How the heck does one choose 12 photos out of more than 10,000 stills taken this year alone?
In these last hours of 2017 (lost 7 hours 15 minutes, thanks to starting the year in Nepal and ending it in New Zealand), waves of memories and emotions (re)form and crash in the ocean of my mind. Last evening the idea of creating a 12-month collage of the "highlights" of the year came up. I used to do this, but it has been a couple years since. 10,000+ stills is the number my photo catalog tells me after all the organizing, deleting, merging, blending, etc. That number does not include stills taken for time-lapses (add tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands (one of my cameras is taking a time-lapse RIGHT now, of caterpillars morphing into chrysalis(!))) and videos (add several thousand there). It would seem as though I am addicted to capturing everything in life, though no amount of data can truly, fully encapsulate the entirety of human experiences I have had the opportunities and privileges to enjoy and go through, both the highs and lows.
The themes this year looking back are (re)growth, connections, and purpose. I am gonna (kinda) quickly run through the year with what happened. Ready set go.
January 1st kicked off in my tent in the village of Takure in Nepal, where Conscious Impact has been living and operating since August 2015 to rebuild earthquake-destroyed homes and other buildings alongside local community members and global volunteers (Image 1). I suppose that was my 4th time back with the crew, working tirelessly nearly everyday to make and transport compressed earth bricks (Image 2), utilizing other earth-based building techniques such as rammed earth and earthbags to build structures, co-living and co-creating with dozens of other selfless volunteers from around the globe, as well as documenting in stills and videos the progress, the beauty, and the smiles of the humans involved with this magical journey. We live humbly as the locals do, exposed to the elements and embracing whatever Pachamama gifts us everyday. There is often music, tea, art, dance, songs, (Nepali & Tibetan) festivals, yoga, meditation, quality conversations, relaxation, and a fair bit of sweat too. I absolutely loved it.
My trips to Nepal have been made possible thanks to family and friends who had donated to my crowdfunding campaigns back in 2015 and 2016, so I'll always have them to thank!
Between March and April, I had the chance to embark on a long trek in the Khumbu/Everest region, and walked-explored-marveled along this world-famous walk over the course of 27 days (Image 3). The elevation varied from a hair under 1500 to over 5550 meters. I remember hearing a friend say that the amount of elevation change throughout the trek would be like ascending and descending Everest nearly twice over. Bonkers. This was both a big challenge and a joy - physically as well as mentally.
Later in April and the first half of May was spent back with the Conscious Impact crew. Together we were able to wrap up our very first earthbag house (Image 4) for a widowed mother and her children before the very, very wet monsoon season sets in. We saw the completion and painting of the rammed earth building that we had started in January, and the construction of an orphanage housing kids whose parents were killed in the 2015 earthquakes was underway. The team and I filmed and launched a fundraiser to expand our sustainable agriculture program, and we had an extraordinarily diverse set of volunteers come through in the last couple months of "camp" (what we generally refer to as the Conscious Impact volunteer camp) (Image 5).
And thanks to a number of these global connections, I decided to take on some of these invitations I've received to visit friends in new places. In mid-May I left Nepal as the monsoon rains were really setting in (an early year), and went through Dubai, followed by Israel, before spending 3 weeks throughout western Europe.
In Dubai I was hosted by an awesome Couchsurfing host Niraj. In Israel, I was received by so many familiar and lovely faces of characters met through Conscious Impact ("CI" from here forward) + traveling in India and Thailand in 2016. Thanks for a lovely time, Nitzan, Ben, Laor, Neta, and Zvika. I also got to explore a tiny bit on my own in Israel and got to walk through and soak in the smells and sounds of the old city in Jerusalem, took a dip in the Dead Sea, and hitchhiked with Ibaia (partially) out of there. My first destination in Europe (ever!) was Madrid. I had a lovely time with my architect/Conscious Impact volunteer friend Laura, and wrapped it up with a quick and fun reunion with a traveling friend Hudson from India last year. Barcelona was next - hung out/stayed with friends from India, CI, as well as Seattle - Elsa, Alexandra, Lili, Margaret. Those beaches! Thanks to Couchsurfing too I met with some radical (transplanted) locals running a bar and create a community lunch weekly out of food waste that's run by donations. Paris - cycling all around the city, crashed with 2 old CI friends Boyan + Inkeltje and caught up with my Chilean friend Santiago but we cross paths with in Panama all the way in 2009(!). And yes, that's acro yoga under the effel tower (Image 6). That's what's up. Manchester - kicked it with Graham, my photog buddy/brother from another mother and his local friends. Bath - stayed with my aunt Jackie, uncle Kori, and cousin Kevin from Hong Kong while catching up with my Argentinean amiga Ariadna met through - yes you guessed it - CI. London - lovely weather (what!?), lots of biking both in the city and in the countryside, and more CI reunions and hanging out with the likes of Sonya, Alastair, and Mark. Brussels - beer, fries, desserts, and quiz night with my traveling companion Emmanuelle from Ladakh, India, from last year. Amsterdam - of course I biked all around this flat and awesome city! Big thanks to Shama for the lovely company. Caught up with my old high school buddy Charles, too. Nijmegen for a quick lunch-reunion with Evita, then Horst with Micky on his family's asparagus farm + full-spandex cycling (in the summer rain). I hadn't seen him since my bike tour trip in 2013! Finally, Berlin with the one and only Ivona and her adorable pup Kazzie. A nice beer and chat with Dino, too. Last but certainly but least, quick appearance and hang out sesh with Ellen right before departure. What a radical, cool city, Berlin. This was a teaser in all of these places at best. 3 weeks in western Europe was far, far too short.
Home with family by late June. Rainbow gathering and road trip with an entourage of CI friends and extended family (way too many to tag - you guys know who you are!). Back to Seattle/Pacific Northwest. Reunited with good friends, and in particular, meeting Caroline and Michael's kiddo for the first time (Image 7). Much time in the mountains, in nature - thanks Evan for hanging. Worked on the complete redesign of my site throughout July and August. Much time with Glenn, Denise, Julia, and Jackie plus others from the Beacon Food Forest. Absolutely loved that. Reconnecting with friends and community was so good. Southbound road trip with a spontaneous vehicle that fell into my life. Craigslist friends, old friends, epic camping under Mt. Shasta and in the redwoods, and before hopping over to the east coast, a beautiful gathering and retreat with the CI crew in Sebastapol, California. Plus, Allen's birthday. As always too, gratitude to Orion, Beth, Mariana, Satwika, and Greg for being the main pillars of support especially for Season 3 being on the ground 100%.
East coast is because of that gorgeous wedding that you may have seen some photos of (Image 8). 2 years in the planning and it happened. The weather couldn't have been more perfect, and an awesome reunion of old friends from Honduras, Ghana, and various parts of the US. Massive shoutout and congrats to the couple Jennifer and Tom who made this all possible for me and everyone else.
Wrapped up that remaining road trip down California to be with the fam bam before taking off on a new life chapter. Nephew time, cycling with the kiddie trailer, playground time, and of course family portraits ensured (Image 9).
BTW, kinda cheated with September, because really I am using 3 photos from that month haha! That month was epic on unparalleled proportions - the road trip, the flying, the wedding, New York City!, unpack everything, repack everything, then moving my life to New Zealand with (yet another) one-way ticket. I presented 20 images as a glimpse of my life in front of a crowd of 500 within the first day of arriving (Image 10 - thanks Jonny!), and continued the rolling snowball by attending the Social Enterprise World Forum to jumpstart connections and appreciation for local knowledge and culture. I've been mostly in the same city since. Shoutout to Peter for kinda dragging me down under. October and November (Image 11) was mostly about creating and cultivating these new connections to make my new life chapter thrive in a way I have never experienced before. I have been blessed with support and love from new friends throughout Christchurch, NZ, and beyond. Massive thanks to Erica and Preston for having been pivotal in thse past few months. New projects, new learning experiences, new challenges, and new growth. There has never been a moment of boredom or stagnation. I am also starting to venture out and explore more of the south island in good company (Image 12), and sometimes happily on my own. Earlier in December I had the awesome chance to hop over to Australia. What a great little visit. Catching up with friends, quality conversations, avoiding poisonous things that could kill me, dumpster diving, and reuniting with my grandaunt and uncle who I hadn't seen for 22 years!
I can't tag enough people in this post, because truly a countless number of individuals made this year possible and extremely memorable. All I wish to say to all of you is thank you - for your presence, your lessons, your challenges, your smile, your encouragement, your support, and your contributions to the world.
The cold and sore throat I've been recovering from since before Christmas has really been a blessing, too, as it was given me the perfect reminder and reason to stay put (finally) and simply rest, reflect, and process this momentous year that is 2017 and commence a new rotation around the sun healthy, healed, and with a bang. Watch out, I have big plans for you, 2018!