2016 Year In Review: the Good, the Bad, and the WTF

9 Countries, 5 Continents, 50,000+ miles – No, this isn’t an episode of The Amazing Race, it’s my Year in Review!

And no, that title is definitely not click-bait. 2016 has been such a WTF year that it deserved to be up there. This year has been the most whirlwind one that I’ve had in a long time, in some ways good and bad. What did I do? Was it that chain email that I didn’t forward 10 years ago? Did I mess up my feng shui by redecorating incorrectly? It’s because I broke my favorite cup – right, Universe??

Whatever it is, 2016 is difficult to sum it up in words: it’s been the most unexpected, toughest, euphoric, and craziest ride that I’ve had in a while – let’s see how I did!

    TRAVEL   

Adventures with Luda wouldn’t be fun without the adventure part, right? Travel was the main highlight of my year: I visited 9 new countries in all parts of the world, made new friends, and saw way more than I have in my entire life.

Visited (Almost!) All Continents 

When I was looking back at the photos taken this year, I realized that I’ve stepped foot in almost each continent and had no idea! Here’s a short list of my travels:

JANUARY – Egypt *First African Country*
FEBRUARY – Nothing
MARCH – San Diego, CA
APRIL – Japan *First Asian Country*
MAY – Nothing
JUNE – Brazil *First S. American Country*
JULY– Las Vegas
AUGUST– Mexico
SEPTEMBER– Nepal, Hong Kong/Macau
OCTOBER– United Arab Emirates *First Middle East Country*
NOVEMBER– New Zealand, Australia *First Oceania Country*
DECEMBER– Seattle, WA

I also got to go on many “firsts” by starting out the year and going to my first African country, Egypt. From there, my first Asian country was Japan (a longtime dream ), then Brazil for my first South American country, UAE for the first Middle Eastern country, and ending with a trip to Australia + New Zealand for my first Oceania countries. Phew!

Ironically I didn’t get a chance to visit Europe this year, considering I was born there and it’s all the rage right now (#hipster). And of course, Antarctica. The lil’ chunk of ice that costs an arm, a few thousand dollars, and probably an exit seat sacrifice to the travel gods.
Since I’ve been to six continents, the only logical thing to do in 2017 is to create a secret stash of cash under my mattress and hope that those cruises from Ushuaia go on sale … Antarctica, watch out – you’re next!

First Error Fare 

You know those lucky bastards friends that always seem to get a good deal? Like flying from Los Angeles to Canada for $50? Or from New York to Italy for $180 round trip? I always felt a little bit of jealousy and thought, How come I didn’t get the memo? Well, not anymore! This year I was inaugurated to the Lucky Bastards Error Fare Club!

It’s 9PM, I’m taking the train back to Tokyo from a long day of exploring Hakone, scrolling through my phone and wasting the data on my pocket wifi, when suddenly everyone starts reposting the same thing on Facebook:
ERROR FARE! USA to New Zealand for A CRAZY Cheap $210 R/T!

Being the stubborn person that I was, I scrolled through the deal. And chilled out. And thought about it for a good few minutes. Then it hit me … Is this real?! $200 and round trip? I was so dumbstruck that I couldn’t believe that I actually stumbled on an error fare lol

I bought the tickets, got a confirmation from the website, and waited. And waited some more. Getting the confirmation was easy, the hard part was waiting to get an e-ticket number. Once you get an e-ticket, you’re 99.9% guaranteed that you’ll be going on that crazy cheap flight. If you don’t, there’s a chance that the airline will cancel the flight and say “Oops, it was an error fare ¯\_(ツ)_/¯”

As you can see from my photo near the lovely Sydney Opera House, everything went smoothly and I got to explore Australia and New Zealand – all for $220.

 

Travel Hacking

Posting photos of my credit cards seems like a bad idea, so here’s me in Hobbiton, New Zealand instead

I wish this title meant something like, I hacked into an airline’s server and made all the flights $50, but unfortunately it’s not. 2016 was the year when I learned about travel hacking, or maximizing points by opening credit cards and taking advantages of the bonuses. Before you run off this page and open up 52 new credit cards, I recommend reading about the basics and figuring out what you want – that’s how I started!

This year I opened a Delta Skymiles, United MileagePlus, Jetblue, and Chase Sapphire credit card. Sounds like a lot, but I’m going to cancel half of them in the new year after I redeem my points for flights, which include a roundtrip flight to anywhere in the US (or Cuba!), a few roundtrips to Europe/Asia, and statement credit.

   WORK    

How to Quit Your Job & Travel the World (Not Really)

Cheers to new opportunities (and clickbait titles!)
No, I’m definitely not drunk in this photo, what makes you say that?
 

I started my first “real” job two months after I graduated, working for a start-up in San Francisco (can you tell by the graffiti walls?) This was in the Marketing department, where I designed emails, worked on webinars, and – wait, do we really need to know? I’m starting to sound like my LinkedIn profile, hah.

Anyway! Even though I loved my team, working for that company in the first few weeks scared me shitless. All of the new employees have to do a small project when they first join, which includes a week-long research session and presentation at the end of the week. I dreaded the long commute to the office every morning and back home at night. Mind you, this feeling set in on my second day of work. And it was part-time. PART. TIME!
How was I going to survive the next 40 years if I couldn’t make it past the first four days?

Call me an entitled millennial or a weenie -I won’t mind, and you wouldn’t be the first  – but that job is the reason why this blog was born. I didn’t want to spent the majority of my life in a 9 to 5 job, working for somebody else’s dreams, just to look back and say, “That was it?

I lasted about a year at that job before my contract ended in April and we parted ways. Luckily, I had a part-time job as a Travel Consultant/Concierge for another start-up (shout out to all the start-ups in SF) that allowed me to travel. Before April, I visited one country. After, I visited nine. Towards the end of this year, in November, I got promoted and now give terrible excellent advice to travelers who visit San Francisco. ;)

 

    FITNESS   

When you’re hurling 25 mph down a cave…

In the beginning of the year, MapMyRun had a challenge to log 1000 kilometers on their app. I was like, Nah that’s way too much, but I set my goal to 500km (311 mi) and completed it! On December 31st, of all days, but better late than never, right?

To be honest, fitness was never really a priority this year. I had no motivation to do anything except work after my breakup (see below) – I was literally waking up, working my shift, scrolling through Facebook, and going to sleep, only to have it repeat for days, weeks, and so on, until the next trip came along. The thing that finally snapped me out of this routine was when I went cave climbing in New Zealand this November. I got to use muscles that haven’t been used in months to climb walls, rappel down 50 feet, and push myself for the 3-hour torture adventure. I was so exhilarated after I climbed out of that cave that I wanted to go back and do it again!

After this trip- and sitting on my butt for 90% of the year – I wanted to make it a habit to get out there and exercise more often. If you’re interested in learning more, check out the next blog post for all of my 2017 resolutions!

    LIFE   

Even though you can’t really tell, I saved this section so I could type it up at the very end.
To be honest, 2016 has been shit in terms of my personal life – I broke up with my partner of 5+ years in May and lost my grandpa this past month. Some people say that breaking up a long-term relationship has the same stressful effect as a death in the family, so having to go through both was really hard. It meant moving back home (about an hour north of SF) for a few months, reevaluating what I wanted in life, and having to deal with the fact that you don’t have your other half anymore.

Is it hard in the beginning? Yes. You’ll want to stay in bed and salt your cup of Ben & Jerry with your tears (what a terrible visual ¯\_(ツ)_/¯) the first few weeks, but it’ll get better day by day. You’ll make new friends, go on dates, travel, and sooner or later, get over the person that you thought you’d never survive without.

In fact, if we didn’t break up I would probably still be sitting in my apartment and going through my day-to-day routine. I wouldn’t have traveled to 7 extra countries. I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to visit Nepal with my friend and see the sun rise over the Monkey Temple. I wouldn’t have gotten to the top of the tallest building in Dubai. Heck, I wouldn’t have even made it two states over to Seattle.

I think there’s a reason why some things don’t work out – it’s that the universe has something better for you.

New bangs, who dis?

Other than that, here are some fun things I did this year:

– Got bangs (and realized I look terrible with them, lol)
– Went on two international road trips
– Accidentally stole borrowed a Google bike for a few hours


– Had tea at three cat cafes around the world
– Starred in a car insurance infomercial
– Visited Las Vegas for the 10th time

No, this isn’t the Ukrainian embassy :P 

– Applied for my second citizenship!
– Took the longest nonstop flight so far (16 hours) from Dubai to SFO
– Went on my first food tour in Brazil and my second cooking class in Mexico

    THE BLOG   

Compared with my nonexistent blogging in 2015, I had a slightly more productive 2016 and ended up with 20 published articles. Along with 50+ unfinished posts sitting in the Drafts folder.  

One of the biggest problems I had while blogging was my procrastination. I would come up with a great idea for a post, brainstorm a ton of things to add, furiously scribble it down in my notebook, and … that’s it. If it got lucky, the post would be typed up and saved as a Draft, and if it got super lucky, it would actually be published. Looking back at all the great ideas that I lost to procrastination this year, I plan to do a way better job in 2017!

P.S. – Have you noticed the new header? I’ve been slowly revamping my layout as well!

 

   What’s up, 2017?

If you’re still here and finished reading my huge wall of text (and some GPOY photos), thank you for sticking around 

It’s been a rollercoaster ride with its ups and downs, but writing down all of my experiences have made me thankful to survive another year (this sounds way more morbid than I expected it to be lol). I hope you’ve all had a great 2016, and an even better 2017. If you’re interested to see what I have for next year, there’s going to be a post about my new year adventures in just a bit!

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