Reno-Truckee 2019

No, this is not a quirky evaluation of the life of Washoe’s finest, though I’m sure that’s probably more entertaining.

Life in San Diego continues to be the fun rollercoaster it’s been, and while standing in a clear crossroads with regards to the future, I figured a break was in order.

Wednesday the 16th had been a complete shit show, I remember. After an unsuccessful attempt to de-stress during Aerial Silks, I laid down in my hammock for savasana, channeled the Elizabeth Gilbert in me and made the snap decision to go home and check my flight miles and scope out AirBnB.

One hour later, I was heading to my friend’s place to grab an entire wardrobe of snow gear – more than I thought I ever needed. And then six hours after that, I was boarding a plane to Reno, watching the clouds and internally screaming at myself for brashly acting on impulse to execute a shitshow of a weekend.

I’m so glad I did.

Right before graduate school, I started a fictional story during my gap year – the majority of it written during a MASSIVE writing spurt in April 2012 (~130 pages). It needed the right setting, and I poured into relevant geographic locations in which Jane, Michael, Charlotte, Lena, Paul, and Rory would all meet, and resulting dramatic chaos could ensue.

The biggest little city in the world – Reno, NV – became that place.

I wanted the Sierra Nevada Mountains to be as irreplaceable as the characters that occupied it, researching its history from the 40’s til present day heavily, and describing it as much as I could using images and Google Maps. Before I had the chance to visit, graduate school started and… well, that became life for five years. And Reno stayed this abstract destination book-research getaway whenever I could.


Reno is right in between a dying industrial town trying to revive itself with a reinvigorated, contemporary spirit (i.e., what it was when I researched and with a few breaths of life). Casinos and old businesses sit cozy next to newer coffeeshops, pizza places, Patagonia outlets, and art pieces constructed here and returned from Burning Man to settle (Reno is where most artwork for Burning Man is made). And in the middle, the Truckee River flowed vigorously from the snow earlier in the week.

The next morning I walked along the Riverwalk over to Hub’s Coffee Roasters to sit and do what I’d wanted for seven years now: reflect and just write, for however long I wanted.

It felt amazing not only to write for six hours (the first three without WiFi), but to also feel like I was living out a bucket-list dream of mine. There I sat in Timberland hiking boots, wool socks and a beanie (both of which were afterthoughts from Jaime that became surviving staples of my trip), and a red long-sleeved shirt I pulled from my Mom’s closet on the off-chance that it fit; I felt leagues away from the paradise of San Diego or the flat country of Texas, and I’d never felt more comfortable in my life.

I was having a first-world moment, for sure. Which of course necessitated putting together a playlist by this point. This song especially hit a chord:

(More about music later, but check out my Moods page for my entire Reno-Truckee playlist if you care)

Hippie shot.

I spent the remainder of the day walking around the Midtown District, checking out the coffeeshops and developing arts and hipster scenes of which I’ve grown accustomed in San Diego.

I also visited the very first Sundance Bookstore, in a very cute plantation-style home with stairs and floorboards that creaked as you walked by. Added a ton to my reading list…

That night I decided to go out on another impulsive limb toward 1up Nightclub to see Sikdope play – another test of my ability to do things on my own. Once I’d gotten over the awkwardness of being alone… I went up to the front of the dance floor and just danced. Not 10 minutes later… I made some new friends 🙂 Funny how that works out.

truckee, ca

The next morning I woke up hella early and by the grace of my earlier Lyft driver, met up with someone with a 4×4 to take me 40 minutes up the mountain to Truckee, CA for a snowshow hike. Because the mountains were a crucial part of what I wanted to see while here, I was so goddamn excited.

My day in Truckee was the highlight of the trip. With an hour to kill in the morning, I walked through the main lane of downtown, taking pictures of the gorgeous sunset in my first time up in the mountains, and the first time I’d seen snow stuck to the ground.

winter wonderland hike

I caught a ride from my guides up toward Glacier Way Trailhead to hike up Donner Ridge. Not only were Chad and Nikki from Venturing Out the nicest couple, they also had the MOST ADORABLE Shiba Inu called Henry that accompanied every single hike. You go snow dog!!

We were joined by a military couple from Ventura getting in one last winter trip before their move to Guam, and then we were off up the mountain to the top.

Though the weather had graciously given a TON of fresh snow, it also meant the dense fog prevented any visibility, making the gorgeous views for us nonexistent by the time we reached the summit of Donner Ridge :(. It was okay though. Words can’t really describe how amazing it felt, really being trapped in a Winter Wonderland above the world. Though they kept apologizing for the lack of views, the whole thing was spectacular for a first timer. Though, a rookie mistake was not bringing water (woops).

Another test was eating the very, very spicy enchilada soup that Nikki made for us (I powered through), followed by the hike back down. When they dropped me off back in downtown Truckee, the lane was alive and busy with visitors and avid skiers enjoying the ambiance of the shops and coffee.

truckee love

california zephyr train ride tru-rno

The next best part of my trip – and arguably the best visually – was the train ride from Truckee back down to Reno on the California Zephyr route, which Amtrak boasts as the best scenic train ride in America. I believe it.

If I had to choose my favorite way to travel, it would be by train. The Zephyr dips and turns around the mountainous terrain, following the Truckee river back toward the heart of Reno. Traveling during the sunset brought an extra allure to my farewell to the Sierra Nevada Mountains:

While on the train, I’d jumpstarted my newest poetry notebook and also solidified my Reno music playlist, which I played on repeat the whole ride down while watching this beautiful scene play out in front of my eyes:

Getting off the train back to Reno was a weird experience, knowing I would say goodbye soon. I walked around one more time and then visited the Fleischmann Planetarium to watch a light/music show of Pink Floyd’s entire The Wall album. If you’ve never seen a light show in a planetarium, it’s… uh, fucking trippy. Probably not the best thing to do while completely sober and tired from a long day either. I definitely fell asleep for a good portion of it. If you care to see what it looks like:

I’d learned a lot about myself on this impulsive trip:

1. The mountains were calling, and I went. And I fell in love

2. I still don’t like the cold. But being prepared for it makes cold places fucking magical.

3. Magical places can help jumpstart change, but the real magic comes from keeping that magic in your life on your own.

4. Sometimes, one just needs to be away from everything they’ve ever known and relied on to see what’s still automatic under all the obligations and routine.

5. Despite all that’s happened in the past eight years, there is still a core, resilient spirit in me that refuses to die, and it’s about time to start listening to it.

Back to life 🙂 ❤

silent depression

7 Behaviors That Reveal Someone Is Silently Depressed

Silent depression can be very common in this fast-paced world. Of the (underestimated) 350 million in the world who experience depression, a large portion might not seek out help due to shame, embarrassment, pride, culture, or lack of available resources.

I felt a strong compulsion to share this article from Power of Positivity because it hits very close to home.  I experienced nearly all of these symptoms from July to September of this year: even though my mom had passed months prior, my mind and body were able to hold on for nearly seven months before I collapsed under the weight of climbing work expectations, managing my mom’s scattered estate, dealing with personal grief, and navigating complex interpersonal relationship stresses following my return from the Philippines. In addition to the symptoms below: I also experienced a pretty heavy dose of brain fog, which made it impossible to be productive for even a couple hours at a time.

Common symptoms of silent depression:

  1. Withdrawal from activities, work, or school
  2. No energy
  3. Eating too much or too little
  4. Trouble sleeping
  5. Substance abuse
  6. Faking emotions
  7. Workaholic

For me, not many people noticed – not right away at least. The lack of structure at work made it easy for me to drop off the grid, citing working remotely. I kept up with my social calendar as a feeble attempt at counteract these symptoms with a bit of extroversion. Being alone was crushing, but given everyone knew that “this year was eventful”, my “off-ness” seemed to be more or less normative.

I did not realize the extent to my own suffering until my absence from work finally became a noticeable issue to my mentors,  and I was forced to confront the fact I’d emotionally run myself dry. By the end: I hadn’t seen my office in weeks, my apartment was a smelly mess (I’m still dealing with pesky fruitflies that won’t go away), my relationship had crashed to rock bottom, I’d lost meaningful connections, and I hadn’t kept up with my finances – made more complicated from all my travel this year.

I had the immense luck of being around 2-3 genuine good souls to finally reach out to, even if I didn’t have a tight relationship with them right away. One simple conversation and coffee started a few more, and then tinier, progressive steps to getting the personal and professional support I needed. It’s been two months since taking a step toward mental health healing, and I’m so glad I did it.

A small check-in or expressing that you’ve been thinking about someone could be the difference. I know it was for me.




7 Signs of Silent Depression:

Brain Fog: A Symptom of Depression:

Greenberg et al., (2015). The economic burden of adults iwth Major Depressive Disorder in the United States (2005 and 2010). Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 76(2), 155-162.


This song means a lot, not just because its message has become an anthem of sorts, but it was the first song that Nathan shared with me in our first nights we spent together. He’d seen Gavin James summer debut in London opening for Sam Smith, and his performance stuck with him. It was also the first time I realized that underneath his stoic exterior, Nathan was actually a romantic sap :P.

For You was the major single from Gavin’s debut album Bitter Pill, which wouldn’t come out until later that November. So, we started when the song started too. I’m waiting for the day when Gavin James bursts away from the background and into the larger scene…

These short years have passed by fast, even though the days seem like forever. As always: To your annoying optimism, unwavering ambition, your steady hand, and your full heart every day.

For anyone else in the ether feeling romantic today, here is a 1-hr Spotify playlist that hits every romantic chord, for me at least 🙂



Long-distance Valentine’s, music, and distractions

In graduate school, I picked up the guitar in the hopes of balancing scientific academia with the smallest sliver of musical creativity I exercised while still in school. I played alto saxophone (ironic, because I didn’t like jazz at the time), and played the violin through college. Like any doctorate in training, I thought I needed tunnel vision to prepare for my future career.

Not surprising I was wrong. Everyone needs a hobby. Even if it only means picking up a guitar when you’re stressed (or constantly distracted).

Here’s a bit of what happens when you give your mind a break :).

When Nathan and I lived together in Texas, I would always annoy the hell out of him busting out my guitar in the office during writing blocks while he (unsuccessfully) continued to write. Thought I’d remind him of it on Valentine’s Day. ❤

Hope all of you found a way to remind the people you love that they’re appreciated, even if they’re four states away! 🙂


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