With this trip, I’ve now visited Las Vegas at least once per year every year since 1997 (I think).

In the 90s and 00s, I was going with my dad to all of his industry conferences. I snuck into Comdex, the Venetian Gold Room, and was the king of the Circus Circus midway games (at least in my own mind – but not my parent’s wallet’s). Las Vegas loved kids back then. TI was Treasure Island and had an awesome kid area. MGM had a theme park out back. The Venetian opened with its canal and the Bellagio with its water show. Without a single chip to my name, I fell in love.

As I got older, it was college trips with friends, bachelor parties, and of course CES. We were so desperate to be 21 and play legally. It’s such a funny milestone when I think back, but as I watch the newly minted 21 year olds now – who look like babies to me – it all makes sense again.

The last few years has seen Vegas become the site where our family reunites. And that family is my blood, but also dear friends spread across the country and world as well. We have our rituals. And we blend in new and old. And it’s wonderful.

On this trip particularly, I saw so many people here experiencing this place in their own unique way, and it makes me wonder how anything this dynamic and magical could exist.

But as I sit here at the airport, way too early because my dad is always worried I’ll miss the flight, I’m realizing it felt different this time. As if we may be coming to the end of this adventure.

One January 1 very soon I’m going to wake up and say – well, there goes that streak.

But as long as these annual visits continue, it gives me a chance to teleport through time – just like when I swoop through NC State’s campus and recall 23 years of memories. Birthday parties. Shows we saw. Places we ate. The first craps table I won at. That time John disappeared for half a day.

It’s a funny thing to realize you’re outgrowing something or that maybe it’s outgrowing you.

And yet – there we were. Laughing about life over dinner. And it was clear. The finish lines won’t define us. The journey will.

Until next time Las Vegas.