2015: In Review

2015 was dizzying.

When I write these ‘year in review’ articles (and I did one for 2013 and 2014), I look back through all my pictures from the year to trigger some memories.

Wow. So much happened. So many places, people, experiences. It’s dizzying in thinking of that packed into one year; and yet there’s an immense amount of gratitude of having these opportunities. Dizzying; but happily so, I suppose.

In 2015, I traveled to 3 new countries; 5 cities in Ecuador, 2 in Panama, 3 in Canada, and 10 in the U.S. I’m ending my year on an island off the coast of Honduras.

What else?

I got to officiate the wedding of two people I love.

I stumbled into a Native American Sweat Lodge ritual and joined.

I visited the equator!

And that’s not the half of it.

In August I lost my job (along with many others; and many I was close with). I started working on some new ideas and soon had to make tough decision about where I wanted to take my professional life (and where I wanted to go live).

That which previously defined me so much—travel—may no longer be appropriate. A big lifestyle change came over me and I’m still figuring out the ins & outs of what feels like a new life.

There’s a lot to love (as always). I’m close to my family and have been able to spend more time with them being so nearby. There was a night recently where 5 of my best friends from growing up were in the same room—for really only the second time since high school. I have a home to decorate and settle into—a place to be for a while.

2015 saw some big changes and the drifts and aftershocks of those are still taking hold, but I think that’s just life. If nothing is jarring you, you’re sitting on top of shifting plates still figuring out how to fit in.

As with other years, I challenged myself to really sit and think about these changes in a ‘Meditations‘ document. I’m going to link that here as it’s a part of the reflections (and keeps in one place for me later on!). This mostly focused on professional changes but lots of personal responses in there too (especially as I look into 2016)

Above all, 2015 was fun. Thanks for everyone who made it so. Going through these pictures is one big exercise in gladness.

Other Notes

Selfie on the Ecuadorian coast
Selfie on the Ecuadorian coast. Montañita, Ecuador January 2015

Travel: Chicago > Quito > Montanita > Guayaquil > Cuenca > Ambato > Quito > San Francisco > Los Angeles > Chicago > St. Louis > Chicago > Panama City > Bocas Del Toro > Chicago > Vancouver > Seattle > Vancouver > Portland > New Orleans > Vancouver > Seattle > Vancouver > Sechelt > Chicago > Montauk > New York City > Montreal > New York City > Chicago > Madison > Chicago > Roatan

Writing: thanks in part to my monthly challenges, I was able to write:

  • the first draft of an ebook on travel
  • collection of poems (first I’ve put up publicly)  (example)
  • essays (example)
  • book reviews (example)
  • personal profiles (example)

all amounting to over 5,000 hits on the blog 🙂

Reading: Book list below. Tons of articles read. Published a ‘Best Of’ Article list, most of which were read in 2015.

  • Goddess of Small Victories (Grannec)
  • Making Ideas Happen (Belsky)
  • Purity (Franzen)
  • Kafka On The Shore (Murakami)
  • The Wind-up Bird Chronicle (Murakami)
  • Words for the Wind (Roethke)
  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (Pirsig)
  • I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen (Simmons)
  • Travels with Charley: In Search of America (Steinbeck)
  • One Summer: America, 1927 (Bryson)
  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (Eggers)
  • The Swerve: How the World Became Modern (Greenblatt)
  • Silk Parachute (McPhee)
  • The Letters of Rainier Maria Rilke
  • The Finkler Question (Jacobson)
  • Moby-Dick (Melville) (in progress)
  • Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter (Vargas) (in progress)
  • Be Here Now (Dass) (in progress)

Professionally: Lots here. My run at Zirtual ended after 3.5 years on August 10, 2015. I started interviewing at Uber shortly after and began working at Uber in Chicago on October 5, 2015. The other thoughts on professional life are in the ‘Meditations’ doc linked above.

Pearl Jam: 0 shows. Wow. How now?

Collin Vine and I sitting in front of McGill Engineering; Montreal, Quebec September 2015
Collin Vine and I sitting in front of McGill Engineering; Montreal, Quebec September 2015


Favorite 2015 New Thing: Longform Podcast

Second year in a row for a Podcast to capture this space. Cool! Longform is less popular than last year’s pick (Serial), but for me it’s what I’ve always wanted. It’s a podcast of writer’s talking about writing: sometimes about specific articles or books and other times just on the craft in general.

It helps me connect with that side of my world and prompted my profile-writing project. The longform website also helps showcase great longform articles going on around the internet—there are a ton and some are amazingly crafted. The form allows for such an intimate dive into a subject. Enjoying the art of longform, either through articles or the podcast, has been my favorite new thing of the year.

Favorite book I read in 2015: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (Murakami)

Holy hell, Murakami. Last year I got swept up in Gabriel Garcia Marquez and the magical realism on the shores of Colombia but Gabo didn’t write them like Murakami can. Wind-Up Bird was my first experience in Japan’s most famous author.

The book details the story of a man, caught in the crosswinds of crime, mystery, and the sad and sudden departure of his wife. What unfolds is a story told only the way a master can—chock full of characters tugging at your brain to understand them and their circumstances.

Reading him makes one feel intimidated but also warmed—wrapped totally in the page.

Favorite 2015 movie: Wild Tales

This one sticks with you. Wild Tales is a collection of six (6) vignettes. Each has a different storyline and different characters, but each shares on common theme: revenge.

That only should entice you, but if that doesn’t…..It has the wildest wedding scene I’ve ever seen in any film. And that might not even be the craziest of the six.

Find this movie and watch it. It will not disappoint. I suspect I’ll remember at least 3-4 of the 6 stories for years to come.

Shout-outs: Ex Machina. The Gift. Dope.


Got to officiate the wedding of Alyse and Dimitry – St. Louis, MO April 2015
Got to officiate the wedding of Alyse and Dimitry – St. Louis, MO April 2015

Favorite album of 2015: To Pimp A Butterfly (Kendrick Lamar)

At the risk of being too Pitchfork-y, I’m going to say this was my favorite album of 2015.

I listened to very little rap in 2015 but really enjoyed what a few people put out. This was the only rap record I was looking forward to this year because Good Kid was so good. Well, he did it again, but in a totally different atmosphere. Good Kid was a storyteller wielding his words to invite you into the narrator’s world through music. Butterfly is a musician’s creation. And the difference means that Butterfly can be enjoyed more directly through feeling, less through understanding.

To Pimp A Butterfly has so many songs of certifiable genius that’s impossible to ignore. It will cement Kendrick in the annals of rap and I’m thrilled to be a fan and listener as he takes that journey.

And even though 2015 had some great new music, the year for me will probably always be equating with the (deeper) discovery of Tom Waits. Spent a lot of nights listening to that guy this year.

Shout-outs: Non-Believers (Mac McCaughan), Carrie + Lowell (Sufjan Stevens), Something More Than Free (Jason Isbell)

Most listened to album according to Spotify: Blood on the Tracks (Bob Dylan)

Favorite song of 2015: ‘Depreston’ (Courtney Barnett)

A song about buying real estate in suburban Australia. Hmm, don’t know about that. But then there’s this rockstar making it something more; a journey through a character, through humanity. All over the simple strum of her guitar, her aching vocals cracked with wisdom of years she plucked from some galaxy. It’s the ending, too. The way she drags out a bitter truth of our modern life; “if you’ve got a/spare half of a million/you could knock it down/ and start rebuilding”. Bravo.

Shout-outs: ‘Queen’ (Perfume Genius), ‘Newmyer’s Roof’ (Craig Finn), ‘Fourth of July’ (Sufjan Stevens),

Most listened to song according to Spotify: ‘Ghost In You’ (Robyn Hitchcock)

Favorite Place Visited: Cuenca Ecuador

art by Guayasamin, Ecuador's most famous artist. Quito, Ecuador January 2015
art by Guayasamin, Ecuador’s most famous artist. Quito, Ecuador January 2015

Lots of great places in 2015, but Cuenca was so surprisingly perfect it’s hard to pass up for favorited place visited.

Cuenca is in southern Ecuador and something like 8k feet above sea level. This is all the more amazing when you see the city—which is a tiny slice of Europe in the Ecuadorian highlands.

More than that vibe was that it was such a beautiful and well-laid out city. Rivers, parks, old cathedrals—all dot the map of Cuenca, as do coffee shops, hostels, and great restaurants.

Very cool little town that’s popular with backpackers but not get the kind of attention of other South American cities. Worth a visit if you ever make it down there!

Favorite Work Spot: Bocas Cafe

In April, I got my SCUBA diving license. I did it on the island of Bocas del Toro in Panama and the training began on Monday and was over by Thursday. I would dive in the mornings and work in the afternoons. Bocas is notoriously a bit behind the world on things (electricity went out fora a full day there), so finding reliable internet was tough. Until I stumbled upon this unoccupied cafe.

For the next week, I dove in the morning and worked here in the afternoon. It was about as island-chill as it goes.


Favorite Meal: East is East — Vancouver, BC

Tried some magnificent stuff this year but nothing beats this place in my heart. India/Afghan fusion with good ambience, incredibly Chai tea and an all-you-can-eat deal on curries for only $25. One location was just 4 blocks from my house in Kits and I took full advantage.

Some more pics:

Sea To Sky Trail, Vancouver BC August 2015
Friends, Montauk, NY September 2015
SCUBA school, Bocas Del Toro, Panama April 2015
Voronov Wedding, St. Louis, MO April 2015










Had to say goodbye to this old friend this year. Buffalo Grove, IL April 2015
family on couch dec 2015
The family in our favorite picture spot. Buffalo Grove, IL December 2015














Grateful for everything 2015. Onward.