2017 – A Year of Firsts, Big Decisions and Life’s Turning Points

JW Marriott South Beach cityline

You know how it is when the year has come and gone and it’s the new year again and you’re full on with reflections and resolutions for the new year?

Yeah, I remember writing all sorts of resolutions every new year, but I tapered off and completely stopped doing that a couple of years ago when all the part-time work just flooded my time.

And with keeping up with this blog now, I find myself trying to catch up with a ton of things, from replying business emails to keeping my social media active, to reviewing tours/ activities/ hotels and sending (or attempting to) regular email newsletters. And I haven’t even touched on the writing bit yet, which takes up the majority of time..

Thankfully for this year, I’ve roped in a few friends who’ve gladly helped me out with design, SEO, technical troubleshooting, social media (ironic how I’m helping others for this yet getting help for my own) and content. Thank you to each one of you for working with me on this! ♥

The last time I’d written a thoughtful, personal, heartfelt post was when I shared about my advice for the 20-something millennials.

So here is a wrap up of the 2017 that I’ve had, as well as what’s in store for 2018!

NEW DESTINATIONS

I’d hit a record number of destinations this year, which amazes me, particularly as some of the trips were unplanned for and how I managed to go for all of these trips while working full time!

1. Maldives – January

Grand Konotta Villa Maldives
Walking down the rows of overwater villas

DREAM DESTINATION. OMG.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be ticking this off until I get married and do a honeymoon. It was not until the opportunity came up to work with Scoot that I finally saw my dream coming true.

This trip planning had been going since September the previous year – a good, solid 4 months!

Read:
Maldives on a Budget; I Spent Less Than $1000 on my 5D5N Maldives Holiday!
17 Mind-Blowing Maldives Hotels You Would Die To Visit

It also set the tone for working with luxury brands for the months to come. We’re extremely fortunate for the sponsors of this trip and can’t be more thankful to have had the opportunity to experience the kind Maldivian hospitality!

2. Bali – April

Pandawas-Villas-Ubud-Bali-breakfast-couple

WL had never been on this trip, so we decided to head there over the Good Friday long weekend. With the intention of covering the best cafes in mind, we were on a café-hopping spree and also stayed in some of the coolest hotels, like the world’s best infinity pool!

Unlike in LondonSydney or Melbourne where café-hopping can put a real dent on your pocket, eating out in Bali is extremely affordable!

Read:
23 Tried & Tested Cafes in Bali You Absolutely Cannot Miss
Pandawas Villas, Ubud, Bali; Hotel Review (Discount Code Included!)
Hu'u Villas, Seminyak, Bali; Hotel Review (Discount Code Included!)
The Spa at The Edge, Bali; Spa Review

3. Labuan Bajo – April

Lived on a phinisi boat for the first time, so it is one hell of an experience cruising around the Flores, seeing the komodo dragons, and exploring the region with Tourism Indonesia!

phinisi-boat labuan bajo indonesia flores
The Phinisi boat we stayed in for 3D2N
Read:
Secret Islands of Indonesia that will Stun You – Labuan Bajo, Flores
What to Do and See in Labuan Bajo, Indonesia

4. Hokkaido – May

goryokaku cherry blossom sakura Hakodate & Toya - 6-Day South Hokkaido Itinerary

After my mum spent years dreaming about seeing the cherry blossoms in Japan, my family and I finally made it a reality. As ignorant as we are, our travel dates coincided with Japan’s Golden Week, so prices for accommodation were a little steeper.

That said, we managed to see plenty of cherry blossoms along the way, and I’ve detailed every bit of our road trip in Hokkaido in my blog post. I’ve even created some maps, so feel free to use them! Start here: What’s Famous in Hokkaido & Japan Rail Passes; A 6-Day South Hokkaido Itinerary

5. Palawan – August

coron-island-hopping-tour-water-sports
Kayaking

Another top destination that I’d wanted to strike off since my university days because of the emerald waters, Palawan has always been a popular destination for international exchange students coming from Europe to Asia.

I started planning the trip on a whim and baam, suddenly the tickets were booked. Since I was heading to El Nido, I figured it’d be nice to visit Coron as well to get an idea of how these two islands differ. You can read in detail each of the itinerary that I’ve written about below.

Read:
El Nido, Palawan Itinerary; The Only Guide You Need for Visiting El Nido!
Coron, Palawan Itinerary

6. Ho Chi Minh – September

partea cafe ho chi minh vietnam cake dessert
Sipping tea at Partea in Ho Chi Minh

We didn’t really expect to get anything out of this trip, since it was just a short weekend getaway. Little did we expect to get quite some cool content about the different modern cafes that are sprawling in the city, and ones that are so cute you’d probably die to visit!

It came as a surprise that the cafe scene is so vibrant, considering how it is still developing steadily. And well, apart from cafe-hopping, bar-hopping and visiting the night markets, there really is nothing better to do in Ho Chi Minh.

Would somebody prove me wrong here?

Read:
9 Hippest Saigon Cafes in Ho Chi Minh that are Definitely Worth a Visit

7. Khao Sok – October

It is an honour to get the chance to have a trip personally arranged by the Khiri Travel team across 3 different parts in Thailand. Since it also coincided with my birthday, it is one trip to remember.

The activities I’d done veered away from the typical tourist track – I went through narrow alleys past dusk on a bicycle, watched how jungle cooking is done with bamboo, and went on a personalized tour of Phuket that involved locals haggling in their markets.

elephant sanctuary khao sok national park thailand

Read: One With Nature at Khao Sok National Park, Thailand

8. Bintan – November

A quick escape from Singapore, it had been a treat to visit Bintan again with Bintan Lagoon Resort. I only have vague memories of visiting Bintan when I was a kid, so this idyllic weekend was spent trying new things again (read: archery!) and hopping on on an ATV!

bintan lagoon resort pool beach
Bintan Lagoon Resort
Read: Quick and Fuss-Free Guide to Bintan, Indonesia

BIRTHDAY OVERSEAS

elephant sanctuary khao sok national park thailand

I sure am a late bloomer in this travel blogging world, as I’d never celebrated my birthday outside of Singapore. Also, my birthday always coincides with school exams, so this year was actually my first time celebrating my birthday overseas, and alone, doing a bike tour and cooking class in Bangkok, and then moving on to cook for elephants in Khao Sok, courtesy of Khiri Travel. 🙂

CHRISTMAS OVERSEAS

2017’s Christmas was spent roaming the ghost town of Napier in New Zealand – not that Napier is a ghost town, but because literally every shop is closed on Christmas Day in New Zealand.

Christmas in New Zealand is a quiet affair, and they aren’t big on Christmas decorations either, except for some families decorating their own Christmas trees in their homes.

New Year’s was spent in a small town called Picton, north of the South island. A humble affair, but no New Year goes by without some fireworks by the port at midnight!

MORE RECOGNITION ON BATW

This is also the year where I’ve had a few humble recognition for the blog, for which I’m extremely stoked to receive and filled with abundant gratitude for.

gili-lawa-hike-viewpoint-girl-abs labuan bajo indonesia flores
Hiking in Flores, Indonesia
hokkaido-public-speaking
Speaking to the public about my Hokkaido trip!

I’m happy and humbled by the little accomplishments along the way. They only seek to reaffirm and encourage my love for travel writing and sharing stories.

OFFICIALLY GRADUATED

The middle of 2017 saw me donning my graduation gown and throwing my hat in the air.

isabel leong graduation smu

I also spent the entire year assimilating into becoming a full-time office worker, on top of catching up with old school mates and working on BATW and personal training at the same time. I also started paying off my own life insurances and chipping in for the family’s expenses.

LIFE-CHANGING CHOICES

This was also the year I made two major life-altering decisions that even astound myself.

club paradise palawan coron beach bikini

  1. Being completely independent again

Having been with a person for 4.5 years and all through university life, making the decision to be live different paths does not come without sleepless nights, frustrated days and fallen tears. It was extremely difficult to imagine a life without the other, especially after how we’ve grown with each other through the years and conquered countless of cities in Europe and Asia together.

I do feel genuinely happy for friends who’ve found their soulmates and are stoked at the prospect of spending the rest of their lives together, happily married. You can be comfortable with each other, sure, but I’m still trying to wrap around the idea of being married and living together indefinitely.

No matter how long you’ve been in a relationship, if you project your lives forward with your partner now, how far do you see yourself happy and in love?

I’m not sure if anyone can really understand what I’m driving at, so I’d rather not talk about it.

  1. Moving and working in a new country

I’ve always wanted to try and live and work abroad since my final semester at university, but I simply had no luck/ wasn’t experienced enough/ faced the fear of leaving my comfort zone/ ain’t sure how to go about doing it from Singapore. Everyone around me seemed content with finding a real graduate job in Singapore, and since I had all the resources – citizenship, a decent portfolio, a university degree – it was hard for me to do anything different.

It was not until the circumstances following the end of the year that led me to make this bizarre decision to leave my hometown for awhile – unhappiness, discontentment, harbouring grand plans for my travel blog, and the opportunity by the New Zealand Tourism Board to fly to New Zealand – that finally warranted this departure.

If you’re wondering where I found the crazy courage to make the choices I’d taken, I’d tell you that I simply followed my heart.

You can tell by now what an intuitive person I am. Maybe I’m impulsive, but I live by the motto that

If I might one day regret what I had not done, I probably should just do it anyway.

If we’re meant to live life to the fullest, then staying in my comfort zone and living a life of ‘what if’s simply won’t cut it for me.

I know many people who have their lives planned out for them – get a good education, a reputable job, get married, settle down. This, however, does not seem to be in my cards, at least not yet. Youth is ephemeral, and so are dreams, ambitions and a sense of adventure.

I believe that once you hit a certain point in life, there are opportunities you’ll never get to experience, fences you wouldn’t want to jump across, like living in hostels, volunteering for a developing country or skydiving from 15,000 feet.


So I’m giving myself the half of 2018 to really focus on BATW, and to see if my far-fetched, lofty dream can/ will materialise.

Now that I’m based in a small town where the closest largest supermarket is 150km away, with 4 cafes in the whole of the township and where free Wi-Fi is non-existent, I’m really hoping that I can realign my body, mind and work and to focus on the things that matter.

To live with less, to take in as much mountain air and to stay as close to nature as I possibly can.

Truth is, I’ve disconnected myself from people and work in the past 2 months since coming to New Zealand, for I wanted to reconnect with myself, and fully indulge in my love for discovery and exploration through my travels. I’ve visited over 50 towns/ cities since then, and updated the places I’ve been here.

That said, with the help of my BATW comrade, we have mighty plans to do up really comprehensive articles on travelling in and around New Zealand. There is always a great web of stories and experiences that ricochets in my mind whenever I discover a new place.

I’m always dying to share my travels here with you to encourage you to pursue what your heart desires (travel, duh), but with only so much time, I only ask that you please bear with me as I promise to offer you regular and more content on BATW!

If you have any specific questions about travelling in New Zealand, pop them in the comment box below and I’ll be more than happy to help out if I can!

Also, if you’ll be coming to New Zealand’s South in the coming months, holler and who knows we may cross paths!

GOALS FOR 2018

Chestnut-Nature-Park-southern-trail

  • Better focus, greater productivity
  • Wear down my trail shoes
  • Collaborate with more brands (London, I’m hoping to come for you again!)
  • Write for more publications
  • Improve on SEO
  • Create more interesting content for you
  • Build up my social media marketing business
  • Get back on track with regular email newsletters. I definitely want to get more up close and personal with you guys! (if you’d like to receive them, subscribe here!)
  • Share more personal thoughts on this space (like this one)
  • Read more (and I mean books, not Instagram captions)
  • Get a wider view of the world and open my mind up to the possibilities beyond my realm
  • Build a life where waking up every morning makes me feel alive (bye bye Monday blues!)

On a closing note, I’d like to give special mention to my fellow BATW comrade. I would not have been able to do or accomplish so much in 2017 if not for my comrade working alongside me, making magic happen from behind-the-scenes, without asking much in return. Thanks for being so patient with me! ♥

The only person I am destined to become is the person I decide to be.

 

How are you crushing your 2018 goals? I’d love to hear them! x

 

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6 Replies to “2017 – A Year of Firsts, Big Decisions and Life’s Turning Points”

  1. Hello. Fellow Singaporean traveller here. Currently 11 months in South America (and just reached 13th and final country!) I totally understand how you feel about taking different paths in life having just graduated myself too. I think it takes a lot of courage to do what you do and I always feel a sense of pride seeing a fellow Singaporean doing it. It’s inspirational. Looking forward to more content. Jiayou!

    1. Hey Owen. Thanks for your message! That means a lot :’) I haven’t been to the Americas but I hope to one day! What’s your story? 🙂

  2. Graduated from NTU and flew off on a one-way ticket to Brazil. Haha don’t wanna self-promote but since you asked: https://myturntotravel.com/about-me/ 😉

    I like connecting with Singaporeans who travel long term, especially to South America (because there’re just so few here!). Already connected with a few online. Offline though… I met fewer than 10 Singaporeans here in almost 1 year haha.

    1. Oh cool! So you didn’t start working at all? That’s nice! You’re still there?

  3. Nah… work can wait hahah. Still here yup. Wearing down my trail shoes like you

  4. floatingauthority says: Reply

    Great Round Up Post! Was the picture of you kayaking in Palawan and do you think it’s the best destination to kayak out of the places you mentioned? I have always wanted to explore that area!

    Cheers!

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