2018: A Year of Growth and Self-Discovery

This is turning out to be tougher than I thought. I don’t quite know where to begin since I haven’t been here for the longest time (and ironically, writing is a big part of my job but it’s hard getting into the groove).

Part of me was always wondering if anyone gave a damn about what I wrote, and I was often assessing whether it was worth the effort to try and keep this site alive. Another reason for the lack of updates was the difficulty in juggling my relationship, work, exercise and social life. Now that the relationship is out of the equation, I’ll commit more time to keep this space going. But more importantly, I have a thousand and one thoughts running through my mind after every trip, so I’d love to use this space to document the special moments in my life.

An overview of 2018

Failling in and out of love

2018 truly was a year of growth. I fell hard in love, and hit the bottom when the relationship failed. It all happened too quickly, too suddenly, and I ended up becoming a mess both mentally and physically. I still don’t know what went wrong, but I’ve accepted the fact that some things can never be explained.

I recently caught the movie “More than blue” and this quote sums up well.

爱情如果可以解释的话,那世界上就不会有人因此而痛苦了。(If love can be explained, there will not be so many people in the world hurting because of it.)

Finding an identity at work

At work, I was progressing faster than I thought. I was eager to get better, and I loved what I was doing. I was also hard on myself, and took feedback seriously. I listened and addressed the shortcomings and could see that I was getting better in all areas. Still, I had doubts over my abilities. But I’ve learned now that you’ll never be enough, and that’s okay. What’s important is to never stop learning and to always continue moving forward.

Reisha (my inspiring manager at work) reminded me, when she mentioned her 2019 resolution:

To have more faith in myself.

Curiosity about the world, and learning through my travels

I don’t feel like I travelled alot in 2018, but browsing through my records, I had managed to slot in six trips (one extended due to work, and not factoring in short 2D1N trips to Malaysia).

January, 2018: Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi day trip
A day trip to the magical Ninh Binh – exploring Hoa Lu and Tam Coc

This is a difficult one to write on, simply because my photos were all recorded on an old, outdated Huawei phone that now has all memory wiped out.

After four days of hustling for work in a hotel in Hanoi, I was pretty excited to explore the city during the extended weekend. It was my first time here and I’ve heard so much about this beautiful place. Since there was only three days to spare, I didn’t opt for a trip down to Halong Bay and instead booked a day trip for the magical Ninh Binh.

This day trip turned out to be one of the best I’ve ever done on all my travels – it’s perfect for those looking for a mix of stunning natural landscapes, history, and a bit of adventure. You’ll also cycle along quiet rural areas and paddy fields, and take the traditional sampan to explore the limestone rocks at Tam Coc (Three Caves)!

March, 2018: Gili Islands, Indonesia

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Gili Islands, Indonesia

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The first, official vacation of the year was spent with the beautiful Beckah (we met in Dec’16 in Krabi, Thailand) and a new friend, Lauren. This was also the final trip for us before Beckah returned home to the States after two years in Thailand.

We spent the whole trip feasting on yummy Indonesian cuisines (and grilled corn), chasing sunsets and swimming with turtles. While we stayed on the party island of Gili T., no partying was involved as it was the quiet, rainy season (bummer!). But what I liked the most was how the island had no cars and no scooters in sight, allowing us to take in the sights in peace and enjoying the freshest air.

June, 2018: Krabi, Thailand

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Railay beach, Krabi, Thailand

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This was an interesting one. The trip was meant to celebrate my birthday. I was supposed to travel with my then-partner but a twist of fate resulted in me travelling solo for the first time this year. I spent a week feeling down about how the happy, joyful images in my head were ruined and blamed him for the cause of my unhappiness.

That said, I tried my best to make the best out of it. Having spent a week in Krabi back in 2016, I could still remember the roads, restaurants, massage parlors and beaches well enough.

Krabi was as beautiful as my last visit, but it would be some time before I return again.

September 2018: Taipei, Tai Tung, Green Island, Hualien, Taiwan

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Fugang Geopark (Little Yehliu), Tai Tung, Taiwan
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Taitung Forest Park, Taiwan
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Taroko National Park, Hualien, Taiwan

It had been a couple of years since I came to Taiwan. The main reason I was revisiting the country was because I had to tick-off one of my destinations on my travel bucket list: Green Island.

Unfortunately (or fortunately), Super typhoon Mangkhut was forecast to hit Green Island head-on so we had to shorten our stay and return after just one night. We spent our time snorkeling and I finally learned to drive the scooter!

We were lucky enough as Taiwan avoided the typhoon altogether and we were treated with hot, summer weather for the rest of our trip. In Taitung, we ended up taking a day trip with our personal driver along the coastal road, visiting Sanxiantai and Little Yehliu.

Next up, we headed to Hualien and hiked at the beautiful Taroko National Park. It’s my second time here but I would do it all over again.

Also, be sure to make your way down to Hualien Bian Shi Dian (No. 311 Zhongzheng Rd., Hualien City, Hualien City, Taiwan) for some dumplings! It was so good we ate there a couple of times during our stay in the city.

October, 2018: Hong Kong

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Wan Chai, Hong Kong

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The last trip to Hong Kong was four years ago! Hong Kong had never appealed to me as I am not a big fan of cities (and quite frankly, my perception of the city remains unchanged).

I had planned this trip for two reasons: visit my friends and take on Hong Kong’s beautiful hikes. Now that I’ve accomplished both of them, the next trip would likely happen in a couple of years. The city’s way too busy, crowded and expensive for my liking, though the hikes on Lion rock and Dragon’s back were pretty dope (and not to forget the amazing seafood lunch at Cheung Chau Island).

December, 2018: El Nido, Coron, Palawan and Cebu, Philippines

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Las Cabanas Beach, El Nido, Palawan, Philippines – in my opinion, this was way better than the twin beaches at Nacpan
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Las Cabanas Beach, El Nido, Palawan, Philippines
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A rainy morning in El Nido, Palawan, Philippines
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Big Lagoon (Tour A), El Nido, Palawan, Philippines
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Kayangan Lake, Coron, Palawan, Philippines
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Mount Tapyas, Coron, Palawan, Philippines

Everyone I spoke to in Boracay in 2016 told me a visit to Palawan is a must. After multiple, failed plans to the island, I finally made it for the final trip of 2018. This was also the longest I’d be travelling for all my travels.

And Palawan turned out to be the best decision ever. It now claims one of my top three destinations for best beaches I’ve visited in Southeast Asia.

While the trip to Coron was painful (as I have motion sickness and it was raining heavily that day), the two-night stay was worth every bit. The town of Coron was quieter as compared to El Nido, but the island hopping was fantastic! I had purchased Tour B (consisting of four islands) but eventually got upgraded to the ultimate tour (Balinsayaw Reef, Kayangan Lake, Beach 91, Skeleton Wreck, Malwawey Coral Garden, Cyc Beach and Twin Lagoon) as it didn’t meet the minimum requirement of 8 pax per boat. Yay, freebies!

After my trip to Palawan, I headed back to Puerto Princessa for a night before I caught a flight back to Cebu for the last leg of my trip – Batayan Island. However, this didn’t happen as I started throwing up the morning of my flight and I even had to check myself into the hospital. Till next time, Philippines!

I’m extremely thankful for all the opportunities to travel in 2018. I’ve always believed that travelling opens up my mind, and solo trips help to train my independence and social skills. The friends I made, the memories created – these form the stories I will continue to tell. I’m not sure where my trips will take me in 2019, but I know for a fact that I’d certainly be onboard the next flight soon.

Love,

Olivia L.’19

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