2012 in Review

Dear friends, family, and readers,

Thanks for following my blog (and life!) in 2012. Below is an overview of my year in photos. I’m trying to use more visuals and less text than last year’s review. At the bottom, I discuss a few of my goals for 2013.

I hope you had as awesome a year as I did!



I started 2012 with something novel: a lease! My goal was to live in one place (minus normal travel) for a whole year. While the house pictured above was only mine for seven months (before being sold), I ended the year in another house in Asheville. Check!


We played a lot of Settlers of Catan at my house…


…and I found new ways to indulge my sugar habit. (Yes, that’s two double-stuff Oreo halves surrounding a Reese’s cup.)


From January through June I worked hard putting together my second book, Better Than CollegeI raised $9200 to fund the costs of independent publishing, learned a whole lot about book publishing, gave a talk about skipping college at Ignite Asheville (video), and solicited advance praise from Seth Godin, Daniel Pink, and other awesome authors.


I took a break to take six awesome teens to Argentina for a month (photos).


Ingmar (my trip co-leader) and I dined on giant Argentine grass-fed steaks whenever we got the chance.


We visited the salt flats of Northern Argentina…


…and took tango lessons in Córdoba. Not a terrible way to spend March.


I returned to Asheville in time to help Brenna kick ass selling her wares at a music and art festival.


We popped up to NYC for a quick trip and stayed with my college roommate Bryan (who ended up graciously hosting us many more times this year).


Another quick trip took me out to California for my friend Nathen’s and Reanna’s wedding in Joshua Tree. I lucked out and rented a sweet Mustang convertible for less than the price of a compact car.


Yours truly and the groom, looking dignified.


Grace did the honors.


I visited my aunt Wendy in Palm Springs and we road tripped down to Salton Sea, visiting a few sights from the movie “Into the Wild”.



I stopped by the location where, almost seven years ago to the day, I decided to quit my thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. (It’s an underpass at Interstate 10.)


A few close friends from my teenage years hosted me in LA.

photo (7)

Then I zipped over to Maine to watch my little sister graduate from college.


Back to Asheville—just in time for the first shipment of books to arrive!



Shipping them a few hundred individual recipients was less exciting.


My new book (and my wonderful supporters) helped me score a few radio interviews on NPR-affiliated stations across the country. I also wrote a few blog posts for The Huffington Post and The Matador Network.


I ran a leadership program (photos) in Asheville with another great group of young adults, in which I challenged them to do such amazing feats as…

photo 2

…slap a bronze pig’s butt.


Soon I was off again to California, for some requisite summer adventure. Here my friends Vince, Cameron, and I climbed Pyramid Peak, the highest mountain in Desolation Wilderness.


We then headed up to Loon Lake for some cliff jumping…


and 4Runner commercial shots. I also spent time in my beloved South Lake Tahoe with friends, and I unsuccessfully tried to organize a Deer Crossing Camp instructor reunion. (Alex and Sarah, we still made it happen!)


I worked all three sessions of Not Back to School Camp this year, with incredible advisees as always.


Many of the campers who were tiny 14-year-olds when I started working at NBTSC were now junior staff. It was a real pleasure to be part of this process.


Many campers were still just weird.


My second session advisees.


Brenna and I rejoined in San Diego to present at an unschooling conference, where we absorbed our annual dosage of tie-dye. (I also presented at the InHome and CHN homeschooling conferences earlier in the year.)


Back on the east coast, I visited NYC again—this time for my first national TV appearance on Imus in the Morning (video), talking about Better Than College.


More NBTSC—this time in Vermont. Evan did a great job of directing in Grace’s absence.

578350_4809059708027_597901294_nMy Vermont advisee group.


Not Back to School Camp continues to be a very magical and inspiring place. Here’s a shot from an impromptu workshop being lead by one dapper older camper.


I tried my best to make camp a tad more magical and inspiring.


There may be some notable differences between East and West coast campers—but they’re still all weird.


Next, on to Cape Cod for the Unschool Adventures Writing Retreat (photos and video). At this year’s retreat, we encouraged a wide variety of writing styles and challenges…


…but the biggest thing most of the students took away, I think, was a warm sense of community.


I led evening meetings and generally played director.


With 26 students and five staff packed into one hostel, we spilled out into local coffeeshops to get our writing done.


We dressed up on Halloween to score $2 “boo-ritos” at Chipotle.


Our group (minus Yael, who was away).


Brenna and I returned to Asheville just in time for Thanksgiving at The Roost community house. Here, Tara shoves her hand up the cloaca of a recently killed backyard Thanksgiving chicken.


Back in Asheville, things returned to “normal” after many months of travel. Brenna sold her work at a holiday craft show…


and I continued writing, raising $1634 to publish the e-book I started at the Writing Retreat: The Unschool Adventures Guide to Online Travel Fundraising.


Finally, just before the New Year, I announced a new event for self-directed learners ages 18-22: The Trailblazer Gathering. Trailblazer is the first program for 50+ people that I will have designed and directed entirely myself, which is scary and invigorating at the same.

Goals that I crossed off from my list in 2012:

  • Publish a book about giving yourself a higher education without college – Better Than College
  • Independently publish a professional-quality book – Better Than College
  • Write a fundraising guidebook for young adults – The Unschool Adventures Guide to Online Travel Fundraising
  • Live in one place for one year straight (post-college) – Asheville NC
  • Run the Shut-In Trail (Asheville, NC) – 17 miles, mostly downhill
  • Meet Seth Godin in person

New goals for 2013 and beyond:

  • Publish 10 podcast episodes
  • Publish three blog posts per week for six months straight
  • Give away 10,000 free copies of one of my books (working on it…)
  • Run a conference for college-aged self-directed learners (working on it: Trailblazer 2013)
  • Run these trails
  • Walk a 100′ slackline
  • Walk a high-line (elevated slackline)




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