So I'm starting 2014 with a 2013 year-end post that's five days late, but I'm cutting myself some slack because as it turns out, I've been writing year-end posts since 2006. Over the holidays I was too busy being lazy (hehe) and just didn't have the drive to blog. I don't want to make excuses so early in the year, so maybe we just let this one go, yes?
Anyway, as this is my 8th year-end post (and that fact doesn't make me feel old at all), I'm running out of ideas on how to make this different from the previous year. I had half a mind to just make a picture collage from my trips, but 2013 had been such a great year and it deserves much more than that. I thereby present my last minute attempt (and last ditch effort) at a creative concept, in which I share with you five things I learned from the road to sum up all my travels from the year that was.
A blessed and fruitful new year and new travels to all of us!
1. Be ever thankful for the kindness of strangers.
The good folks at Garden Home BnB in Yangon, Myanmar were kind enough to relieve us of a bit of stress from two back-to-back flights across three countries, right before we took a 12-hour cross-country bus ride, by letting us take the best shower of our lives, and they did it out of the kindness of their hearts.
In Korea, I was shopping for beauty products at Nature Republic because my friends and I were running after these...freebies. Let's just call them those. Haha. I had entered literally every Nature Republic store I passed (and if you've ever been to Seoul you would know that Nature Republic, along with other beauty brands, have a gazillion shops everywhere) trying to find them, and chanced upon one branch that had them, in a random out-of-the-way subway station, of all places. I was only hoping to get a few freebies given the items I wanted to purchase, but lo and behold, the lovely ladies who manned the shop were probably amused at my fangirling (my little bit of Filipina charm probably helped too) and gave me four complete sets of freebies for me and my three friends (because they knew I was buying for my three friends back in Manila). Four complete sets! I was so happy and thankful to them and it was so unexpected I nearly cried.
2. Festivals + Friends = Fun Fun Fun
A fairly monumental year for the YOLOs - so many concerts and parties (Bloc Party, Afrojack, Avicii, The xx, Zedd which I missed among many others TT), but the two I remember the most are Wanderland and La Union Soul Surf.
And lest I make it seem like we're just a bunch of friends who have fun and (drink) party, I'd venture to say our friendships are solid and true! Dan, you made me cry ONCE this year and Cris was there as a witness, but I know you did it for our friendship! You guys suck but I couldn't be more thankful to have clingy friends like you two! Hahaha :)
3. Sometimes, it's good to splurge on a good deal.
I still maintain that Myanmar was a backpacking trip (really, 2 flights and 1 long ass bus ride one way!), but we did splurge a bit on our accommodations in Bagan, and am I thankful that we did! The lazy afternoons under the blazing Burmese sun spent by the pool and afternoons spent by the riverfront watching the sunset - Mabs and I have come a long way from spending two nights in a tin can of a hostel with Eds in Hong Kong. Those were good times of a different kind though, I have to say.
And then there was our epic, luxurious long weekend in El Nido, Palawan, at nearly 60% off, and it was worth every Peso. I haven't shared this yet because you know, too busy being lazy (hahaha), and Mabs is about ready to kill me for it, so here you go, our El Nido travel video, edited by Mabs! Enjoy!
I also got to travel for my day job this year, which was a great learning experience. I never knew fancy hotels could be edgy, fun and funky until I got to stay at W Bangkok. Hope I can come back!
4. Go Solo. Don't Plan Anything.
Early in December I went on a nearly week-long trip to Seoul on my own, with no itinerary and no definite plans. Every morning, I would go to a really nice coffee shop near my hostel, keep warm with a cup of hot chocolate, people watch, and plan my day. Among other things, I lived off of street food, discovered a hole-in-the-wall bar, a quaint little tea shop, and wasted four hours of my life in the cold in a strange part of Seoul waiting for nothing, but even that was quite the experience. I was on unlimited data roaming, so I didn't feel as lost and alone because there was internet and I was constantly on Line with my friends (it honestly felt like they were taking the trip with me), but it felt great, just having the freedom to explore a city at my own pace, based on my own interests. And on my last day, it snowed while I was out shopping! I hope to do it again someday soon, once again in Seoul, because it's really starting to become my favorite city. Blame it on the Kpop.
5. Venture Into the Strange and Unknown!
This is going to sound really hipster of me (I swear I'm not though, I listen to Kpop for crying out loud!), but I feel a sense of pride at the fact that even before the whole traveling thing - backpacking in particular - became pretty mainstream for my generation, my friends and I were already doing a bit of it. We went to explore Angkor Wat and the many other temples in Cambodia way before there were direct flights from Manila to Siem Reap, taking red-eye flights to Ho Chi Minh and spending our first night eating instant noodles on a roadside eatery at the backpacking district before going on a long ass border-crossing bus ride to Cambodia. We went to Bali via KL, before Cebu Pacific offered direct flights from Manila. We went to Myanmar in early 2013, when Filipinos still needed a visa to get in. Apparently you don't need one anymore now, and with Myanmar's rapid development, I won't be surprised if it becomes the next big travel destination for everybody.
Mabs and I worried a fair amount before we set out for our Myanmar trip, just because the country was so...unknown. Almost mysterious and exotic, really. But the kindness of its locals and the amazing beauty and history of the place just blew us away. I'm so, so glad we went. I remember going through a serious bout of separation anxiety as we drove away from Bagan, passing through temples I felt I would never see again. But I will come back. I want to come back someday. It probably won't be the same, but I would go anyway. I won't ever forget the first sunrise we caught on top of one of the temples in Bagan and how surreal of an experience it was, seeing so many majestic temples on the horizon, and I remember just staring in awe at everything. It didn't matter that we had spent nearly two straight days traveling. Everything was worth it.
If you're ever tempted to travel to a not-so-popular destination but are afraid to go, I would say overcome that fear of the unknown and just do it, because it might just be one of the most rewarding trips you'll ever take.
Now that I'm done with this post I genuinely feel that 2013 has ended. I very much look forward to 2014 as I already have a few trips lined up, but I do hope for a few more surprises.
Where are you off to this year?