Last fall, I had another half-brained scheme. If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you’ll know this is nothing new. There was that time I decided to dress like Santa and take a train across China, for example. In years past, these silly ideas had been limited due to us only having a certain amount of vacation days. With our newfound location independence thanks to our online teaching jobs, however, things had changed. Instead of just going for one or two big events in 2018, I decided we should make it a “year-long party.” It seemed like a ridiculous idea at the time, but I’m happy to say that it was a smashing success! Read on for the final chapter in our #yearlongparty to see how we wrapped it up.
How to End the Year-Long Party?
The idea for the year-long party came about when it started looking like we were going to attend at least three major events – Carnaval in Brazil, WrestleMania in New Orleans, and the World Cup in Russia. As my head usually resides somewhere in the clouds, I had lots of other grand ideas about where it would take us – Holi Festival in India, Songkran in Thailand, Oktoberfest in Germany. Thanks to limitations (geographical, physical, and financial namely), I quickly realized I had to reel it in a bit.
As much as I wanted to take the year-long party all around the globe, I had to be a bit more realistic with it. We set our sights on music festivals and cultural celebrations in both our native home and adopted home countries of the US and Mexico.
When life threw us a Curveball with the cancelled Phish festival, we almost gave up on the idea entirely. Thankfully, an international mariachi festival and Mexican Independence Day saved the idea and kept it rolling through the fall. Because, you know, inside we’re fuego, we keep it rolling.
In the 3rd quarter of the year-long party, we actually went in opposite directions. Rachel headed down to Medellin for the 7-in-7 digital nomad conference, while I headed up to New York to go on tour and be a w00k. We met back up in Florida to attend the amazing Hulaween festival and then flew out to Las Vegas to find out what space smells like with Phish’s epic Halloween run.
After such a wild year of attending sporting events, cultural celebrations, and of course tons of live music, we decided the best way to end the year-long party would be going home for the holidays. Of course, a little more live music would end up being the cherry on top of a ridiculously fun cake.
Home for the Holidays
Since I first moved to China over a decade ago, I really haven’t had the chance to go home for the holidays much. I spent Christmas at home in 2009 and again in 2014 on my own, and finally spent the holiday with Rachel’s family for the first time in 2016. I realized I hadn’t celebrated Thanksgiving with my family in over ten years! Time flies…
Turkey Day in the Mitten
Since we had to move out of our ocean-view place in Puerto Vallarta to make way for the pinche gringos who always take it during the high season, we decided to spend November in the Mitten so I could finally do another Turkey Day with my family. We also realized that Rachel had actually never celebrated a major holiday with my family.
And so we moved in (temporarily) with my folks by hijacking my youngest brother’s bedroom, who is away at college for his freshmen year drinking his weight in shitty beer. With a few weeks to go before it was time for turkey, we did our best to keep the spirit of the year-long party alive, despite our depleted levels of energy and serotonin.
One thing I hate about living abroad is the lack of a proper music scene. Sure, we saw some cool DJ shows in Beijing (and even Elton John!) and I can dance to some reggaeton if you put a few tequilas in me, but nothing replaces our beloved crunchy jam bands. Thankfully, there was a good lineup of shows in Detroit to keep us busy until it was time to carve the turkey.
In the few weeks we were in the Mitten, we managed to catch Thievery Corporation, the Infamous Stringdusters, Organ Freeman, and Pink Talking Fish. We got to check out four different venues, the latter being the place I first saw Umphrey’s McGee 15 years ago.
As far as the Thanksgiving celebrations go, they were pretty epic. With the night before being the biggest bar day of the year, you know we went out to party with my old friends. Thanksgiving Day was spent in the traditional Detroit way – watching the Lions lose. We spent the evening with my family at my aunt’s house, enjoying a huge feast and wishing my grandpa a happy birthday.
The next night, we drove out to another aunt’s house to hang out for a bit. My mom is the oldest of nine, and I’m the oldest of her seven. As such, I’m not that much younger than her youngest siblings. We don’t get to hang out much, but we had a good time with them drinking all the beers and staying up late by the fire.
Our Turkey Day run in Michigan culminated with a huge block party in my boring ass hometown. They actually got Allman Brothers and Phish cover bands to play the thing, and had it in a big tent with food trucks and craft beer vendors. Since when did Grosse Pointe get cool!?
In what can only be described as a Thanksgiving miracle, my own mother showed up for a few songs. It’s the closest she will ever get to a Phish show, and that’s probably for the better. To quote my mom – “I know what goes on at Phish shows!” She thinks she does, at least…
All in all, it was a fantastic couple of weeks surrounded by friends and family. As they say in show business, though, the show must go on.
Christmas Down South
From Detroit, we caught a surprisingly cheap flight down to Knoxville to visit Rachel’s family. As is usually the case when spending the holidays with her family, there was going to be a lot of moving and grooving. That’s what happens when your people are split between two states with a bunch of pesky mountains in the way.
Rachel’s mom had a great idea this year – to give experiences instead of gifts. As two perpetual nomads who live out of our backpacks, we certainly appreciated that! First up, we went to see “Bohemian Rhapsody” in a nice theater with fancy reclining chairs.
We don’t see a lot of movies – this was the only one I saw in 2018, in fact – but damn was it a good one! I forgot how awesome Queen is and I’ve gotten back into them since watching the movie.
The next weekend, we headed down to Asheville for the 30th annual Warren Haynes Christmas Jam. I had always heard good things about this mini-festival but had never been able to attend. With a lineup featuring Mike Gordon, Jim James, Grace Potter (drool), and Dave freaking Grohl, we decided we couldn’t miss out on this one.
It was a fun, craft beer-filled couple of days of music in Asheville. Since Rachel went to school right up the road in Boone, she still has lots of friends in the area. We got the chance to rage the shows with several of them and had a blast.
We even got snowed in after the 2nd night, which was fine with us! After a crazy year, it was nice to actually Netflix and chill for the first time ever.
I always took it for granted how easy I had it during holidays growing up. My grandparents live a few blocks away, so everyone always came to us. To do Christmas with Rachel’s family, however, we had to attend three different gatherings in two states over two weekends.
First up was the Story family party in Johnson City with her dad’s side of the family. Over 70 people turned out! Apparently it was the biggest turnout they had had in years. Next up we drove to Charlotte to celebrate with her mom’s side of the family. The White Elephant game is always a blast, and this year was no different!
Finally, we attended a party with her step dad’s family right across the street from his place in Candler, which is our home away from home when we visit. It was a bit exhausting but was so much fun. I really couldn’t have married into a nicer, more welcoming family. Santa even bought us Uber and Starbucks gift cards. He definitely knows what we like!
After making it through nearly two months of crashing with our folks and several holiday parties, it was time for our Christmas. Or should I say Phish-mas!?
Phish NYE in NYC
I’m no stranger to celebrating New Year’s Eve with Phish. I convinced my folks to buy me a plane ticket to Miami to see their NYE show there way back in 2003, when I met some dudes on the internet who let me crash on their hotel room floor. When they returned to the stage and hit Miami again in 2009, I brought Rachel, my brothers, and a bunch of friends. The next time they played there, we went ahead and got engaged at the show.
While seeing Phish in Miami at the end of the year always appealed to me, joining the masses in freezing New York City didn’t. I was always adamantly against doing an NYC NYE, that is until we saw the last three nights of the Phish Baker’s Dozen run. It really is like home for the band and fans, and it’s something you just have to experience to understand. The fact that we have a friend who lives in Manhattan now and doesn’t mind hosting two hippies doesn’t hurt, either…
The thing with Phish MSG New Year’s Eve shows is that tickets can be a bitch to obtain. I believe karma rewarded us for our efforts to make it to their festival, as we got tickets in the band’s lottery and didn’t have to deal with scalpers at all. With ticket stubs in our hands, we had no choice but to brave the cold and crowds and head to the Big Apple.
I’ve written enough about Phish shows in the last few months on here, so I won’t bore you with the details. Head to phish.net if you want to read some nerdy reviews about the sick Type II “Tweezer” they played on night two. What I will say is that we had an absolute blast raging the “greatest fucking city in the world” with what is undoubtedly the greatest fucking band in the world.
In addition to the four Phish shows at The Garden, we also hit a couple of after parties. We got up off of that thang with some friends and danced the night away at the James Brown Dance Party. The next night, we checked out the new jamband supergroup Ghost Light, who blew us away with their stellar performance.
Our year-long party really came full circle on New Year’s Eve when the band donned space suits, dropped silver balls from the ceiling, and flew over the crowd as they sang “This is what space smells like!” If there’s a slogan from the year-long party, that’s got to be it. See for yourself how the Phish from Vermont rang in 2019…
Just like that, in the blink of an eye, the run and the year-long party came to a close. What started out with a debaucherous night in Valparaiso, Chile ended 365 days later in the best way possible – surrounded by good friends watching our favorite band.
Looking back on the year that was in 2018, I really have to pinch myself. I know I have a million photos and tons of video to prove it, but it really is hard to believe that we crammed that all into one year. We managed to check a bunch of items off our bucket list, travel to several new countries, and end it all doing what we do best with the people we love the most.
I know it’s right there in our name, but I have to take this opportunity to emphasize just how Grateful we are for the life we live. It’s not always easy, and at times it can get incredibly frustrating, exhausting, and lonely, but I firmly believe we’re doing exactly what we’re supposed to be doing.
Some might hear the phrase “year-long party” and think that our intention was merely 365 days of sex, drugs, and rock & roll. Sure, there was some of that, but it was about much more than that. It was about experiencing other cultures and sharing our own. It was about challenging ourselves and expanding our horizons. Finally, it was about living a life of purpose, excitement, and adventure. After all, as our favorite band says – “You’ve got one life, blaze on!”