I never expected 2017 to be a year to myself, but then again, I guess you never really know what life will bring you with each new year.
I should know better by now.
Even though I didn’t expect it to be a year to myself, I can say with full clarity now that I’m so very glad that it was. This was the year that I found my independence again, understood fully what I deserve in my life, and embraced my alone time.
I’m someone who is already pretty good at being alone. I’m an introvert, most of my pastimes are solo ones – reading, playing my guitar, listening to music, cooking. And my work is very much a solo pursuit, from writing to doing digital marketing for clients.
I’m used to being alone, but 2017 was a year where I really just had myself to pull me back up from my bootstraps, to lean on, to make sense of stressful, happy, and sad situations.
I’ve always had a big heart for animals. That heart has only grown fuller as I’ve traveled more and seen the amount of animals that need help around the world.
From the many stray dogs I saw roaming around Greece, to the homeless kittens in Thailand, and yes, even dogs who were rotting from the inside out in Myanmar, there is plenty of help that is needed around the world and right here at home.
I’ll be the first to say that before this year I had never volunteered at an animal shelter. And to be honest, I initially did it for selfish reasons. I was going through a difficult time in my life in Thailand, and I just wanted to feel that unconditional love that animals are so good at giving.
I wasn’t sure what to expect with my return to Malaysia this year. The brief time I spent in the country in 2013 was a good experience overall, but it’s also the first place where I was aggressively groped in broad daylight.
Granted, gropings can happen anywhere, but I would be lying if I said it didn’t taint my experience while in the country.
It stuck with me so much that even today, four years later, when I hear a scooter coming up behind me I get a dose of adrenalin and and my sense of awareness goes into overdrive.
I knew I wanted to come back to Malaysia someday to have a more positive experience, and focus on all of the good that the country has to offer.
My friends and I made our way giggling in a tuk tuk to the party. The night before we had danced on a moonlit beach, Leos in hand, swaying in time to the palm trees and chill electronic beats.
“Wow, you seem to be doing so well. If I was in your position, I would not be this okay right now,” one of my friends said to me, when I mentioned my abrupt breakup from two weeks ago.
I shrugged my shoulders, “I guess I just want to be happy. I don’t want to be sad over something that wasn’t meant to be.”
The sun brought out the subtle green hues in the waves today.
I walked to the sea and floated in the warm reflections. They reminded me of the color of your deep set eyes, the specks of marine blues and greens and how they always had a crinkle, like the lip of a curling wave.
Do you remember that night? The tiny red plastic chairs, the uncontrollable laughter, a serene cloudless sky with the smell of sizzling fried chicken at our side.
It was electric.
To continue my travel budgeting series around Asia, next up is Laos!
I finally made it to Laos after missing it during my last trip to Asia in 2013. Since I went in the low season this year, I found it harder in some aspects for traveling around and budgeting.
I still managed to meet quite a few new traveler friends, but starting off my time in the country with a week straight of heavy rains in Luang Prabang, put a bit of a damper on my time, literally.
Off season or not, Laos turned out to be on par, or even a little cheaper, than its neighboring Southeast Asian countries of Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Food and drink especially were inexpensive and accommodation prices varied a lot depending on where I was in the country.
This is everything I spent during my 28 days in Laos!
“‘Live each day as if it’s your last’, that was the conventional advice, but really, who had the energy for that? What if it rained or you felt a bit glandy? It just wasn’t practical. Better by far to simply try and be good and courageous and bold and to make a difference. Not change the world exactly, but the bit around you. Go out there with your passion and your electric typewriter and work hard…something. Change lives through art maybe. Cherish your friends, stay true to your principles, live passionately and fully and well. Experience new things. Love and be loved, if you ever get the chance.” // Emma Morley (Excerpt from One Day)
When I stepped on that flight to Hong Kong last October, I had no idea how much my life would change in the course of eight months.
June signified the halfway point of 2017, and made me realize just how much I still want to accomplish before the end of this year. There’s a lot (as per usual)!
It was weird thinking about where I was at this time last year. I was hammock camping around the States, anxious to get to Asia in October, and spent a lot of time with my family.
When you think of Vietnam, you probably think of moody landscapes, thick jungles, and the hectic nature of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Very rarely do people think of tropical islands when considering a trip to Vietnam.
There are actually quite a few islands that tend to be less touristy than the mainland, because, well, not that many people know about them. I finally had my own tropical Vietnamese island experience this year on Phú Quốc.
When I was planning my first trip to Asia in 2013, the countries that I was most looking forward to seeing were Thailand and Indonesia. I thought for sure Bali and Thailand as a whole were going to be my favorite spots from my two months of travels.
In reality, they ended up being the biggest disappointments from that trip.