Happy New Year everyone! Here’s my annual New Year’s blog, on time for a change ūüôā

2017 was the craziest year of my life thus far. The year started out with me moving back to Los Angeles after 2 years in Orlando. I finally got a place in Topanga, my favorite neighborhood in LA. I did a lot more exploration of the incredible national parks Los Angeles is home to. I traveled to Northern California and Nevada a number of times to visit friends and family and go skiing at Lake Tahoe.

I did a lot of great photo & video shoots with tons of insanely talented people (some of the new work is up on my photography site, some hasn’t been released yet!). My twin sister got married (yay Ally & Mel!), and I finally went to Burning Man after years of wanting to go. It did not disappoint.

I got a private tour of SpaceX and the Tesla Gigafactory (you can’t take photos inside, boo hoo).

I went on dozens of road trips in the US and abroad, marched in the LA Women’s March, sang on stage with Tom Morello at Hotel Cafe,¬†rode out hurricane Irma while it was still a cat 2 (80 – 100mph wind) storm at my house in Orlando, moved back to Orlando, and enrolled in the Spring ’18 semester at my alma mater, the University of Central Florida, to finish my degree after a 9 year ‘hiatus’. I’m still taking some freelance photography assignments (including weddings) and I’m also getting my FAA UAS drone pilot certificate to accept commercial drone work!

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I accomplished most of my goals for 2017, completely or partially, yay!

1. Launch my app, Hchhkr, on the App Store

Proud to say that Hchhkr is available on the App Store and Google Play, plus a website version. It’s a ridesharing app (not a taxi service) for selling seats in your car if you’re already going somewhere specific, like a weekend road trip to Vegas.

2. Visit my 50th US State, Alaska, + Drive the Pan-American Highway

I finally crossed all 50 states off the bucket list! I visited Alaska on a month-long road trip from Los Angeles to Prudhoe Bay (the farthest north you can drive on the North American continent) and back, which is 1/3 of the Pan-American Highway, and includes the Dalton Highway‚Äďone of the most challenging and remote roads on earth! My Prius did great, to the surprise of basically everyone in Alaska. I saw so many bears, glaciers, alpine lakes and beautiful landscapes that the amount of photos and videos I took exceeds the amount that any normal person could process in a timely manner, so that media has yet to see the light of day apart from a few images on my Instagram. Le sigh. One day, a coffee table book, perhaps?

3. Travel to at least 5 new countries

I partially achieved this one‚ÄďI did travel to 5 countries, but only 1 was new: Iceland.¬†I also traveled to Canada, Scotland, and Germany, plus I took a little day trip to my beloved Ninos de la Promesa orphanage in Tijuana, Mexico when I was living in LA.

4. Do more yoga and meditation

The only goal I completely neglected, as usual, was yoga and meditation. I’m carrying this goal over in to 2018; here’s hoping I can finally achieve it.

5. Read 12 books 

I only read 10. I’m a slow reader so this goal is always a real challenge for me! Audio books helped a lot. I highly recommend an Audible Membership if you’re trying to ‘read’ more! Here are all the books I read (or listened to) in 2017, with my mini-reviews:

The Singularity Is Near by Ray Kurzweil – This book was almost impossible to read. It’s incredibly dry and technical in some parts, and the most fascinating book I’ve ever read in others. Overall I loved it, but it took me two years to get through it. It’s a must-read if you care about knowing what the future holds in terms of technology and biology, as Ray is the authority on such things.

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey – The grandfather of all self-help books, you can throw out all the others and just read this one. Incredible.

Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu, James Robinson РOh so good. Brilliant breakdown of why so many nations on earth are still struggling with poverty and corruption, and what needs to be done about it to really make a difference.

Ego Is The Enemy by Ryan Holiday – Surprisingly insightful read. Since I’ve already read the stoic philosophers, my ego kicked in a bit and told me I didn’t need to read this book, that there couldn’t be much more insight beyond ego than what I’ve already read… oh man, was I wrong. I’m so glad I gave it a shot. I’m going to try to re-read this one once a year. Apparently many of the best NFL teams – players and coaches – attribute significant improvement in their performance to reading Ryan’s books, which doesn’t surprise me at all.

God Is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens – You really can’t argue with anything Hitchens says in this book, and that’s what makes it an incredibly important read. Religion is so protected and taboo, and that’s what’s helped it stick around despite its shortcomings. Everything with major flaws deserves criticism, including god.

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari – Although there were a few amazing nuggets in this book, I can’t remember the majority of it. I do remember enjoying it though, and it being a relatively quick read.

Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance – This dude might alter the course of humanity more than any other human before him.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman – This book was adorable and a fun read, but I couldn’t help notice a lot of similarities to Harry Potter – I guess Neil wrote it around the same time the first Harry Potter books were coming out, so it was probably an original idea not influenced by HP, but it is so similar. I both loved and disliked that about it… so… jury is out.

Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks – I couldn’t believe how much I disliked this novel. I read it due to Elon Musk’s high praise of the Culture Series. Maybe I’d like a different “culture” book more than this one… but I did not enjoy it. There were certain fun elements (like the ship names, and some very interesting characters and it feeling like a similar universe to Star Wars) but overall the main character was totally unlikable and that ruined it for me.

The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins – Biology is tough for me to get in to, but I gave this book a shot anyway, because I like Dawkins’ book “The God Delusion” so much. It was really dry. I can only hear the words “gene” and “altruism” so many times before I start to fall asleep, and I’m pretty sure they are used every 5th word in this book. I sure learned a lot about evolution and genetic relationships though… silver lining?

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Goals for 2018

  1. Get all A’s in school (lol, I can’t believe this is happening)
  2. Travel to at least 5 new countries
  3. Read 12 books
  4. Do yoga and meditate every single day
  5. Surf at least once a month
  6. Get out of debt and pay for school without loans
  7. Get FAA remote pilot’s license
  8. Get PADI open water scuba certified

Ps. I finally succumbed to the power of Spotify and became totally addicted to the app this year. I created this monster playlist of all¬†my favorite songs from 2017 … enjoy!