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Monday, January 4, 2016

This Past Decade (the 20s)


Togakushi Shrine Oshuka, Nagano, Japan
Togakushi, Nagano, Japan // November 2015

This is a post I wrote January of 2015, and realized that I haven't published it for reasons that I can not remember anymore. I actually didn't post anything in 2015, only that of Togakushi at the end of the year. It's the first Monday of 2016, and I just turned thirty over a month ago.


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January 2015


I don’t know where I’m going. I just turned 29, and this year I’m turning 30. 

When I was 20, just a few weeks after I graduated from college, I was excited to find a job. To be honest, I was desperate to find a job. Not that my parents think of me as a burden, but it was all me. I wanted so much to be independent. I wanted to start taking the steps to reach all of my dreams – a stable job, get a masters degree abroad, travel, buy a house and a car. This was the dream for me back then. This was all that I knew. 

And then I turned 24. I was miserable at work. I woke up so angry every single day. I accused myself of being ungrateful for opportunities thrown at me. 

On the day of my 25th birthday, I did my first bungy jump. What came out of this crazy experience was this even crazier idea to quit my job and travel for at least 3 months.

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek, Nepal Himalayas // November 2011

It was around 6am. I just turned 26. I put on my hiking boots, fixed my scarf and beanie, and picked up my toothbrush. I looked out to the view from my room. The majestic mountain peaks of the Nepal Himalayas. I opened the door and breathed in the cold, crisp, and fresh air. I was unemployed (2nd month of the Big Trip) but happy beyond words. 

My life changed back then. Nothing major, really. Just small but important changes - displacement and freedom. It still isn’t easy sometimes – the displacement part- but I’ve never regretted anything. 

U Bein Bridge, Mandalay, Burma // December 2012

27th. I finally spent my birthday with my family after a very long time. I was unemployed again and very much heartbroken, but also excited. The next day I flew to Thailand to witness the Yee Peng Floating Lantern Festival and traveled for 3 weeks in Burma. I was in desperate need of hope and isolation, and I found them both and more in Burma. 

Kyanjin Ri, Langtang, Nepal Himalayas // December 2013

I was staring at boxes and boxes of used clothes. My task was to segregate them among those that can be used by men, women, and children. We had less than an hour before the victims of Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan make it to our booth. I didn’t really feel like celebrating my 28th birthday. Because my heart was breaking from their stories, but also full from the outpouring love and help present in the Filipino community. A few weeks after, I went to Nepal to go on another trek and see another part of the beautiful Himalayas. 

“You’ve got to be your own bestfriend.” – one of Mindy Kaling’s mom’s best advice 

This past year though I realized how much life can be so unpredictable and how lonely it can be if you don’t save yourself. That even though you make plans, there is no assurance that it will work out. That people will disappoint you and betray you. And when you fail to embrace this reality, you will drown. And it’s so easy to get stuck. It’s so easy to be bitter and resent almost everything and everyone. But if you’re feeling the same way that I did, I think you should give into it. Because then you’ll realize that you’re the only person who can actually do the saving. You’ve got to learn to love yourself first, you’ve got to learn to be easy on yourself first. No amount of money, and even traveling, or any form of escaping can fix that for you. Because I know that not all travellers/bloggers talk about this – but personal issues still arise even when you’re traveling. These I’ve learned and still learning this year. 

As soon as you begin to learn how to love yourself again, you’ll feel like you’re ready to let people into your life again. You learn to focus your attention and love on the people who want to be in your life, and those who want to share their lives with you too. And then slowly you'll feel lighter again, and happier. 

Vayang Rolling Hills, Batanes, Philippines
Batanes, Philippines // December 2014

I don’t know where I’m going. But I always think of the bigger picture. I have once felt hopeless before. In my early 20s, I failed at so many things and attempts to change my career and my life. Nothing worked out. But just as I passed half of this decade, on that cold and crisp morning in the Himalayas, I was grateful that all of those failures happened. They weren’t meant for me. But that morning in the Himalayas was meant to happen. It was something I never thought would happen back when I was still in college, or when I was 24. But it did. 

I don’t know where I’m going. But every single day I make a choice to move forward and focus on reaching my goals and doing things I love as often as I can. So many backslides and distractions have happened, but every day I still make that choice. 

I don’t know where I’m going, but what has happened to my life this second half of my 20s is more than what I have ever imagined, and more than what I’ve ever hoped for. In this, I will always have faith.

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Year 2015

There were goals I set for 2015 but didn't really get to do all of it, instead other opportunities came along and I couldn't be happier that they did.



Penang, Malaysia // October 2015


Run United Half Marathon // October 2015

I finished two half marathons in the second half of 2015, but it was the training and the discipline I learned and earned that mattered more than actually finishing the two races.

Kyanjin Gompa, Langtang Valley Trek, Nepal
Kyanjin Gompa, Langtang, Nepal Himalayas // March 2015

I didn't get to travel to the places I've been dreaming of going in 2015. Instead I decided to say yes when a friend invited me to trek in Nepal again, which I'm really happy I did. Because a month after the trek, the devastating April 2015 earthquake happened. And they say Nepal is a little bit different now, especially with the ongoing fuel crisis. The country is still recovering and I hope I'd get the chance to go back soon.

Nagano, Japan// November 2015

And then there was Japan, a country I've often talked about wanting to go to. In November, I was asked to go to Tokyo for a work event. I never expected it at all. But it was the most wonderful surprise of 2015, and that's where I spent my first week of being 30. And honestly, it was the happiest I've ever been in a really long time.

The second half of 2015 was when things turned around for me - the last few months before I turned 30. It was both the small (feeling of accomplishment after finishing an 18km weekend long run, traveling business class (ha!)) and the big things (getting the chance to travel for free to Japan). Impermanence really is a beautiful thing.

I now have an idea of where I'm going or how I want this year to be. But I will always remain open to changes and new opportunities that can change me and enrich my life more.

Cheers to 2016!