Fulfilling a Lifelong Dream, One Destination at a Time
Nadia’s 2014 Retrospective
Since it’s New Years Eve and before we usher another new year in soon, I felt it was only right to do a reflection on 2014 and everything that it has encompassed. If I had to sum it up I would say it was the year where I finally made my dream of exploring the world as often as I can a reality. At the end of 2013 I had said to myself, since this is a milestone birthday year for me, I was going to make it count. I was going to do what I’ve always wanted which was to go to new places I’ve never been before and really focus on what’s important to me, spending time with the people that matter.
Over the course of the years I’ve definitely learned that there are a lot of people that will come and go in your life but the ones that truly matter are the ones that are going to be there no matter what you may be going through. They won’t pick sides but instead they’ll just stick by you because you’ve been there throughout each others lives and continue to foster that relationship. Everything else doesn’t matter. They’re the ones you should make every effort to go see and spend time with and also share what you love, for me it was giving the gift of travel and experiences.
It Doesn’t Matter Where You Are Going… It’s Who You Have Besides You That Matters
- Go with someone you love!
Just in 2014 alone, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to visit Santa Monica, Bali, Seoul, Penang (2x), Portland, Vancouver, Austin, London, Paris, Cabo San Lucas (for my big birthday celebration), a staycation in San Francisco (for a dear friend’s bachelorette before she became officially hitched), Alaska (Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway), Victoria (British Columbia), Seattle, Reno (spending time with dear friends who have made the Rib Cook-Off a tradition!), Tokyo and Kyoto. That’s 19 cities in a year, which basically means it was a least a different place for each month of the year!
From all that traveling, there were a couple of realizations that I had:
- I am so thankful my parents raised me with a love for other cultures and traveling. As a child I was so fortunate to be exposed to so many different places and that passion still lives in me today
- This was the first year that I have been fortunate enough to give my parents a trip of a lifetime, this year it was a weeklong cruise to Alaska (something they’ve always talked about doing for as long as I can remember) and also a weekend in Seattle (a place neither has ever been). In Alaska I planned excursions specific to the interest of my parents, going on a crab boat and having a crab feast for my Dad and doing whale watching and seeing the beautiful Butchart Gardens for my Mom (a previous florist with a love for flowers)
- Two of my favorite cities I wouldn’t mind returning to are Tokyo and Vancouver. Both are extremely walkable cities with a thriving food scene. If you haven’t been these are two cities to put on your list
- What makes Bali is the people, not about the beaches (believe me, Seminyak and Kuta are really messy and dirty sadly). However, if you do want to go to a beach, go stay at a nice resort where people are constantly maintaining the private beaches. We loved Ubud where we got a chance to spend some time with locals and really get a feel of what Bali was all about
- Having a portable WiFi device is key in Tokyo (rent one from the airport, they’re only $10 a day) to help you navigate the confusing subway system and find your way around. Although Google Maps route caching is also a fantastic alternative and really helpful when you don’t have WiFi.
- English is not widely spoken in Seoul so be prepared and map out locations prior
- I love a city with good public transportation, makes life so much easier
- You can always discover new things about places even if you’ve been there multiple times. Despite having been born in Penang and going very often, I always see new things each time I’m there whether it learning about a new part of town, finding a new restaurant, etc.
Here are a few suggestions on places you have to see while visiting some of the spots I’ve been to.
Exploring everything Stanley Park has to offer from the beautiful walking trails, the fun Aquarium while people watching.
The Robot Restaurant in Shibuya. Don’t go for the food but go for the experience. It will be unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before. Also, you can always find a good deal online, I got our ticket cheaper than at the door and it came with food and a drink, score!
Visit the seafood market and try live octopus. Yes, it does still try to suction your mouth as you’re eating it but it is truly a fascinating eating experience. Dip it in some sesame oil/salt combo and you’re set!
If you’re cruising or visiting Alaska, most of the stuff is not in port or in the small towns, it’s about seeing the beautiful trees and scenery. For me in Skagway, doing a car ride to explore the Alaska/Canada border then doing the White Pass train one way really allowed me to see the area from two very different perspectives.
CABO SAN LUCAS
If you’re going with friends there is nothing like a beautiful beachside dinner with great friends and fabulous food at sunset. We had our dinner at the Hacienda Cocina Y Cucina at the Hacienda Beach Club and Residences and that was a dinner I’ll never forget. Plus I have some beautiful photos to prove it!
Do your due diligence prior and pre-purchase your Eiffel Tower tickets. Not only does it save you so much time when you’re up there, it will allow you to bypass the crazy long general admission lines. Plus the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower is something you have to do at least once in your life.
While there are of course the major sights you have to see while you’re there (Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, London Eye, etc) which are all in very close proximity to each other, take the time to explore the other neighborhoods the city has to offer. Getting around is fairly easy with the tube and in those neighborhoods are where you can really find some fantastic restaurant gems and have a pint while watching Londoners go about their lives.
The Temple of the Golden Pavilion. Out of all the many temples and shrines to visit in Kyoto, this is one I’d highly recommend. There is something just so serene about being there. While of course there are hoards of tourists all around you, take some time and just marvel at the structure, it’s reflection on the water and the beautiful mountain range that surrounds it. Despite the windy and slightly dark day we were there, it was still a sight to see. For me, this is what Japanese design is all about. Taking the beauty of nature and contrasting it with a magnificent structure complete with intricate details.
Of course there are so many other things I loved about each place so if you want any more tips, just write us and we’re happy to share our insight with you. Something to keep in mind is that travel doesn’t have to be really expensive! People always wonder how we do the things we do and travel so often but it’s really because I am always on the lookout for a good deal (Flight Deal daily alerts anyone?!) and for us it’s more about seeing the main sights that are popular to a location but more importantly, getting a feel for a places culture through eating the food and meeting the people.
Honestly, if you eat like the locals, it’s really not expensive at all. Also, when you’re going to a new place, have a game plan. What do you want to see while you’re there? How can you maximize your time with sights, food and relaxation? For me, perhaps it’s the meticulous planner in me, I always pre-plan with itineraries of what I want to see, what I want to do, places to eat. It helps me mark things off my list yet do everything I want in the limited time I’m in a location.
Most importantly, as cliche as it sounds, have fun. Being in a new place means opening your mind to a new experience and exposing yourself to a different environment. Take advantage of that and have fun while you’re doing it.
Personally for me, I can’t wait to see what 2015 holds and the adventures we have ahead!
What is your dream place to visit?