Goodbye, 2016!

In the last few weeks I keep hearing variations of “2016 has been the worst year ever” or “Oh my god, I can’t wait for this year to be over.”

I know Donald Trump was elected president and Prince died, but seriously? 2016 may have been my best year yet!

It was a year full of growth, full of love, full of boosting confidence and taking leaps and as the year comes to a close, my heart is very, very full.

The year opened with me working at Guaranteed Rate mortgage and Topher working for Denver’s biggest theatre company in their scene shop building sets. We were happy enough, but restless.

One night in January, we went out for late night happy hour and cooked up a crazy scheme. We were going to quit our jobs in June, not renew the lease on our apartment, put our stuff in storage and go live in our car in Canada for awhile.

We spent the spring in a state of excitement and anticipation. We worked hard, we saved money. We started #kenziehikes2016 on Instagram and took Kenzie hiking every weekend.

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Me and Kenzie at St. Mary’s Glacier

Gianna and I drove up to Aspen to see our favorite band, 21 Pilots, perform at the X-Games and I trial ran sleeping in the car.

My dad and I spent January and February training for a charity ski race called the Jane-a-thon. In March, we skiied 16 mogul runs in 5 hours. It was the most physically intense thing I’ve ever done and it was really rewarding! I had my best ski season EVER!

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The view from Tucker Mountain at Copper

We flew to New Orleans with my dad and Sally on St. Patrick’s Day to belatedly celebrate my 21st birthday. It was a really cool trip.

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New Orleans

We packed a full summer worth of hikes, bonfires, Yoga on the Rocks and concerts into the month of June and then took off with a fully loaded Subaru on July 1st for our summer adventure.

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Me and Markie at Yoga on the Rocks

We went through Wyoming, hitting Grand Tetons and Yellowstone and then spent a week in Montana. Experiencing Glacier National Park was one of my favorite memories of the trip. The drive up Going to the Sun road was incredible.

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Beautiful Glacier National Park

The radiator in our car was malfunctioning and the car kept overheating, so we stopped in the tiny town of Kalispell, Montana and Topher replaced the radiator in an O’Reilly parking lot with a $10 socket set. He’s my hero.

After we patched up the car, we headed North to Canada. The plan was to go to Banff and Jasper National parks, but shortly after we crossed the border we realized our only credit cards without a foreign transaction fee were not accepted anywhere in Canada and camping on public lands is not allowed up there as freely as it is in the US. Overwhelmed and with no place to sleep and no money besides the $100 in Canadian cash we had brought, we got some Tim Horton’s donuts and poutine from A&W and changed course.

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Kenzie dog enjoying our road trip

We crossed back into the US and decided to head West. We spent a week traipsing through Northern Washington and spent a day in Seattle. We visited Topher’s grandpa in the North Western-most corner of the country, Sequim, WA and celebrated my 22nd birthday by canoeing in Olympic National Park and taking a ferry to Victoria, B.C. There we spent the day wandering the city and inadvertently smuggled Cuban cigars back to the States.

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Canoeing in Olympic

We spent a beautiful few days driving down the coast. Kenzie had a blast playing on the beach and we re-visited tiny beach towns from long-ago childhood vacations. We watched the sunset with our car parked on the beach in Ocean City, which was incredibly cool!

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Topher and Kenzie on Cannon Beach

We headed inland and got to see all my grandparents in Eugene, OR and then spent a few days with my Mom outside of Bend.

Camping outside of Bend, we climbed down under Tumalo Falls. That was an epic experience, standing under a waterfall!

We headed south into California and the August heat became oppressive. The car was still overheating and we were all hot and homesick. In Redding, CA when the temperature hit 101, we decided to hightail it home. In one stint, a crazy 24 hour drive straight through, we made it back to Denver. Seeing the sunset over Mt. Shasta, the stars over the Nevada desert and the sunrise over Salt Lake City was pretty great.

We spent just about six weeks on the road and didn’t pay for a single campsite. We camped in National Forests and other than one night in a Fred Meyer parking lot in Astoria, OR, we had pretty great experiences.

Quitting my job was scary. Not having an apartment to come back to was scary. Finding places to sleep every night was scary. But it was all something I desperately wanted to do and it was incredible. My confidence grew. My belief in myself, my capabilities. My bond with my little family grew. It was the most incredible experience I will never forget.

It taught me to just do it. You’re so much more capable than you think you are. If you want it, go for it. The universe has a way of working everything out and if you commit 100%, even if your intentions fail, the journey will be so worth it.

We came home and stayed with my dad and Sally for a few weeks before moving into a new place. We love it! It’s in the Tech Center and at least thirty years newer than our place in Golden was.

Topher’s dream was to design and build sets for stage theatre. He found his way into the job at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts and was doing what he had always dreamed of. The pay was not great. The work was hard on his body and he realized that there was not a future in that industry for him.

He’s tried going to college several times since graduating from high school with no luck. Failed classes, withdrawn classes. We had come to the realization that maybe school just wasn’t his thing.

This fall, he made the decision to go back to school for Civil Engineering. He enrolled in Metro State and took out student loans. He finished the semester with straight A’s. I couldn’t be prouder of him.

I know I’ve grown and matured this year and I see that he has as well. We’ve grown and matured as a couple and seeing how far we’ve come makes me incredibly proud. We celebrated our 5th anniversary this past month and every day I wake up more in love with him. I know we’re in it for the long haul.

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5 Years!

In September my mom came out to visit. We had a wonderful trip exploring Rocky Mountain National Park, poking around Denver and just being together. This was the third time I’ve seen her this year and it was the third drama free trip. Being on rocky ground since I was a pre-teen, this was a huge milestone for me; my relationship with her growing and strengthening.

In September I also started working for Sally’s company, McGhee Productivity Solutions, as a Digital Marketing Coordinator. I work from home and am learning and growing so much in the role. I really love it!

Topher and I’s relationship with Sally has also grown a ton this year. She’s become one of my best friends. Deepening friendships with so many people this year has been so fulfilling. Friends who live on different coasts, mothers, friends here in the area. It makes my heart happy.

This fall was a beautiful one. We had a vampire Halloween party and took a spontaneous trip to Aspen to spend the night in our car again and wake up among the changing leaves. We saw our favorite artist, Watsky, in concert on election night and had an all girls Thanksgiving while my Dad was busy launching a satellite.

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Halloween Vamps
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Sunrise at the most gorgeous camping spot in Aspen

This month has been a whirlwind and as we draw to a close I desperately want to throw on the brakes and savor this beautiful year. I’m not ready for it to be over.

A new year is not a new season in life though, unless you want it to be. I’m not ready for this season to end, and so I hope the happiness, the love, the adventure continue into the new year.

For those of you who haven’t experienced this past year like I have, I hope 2017 is the start of a fresh season for you. Look past who’s being inaugurated as president and the ever-present pain and despair in the world and look into your heart for the things that can exist no matter what; love, joy, companionship, peace, forgiveness, determination, hope. Be bigger than outside forces in 2017 and let your inner-light create the year you want 2017 to be.

Love always,

Mikaela

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Author: mikaelaruland

I'm a twenty something living the wanderlust life in Colorado with my boyfriend and dog. During the week, I'm a Marketing Manager but when the clock hits 5, I'm an adventurer, a traveler, a hiker, a climber, a skier, a blogger, a photographer. Live the adventure life, you won't regret it.

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