Woohoooo… first post of the new year!
This past year has been such a huge year for me. It’s been quite a heavy year filled with a lot of learning and self discovery. I feel like I should write something to mark the end of year, but I’m still not ready to put it all into words (but you guys know what happened). Instead, when I saw that Jessi put out this post, I knew I had to do it too!
I’ve been 30 for almost 2 months now, but let’s just pretend it’s still fresh (and also pretend that I didn’t procrastinate so much on getting this post out). It did also just so happened that my 30th coincided with a major turning point in my life. So instead of doing just a re-cap on the past year, what better way to end this year by reflecting back on the entire past decade?
So without further rambling, here are 20 of my most significant experiences in my 20’s (some lighthearted and some more profound), in no particular order!
1 | Seeing the floating lights in Chiang Mai
One of my biggest dreams come true! Seeing thousands of lanterns floating up into the sky at once was one of the most magical moments I’ve ever experienced. I literally cried with happiness and the beautifulness of it all. It was truly like something out of a fairy tale.
2 | Becoming a professional engineer
I may not be doing work in this field now, but I am damn proud of this achievement! I got my license as a professional civil engineer when I was 25. The year of hardcore studying it took was not fun. And the 13 hour test was probably the worst thing ever. I’ve never believed myself to be naturally talented at engineering-type stuff. So it took a TON of dedication and studying. And I realized that I could do anything I set my mind to.
3 | Becoming best friends with my sister again
My sister and I are twins. We were really close when we were young, until life and other stuff caused us to drift apart in adulthood. The bond was seriously severed when I quit my job and left the US to travel – a decision that none of my family supported.
If you’ve been following for at least a year, you may remember that last summer, she fell seriously ill. I flew back to LA to be with her in the hospital and during the recovery period. This whole ordeal was terrible, but we became closer than ever. Now, we talk just about every day. And I love having a sister who’s now my best friend.
4 | Experiencing an international relationship
On my 30th birthday, I told you guys in this post that I had met a local boy in Kuala Lumpur. Although the time span of this relationship may have been short, it was no less special. He was a true caring, kind person and showed me how I should be treated. I don’t know if he still reads this blog, but if he does, then I hope he knows how much it meant to me.
I never in a million years would have imagined that I’d fall for a Malaysian guy. I never thought I’d want to stay in a foreign country for someone. The relationship didn’t have a happy-ever-after ending, but it still taught me that you will never know who’ll come across your path and you’ll never know what your heart will want.
5 | Living in Santiago, Chile
This was the first place I have ever really traveled to (that wasn’t road trips or visits to China). I will never forget the fear and excitement of flying to somewhere where I knew absolutely nothing, and then the almost panic when it wasn’t what I expected. And later on – the incredible feeling of freedom, awe, and real happiness.
Santiago isn’t my favorite city and I would probably never choose to go back and live there again. But it has permanently imprinted itself onto my heart in a way that no other city ever can. This is the place I fell in love with travel and freedom and this new kind of life.
6 | Road tripping with my best college friends
I think road trips are one of the most fun ways to travel. And even better when you grab a few of your favorite pals, a car full of junk food, music, a map, and head out on the open road. I’m so happy that we were able to have a couple of awesome road trips and memories before things like life, responsibilities, and (ahem) leaving the country.
Picture stolen from my friend Omair!
7 | Loving and losing
As you know, I started my 30’s (newly) single. Yes it was pretty depressing at the time, but now that I’ve had a couple of months, I realized that each journey of loving, dedicating myself to someone, and ultimately losing has improved me and gifted me with new wisdom. With each (failed) relationship, I’m learning more and more what I have to offer and what I deserve. I’m proud to be the kind of girl who can wholeheartedly love and support someone. And I’m also proud to be the kind of girl who can stand alone and grow only stronger.
8 | Starting a new career as a freelancer
For a long time after I quit my job, I believed I didn’t have any skills. Heck, even when I was an engineer/project manager, I wasn’t a good one. Anyway, this fear of not being good enough kept me from looking for real work for a long time.
But then by keeping this blog, I realized that maybe I do have a marketable skill after all. And then because of the blog, I was able to get writing work, and sure, I don’t make as much as I did before, but I’m happy to say that I now earn a living as a freelancer.
9 | Backpacking across Europe
In the first year of travel, we spent 3 months backpacking across Europe, making our way from London to Istanbul. It was a very hectic summer and there were some moments that weren’t our brightest, but it was a fabulous time. We saw so much, did so much, and ate so much. I’m not sure if I’ll ever do something like that again. Just because I actually work now and have no desire to travel at that pace again.
10 | Reconnecting with my family in China
One of the best things about traveling and the freedom is that I can use it to spend more time with family. Ever since I moved to the US at the age of 6, it’s been difficult trying to maintain a close relationship with the family that lived halfway around the world. We only got to fly back to visit once every 5 years or so. But in the past year, I’ve been able to spend so much time with my family in Beijing. Finally after over 2 decades of being gone, I feel like I belong once again in my birth city.
11 | Petting a baby giant panda
Okay, so it was through bars and not like I got to cuddle it or anything, but I still love this moment! Because I petted and fed a baby panda! This was at the Beijing Zoo, when my mom’s best friend’s son worked in the panda house.
12 | Starting this blog
First, I admit that it’s still slightly embarrassing to admit to people that I have a blog. And I hardly ever tell people I meet the name of it because I don’t want them to search for it. And I’m not the best or most consistent travel blogger. But the truth is that I love this blog. It’s my baby. This may be the only thing that I created completely by myself, from scratch, haven’t given up on, and I’m proud of it.
I also love all the friends I’ve made through here (whether they’ve become real-life friends or virtual for now), so don’t be afraid to say hi!
13 | Learned to ski
It’s incredibly thrilling to be speeding down a snowy slope with two thin strips of wood strapped onto your feet. Even when I accidentally went up a slope way too steep for my level, and started panicking and cried and had to slide down on my butt.
14 | Caring for two little bunnies
I adopted Sam and Stella from a neglectful home and it took a long time for them to trust me. It felt so incredibly rewarding when I finally earned their love. For 6 years, they brought so much joy into my life… little bunny feet running all over my room, little bunny kisses to wake me each morning… To this day, I still consider giving them up (they went to a really nice new mom!) as the biggest sacrifice I made for travel.
15 | Nights out with girlfriends
Now that all my girlfriends are in their 30’s now too and settling down with their respective partners (and babies)… I’m pretty sure nights out like this are a thing of the past. Whether these were nights out in LA or in Vegas, I love the memories of dressing up, going out, dancing, and well… what happens during a girls’ night stays within the circle, right? :P (Just kidding mom, seriously nothing really ever happened.)
16 | Taking glamour photos in China
Because sometimes, you just have to dress up in luxurious costumes and be a glamour queen for a day! And now when I’m old, I can show my grandkids and be like “I was beautiful when I was young.” (Fake, professional makeup and lighting, photoshopped beauty, but still!)
17 | Eating everything in Vietnam
Vietnam is one of the best foodie destinations ever! Everything is just so delicious and fresh there. And where else do you see tiny women who carry their entire restaurant on their shoulders? And where else do you get to have a freshly made meal for you right on the sidewalk while you sit on a tiny stool?
18 | Sold all my crap
It’s incredibly liberating to be freed of material stuff that tie you down. It’s a good feeling to know that all your possessions fit in only one-carry on luggage and that everything you need to survive packs down to 20 pounds. It’s amazing how little you actually need to be happy. Though to be honest, this is something I need to work on again, because I’ve accumulated quite a bit more crap since settling in KL, which leads me to…..
19 | Finding a second home in Kuala Lumpur
In this new nomadic travel life, I’m glad to have found a second home in Kuala Lumpur, a city that endlessly excites me. The decision to settle down in KL for a bit also came at a huge turning point of my life. I needed somewhere to put myself together again. And KL did that and more. I’m not exactly sure where me and this city stand now, but I will always be grateful to KL for healing me and providing me with a home.
20 | Learning to put my own happiness first
And the last one – the biggie. This is still a work in progress, but I think I’ve done a good job of designing a life that is fulfilling and happy. This means not living a life based on what society, parents, or even your partner expects you to do. There were some hard lessons along the way and some people that mean so much to me had to disappear from my life. But I’ve also gained so much more. I know I’m entering this new decade a much happier and more confident person.
Maybe I’m just feeling extra emotional and sappy, but I’m tearing up slightly as I’m finishing this list. Because looking back onto it, though there’s been quite a few curveballs and heartbreaks, I’ve had a truly wonderful life thus far. And I feel so grateful for everyone and everything that entered it and gave me memories and taught me lessons. And I know that life is only going to get better from here.
What have been some of your favorite experiences?