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2016: A Retrospective In Photos

Looking back at 2016, I am in awe of such a momentous year. It was packed full of some of life’s most joyous experiences, like getting married, contrasted with some of life biggest challenges, like mourning the loss of a friend and moving to a new city. Writing this post has been my way of looking back and celebrating the great moments as well as persevering through the challenges.

I kicked the year off with two back-to-back half marathons: Disney Star Wars and Griffith Park. While an ultra marathoner may not be impressed, I felt a great sense of accomplishment with running two marathons in a row with just one week between them.

I married the love of my life in April, but not before a bachelor party for the record books. I spent 5 days in New Orleans with 14 of my closest friends. It was a nonstop celebration with people from all over the country in one of my favorite cities.

Pictures really can’t do it justice. We had so much fun that I was worried the actual wedding might pale in comparison… It didn’t – it was amazing, but more bout that later!

My friends organized the perfect bachelor party, jam-packed full of awesome NOLA stuff, including a surprise fan boat swamp tour and an authentic crawfish boil in the backyard of our amazing AirBNB.

After I recovered from New Orleans, we had a few more weeks of intense wedding planning, but it was all worth it. The entire wedding weekend was incredible.

Lauren, Makena and I had a perfect weekend with about 150 friends and family members in a beautiful, secluded, wooded setting in Santa Barbara. The “Summer Camp” theme could not have gone any better – we had activities all weekend long.

Everything went so smoothly. It was more fun than I could have imagined. Having all of our family and friends in the same place for an entire weekend gave everyone time to relax and socialize. It was truly one of the best weekends of my life.

The whole weekend was truly a collaborative event, made amazing by all of our loved ones who all chipped in. One of my best friends, Jason Eley, was our officiant; a very dear friend, Steph Port, planned all the camp activities and ran the Color Wars as “Camp Director”; Nick was my best man and gave an incredible speech (and organized the NOLA trip); my brother Matt played music, and joined the band to sing our First Dance (Ween’s “Stay Forever”); our friends and family all helped make all the centerpieces and bouquets. Everyone brought their A-game. The wedding was the greatest party we’ve ever thrown, and it wouldn’t have been possible without everyones contributions. It was truly humbling.

Shortly after the wedding, we took our honeymoon in Costa Rica. We had so much fun together driving around and exploring. We spent time in Sámara, Lake Arenal, Tilaran, Monteverde, Santa Teresa, Montezuma, and Tamarindo.

We rented a 4×4 SUV and set off adventuring down wild dirt roads through gorgeous jungles, mountains and beaches. In Monteverde, we did ziplined through the cloud forest, and saw sloths and waterfalls on a jungle hike down into a valley, followed by a private horseback ride back up the mountain ridge. In Santa Teresa, we rented ATVs and ripped through mud puddles on dirt roads along the most beautiful and remote beach coast I’ve ever seen.

Upon returning from our honeymoon, I started a new job at TrueCar as Director of SEO. Leading the charge on search engine optimization has been an exciting challenge, and I’m looking forward to some major positive growth with the company in 2017.

It’s been a long time coming, but in mid-2016 I decided it was time for a new car. I had been driving my hand-me-down 2006 Dodge Stratus since I was in college. I’ve also been working in the automotive industry for 5+ years and had never actually purchased a vehicle from a dealership. Having insight and empathy for that process proved to be beneficial, and my car buying experience was less stressful than I imagine it is for most people.

Saying goodbye to my old car (a 2006 Stratus) was surprisingly difficult! I’d had it since college. I have countless memories with that car, including driving across the country to move from Philadelphia to Los Angeles.

My 2006 Dodge Stratus served me well for many years.

My trusty old Dodge Stratus. It was hard to say goodbye!

After lots of research, I landed on a 2016 Mazda CX-5, and I love it. After about 6 months of ownership, I’m very confident that I made the right decision. I’ve found that I appreciate the new SUV (versus my old sedan) most when I’m packing it full of gear for a camping trip…

2016 Mazda CX-5 in Big Basin Redwoods, Boulder Creek, CA

2016 Mazda CX-5 in Big Basin Redwoods

I got the new car just in time for another major life change: Lauren was accepted into her dream school, UC Berkeley, and my new job has offices in the Bay Area, so we made the move.

Makena and I taking a break from packing our moving pod.

Packing up our home after living near the beach in Santa Monica for 3+ years was hard. Leaving our beachside lifestyle for scholarly pursuits was tough on all of us. Leaving friends behind was hard enough, but giving up the ability to run on the beach during sunset every day (among countless other West LA luxuries) has been a struggle too.

I love this photo of our final Santa Monica sunset before hitting the road for the Bay.

Santa Monica Sunset

Our last Santa Monica sunset before moving

Leaving LA was hard on all of us, but familiarizing ourselves with the Bay has been a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to a new year full of adventures and exploration in Northern California.

2016 was the year that I became an uncle to an obnoxiously cute little girl. My sister Catherine and her husband Eddie had their beautiful girl, Camila Inez, on June 15th. Watching her grow these past few months has been incredible.

I’m an uncle!

I did a good bit of traveling as well, with trips to Portland, Denver, Las Vegas and Boston.

There was no shortage of international travel in 2016. We visited Australia (again!) for my brother-in-law’s wedding. Lauren’s parents have a beautiful house on the marina a bit south of Melbourne, and we stayed on their boat. We went sailing multiple times, saw kangaroos, went ocean kayaking, and had a lot of great food.

I also spent my birthday weekend at Dominican Holidaze in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. This was, without a doubt, one of the best trips of my life, and just unbelievably fun. The event is a music festival at an all-inclusive resort, and a lot of our friends came on this trip as well (with 12 rooms between all of us!) making for what I can only describe as a life-affirming vacation.

In the wake of this trip, I’m still reflecting on how privileged I am to have such a great network of friends. Joe Russo’s Almost Dead played my favorite set of the festival.

I saw some other fantastic shows in 2016 as well. My musical highlights of 2016 were Animal Collective, At The Drive-In, The Disco Biscuits (at Red Rocks), Phish (Halloween in Las Vegas), Deftones (my first show after moving to Berkeley, at the Greek), and 2 nights of Ween at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco.

At the Drive-In at the Hollywood Palladium

While many have expressed feelings that 2016 was a year full of loss. I did feel some of that. I was bummed about the passing of Prince, Bowie, and Lemmy, but these didn’t impact me nearly as much as the loss of someone in my personal life. These celebrity deaths were just overshadowed by the fact that February marked one year since my best friend Kyle’s untimely death.

There are days, sometimes even weeks, where I feel fine, but then I’ll have a dream, hear a song, see a photo, etc, and it completely throws me off.

Kyle and I at Camp Bisco in 2012.

I still have fleeting urges to send Kyle a quick text message regarding an “inside joke” or something ridiculous that happened, and the realization that it’s no longer an option is devastating. 2016 taught me that grief has no real timeline.

As I wrote this blog post, I was amazed that all of these things happened within the span of 2016. It has truly been a long and fulfilling year. I started the year living and working in Santa Monica, and now I’m married, living in the Bay Area and working at a new job in San Francisco.

Lauren and I spent our 2015-2016 New Years in New York City, seeing Phish and The Disco Biscuits in Times Square.

This year, we’re spending December 31st camping with friends in Santa Barbara… A bit closer to home, and just a few miles down the road from our wedding venue!

Needless to say, 2016 has been a very fulfilling year for me.

Berkeley Supermoon rising, 11/13/16

Watching the Supermoon rise from the Berkeley Marina, 11/13/16

In 2017 I hope to run another marathon, and I’d like to get back into rock climbing more regularly. I’m looking forward to continuing to learn and grow in the new year, and exploring Northern California with my new family.


  1. Karen Gabay

    That was beautiful John. I loved reading all about your year. I’m so happy for you, Lauren and Makena. Sending lots of love!!!
    Happy new year !! Xoxox!

  2. M Raphael Vantine

    Beautiful John Nicholas! Your blog gave me some laughter and some tears too!! ?

  3. Aw, this was an exceptionally good post. Taking the time and actual effort to produce a great article… but what can I say… I hesitate a whole
    lot and never seem to get anything done.

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