2016 Reflections and Favorite Photos

And here we are, near the end of another year, and I’m feeling reflective as I do.

For 2016, for the first time in quite some time, I’ve been in the same beautiful house AND in the same satisfying job for the full calendar year. Oh and hey, the same slick car too. It’s been my most “stable” year yet since I did that whole quit your job to travel thing back in 2011. The security feels awesome, but not infinite. For now, I’m just doing the next right thing. 

But things will eventually change. They always do. There are growing pains. There is expansion, and something that I’ve become more and more aware of this year is that it is perfectly okay to want more. 

More exploring, more connection, more freedom, more forks in the road, even more challenges because those are the most revealing (and you know, to keep life interesting).

Just because I’ve attained some stability doesn’t mean it has to be a permanent place to land or that it’ll be easy from here on out. It’s okay for dreams to evolve and shift and then work your ass off all over again to fight for what lights a fire deep inside.

What has especially lit my fire this year has been an unbounded spirit of outdoor adventure in the company of dear friends and family. I’ve always been adventurous, but have mostly ended up on solo journeys. I never let a lack of company stop me from exploring to my heart’s content, no regrets. But this year, the camaraderie of friends took it to a whole new level, and I’m beyond grateful for that.

Exploring is way more magical with friends, and this is the year that my travel and backpacking style shifted from being purely destination-based to being more community-based. I’m just feeling so fortunate and grateful to cross paths with the beautiful, caring, spirited people that I have, sharing mutual interests and Love for Life itself.  Whether it was one weekend on the Point Reyes coast, or four weekends backpacking in the Sierras, or a week-long retreat in Bali.

Or week in and week out training together in the Quantum Martial Arts dojo. Which is still traveling, just in a different kind of way. It’s a journey of facing fears, stretching body and mind, observing, grounding, co-creating, and practicing presence every single time we step onto the mat. It’s an honor to train with everyone at Quantum and I’m very thankful for the transformative experience that it is.  

This past March I tested and advanced to blue belt (once thought impossible by me!) and entered a whole new chapter in my training. Wherein the teaching is the learning. I have a long way to go in feeling confident with my teaching, but leading the occasional “basics” class and working with our white belts reminds me of just how far I’ve come since I first stepped into our dojo seven and a half years ago. 

And finally as I reflect on 2016, I’d be remiss not to mention the revolution at hand. The Love revolution. The political revolution. The human rights revolution. There is work to do. Never have I felt such sadness, shock, anger, and disappointment in our political process before this election, and I know I’m not alone. Love trumps hate. We’re all in this together.    

I’ve compiled my favorite photos from this year to share them here, it was so hard to narrow it down to just these (and feel free to find me on Instagram for more: sam.explores). So many epic adventures this year! So many beautiful moments! My heart is full as I look back on the wonderful memories created this year. 

Here’s to the journey, the Love, the magic, and the adventuring onwards into 2017! 


Opening up 2016 with our first adventure in the mountains: skiing at Northstar right by Lake Tahoe! With Anne, my adventure buddy through thick and thin and fellow explorer extraordinaire!


Spending my birthday in the redwoods with some of my favorite people!


I work for a tour company that sends folks up to Yosemite National Park every day, and on this January day, I hopped along for the ride, hoping for a winter wonderland only to find myself up there in the pouring rain! But then… this magical shot! With a little help from Instagram :)


Just another fiery Pacifica sunset… on my neighborhood beach, about a mile from my house. It doesn’t get old.


With my friend and mentor Master Rachael Evans just after receiving my blue belt in the spring. An absolute honor.


I’d been wanting to see Death Valley for years! So how cool is it that I end up there during a wildflower super bloom?!?


First backpacking trip of the season to Point Reyes National Seashore. In my happy place!


Backpacking in Portola Redwoods with Anne, my sister Erica, and Brandon (my future brother in law! Exciting!). So many fun times with this crew throughout 2016!


Epic epic epic! Summiting Mt. Tallac on the Summer Solstice just as the sun went down and the moon rose. What an incredible view of Desolation Wilderness from the top!


What greeted me as I walked into my first ever meditation retreat session in beautiful northern Bali. I had a very special opportunity to attend this retreat hosted by my good friend, Sarah. The perfect gift to myself.


One of many magical sunrises on Bali. Yes, I said sun-RISES! Thank you jetlag!


The explorer in me was absolutely thrilled for our field trip while on retreat. This is the water temple in the mountainous center of the island. Such a peaceful island with very kind people surrounded by beautiful natural wonders.


With Sarah, right after being blessed by a priest in a private ceremony in a remote temple surrounded by rice paddies in Bali. So much gratitude for this experience, for crossing paths around the world, and for the connection we made that was the catalyst to my self-awareness journey. And for the dancing!


When in Bali, you walk through rice paddies. And the food here was incredible!


ON TOP OF THE WORLD. In the Mokelumne Wilderness. The 8000+ feet elevation kicked my ass this trip, but it doesn’t matter how far or how fast I go, any time in the Wilderness is treasured time.


Another epic journey into the backcountry with Anne!


These campsite views soothe my soul.


On the trail with my besties. On our way to Lake Aloha via the PCT!


The National Geographic shot. Desolation Wilderness August 2016.


Well, I conquered my fears and jumped from crazy heights into Lake Aloha. Epic.


Coming in for a Seattle landing…


Exploring the Cascades. Just Because. #pnw


Discovering all that Seattle has to offer! Including Anne’s favorite brewery!


Exploring the 4. SF > Lake Alpine > Ebbett’s Pass > Calaveras Big Trees > Murphy’s. #exploringlife.


Weathering storms and finding rainbows. My most challenging trip of the year was a solo sojourn to the Eastern Sierras in October. I knew incoming winter storms could ruin my vision for this trip and yet I went anyway, not wanting to accept what I could not control. In the end, being cold, wet, lonely, worried, and out more money than expected (not exactly camping weather!) may not quite have been worth finding the changing aspen trees I came to see, if I’m being really honest. But the lesson learned here may have.


Back on the trail, this time in the redwoods, completing my first official thru-hike via the 26 mile Skyline-to-Sea trail through the Santa Cruz mountains. Another epic journey.

img_8519Magical redwoods.

img_8889My beautiful parents who just amaze and inspire me with their zest for life and show no sign of slowing down as they gracefully age. So much fun with them as they showed me their favorite hiking trails amidst a brilliant New England fall.


New England Fall. Boom.


Keeping a 12 year tradition alive! At Avatar’s for the night before Thanksgiving gratitude meal. Indeed. img_9240

I’ll end with one of my favorite views: I walk up this cliff every so often, taking in the local beach scene just a mile from my house. It’s crazy crowded on summer weekends, the surfers are always there rain or shine, and it’s my oasis any time of year.

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