I started last year with My 5 Best Travel Moments of 2015, so why not kick it up a notch this year to My 6 Best Travel Moments of 2016?!
This year was more about living abroad, and adjusting to an expat lifestyle, instead of traveling, and it has undoubtedly been one of the more important years of my life.
While last year was more about solo travel and looking inwards, many of my favorite moments from this year were spent with others: both strangers and friends, and of course strangers who became friends. This year was all about connections, and making friends from all around the world.
1) Lunar New Year in Taiwan
From Taipei to Jiufen, Taiwan stole my heart in 2016. But one of the highlights was absolutely ringing in the year of the Monkey right at the source. I learned so much about the local traditions, and was fascinated by seeing firsthand what a truly big deal the Chinese New Year is compared to our holiday schedule in the West.
2) Pingxi Lantern Festival
This was not only one of the best moments of the year, but one of the best experiences of my life. I’d always wanted to go to a Lantern Festival, and when I read that a small mountain town in Taiwan, called Pingxi, held each year to mark the end of the Lunar New Year, I knew I had to be there.
The experience was better than I could’ve imagined. There’s a very magical quality about Pingxi, as you breathe in the mist of the surrounding mountains and can hear the echo of the Shifen Waterfalls in the distance, looking up at the sky to see floating lights that soared with good intentions was something I’ll never forget.
3) Girls Weekend in Seoul, South Korea
Korea was unexpected and effervescent. It was a short 2 hour flight from Taipei, Taiwan and everything just kind of came together for the extended weekend trip with Expat Edna and Richelle from Adventures Around Asia. What a fun time we had from applying Korean face masks while lounging on the floor of our hostel, to sampling allllllllllll of the Cat Cafes. With Richelle based in Beijing, and Edna soon-to-be based in New Zealand, hopefully we can do it again in 2017! I’m also hoping to make it back to Korea as there’s lots more I want to explore there.
4) Thanksgiving in Hong Kong
It would be kind of odd not to include Hong Kong at all on this list considering that it’s where I now call home. While there were a ton of great moments this year in Hong Kong, if I’m going to pick just one it would probably be the Thanksgiving I spent on a Sampan Boat in the Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter cracking open crab’s legs.
You can read more about it here. One of the reasons it was so memorable is because it was the first Thanksgiving I spent entirely with strangers, and it was one of the best.
5) Temple-hopping in Cambodia
Of course Angkor Wat in Siem Reap had been on my bucket list for quite some time, and there’s probably no better feeling for me than crossing off something that’s high on my bucket list.
And it didn’t disappoint…
Cambodia was wonderful, but the highlight was definitely the much-hyped sunrise at Angkor Wat. As I always say, even though I loathe overtouristed destinations and activities, they’re usually that way for a reason. This was one of those things and I’m so happy I didn’t skip it.
6) Exploring Northern California with close friends
My new favorite discovery is how much easier my jet lag goes when I break up my journey from Asia to New York by stopping off in California. This is exactly what I did en route home for the holidays, and my close friends hosted me and we wound up meeting up with a bunch of other close friends.
After months of living and studying abroad, it was so nice to just relax with people who know me well. The whole weekend felt so cozy and warm, and northern California is one of the most beautiful landscapes in all of the world. Everytime I’m in California, I add to my list of places I want to return to visit, and this time I’ve added Big Sur and Monterey.
As I’d mentioned at the beginning of this post, this year was completely about meeting new and amazing people, as well as really cherishing the wonderful people that are already in my life. It’s become an important lesson for me to pay attention to what I can learn from different personalities, as I really believe our connections and interactions hold the key to our purpose.
This is a big contrast from my solo travel endeavors in 2015, but that was also an important journey for me in order to clear emotional space within myself (after being so miserable the past few years living and working in NYC) so I can now be present and motivated for the people I want to give my time to.
What’s next for 2017? On my itinerary for this year are the Philippines, Laos, Malaysia and possibly Indonesia. I’m sure I will visit Macau at least once this year also, considering it’s such a short ferry ride from Hong Kong. More importantly, I hope I continue to meet amazingly diverse and interesting people from around the world.