We’re a bit late to the end of year wrap up party, and certainly have shared plenty of photos this year, but as with most things in life, not everything made it to the front page. Candid shots we took with our phones piece together more of a complete picture of how 2015 went by.

Check out our year beyond the blog:

1. Nikita finished his NAUI scuba diving certification!

2. Nikita’s grandmother visited from Ukraine for nearly a year. The Ukrainians are unabashed sugar fiends, and she is no exception, pouring a healthy stream of sugar into her morning coffee at Waffle House.

3. I had my ‘Golden Birthday,’ where you turn the age that is the same number as the day in the month you were born. So I became 26 on the 26th. A once in a lifetime opportunity- and my work friends decorated my desk accordingly.

4. In the bowels of South Georgia there is a pretty cool wild animal safari- the kind you can drive your own car through. I learned that water buffalos are freaking enormous and have no problems sticking their bathtub-sized heads through the window of a tall SUV. The species also has NO TOP ROW OF TEETH.

5. My pre-PCT physique. A difficult photo for me to look at, mostly because I look so manly. I was doing CrossFit about 3-4 times per week and was positively jacked. Months of nothing but walking up and down mountains melted away much of that bulky upper body I had acquired.

6. Packing up our tiny apartment and grappling with the amount of stuff we didn’t realize we’d acquired. That’s all gone now… mostly.

7. One of our last celebratory nights with friends before the trail: we discovered that a bottle of St. Germaine is not as expensive as it’s made out to be and that St. Germaine and soda is very tasty indeed. $2 bill added for wealth effect.

8. Our last meal at our apartment: a mish mash of whatever was leftover in the fridge, eaten on the rug that my friend came to collect later that day. In the background our supplies for the PCT strewn across the floor.

9. Saying goodbye to pets. Unfortunately our adventure dog couldn’t come out west or to Southeast Asia with us, also that and my parents wanted to keep him.

10. A week before the trail we spent time with family in Los Angeles. I’ve never been on a whale watching trip, but we had the incredibly lucky experience of watching a pod of grey whales watch us for nearly an hour off the coast of Malibu. My first wild whale siting ever.

11. First day on the trail! Me: It’s hot, let’s take a break and here and…let me just lean against this…

12. Devouring a veggie burger at Lake Morena, the first official stop on the trail.

13. Heart-shaped cactus!

14. Nikita’s too cool watch tan. He says he doesn’t burn but BOY DOES HE TAN.

15. An early morning hike to Fuller Ridge, as a huge storm system gathers over the valley. We raced through the day to beat that storm- just barely making it- but it was beautiful to see in the morning.

16. Really authentic Mexican food. They don’t have this in Georgia.

17. Keeping your socks clean and dry is important if you blister easily, like me. On the trail I would wash socks in a stream and then tie them in a laundry line on my pack, letting them dry as I walked during the day.

18. Nearing Big Bear, a big stop on the trail, there was a dumpster full of soda, first aid supplies and information about town. It was near the end of our longest day ever at that point on the trail, and I cannot begin to tell you how amazing that one can of soda was. It powered us through another 3 miles until dark.

19. The hike ahead out of Wrightwood, CA. We are the blue dot.

20. Nikita’s cousin gave us a ride back to the trail after we had to bail and get me and new backpack. ‘Let’s squint into the sun and take a parting selfie!’

21. Almost to the Los Angeles acquaduct, the term ‘desert’ takes on a whole new meaning. Here we are taking advantage of a tiny patch of shade before climbing up a series of steep hills in the blazing sun.

22. You meet some real characters on the trail. Like this guy, who is salt curing the skin from a snake that he killed and ATE to make a belt.

23. Hot, tired, hurt, and not amused. The trail isn’t all beautiful mountains, starry night skies and triumphant peaks. Sometimes- a lot of the time- you just hurt.

24. Vinacafe- nectar of the instant coffee gods. We found a few packets of these in a hiker box at Muir Trail Ranch, and they were so delicious, and we were so caffeine hungry, that they quickly became a trip-long obsession.

25. This is one that didn’t make it to the blog. The hostile, stingingly passive aggressive staff at the Tuolomne Meadows Post Office. If you’re a hiker doing anything besides groveling, they will smite you with terrible attitudes and threaten to withold your package. Nikita called them on it and the worker flipped him off and cussed him out. He promptly walked off the job because of the encounter and his BOSS came looking for us, refusing to do anything but blame us for his employee’s leaving. A+ customer service.

26. My Sacramento-dwelling cousin and her husband came to visit us and took us out to dinner in Truckee. It was very nearly a coincidence: she contacted me via Facebook, and the morning of, I decided to check my phone for the first time on the entire trail to see her message.

27. Not long after we flipped up to Washington. We made good use of our snacks on Amtrak, laying into a 16 oz block of cheddar cheese.

28. After leaving the trail for good, we booked it to Portland and just had to stop by Voodoo Donuts. I’m not a big fancy donut person, but even I can’t deny that these were the most decadent donuts I’ve ever eaten- and my boss frequently brought Sublime Donuts to work.

29. Just off the trail, we spent about a week with friends in Spokane. They have two friendly mutts, one of whom is more sentient than his goofy demeanor would have you believe. Here, he had just run to bark at the front door, while also keeping his eye on us via the mirror.

30. At a windy truck stop in rural Wyoming at dusk. I couldn’t believe how long my hair had gotten.

31. Glacier National Park has an intact ecosystem. It’s incredibly rare and means that humans are not at the top of the food chain. Bighorn sheep won’t try and eat you, but apparently they will knock you out trying to eat your food.

32. Convenience stores throughout the National Parks all have a pretty meager selection, except for this one, which had this enormous rice crispie treat. I’m thinking that they just feed these to the bears.

33. Our roadtripular vehicle: a 2-door, 2012 Toyota Yaris. We drove over 5,000 miles in less than a month.

34. For lack of any other available options, Wal-Mart became our unofficial road trip sponsor. We were both glad and guilty to find a well-stocked natural food and camping supplies section. Also glad to find that someone finally put the googly eyes where they belong: on Bear Grylls. What an asshole.

35. Return to normalcy: Nikita cut off his trail do and I died a little inside.

36. Nikita’s grandma is a pretty chill Ukrainian grandma and down for a lot: like blacklight bowling.

37. My little sister is quite the animator. She also knows all my weak spots (like Princess Mononoke) and wrote/drew this adorable going-away card for me.

38. Our close friends suffered the loss of one dog to cancer, and an idea to cheer up by looking at puppies naturally turned into getting one. Because no one can deny puppies that need a home. This dog will probably weigh over 100 pounds when he’s full grown.

39. Somewhere around October and November we got engaged. I didn’t want to wear a ring, but was surprised that Nikita wanted me to. I said fair is fair and if I do, you do… Our rings cost just over $100 together and are handmade.

40. I’m such a nerd. One of the most exciting parts of a trip for me is learning new words! I was ecstatic when I found this little phrasebook with all 5 languages of the countries we’ll be visiting in the next few months.

41. Our first time on KoreanAir: the nicest airline po’ folk like us have ever been on. An economy class ticket includes a toothbrush, tooth paste, disposable slippers, a lil bag, and multi-language stickers to alert your flight attendant of your needs.

42. Our first meal in Thailand, and first real meal after about 24 hours of travel.

43. One of the coolest things we’ve seen so far, and definitely the coolest Buddha: he’s made entirely out of Bamboo rattan, and is about 10 feet tall. We weren’t supposed to take photos but it was too cool not to snap a covert cell phone pic.

44. It doesn’t look- or sound- like much, but avocado coffee is the most amazing coffee drink ever. Perfect after a long day at the beach when you need a refreshing pick-me-up.

45. My cousin Cathy, lifelong badass. After riding for hours trying to locate a remote beach in the southern coast of Myanmar, we finally found it. We had to ride our motorbikes through high tide to get there, but we made it.

46. I love that the women in Myanmar still carry things on their heads. Particularly at bus stops, where they pop in and say, ‘Hello, would you like anything that I’m carrying around on my head?’ Or something to that effect…

47. One thing I love about Asia is the way that nothing goes to waste, especially not space. Utility trucks were converted to passenger trucks and zipped up and down the mountians, carrying tourists and pilgrims to the Golden Rock.

48. A Burmese celebrator photo bombs our shot on New Year’s Eve in Mandalay, Myanmar. Happy 2016!

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Comments

  1. I love your blog. It is so authentic and down to earth. Keep up the good work. Keep us updated. Travel changes us; we are never the same afterwards. I congratulate you on your discipline around making travel a priority and letting go of the much less meaningful stuff most Americans spend their money on. And it is great that you are doing this while you are young. So many of us put off travel until ‘later’. Do it now! You will not be the same person when you land your feet back in the U.S. and have to focus on making a living again, for a while.

    For me travel is about the people. Yes there are the sites, the food, the beaches….. But, for me as a photographer it is about people and faces and how people around the world find happiness in everyday living. Happiness in the midst of relative poverty. Happiness in family. Happiness in the very basics of life. I am glad you lost the yuppie title.

    I hope you keep up the travel the rest of your lives.

    1. Hi Ken! Thanks for the kind words! It’s nice to hear from someone who understands our motivations for traveling and really ‘gets it.’
      Glad you have your own motivations for traveling also. Meeting new people and seeing how others live is one of the best ones you can have, I think. It makes the point of travel to find out how we’re all the same, not to obsess over how different we are, and really helps to put life in perspective.
      We hope you have some more great trips and travel experiences ahead of you also 🙂

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