I’ll admit: I’m lazy and wasn’t gonna do a year-end recap post. But I was inspired by posts like Shikha’s and decided to write one of my own. I do think it’s nice to have these to look back on, when the memories start getting fuzzy and the years start to blend together. It’s also a good time to sit down, reflect, and think about the future.
So let’s recap! Find out my overall best part of the year, best foodie destination, best value destination, and more!
// China (Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu)
// Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Melacca, Langkawi, Redang, Kota Kinabalu)
// Indonesia (Bali)
// UAE (Dubai, Abu Dhabi)
// USA (Los Angeles, San Diego, New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Death Valley)
// New destinations: 13
// Return destinations: 6
// Flights: 16
// Trains: 5
// Boats: 3
// Buses: 2
// Road trips: 4
// Scooters: 1
// Camels: 1
The place I never expected to visit: Dubai
The entire Burj Khalifa! This is an amazing building and you can't help but be awed by it 😍 I've just arrived back in KL and already looking forward to the next adventure! I already miss the excitement of exploring somewhere new. But for now… I'm going to make it a point to explore locally while I decide what my next steps are :)
I never really cared to visit Dubai because it seemed so “fake” to me. But I wanted to visit Andrea, so Dubai ended up being my first real solo trip. And I had a great time! I never thought I’d ever go there again, so I did all the things: went up the Burj, did a desert safari, ate a fancy brunch, stuffed my face with Indian food, and even had an interesting experience in the old town. The funny thing is that I may actually go back to Dubai this year, because it’s been far too long since I’ve seen Andrea.
Best foodie destination of the year: New York City
Confession: pizza is one of my biggest guilty pleasures. But I'm super picky about it. And New York definitely doesn't disappoint. It seriously has the BEST pizzas – possibly in the world. We're on a mission to try as many of the famous pizzas as possible. Pictured here is the legendary Di Fara in Brooklyn, where the same old guy has been making every single pie himself since 1965. This is the best pizza I've ever had! I'm practically drooling thinking about it.
You guys know I love eating local food in different countries. I basically travel to eat. Which is why it surprised me that of all of exotic food around the world, my favorite foodie destination this year was right here in America in New York. Can’t believe I’ve only now discovered how amazing NYC is. I truly had some of the best food I’ve ever had. There are so many quality mom and pop shops there that really care about what they’re making. And the diversity was incredible too. Thank god it was just a 3 week visit, because I gained 7 pounds during that short time.
I’m currently working hard on my New York food posts and can’t wait to share!
I would also go as far to say that NYC was my favorite new destination of the year overall.
Best value destination of the year: Penang, Malaysia
To me, Penang truly embodies “the best of all words”. You get modern city life, historical charm, and beachy beauty. The food scene is incredibly good (always touted as one of the best foodie places in the world). You get delicious street food and trendy cafes. There’s a vibrant street art and craft scene. You have a hill to climb, jungles to hike, and the ocean to swim in.
And you guys, it’s INSANELY affordable. You can have a lot of fun there even on a tiiiiiny budget. The food is inexpensive and there are so many free things to do. This is one place where you don’t need to spend a lot of money to have a good time.
The place I thought I’d like more: Bali, Indonesia
Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy Bali. I stayed with a super nice family in their temple compound for 2 weeks, I met a couple of lovely locals (whom I still talk to), took a traditional batik painting class, and visited beautiful sites around the town. It was just… different… from what I thought it’d be. The population of Ubud seemed to be more foreigners than locals and overall just felt very touristy. But I did like the culture and the natural beauty and the food, so I can see myself returning just to relax and eat healthy.
Most beautiful destination of the year: Redang Island, Malaysia
I checked off a huge Malaysian dreamlist item when I finally made it to Redang Island. And it was even more special because my sister (and my Penang airbnb host) was on that trip too! I wanted to take my sister to a beachy destination and Redang fit that bill perfectly. It had the most beautiful clear blue water and soft white sand. It still felt pristine and not polluted by heavy tourism. We spent 3 days snorkeling with tropical fish and baby sharks, and the nights walking along the beach looking for glowing sand. I think from now on, any tropical/beachy destination will be hard to beat this.
The place where I left a bit of my heart: Chengdu, China
I genuinely miss Chengdu a lot. It’s not because of the food (though I do love spicy) or the things to do (though the pandas are adorable), but because of the people there. I stayed for a month with 3 locals girls (and a cat!) who immediately included me into their little group. We ate together, cooked, lounged around home, and even took a day trip. I felt so at home with them. We were always goofing and joking around. By the end of the month, I had already become a part of the apartment. I truly felt sad to say goodbye. I said I will come back and I fully intend on keeping the promise.
Best return destination: Shanghai, China
Over two years ago, I went to Shanghai and apparently really loved it. But as the years passed, I kind of forgot why I said that. Lucky for me, I got to revisit when my cousin asked if I want to come stay with her for a bit. I’m pleased to announced that I still love it! I stayed with my cousin for a little over 2 weeks and had so much fun. We tried a lot of new restaurants and shopped and chatted a ton. Oh, and Shanghai Disneyland was definitely a highlight!
However, I do have very mixed feelings, because while I LOVE spending time with my cousin in Shanghai, I’m also kinda terrified of her bathroom cockroach situation. I managed to tough it out, but felt at unease the entire time. *shudder*
Best impromptu trip: Las Vegas and Death Valley
If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you’ll have seen that I’ve been exploring some of America’s parks! A couple of college friends and I took a road trip to Las Vegas and Death Valley for the week in between Christmas and New Year. We basically just decided on the destinations and a few days later, we were off. I absolutely loved traveling with my friends again (something we used to do often back in the day). And I’m glad to visit some parks I’ve never been to. America really does have beautiful landscapes worthy of exploration.
I would also this that this is one of the most memorable trips of the year. I’m excited to share more about these places too!
Overall best part of the year: the people along the way
This year would not have been the same without all the people who were a part of it. I’m glad to have closed the year with many new friendships from around the world and rebonding with my favorite people in SoCal.
In this past year, I’ve turned a lot of blogging friendships into real life ones (hoping for more in 2018!). I’ve had people who went out of their way to show me around and those who invited me into their families without question. I’ve met incredible Airbnb hosts and local friends who made a foreign place so welcoming, while family and old SoCal friends remind me that I always have a home. I am truly grateful for the people in my life, near and far.
Best personal achievement
I’m proud of myself that I was fully able to sustain myself with my freelancing income this year. I didn’t have to dip into savings at all and have even increased my back-up funds. As of the end of 2017, my rate has doubled from what it was at the end of 2016. I’m continuing to get my finances into order with getting on a healthcare plan and dipping my toe into investing. I want to get to a point where I’m not only comfortable in the moment, but my financial future is taken care of as well.
I’m normally not one to brag, and in all reality, my earnings are hardly brag-worthy anyway. But I’m still proud of my little accomplishments. I’m proud of how much I’ve grown from that confused, dejected girl a couple of years ago.
Plan for 2018
As I write this, I still don’t have real plans. Just some fuzzy maybes. But here are some of my goals for the new year:
- Be braver and travel solo more. Don’t be afraid to go somewhere I’ve never been before by myself (yes, I’m still scared sometimes!). There are still so many places I want to visit, and while I would LOVE to have friends to travel with, I know that can’t always be the case.
- Keep on nurturing the friendships I’ve made. I know I’m not the best at keeping in touch when life gets busy (but hopefully my friends know I care!), but I want to be better. I want to form genuine connections with people. I want to have meaningful conversations and spend quality time together.
- Be more conscious about my health (my weight has gotten out of control this year), but keep on eating good food. :P
- Be better about working. I’m a huge procrastinator. And as a result, I waste a lot of my days… doing nothing, and spend a lot of my nights not relaxing. Time to get my act together.
- Be more consistent with blogging. I sincerely thank everyone who follows along and reads my posts. It makes my day when I receive comments about how my blog has inspired someone or that they simply like reading it. It’s feedback like that that inspires me to write more. I want to stop being such a perfectionist and just start posting more.
- Give back. I’ve been lucky to call the world my home for the past 3.5+ years. It’s time to give back. I want to do more good in general, whether it’s helping those in need, donating more, volunteering, or perhaps even a personal project.
2017 has been good to me. I’m feeling positive going into 2018. :)
How was your year? What plans do you have for 2018?