2015, to put it lightly, was bittersweet. It was full of places, uncertainties, endings, new beginnings, facing fears, putting my life in danger, letting go, and just being happy.
Oh, the places you’ll go! My favorites this year were Japan and Oahu, the places with my favorite foods – duh.
- Hawaii (Oahu & Maui)
There was a point in the year when I fell off the face of the earth again, on purpose. It was a really difficult time for me in which I went back to working two jobs, usually seven days a week, and waking up at 5am. I worked constantly in order to numb my mind and keep myself preoccupied. One could say that I fell to the “dark side” (forgive my terrible Star Wars reference) and shut everyone out of my life in an attempt to protect myself. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing with my life, but then again, who does? If a 20-something tells you that they have their “whole life figured out,” they’re either lying or just full of it.
The only thing I’ve always been certain about is long-term international travel. When it comes down to it, it’s the one thing I know I’ve always wanted in my heart and will do everything I can to make that continue.
Japan came and went like a blink of an eye. “Should I stay or should I go?” remains the hardest decision I’ve made to date. I would be typing this in Japan if I hadn’t decided to put my well-being first – and in many aspects, I really miss the work and lifestyle there. Yet, the beautiful thing about endings is that they’re never truly gone – it’s not like, “The end, you’ll never do/see this ever again.” I know I can always visit Japan in the future (after I’ve seen the rest of the world I haven’t explored yet), and it’ll always be there. I realized that sometimes things need to end in order to appreciate their beauty in perspective.
With every ending comes a new beginning. There wasn’t one bit of working two jobs that I enjoyed, so I took charge. I was literally about to book a one-way ticket to Thailand to backpack the unknown when I received an offer for the only job I applied for – that same day. Everything happens for a reason, so I decided to try out my hand at teaching kids this time. Kids are exhausting, but I’ve managed to find ways to make the job fun (i.e. fake lightsaber battles).
This new beginning came along with new friendships, new fascinating travelers I’ve met along the way, new (unplanned) trips, new perspectives, new hopes for the future. Fresh starts are always the best – especially when they’re overseas.
Rats, cockroaches, freediving, motorbiking, hiking solo in steep, un-sturdy places. These are among some of the fears I’ve faced this year – and had to learn to get over all of them (or die trying). I’ll never forget my first night in Suratthani, when I got lost at midnight and screamed bloody murder when two black rats ran across my feet in the pitch blackness of the night. Since then, I’ve improved (which means I just hide behind someone now).
And then there was the time I ate that fried maggot. Yeah, I’m not up for eating fried bugs again anytime soon.
Putting My Life in Danger
Moving to Thailand has increased my likelihood of ending up in a hospital for two main reasons: 1) motorbiking, and 2) hiking. Most people would probably say, “Then why the hell do you go out on your own and do both of those, you idiot?” and to that, I respond, “Because I want to live my life to the fullest, so shut up.”
Like I’ve said before, it’s virtually impossible to get around southern Thailand without a motorbike. And I absolutely love hiking, but the trails here aren’t quite “trails” – there might be signage and a path at the start of a trail, but then it’ll just drop off in the middle of nowhere and leave you guessing. These national parks are enormous, so the trails obviously keep going deeper and deeper into the jungle – you just have to figure it out through common sense. I’m not sure if I’ve gotten more logical (or just taken up the IDGAF mentality) about hiking here, but I’ve always seemed to encounter more and more dangerous trails the longer I’m here. I’ve hiked in caves where broken branches and wobbly wood pieces are used as “ladders.” I’ve hiked in places where you’ve had to jump across boulders and hope and pray that you land on your feet (and not your face) in order to survive. I’ve hiked across lakes, rivers, through leeches, up and down steep hills with nothing to grab hold of in case of a tumble, across decaying branches, and yet, I’m still alive.
Pretty much goes along with the whole “facing fears” thing as above.
2015 was the year I finally put a complicated relationship behind me and was never happier that I did. I stopped worrying constantly, and Thailand assisted in putting all my anxious thoughts to rest. Despite my two failed attempts at yoga in Bali, I still managed to find more peace with myself than ever before. It’s probably due to the fact that I was no longer living through another person and just focusing on myself and what I wanted to do.
Just Being Happy
Because really, life is best when you’re happy. There’s a no-brainer theory that when you’re happy (Alexa!), you attract beautiful, like-minded people – which is probably why I have such fond memories of Koh Tao, Chiang Mai, and Bangkok.
To review, 2015 was the year I:
- Parasailed for the first time
- Bungee jumped backwards twice in two different countries
- Saw the biggest spiders of my life (like, bigger than your palm)
- Spent Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s in Thailand
- Learned more British slang than ever before
- Adopted a motorbike as my form of daily transportation
- Met Kumamon, Japan’s most renowned mascot
- Almost killed some ducks while rowing a Japanese tugboat
- Went to Tokyo DisneySea again and almost cried when I left
- Lived in two different Asian countries as an Asian-American (the experience is quite different from non-Asian foreigners, obviously)
- Almost died scrambling in a national park (kidding, kinda-sorta)
- Mastered the trains and buses in Japan
- Mastered the buses in Oahu
- Hiked nonstop
- Worked about seven different jobs (translation: my CV is a hot mess and I just want to keep traveling)
- Took two cooking classes for the first time (sidenote: I still suck at cooking and never cook)
- Tried freediving
- Accrued hundreds of bug bites
- Began teaching English for the first time
- Got fat in Thailand (because it’s impossible to not eat everything here)
- Visited an amazing (and ethical) elephant sanctuary
- Shopped in the nicest malls I’ve ever seen in my life (thank you, Bangkok)
- Befriended Balinese monkeys
- Went whitewater rafting for the first time
- Tried yoga (and hated it)
- Became a newfound (and foolishly late) Star Wars fan
- Traveled with someone for the first time abroad (besties reunited!)
- Got my second tattoo (and hopefully a third in the next couple days…)
- Began missing Disney a lot
Cheers to you, 2015. So 2016, bring it – I have a good feeling about you.