It’s that time of the year again.
It’s an annual tradition around this time of the year for me to start reflecting on how the year went by. There were moments where I wondered if such post were necessary, and I knew I wrote about the same feeling back in 2017, but looking at my past reflection posts – I knew it’s a tradition I will want to keep.
1. I crossed off a MAJOR travel bucket list: New Zealand
I really have to thank my friend slash coworker Lucas for this one. Lucas is our Product Manager in my full-time job at TradeGecko and we were working in the same team. When he first pitched the idea of working remotely for three weeks, I gotta say I was skeptical. But he got the necessary approvals and made the trip happen.
In Auckland, we met up and interviewed our customers who are based in New Zealand on the new product line we were developing. As a product team whose customers are usually far away, this face-to-face experience was extremely invaluable to us.
But let me be honest – the remote work days weren’t as chill as my photos made it out to be though. We’d wake up early and go for a hike somewhere, then come back after lunch and work until night time to sync with office time back home. We usually end work around 9-10 PM.
And… New Zealand itself? I am convinced it is indeed one of the most beautiful countries in the world. We did so many incredible hikes (even one that required us to go all four on snow), that I’m legit scared I won’t be able to top this one off. Once you see the photos, you’ll understand why!
- A 10 Day Road Trip Itinerary to the South Island of New Zealand
- Ben Lomond Hike in Queenstown
- Lake Marian Day Hike in Fiordland National Park
- Hooker Valley Track in Aoraki / Mount Cook
2. I went to Tasmania, the Southern-most state of Australia
Tasmania was this part of Australia I’ve always heard about but never imagined to visit, yet earlier this year I found myself on a 5-day road trip along the east coast of Tasmania, thanks to an ongoing partnership with CheapTickets.sg.
- 5-day Road Trip Itinerary along the East Coast of Tasmania
- What to do in Hobart
- Guide to Freycinet National Park
3. I went back to the states after almost ten years
I used to live in LA. I went to high school in a suburban city an hour away from here, before spending time for my undergrad at UCLA. You could say this is where most of my formative years were spent. I left LA ten years ago and haven’t been back since – until this year.
Coming back to a place you used to know was a strange feeling. The time I spent here had a strong influence on the person I’ve become, but so much has changed that LA felt so foreign to me. And yet, there are little bits and pieces that stays the same – Nostalgia is such a bittersweet feeling.
Before visiting LA, I also made a pit stop in New York. A 9-day pit stop that is. It’s true what people say about your first visit to New York City. It’s overwhelming, amazing, intimidating and endearing all at once.
4. I went back to Paris too!
I collaborated with Hotels.com to showcase why Paris is the top destination city for foodies. I first visited Paris on my first trip to Europe back in 2011. It was my first time ever traveling, so visiting Paris again as a somewhat more seasoned traveler was an interesting trip. I learned a lot more about French cuisine, especially the pastries! The glorious, crumbly, buttery pastries. And the fact that cheese is a perfectly okay thing to have as dessert after a meal.
Although, for a so-called “seasoned traveler” I also got scammed badly by the taxi scammers in CDG -_- it was a pretty traumatizing experience which involved verbal altercation because I refused to give in to the scammer’s demands. Thankfully I came out physically unscathed and the incident did not taint my trip to Paris, which continued to be wonderful. In short, it could have been a lot worse.
5. I spent a lot of time in Bali
When my boyfriend and I decided to travel to Bali for New Year’s Eve last year, we had no idea we would end up spending a lot of our time on this island for the next year. Due to some opportunities and career changes (for him), he ended up shuffling back and forth between Bali and Singapore frequently. Of course, this also meant I get to visit him in Bali! I ended up going to Bali a total of four times this year, and gotten a taste of how it feels like to live in Bali for an extended period of time. Lucky me 🙂
- Bali Travel Guide for First-Timers
- Ubud Travel Guide: What to do, where to eat and stay
- Nusa Penida Guide: What You Need to Know Before You Go
6. I attended a very festive North Indian wedding
I was invited to a North Indian wedding earlier this year, thanks to my coworker and friend Akanksha. She and her husband are from Rajasthan, a state in India located in the Northern part of the country – and famous for their extremely festive wedding ritual which lasted over 2 days. Having attended the wedding myself, I can confirm this was true – lots of cultural lesson and great food were had.
7. I started eating less meat
Climate change is happening guys, whether you want to acknowledge it or not. Over the past five years, I’ve done various efforts like reducing my usage of one-time-use plastic and producing less waste, but there is one thing I have not tried: eating less meat. I had been reading about how our meat consumption has a terrible impact on our environment, but I hadn’t done anything about it.
Obviously, by the name of this blog you could tell food is a huge part of my life. And I was quite selfish in that sense… I wasn’t willing to compromise on what I can and cannot eat, and so the thought remained shelved on the back of my mind.
My transition to eating less meat started sort of accidentally – one day, I happened to be eating vegetarian meals for lunch or dinner. I didn’t even notice I was doing it at first, but once I did, I became curious how long I would be able to live without meat if I were to consciously avoid it. A few days became a week, a week became two and suddenly the experiment continued on for 3 weeks and I did not eat meat at all during that period. Normally, I would have meat for all of my meals so this was a huge feat for me.
But, what I learned from those three weeks is that… forgoing meat isn’t as difficult as I expected, and meat isn’t as essential as part of my diet as I thought. I realized I could get by just fine eating vegetarian meals and that I actually love non-meat food (I LOVE tofu!).
I have been eating meat again since then, though in a much less frequency than I used to. These days my philosophy is this: I view eating meat as a luxury – and I don’t mean the price tag. After all, a living animal did die so that I could consume this meat, so it better be for a good reason.
8. I took a step back from Instagram
This is going to be a long one, but yes, I’ve started deleting the Instagram app on weekdays. When I told some friends about this, I was met with surprised wide eyes and a “WHAAAAAAT?”. To those of you who only know me from this blog, I maintain an Instagram account called @girleatworld with a considerable following, and people couldn’t understand why I would ditch that.
Here’s the thing… I’ve started having doubts about Instagram as a platform. It was really fun to be on Instagram and posting creative photos back in 2013-2014. Back then it was a much simpler time and we were so innocent, doing things without the intention of making money. To this day, I still love and appreciate those who follow me on @girleatworld. And I’m of course thankful for the number of travel opportunities I received just by being on Instagram (Tasmania and Paris were sponsored trips I got from Instagram, just to name a few).
However, fast forward to now in 2018, I have to admit that Instagram has grown to be a very toxic environment. To me, and possibly to many others. And I know I’m not alone in this thinking. Here’s why:
1. Instagram is extremely addictive and I can’t control myself
I’ve always had a smartphone addiction. I knew that. But the rise of Instagram and having many followers only exacerbated my addiction. It was only when I looked at my iPhone Screen Time app that I realized I’ve spent way too much time on that app – I clocked in an average 1-1.5 hours on Instagram every single day. That’s a lot of time to be spent on an app.
And to some extent, I suspect the blame wasn’t entirely on me. I think the folks over at Instagram have perfected the art of keeping their users on the app, giving us infinite content and stories to mindlessly scroll and tap on. So that’s why I’ve resorted to deleting the app for most of the week. I don’t want to be off Instagram completely since it’s so integrated into our social life, but I definitely needed to wean myself off it.
2. The sad state of influencer scene on Instagram
This is something that has saddened me for a while. I feel that these days, Instagram is ridden with accounts posting the same type of photos over and over again.
I’ve never really liked the term “influencer”. When you have an audience and the power to influence the way they view the world, there is an inherent responsibility that comes with it. When you gained a “follow” from someone, it means they’ve trusted you with a part of their day, a part of their attention – and in turn, you are expected to be presenting truthful and authentic content. But how can you stay true when so many contents are sponsored these days? And how can you stay authentic, when most of these accounts are doing it with the intention of being paid for the content they post?
I still don’t have a conclusion for this, but it definitely made me step back from Instagram considerably more this year. And instead, I’ve been putting my time more towards…
9. I started putting more thoughts into growing this blog
This blog started out just a casual diary thing that I keep from time to time. It still is, but it has evolved to be a little bit more than just that. It started with the Mount Rinjani blog post and First Time in Tokyo post that I originally wrote for my friends but somehow became the #1 result on Google search. That’s when I realized my travel posts could actually be valuable to others too.
Around mid-February, I finally did some much needed technical improvements and optimizations to the blog. To the seasoned bloggers, these improvements are a nothing new, just part of a basic checklist. But, since I haven’t really done anything to the blog prior, I’m proud to say it has more than doubled the blog traffic compared to last year, thanks to organic search traffic! And that’s with minimal effort on my part – I spent only a few hours per month on the blog, if at all.
Just to clarify, my numbers still aren’t stellar and I don’t have plans on making money off the blog at the moment.
10. What does 2019 have in store?
2019 at the moment is a big question mark for me. I know so far that I’ll be spending the new years eve and first two weeks of 2019 in Bali again (I do love that place), and that my best friend Kat wants to (finally) come visit me in Singapore and perhaps we’ll go visit Vietnam from here. Aside of that, I don’t have a concrete plan.
So I’ll just list out my hope for this year: I would love to go back to Japan again at some point. I would love to get back into diving again, something that was huge for me in 2016. I would love to finally visit South America – I keep saying that but I never actually made it there yet.
But I won’t stress. No matter what, I know I’ll end up travelling.
… and that wraps up my 2018. Thanks for reading, everyone! I’ll see you in 2019.