Sure, 2016 wasn’t everyone’s favorite year. With Syria, ISIS, the US Election, Brexit, celebrity deaths and more, many people are ready to forget 2016 ever happened. While this last year wasn’t the best year of my entire life, I did have some pretty good adventures! So in the spirit of keeping things positive, I’d like to go over my best adventures of 2016!
January: Happy Holidays in Seattle
2016 started off on the right foot with my first holidays home since college! I got to spend time with my family, eat some incredible food and gear up for a year of adventures around Asia! It’s hard to believe it’s been a full year since I was last home, and this photo is a reminder that nothing can beat a good Seattle sunset!
This was also the month I got arrested in China. It wasn’t necessarily fun, but at least it was an adventure?
February: Chinese New Year in the Philippines
February was full of adventures! For the Chinese New Year, I spent two weeks traveling around one of my favorite countries in the world: the Philippines! First I went to Bohol where I relaxed on Alona Beach, spending my time island hopping and scuba diving. Then I motorbiked around the whole island, taking in the sunrise at the chocolate hills, and spending the afternoon with tarsier monkeys. Finally, I ventured to Bohol’s Loboc river, where I learned to paddle board and spotted fireflies on the river at night!
Next, I headed to Siquijor, otherwise known as the voodoo island, which has quickly become tied with Siargao for my favorite Filipino island. From cliff jumping and spelunking to waterfall rope swings and nightly bonfires, I can’t say enough good things about this island! Finally, I spent my last few days in Dumaguete, scuba diving on Apo Island!
March: Girls Trip to Vietnam
In March I took a quick one-week trip to Vietnam to meet up with some of my best friends from college: my sorority “little sister” and “grand little”! One was already in Vietnam working with Habitat for Humanity, and the other flew all the way down from DC!
For our week-long trip, we made our way from Hanoi down to Hoi An and back. We stuffed ourselves with incredible food (and coffee) in Hanoi, spending an evening on a food tour, and our afternoons visiting museums. Then we headed down to Hue where were explored Vietnam’s history.
With a few days in Hoi An, we all got custom made dresses and biked around villages to the beach. Finally, we spent our last few days in Cat Ba kayaking and rock climbing in Ha Long Bay!
April: My 25th Birthday in Beijing!
Last April I celebrated my birthday on a warm spring evening by eating one of my favorite Chinese foods: hot pot! Afterwards, we took a visit to a Sanlitun expat bar called The Local, where I would go on to spend many a summer evening frequenting. We spent the rest of the evening dancing to latin music on the rooftop of Kokomo!
With the weather so beautiful, I spent the majority of my April weekends wandering around the hutongs with a DSLR in hand, taking snapshots (and Snapchat videos) of my new home.
May: Springtime in Seoul
In May I took a quick visa trip to Seoul, the very first place I ever visited in Asia! There I met up with Edna from Expat Edna and Lauren from Seegs Travels, where we spent the next few days visiting cat cafes, shopping for beauty products and eating amazing food! The three of us blew way too much money on Korean BBQ and may or may not have spent an evening giggling on our hostel floor, making funny faces with our beauty face masks.
After Lauren and Edna left, I took a visit to a RACCOON CAFE where I spent hours playing with raccoons! They also had pretty good coffee too.
June: A Hong Kong Visa Run
In June my company sent me to Hong Kong for a few days to procure a work visa. With only one full day (and two partial days), I made the most of my limited time! I ate at Tim Ho Wan, the cheapest Michelin Star restaurant in the world, wandered around Kowloon’s Night Markets, and took the Harbor Ferry to admire the beautiful view!
However, after waiting in line to get my visa for a solid three hours, I was told there was a typo on my invitation letter! Since it needed to be an ORIGINAL STAMPED COPY from the Beijing Foreign Expert Bureau, the Hong Kong Consulate would be unable to give me my visa?! Thankfully, none of this was my fault, and my company promised to send me back to Hong Kong in July!
July: A Second Hong Kong Visa Run…
After a great Fourth of July eating BBQ and paddle boating around a tiny lake in Beijing, I headed back to Hong Kong (for the 6th time) for another adventure! Since I’ve done just about everything there is to do in Hong Kong at this point, I decided to head to Hong Kong’s most underrated island: Peng Chao!
There I hiked a small mountain with views of all the surrounding islands. It was my first solo hike, and thankfully I felt pretty safe! I admired the sunset on the pier and wandered the tiny local town. All in all, it was a pretty good trip and I got my visa! …Finally.
August: Summer in the Hutongs
The weather this August was PERFECT, so I spent as much time as possible outside. I discovered a local pool within walking distance, and found a bunch of new restaurants, cafes, bars and more! My friends and I frequented a hutong rooftop bar with a perfect view of the Bell and Drum tower and I partially adopted a wild cat who lives in my neighborhood.
August was also incredibly exciting because my article How Travel is Ruining My Love Life was picked up by Huffington Post Women! It was then shared by New York Mag on Facebook and republished on Matador Network. I was also invited on my first press trip (in China!). After many years of hard work, it was so nice to finally feel like a real blogger.
September: Incredible Shaanxi!
Just casually hanging out on the PLANK WALK OF DEATH on Hua Shan. Yes, I completed the world’s most dangerous hike and walked along a rickety plank with a flimsy harness I had to unclip around each bolt. The best part? People go both ways!! Thanks to @jeanholysmithereens for taking this incredible photo!
In collaboration with the Shaanxi Tourism Board, five other bloggers and I went on a weeklong trip to China’s Shaanxi province! I spent the summer of 2012 studying abroad in Xi’an, but I hadn’t been back to Shaanxi since. Xi’an is pretty famous for the Terracotta Warriors, but there’s honestly so much more to see!
The group of us hiked Hua Shan, the most dangerous hike in the world, where we embarked on the ridiculously frightening Plank Walk. What’s that? Oh, just a thin wooden plank nailed into the side of a cliff with only a flimsy harness keeping you from falling to your death…
We also went to the Hukou Waterfall along the Yellow River, attempted to hike Tai Bai Mountain (but failed due to extreme weather) and relaxed in incredible hot springs with fun flavors like coconut, lemon, and wine!
October: TBEX in Manila
With a week off for the Chinese National Day, I showed Chris from Aussie on the Road around Beijing! We visited a secret section of the Great Wall not officially open to tourists. We had the entire section to ourselves and had to pay a village farmer to let us up a ladder!
Then I headed out to Manila for TBEX, a travel blogging conference! There I learned a lot about blogging, took an e-book writing course, partied on a bar crawl bus, and ate some incredible Filipino food.
November: Fall in Beijing
To be honest, November wasn’t the best month ever…. But today we’re keeping things positive! I had the opportunity to go on some great Beijing Hutong Tours. The first was a food tour with UnTour where I had the best donkey burger of my life. Then I went on a Hip Hutongs tour with Context Tours and another food tour with Lost Plate Tours!
I also got a new computer (because I spilled coffee on my old one), which was actually pretty exciting because traveling with my old computer felt like lugging around a brick. Now I have a nice, new, shiny, and light MacBook Air that I’m absolutely in love with!
December: Hutong Holidays
While I wasn’t allowed to take time off for Christmas this year, I did have a pretty good December! I visited a Christmas market in Fangjia Hutong, took a wander around semi-frozen Houhai Lake, discovered a new cat cafe right near my apartment and FINALLY made it home a few days before the year ended.
In addition to winter Beijing adventures, I also had an adventure of another kind. Just four months after I published a post about travel ruining my love life, I now have a boyfriend who loves travel just as much as I do. It only took five years…
What’s Next for 2017
Now that you’ve all gotten over the shock that I’m actually dating someone, let’s talk about my adventures for 2017! At the end of January, I’ll be heading to Indonesia for the first time EVER. My new flame and I will be heading to Sumatra for two weeks of Orangutan trekking, playing in waterfalls and scuba diving on remote islands… because why would I go to Bali when I could get off the beaten path?
I’ll be in Northern California for a friend’s wedding in May, and after that, I have no solid travel plans. BUT my contract is up in September and by then I’m hoping to be working for myself online! I may head to TBEX in Ireland or the World Travel Market in the UK in the Fall. I might also spend a few weeks visiting Uganda, Kenya, and Zanzibar in November.
While I’ll still be mainly living in and blogging about Asia, there’s still a lot of the world to explore! I may settle down in Taiwan, or possibly get my divemaster in the Philippines, or maybe I’ll chill on a remote island in Thailand. Who knows! What I do know is that China (and Beijing) will still be a very important part of my life, and this blog.
I’m honestly so excited for this next year, and I look forward to all of the incredible adventures 2017 has in store.
What was your biggest adventure of 2016? Let me know below!