It has been a few weeks since 2017 kicked in and I still haven’t truly grasped the series that unfolded last year. The year that was 2016.
2016 started with the idea that after I see parts of my country (the Philippines) in the first few months and have touched base with Southeast Asia in the 2nd quarter, I will be heading off somewhere far by autumn to study and culturally immerse for an extend period of time… perhaps, for the next 2 years.
After spending the first month of the year preparing for autumn, it was time for me to finally explore the Philippines. And I must tell you, my beloved country has truly exceeded my expectations.
2nd week of February to 2nd week of March
Beaches and mountains, the natural wonders of the Philippines is beyond beautiful!
The “perfect-shaped cone”, Mount Mayon in Legazpi, Philippines
And if that wasn’t enough, even I was surprised to find myself doing things that I thought would “always be just a dream.” To swim with the whale sharks and to do white water rafting are some of the things I didn’t think I was going to conquer in this lifetime.
I’ve never traveled to as many beaches until I explored the Philippines. It was then that I also got to be with some family in Palawan while I was on a quest to see this country’s wonders. You see, traveling solo has become quite a norm for me that’s why every opportunity to be surrounded with the right people in the universe makes me even more grateful for the privileges to explore the world.
El Nido, Palawan, Philippines
After exploring much of Palawan, I thought I will never get tired of the sea. Maybe it wasn’t the sea. Perhaps it was the “moving around” that I experienced with it. I think, taking a lot of long land and sea travel in between, hopping off from one destination to another in a limited amount of time exhausted me to the point that I had to quickly escape somewhere… anywhere. Either I had to be still or I had to move away.
Thus, bringing myself to Taiwan.
Taiwan (Taipei and Hualien)
3rd to 4th week of March
I flew to Taipei with the intention of being seeing something else. I thought of eating my way around the city. But just like one of the many surprises when you travel, there’s so much more out there to do. So much more to learn and discover.
Chiang Kai Shek Memorial, Taipei, Taiwan
A Street in Hualien, Taiwan
Taiwan, is one of those places that is not overwhelming but could easily charm you away to the point that you’d want to see more. It’s a country where you could easily traverse your way in between cities to indulge with amazing Taiwanese food while at the same time, allow yourself to take a detour and find yourself outside to appreciate the nature that surrounds you. (Read more about Taiwan here.)
1st week of April
It wasn’t long when I came back to meet one of the first few people I’ve made with since I started traveling. Can you imagine? More than five years what was it took for us to travel together once again!
Life was a beach. Really. And whenever I am in one, I felt that it was the life.
Kalanggaman Island, Philippines
It didn’t take long for summer to come. When it did and everyone started their trips, I needed a real break and hibernated at home.
It was okay for the first month. But I think too much free time with nothing to do took its toll on me until the point that I became quite hesitant and intimidated with the unknown… I felt lost. It was also then when I figured that I wasn’t going to push through with what I thought was going to happen in my Autumn.
At the same time, somehow I felt that traveling wasn’t going to be enough anymore. There needs to be more.
And so, I went to somewhere familiar to get my bearings again. A place that isn’t completely unfamiliar and yet some place still new.
In two months, I went back to Taiwan.
Taiwan (Western Region)
1st to 3rd week of June
Taipei 101 as viewed from afar, Taiwan
Somehow, my trip there proved that you cannot find yourself completely unless you allow yourself to be. it doesn’t matter wherever you are, whether you’re in your own backyard or you’re in someone else’s backyard a thousand miles away. You just have to keep on moving and to not let yourself be stuck.
Almost three weeks of being there, slowly discovering the country. It didn’t occur to me then that there was a laid-back “always summer” vibe in Taiwan. My discovery of Kenting is perhaps one of my favorite moments of being in the country.
A Secret Beach in Kenting, Taiwan
What I love about my whole stay in Taiwan is how almost everyone I met are genuinely warm and nice, whether they are locals, travelers, or expats. Even if I hadn’t explored all the corners that need to be discovered, I knew it was time to move again. I left the country still unsure of what the future might bring but somehow, it felt right to move. I left with a renewed hope that allowed me to let the universe guide me and see things unfold naturally.
With the considerations of having the cheapest flight with a sunnier vista, I opted for Malaysia, another country that silently sits on the background and yet have so much to offer.
4th week of June to 4th week of July
I arrived in Malaysia not having a clue of what to do and where to go around. That didn’t last long, though.
It’s one of those countries where I found myself making my route as I meet people along the way, taking recommendations and feeling those destinations by heart.
Malaysia is one of those countries that made it easy to have people to travel with from one place to another and somehow, find familiar faces in almost every destination. Maybe, Malaysia isn’t really off the radar as I thought.
Tea Plantation, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia
Long Beach, Perhentian Island, Malaysia
I feel like I should highlight the Perhentian. I never knew that the Perhentian Islands existed until I was in Malaysia. The idea of a “party” island and not being a party girl intimidated me, but it was apparent… I was meant to be there. And what even surprised me was that other than leaving the island longer than I was supposed to, I managed to take a PADI Open Water Diving License away with me.
Diving at the Perhentian Island, Malaysia
City life, island life, jungle life, mountain life, monkey life, and food trippin’ life have been quite amazing… but to have a diver’s life? That was an experience that caught me off guard and I loved it!
4th week of July to 1st week of August
Making my way around Malaysia led me to its neighbor and former member Singapore where I got to visit some of my closest and longest friends. Friends who made me feel at home. It was a much needed vacation from traveling to suppress that homesick feeling.
Elgin Bridge, Singapore
Afternoon coffee at Tiong Bahru, Singapore
A couple of days turned into a week of pure bliss with the company my friends, both new and old, and the comfort of food. Late mornings, yummy indulgence, and endless conversations… it was a home away from home.
(1st to 2nd week of August)
I went back to Malaysia with the full intention of flying off to Borneo. Kuala Lumpur was where I’d fly from to kick off the second part of my Malaysian adventure. Touching base with a few friends I made along the way while going around the city seemed perfect to cap off my West (Malaysia) side story.
Night Out at the Helibar, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Who would have thought how things would turn out?
One morning when I was supposed to explore one of Malaysia’s most important temples, the Batu Caves of Kuala Lumpur, I ended up hanging out with an old and a new friend for a trip to the mall. The Batu Caves was supposed to finally be seen the day after but instead, we found ourselves tired from the day before and ended up at the same mall. It was okay, really. I figured, the Batu Caves resides in one of the most accessible cities and I can go back there anytime.
After Kuala Lumpur, I was supposed to head off to Borneo while my friend (the Italian) was supposed to go to Indonesia. Our new friend (the Croatian) mentioned that getting a two-months visa in Penang was possible and have decided to join my Italian friend. The day we were supposed to part ways was the day I spontaneously joined my Italian friend. After all, I knew I was going to Indonesia at some point anyway. So, why not do it now when I have friends whom I can explore it with?
The decision was so spontaneous that it confused me at first. With everything happening so fast, going from one city to another and flying two days later, I didn’t have the time to absorb that I am going to Sumatra. But just when I was questioning myself, it suddenly felt right to leave after having a conversation over breakfast with a Balinese.
Indonesia (Sumatra and Java)
2nd week of August to 1st week of October
And so, the supposedly few weeks turned into almost 2 months of Indonesia with lots of diving, some trekking, bus transfers, unbelievable landscape, mysterious natural wonders, magnificent temples, “unbelievably (at least for me) long motorbike rides, and a man.
A man that made it inevitable to explore further and farther with because he became your man. The Croatian.
Around Lake Toba, Sumatra, Indonesia
With fellow backpackers and our host in Binjai, Sumatra, Indonesia
Prambanan, Java, Indonesia
Until now, I find it quite surreal that I actually have someone who loves to explore and appreciate the world as much as I do. But that’s another story for me to tell.
Malaysia (Sabah, Borneo)
2nd week of October
Being into diving and being absorbed with the chance to see Borneo had been going on even before I became a man’s woman. I thought, it made sense to go via Kota Kinabalu on my way home to the Philippines.
As the time to leave for the Philippines came by, Borneo finally happened… at least a part of it.
Kota Kinabalu City Mosque, Malaysia
With the change in my relationship status, somehow, I thought I needed to go by myself and do this alone. Besides, I had a mission and I was afraid of being distracted.
But of course, I thought wrong.
Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
I went to Kota Kinabalu hoping that I would take my diving to the next level and finally, get an advanced open water diving course and license. Guess what? That didn’t happen. It just didn’t feel right.
Things didn’t turn out the way I thought it would. Instead, I spent half of the week slowly discovering what Kota Kinabalu has to offer while missing someone in the picture.
It made me realize that I am so much happier to see the world with my man. It’s just that I was pretty new with not being solo anymore and perhaps I needed a little time to get used to it.
Now I know and there’s no turning back.
3rd week of October to 2nd week of November
A myriad of moments always take place and they are often highlighted when it coincides with the milestones of your loved ones’ lives. With the addition of a lovely, bouncy, handsome boy in our family and with the 60th birthday of my mom, it felt right to go home and be with them to collect those precious moments.
Home, until I felt I had to leave again.
It wasn’t long, actually, until I left and naturally came back to the arms of the man who was waiting for me out there. After the month that was, it was time to pack up and go to my other home.
Indonesia (Bali, Lombok and Sumbawa)
3rd week of November to 1st week of December
Pura Ulun Danu, Bratan, Bali, Indonesia
Just when you thought that 2 months is a very long time to explore a single country, you’d find yourself spending a third month there.
To top it off, you and your man spontaneously explored 3 different islands with 1 motorbike for at least two weeks.
Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur)
2nd week of December
The month passed by quickly and before we knew it, it was time to go back to Kuala Lumpur, the place where we first met, to temporarily part ways and spend the Christmas holidays with our respective families.
We were both flying from there.
But that wasn’t after we had successfully visited the Batu Caves on our second attempt.
Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Perhaps, I have something to be thankful for to Kuala Lumpur’s Batu Caves. If I didn’t miss the opportunity to see it for the first time, I’m pretty sure the series of events would’ve come out differently. Something tells me though, that in spite of that possibility, the Croatian will be the exception.
As I try to recount how my 2016 came by, this life and this universe continuously amazes me with how every single thing is apparently intertwined… that everything that happened was what was supposed to be in spite of the myriad of possibilities. At the time that I thought I was completely lost, I had no idea… that it was then when I was meant to be found. I couldn’t figure out why I needed to go with the uncertainty of traveling instead of finally pursuing a clearer path with my supposed studies in autumn–that was the plan after all. I couldn’t bring myself to do as planned and instead, wandered off even with hesitation.
But now, it all makes sense. All these imperfections and uncertainties are just as important in the path we were supposed to take. Those are the things that you need to face and overcome. This universe is perfectly in sync with our hearts, understanding how we feel and looking out for us with the things that we truly need.
Because always, we are at the right place, at the right time. And always, we are surrounded with the right people even if we think otherwise.
Cheers to love and the love of travel this 2017! You know that there’s more to come! 😉
Kawah Putih, Bandung, Java, Indonesia