This year was personally one of my greatest years on record for traveling. Even though things were a bit rocky at times this year, it always makes me feel so grateful to look back and be thankful for the journey. I feel so incredibly lucky to have had the experiences I’ve had, as well as the resources to make it all possible (even if it took some sacrifices along the way).

Getting right to the point, here are my top 5 travel highlights of 2015:

 

1) Road tripping the Pacific Coast Highway

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This is one of the most beautiful drives on Earth. I did the Los Angeles to San Diego route, which passes through coastal beach towns like Manhattan Beach, Laguna Beach, Dana Point and La Jolla. The scenery was a lot more dramatic than I’d anticipated: steep cliffs juxtaposed alongside a dazzling coastline. The ride from LA to San Diego is only supposed to take about 2 hours (or so my GPS told me), but because I kept stopping every mile or so to take in the sweeping vistas, it took me a full day and about 7 hours. If you’re able, I highly recommend taking your time with this drive as you’ll want to have enough time to savor it all.

Word on the street is that the northern counterpart to this route (Los Angeles to San Francisco) is even more beautiful. Maybe that’ll come in 2016! One of my best friends just recently moved to San Francisco and I owe her a visit, not to mention I’m dying to visit Big Sur after hearing it’s one of the top places to stargaze in the world. Say no more!

 

2) Self discovery in Sedona

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Sedona was so much more than I was expecting. It was on my radar in the first place because I’d heard incredible feedback from friends that had gone, but this place really has a certain X factor that’s hard to even properly explain. You just feel more at peace when you’re in Sedona. There’s no lack of beautiful scenery, and hiking alone (for the first time) turned out to be incredibly cathartic for me. You can read more about my experience in one of my more popular posts here.

 

3) Finally visiting Thailand

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I’d wanted to visit Thailand for SO many years, and finally checking somewhere off your list that has been at the top for eons has to be one of the greatest feelings in the world.

Having said that, my expectations were extremely high for Thailand and unfairly so. In theory, I should have loved Thailand. It has everything I look for – spirituality, history, some of the best food in the world, and diverse and spectacular scenery. But probably as a result of my high expectations, it fell short for me. That’s not to say that Thailand isn’t a world-class destination. As with many of the most popular tourist destinations, there’s a reason so many people flock there.

I merely wish I could have visited the Thailand of the past. I would have loved to visit a temple that wasn’t overcrowded. Or ate at a restaurant that didn’t automatically give me a menu divided into 10 convenient foreign languages.

Perhaps it was my fault for not better seeking out more of an “off the beaten path” part of the country. Or perhaps I just need to give it another chance, which I’m not against.

Regardless, I’m still glad I finally went and this remains not just one of my favorite travel memories of 2015, but of my life.

 

4) Making a dent in the Montreal Foodie Scene

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Montreal was another place I’d wanted to visit for some time, and it worked out that we chose it as the destination for my sister’s 40th birthday celebration. While we didn’t venture much outside of the Old Montreal quarter, we certainly ate our way through pretty much everything that this area had to offer. For my picks of the best of the best, see my post on Montreal.

It’s true what they say: visiting Montreal is like taking a trip to Europe without leaving North America.

 

5) Danang, Vietnam

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My dad was stationed in Danang during the Vietnam War (or the U.S. War of Aggression as it’s called there), and consequently this was another place I was determined to visit one day. It’s not something he talks about much, but when he does, I’d always wished I was able to better picture what it must have been like. While nothing can convey the terrors of wartime, visiting the region did help me to better picture some of the stories.

I have to say, although the Danang Beach area is beautiful (and now built up with lots of sprawling resorts), you can still feel that something happened there. It’s in the air. It was this feeling that made me feel more connected to my dad’s story, and the countless stories from both sides of the war. I returned with a newfound respect for what took place during that time in history, and I will be forever grateful for having that opportunity.

 

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There were so many more incredible moments this year, like basically every single thing I did in Singapore and discovering a tropical beach with some amazing friends right in the USA. I also met some really fantastic people this year, and I’m truly a better person for knowing them. You know who you are.

So what’s next for 2016? Well, for starters, I’m moving to Taiwan! If anyone reading has some advice or is in Taiwan yourself, drop me a line! I’ll need to make some friends since I’ll be moving there blindly without knowing a single soul. But I’m so excited for that.

Hopefully making a base out of Taipei will allow me to travel more easily throughout Asia. Since I’m always there anyways, I’m really looking forward to hopping around on shorter flights rather than my usual 30+ hour jaunts each way that always leave me sick upon returning.

I’d also be over the moon if I’m able to make it to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro this year. That might require some groundwork, though.

Additionally, there will be a lot of exciting developments for this blog happening in 2016…so stay tuned for that.

Have a very happy New Year, everyone, and travel well!