfort zone and open up to new people and experiences. A common misconception is that I am doing this to meet a mate–should that occur, great, but it is not my motivation. That being said, I’m going to embrace the 21st century (several years late) and online date the shit out of the Twin Cities. I’m going to say “yes” (within reason) to everything that comes my way because, why the hell not?

So, that’s where I am, where I’m going, and what I’m thinking.

In the immortal words of Dr. Seuss, “You’re on your own and you know what you know. And you are the one who’ll decide where to go.”

Here goes…

**Keep up with me here. I have big plans for my freedom to come. Along with book tour updates, keep an eye out for the Minneapolis scene and a future trip to Australia/Vietnam/Cambodia. I’m always up for sharing my adventures… maybe even a good/bad dating story or two.