The Best Year

Congrats to the Pomona class of 2014 on today’s graduation! It’s a remarkable feat and the opportunities ahead are endless and exciting. The “real world” isn’t as scary or sad as post-grads make it out to be, it’s exactly what you make it.

In celebration of being a full year out of college, I’ve decided to make a “best-of” list for the many moments and places I’ve travelled to and experienced these past 12 months. I’ve been on 4 road trips, crossed through 32 states, driven over 10,000 miles, explored 7 National Parks and talked to more people than I can count. It’s been the best year of my life and I’m incredibly grateful for these opportunities and all the people with whom I’ve shared these memories. Without further ado, the list:

Best Meal
Fresh snapper caught with a hook of peanut butter off the dock in Everglades National Park with Howdog. Cooked in real coconut juice and curry sauce, paired with a nice bag of Franzia.

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Best Drink
A pitcher of Bud Light for some of the Bud Lighters at Junction City Saloon in Eastern Montana that kicked off a 48 hour roadtrip of pitchers, pool, dollar burgers in the afternoon watching Everybody Loves Raymond, Minnesota thrift shop sweaters, and pulling into Chicago at 5AM.

Best Stranger
After a tumultuous solo hiking adventure in Olympic NP that included torrential downpour, getting lost and spending an extra night in the woods, I had about 5 hours to wait for the bus in Clallam Bay, so I walked to the closest restaurant called “Sunset Co-op”. As I sat outside waiting for it to open, a motherly woman with long gray hair and a flowing floral dress opened the door with a smile, “Oh hello! You must be a hiker. What can I do for you? How about a fresh breakfast and a warm fire?” Her name was Jane and she was incredible. I spent the next 6 hours next to that wood-burning stove eating eggs and soup with jazz music and wonderful conversation about gratitude, travel and happiness. Thank you, Jane.

Best Sleep
Not exactly best, but longest for sure. Laying atop Mount LaConte in the Smokies in mid-February during a brutal ice-storm with temperatures dipping below zero. Both Christian and I went into complete hibernation shut-down mode and slept for 16 hours straight. It was miserable and memorable.
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Best Hike
Seven Lakes Basin trail in Olympic NP. A three-day trail with tropical rainforests, massive glaciers, rocky mountaintops, and massive redwood forests. A little bit if everything. Howie and I did this hike on our first ever day of no more schooling (right after Labor Day weekend).

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Best Town
Asheville, NC. The perfect combination of southern, hippy and outdoors. At one point I was sitting in front of a co-op, next to a farmer’s market, and across from a concert venue, a Mexican restaurant and a whiskey distillery. Wabop!

Best Moment
Watching the Fourth of July fireworks in San Francisco upon the completion of my first Overland trip. One of the best shows I’ve ever seen, surrounded by 11 kids with whom I had bonded over the previous 2 weeks and my co-leader, in silent awe and reflection of the most challenging two weeks of my life.

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CHEERS
A big ‘ol cheers to my parents for all their support over the past year, especially when I’m off the grid. And to everyone who has adventured with me with laughter and open-mindedness or let me crash on their couch.

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