2021 Year in Review: The Comeback Tour

Can you believe it’s 2022 already? That really snuck up on us. The year really flew by in the blink of an eye, and yet it also seems like it’s been forever since we rang in 2021. Seeing as how we’re already a week into the New Year, I figure it’s time to get a 2021 year in review post up, so here goes!

Watch the Video

This video goes through each month of 2021 and what we got up to. Check it out:

An Update on the Updates

I set out to do monthly updates at the start of the year, and like most resolutions, it fell by the wayside. Basically, I ended up doing seasonal updates. Feel free to dive into our posts about spring in Puerto Vallarta, our great American summer, and Phish fall tour in case you missed them.

It turns out that writing detailed updates about travel, life, and work every month is quite time-consuming. With all the moving around we did this year, it just wasn’t feasible.

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Hanging out in downtown PV.

I’m still glad that I went for it and did a decent job of keeping up with things. These days I’m always writing for SEO and keywords, so it’s nice to just let a stream of consciousness go here.

It’s also just nice having these updates that we can look back on later. In case you haven’t noticed, we live at a pretty frantic speed. These updates help us reflect on the months and years gone by when we actually find time to sit down and read them.

That being said, here’s one final update for 2021. The format for this one will be a little different as we don’t really have huge life or work updates. I’ll just wrap up what we did after the last update and put a little bow on the year at the end.

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Clearing out my bag after Phish tour…

Life After Phish Tour

Last year, we had the ambitious goal of hitting 20 Phish shows in 2020. We ended up seeing zero. As such, we had to go for the gusto this year and shoot for 21 in ’21.

You can call us over-achievers, as we ended up seeing 25 Phish shows this year. We hit 13 on their summer tour and 12 on fall tour, which was all but the opener.

Our previous record was 19 shows back in 2009, which included the legendary “Summer of Bruce” when we started dating on the band’s comeback tour. We thought that would be our peak show-going days, but we somehow managed to top ourselves at the age of 35.

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Our first Phish show together in June 2009.

We traveled to eight different states to see Phish and saw countless friends. Our lives basically revolved around Phish tour this year. It was incredible and exhausting. And yes, it was freaking expensive and worth every penny.

There’s always a tough comedown after tour. It’s hard to go from that feeling of absolute freedom and excitement on a nightly basis to the usual ho-hum of life, even for us digital nomads.

Surprisingly, we actually felt great after our 12-show fall run, which culminated in an absolute rager with the Phish Halloween run in Las Vegas.  Sure, we were tired and it was tough to flip our body clocks, but we didn’t catch COVID or even the wook flu!

We gave ourselves two weeks to recover from tour back in Rachel’s neck of the woods. Naturally, all we wanted to talk about was Phish tour. Thankfully some friends let us entertain them with stories while we re-watched the shows online.

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Lake Powhatan

We didn’t do much of interest in those two weeks as we were pretty beat. However, it was still leaf-peeping season in Asheville at that time of year.

On a couple of nice days, we managed to get out and enjoy the great outdoors a bit. One of our favorite spots to go now is Lake Powhatan (pictured above), which has a few trails around it for hiking and mountain biking.

The Goose is Loose

In addition to seeing 25 Phish shows, we also finally saw our new favorite band – Goose. Our first shows were back in June at Legend Valley and they blew us away.

We knew we had to see them again this year, so we grabbed tickets to their shows at the Mission Ballroom in November. Friends had been telling us how awesome this venue is and this seemed like the perfect chance.

After two weeks in Asheville and Johnson City, we once again drove to Nashville and left the car with friends. Our friends are seriously the best!

We flew out to Denver and stayed with a friend for a few nights before the shows. The three of us got to go check out the new Meow Wolf location, which is absolutely unreal.

See for yourself…

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This place is amazing!

Our friends also had a gig on Saturday night that we obviously went to. It was fun watching them crush it and then staying up and raging with them.

The Goose shows fell on Sunday and Monday, which proved to be tough after a big weekend. We managed to rally, though, and had a blast.

These shows were so good that the band immediately put them both up on YouTube and released one as an album on Spotify. We really picked some winners!

Oh yeah, and the Mission Ballroom is a fantastic venue as well. We will definitely be back!

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Back to Puerto Vallarta

From Denver, we cashed in some more Southwest points and kept using my companion pass to get back to PV.

*Now is a good time to mention that we probably took 15 flights this year on points where Rachel flew for free as my companion.

It’s safe to say that we saved several thousand dollars on flights by travel hacking. If you have no idea what that is, read our post about it. Feel free to hit us up if you want to chat further, as we’re always happy to help people travel more.

While we’ve spent six months at a time in Puerto Vallarta the last few years, this time was different…

We wanted to use the companion pass one more time and get home for the holidays. As a result, we decided to just stay for a month.

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Christmas lights on the Malecon.

There was also the issue of accommodation. We got the “pandemic special” last year with our baller AF condo, but that’s definitely not possible this year. High season rates are all jacked up and we waited too long to start looking.

It’s all good, though. We did the math and realized we’ve spent 2.5 of the 5 years that we’ve been nomads in PV. It’s been a great (sort of) home base and we’ve had some amazing times there.

That being said, we’re ready for something different. We want to finally visit Europe together and would both love to get back to Asia. I haven’t been Down Under yet and neither of us has been to Africa.

The world is very big, and while we love our little slice of paradise in Banderas Bay, we want to see more of it.

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Cheers to PV!

With just a month in town, we ate all the tacos, saw all the friends, and drank all the cervezas. Thanks to some awesome friends we managed to find a place to squat for the whole month without paying exorbitant Airbnb prices. Again, our friends are the best!

Since we’ve basically done all the touristy things we want to do there, we were able to just enjoy our time. We got to go to a bunch of our favorite restaurants and bars, chill on the beach, and enjoy the festive scene on the Malecon.

All of the public events and festivities were canceled in 2020, so it was great getting to experience the holiday season in a more “normal” year. They had the Malecon decked out in Christmas lights with a huge tree. Check it out in our short video:

In between stints of squatting at friend’s apartments, we decided to head up to Sayulita for a quick trip. That brings us to the next point…

Nomad Life in a Treehouse

Despite it being only an hour up the road, we had only been up to Sayulita once. You know how sometimes places nearby can seem really far when you live there? That happened to us with Sayulita.

This chilled-out beach town has definitely blown up since then, and it’s all the rage these days. We figured we’d go back up and see what all the hype was about.

I managed to find the owner of these awesome treehouses off Airbnb and save $100 on a 4-night booking. There was just the issue of our classes. The wifi test she sent me looked solid, so we decided to go for it.

The treehouses are in the jungle about a 15-minute walk from town. There are only a few other residences out here along the river and it’s a beautiful place. See for yourself:

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Treehouse life!

An actual vacation there would have been great, but both of us still had to work. The wifi actually worked fine for our classes on Zoom or Skype, but it struggled with the Langu platform and the Bridge Universe Virtual Summit Rachel was participating in.

The result was Rachel sprinting with her computer bag, in her flip-flops, up a dirt road to try and get to a coworking space. She eventually made it into the summit, which just so happened to be about digital nomad life. This proved to be a great lesson for the group!

Other than work, we didn’t do a whole lot in Sayulita. We hit up several taco trucks and local restaurants, had some beers on the beach at sunset, and bounced around town a bit.

The vibe is definitely cool in Sayulita, and we see why people dig it so much. It’s still a bit small for us, but now that the wifi is decent we would consider living there for a bit.

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A drone shot of Sayulita.

No Place Like Home For the Holidays

Since we moved to China together in 2010, we really haven’t been home for the holidays much. Rachel’s family opted to not have a big gathering last year and we stayed in PV, so we wanted to make it home this time around.

We got to the airport in PV early to take the necessary COVID test. It was a bit nerve-wracking, as we didn’t get the results until ten minutes before the cutoff for checking bags.

Thankfully we were both “negativo,” and we cheered along with the friendly local Southwest employees as we headed to check our bags. A flight to Houston, some Wendy’s, and a flight to Nashville got us back late in the evening.

After a night crashing with friends, we made the 4-hour drive back to Johnson City. That night was dinner with Rachel’s dad, stepmom, brother, sister-in-law, and nephew, who is just the cutest.

We also saw the amazing Christmas tree display downtown. There were 155 different trees decorated by local businesses and it was a very festive scene.

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Christmas in JC.

On Christmas Eve, we drove to the mountain house in time for dinner with her mom, step-dad, and his daughters. I showed my Santa in China video and we laughed at the ridiculousness of it all.

Christmas Day was spent lounging around the house mostly, with a trip across the street to visit more extended family. Then on the 26th, we had a 2.5-hour drive to Charlotte to celebrate with her mom’s side of the family.

That’s a pretty typical holiday routine for Rachel, but it’s still a bit overwhelming for me. Christmas as a kid for me was always driving three blocks to my grandparents’ house so we never had to do all that running around.

After the huge year we had, though, the holiday travel didn’t even phase me. We had a great time pigging out on all kinds of delicious food while visiting with her family.

If there’s one thing this lousy pandemic taught us all, it’s to cherish time with people you care about. After months of Zoom calls and visits through a fence, it was great to actually all be together for the holidays.

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We had a great Christmas with family.

Launching Into 2022 at a Space Disco

New Year’s Eve is arguably the biggest day in the jamband calendar. Sure, Halloween is huge, but nothing tops NYE. We love going to shows to ring in the New Year. Hell, we even got engaged at one!

After a year with no NYE shows at all, most of our favorite bands had shows on the books to end 2021. Of course, it’s hard to top Phish at the Garden (Madison Square Garden), but we knew we couldn’t afford that.

Instead, we decided to keep it somewhat local. Our plan was to drive to Atlanta to see Widespread Panic on the 28th, STS9 on the 29th and 30th, and then drive back to Asheville for the Pigeons Playing Ping Pong show on the 31st.

Before you ask – yes, we realize most of the bands we like are named after animals…

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We got engaged at Phish NYE.

Unfortunately for live music fans all over the country, cancelations began to roll in. Umphrey’s in Miami. Phish in New York. Spafford in Philly. The dominoes began to fall…

We tried to remain optimistic but prepared ourselves for another NYE on the couch. Then Panic and STS9 both canceled. Damn, here we go again.

A few bands decided to go for it by requiring proof of vaccination or negative tests for entry. Pigeons was one such band and their 2-night run in Asheville was on!

The theme for the weekend was Arena 54 – Area 51 meets Studio 54 in an arena. Basically, a space disco! We knew it would be a good time and as a bonus our friends in Funk You were opening the show.

We managed to put together some pretty stellar wardrobes at the last minute thanks to Amazon Prime and local vintage shops. What do you think?

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Ready for a space disco!

As for the shows, they were both tons of fun. The crowd was pretty thin, as many chose to sit out indoor gatherings and couch tour instead.

We’re both double vaccinated and healthy so we had no problem going to the shows. We knew there was a risk involved and were happy to take it to end the year with some live music. It’s been almost a week and we’re both feeling fine, by the way.

They started out with a 2-set show at the Orange Peel downtown. We watched the Tennessee Vols game with friends then hit a brewery next to the venue so I could watch some of the Spartans. The boys in green & white prevailed! Sparty on, Wayne!

It was our first time seeing Pigeons since NYE 2019 and they brought the space disco vibes for sure. I wrote a big recap of both shows on the Campfire blog for Summer Camp, click here to check it out!

The show on NYE was out-of-this-world, to say the very least. It was a 7-hour marathon affair, with Funk You and Keller Williams each playing opening sets.

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A space disco party!

It’s been so cool getting to hang out with the Funk You guys this year since our buddy Jake is their tour manager. We saw them in Asheville in July then again at Summer Camp and got to ring in the New Year backstage with them.

Pigeons played two more sets and brought tons of guests out. Members of Funk You joined them on percussion, Keller sat in on a bunch of songs, and the horn section from Here Come the Mummies joined the party too.

We got to shake shake shake, shake shake shake, shake our booties all night long. There were covers of “Rocket Man” and “Cosmic Girl” along with a huge mashup of disco hits and a funky take on the X-Files theme.

Props to Pigeons for going ahead with the shows and a huge shoutout to all artists, crews, and venue staff involved. It was the perfect way to end the year and just an overall fantastic experience.

We started 2022 decked out in sequins with alien accessories on, dancing with our friends to some live music. Happy New Year, indeed!

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Happy New Year!

What’s Next?

After that wild ride of a year that we just had, we’re happily hibernating for the entire month of January. We’re posted up here at the mountain house in Asheville and are enjoying some much-needed downtime.

It turns out that following a rock band around the country is expensive, especially when you unexpectedly lose your biggest source of income in the middle of it all.

As such, we’re laying low for a bit while we figure out what’s next. I’m teaching a fixed schedule of reading classes during the week to kids in Long Island. It’s a long story but the classes are going pretty well and I’m thankful for the guaranteed income.

I’ve also started on Langu and have one regular student. Rachel is still doing fine on there and her schedule is picking up after the holidays.

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Much of the next month will look like this.

There’s also a ton of writing work on my plate. In addition to starting to write for a new Puerto Vallarta-centric blog, I have two cover stories coming up that will both take a lot of time and research.

We’re also using this downtime to get healthy. Going on tour is fun, but it’s not exactly the healthiest affair. All those grilled cheese and heady beers start to add up after a while…

I’m doing Dry January again this year and I’m happy to have decent N/A beers around. Rachel is cutting out a vice too – she’s not eating any white potatoes this month!

We’re both doing the Ripped 30 home workout plan as well. I’m going all out and also doing the 30 days of Yoga With Adriene to start the year.

After many sleepless nights spent raging in random hotel rooms, we’re actually trying to get some decent sleep. I’m giving meditation a shot again as well.

Don’t worry – we’re not done partying or anything. We just need a break because we want to be able to do this for a lot longer!

If anyone actually makes it to the end of this stony memoir, thanks! I guess I had a lot to say to wrap up the year. It was a wild ride and it was a lot of fun to look back on.

Here’s to hoping 2022 is a great year for us all!

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