And just like that, another year is coming to an end. 2016 has brought a lot of wonderful adventure, experience, and opportunities, which have shaped me to what I am now. In just a matter of more than 300 days, there were massive changes in my perspective in life to which I am grateful for. So what have I been up to this past twelve months? Where have I wandered? Let’s have a trip down memory lane.
The year started with an unexpected meeting with three strangers who would later become important parts of my life. From a random chat in my apartment building’s elevator, Sun In, and then later Marcel and Eyah, formed my clingiest group ever – The Stinky Project. Together, we began the year by a series of mid-week and weekend travels around the Philippines. READ: Change The Way You See Friendship.
From the north – Banaue, Batad Rice Terraces, Sagada then Baguio. Then to south – hiking in Mt. Pico de Loro and a side trip to Layag Layag island in Nasugbu, Batangas. Oh, I so love the Philippines! READ: Country Spotlight: The Philippines
Later in the same month, I was summoned by the department chair of my university to offer an opportunity to study abroad. In less than a week, I got accepted and started preparing my documents and visa to study in Germany. READ: How to Get a German National Student Visa for Filipinos in 10 Days
In February, I continued my travels with The Stinky Project. We managed to go to three wonderful islands in my country before I set to leave the Philippines. These are Cebu and Bohol in the Visayas region and Bicol in Luzon region.
In the middle of the month, I found myself in Vienna and spent the rest of February exploring around the city and its nearby federal states. I even had my first-time experience skiing in lower Austria!
In this month I officially started my study program in Germany. READ: Why You Must Study Abroad. I first had an intense German language course and had the time of my life with fellow exchange students from all over the world. From drinking almost every night, hosting international dinner every Friday, to having weekend trips with our semestertiket, I found a new family with my new friends. Some places in Germany that we have visited include Kassel, Frankfurt, and Steinau.
During the Holy Week, I went back to Vienna then later drove to Prague, Czech Republic to celebrate Easter.
This month started so well! I received news that I passed the third level of the Foreign Service Officer Examination in the Philippines. In the first week, I flew back to Manila to take the fourth exam and prayed for the best. READ: Dreaming of becoming a Foreign Service Officer. I also had a short trip to Taipei, Taiwan and learned about this city just above my country.
Since I only had block seminars for my MA, I had some time to kill before all of them start. Therefore, I took a backpacking trip around Europe with a good Korean friend, Chae Hwa.
In Germany, we started chasing castles and went to Heidelberg and Füssen, Germany while having a break in the middle in Munich to enjoy some beers.
Then we wanted to see the two castles in Liechtenstein, but first went to Feldkirch, Austria because accommodation there was more affordable for our meager student budget. After setting our base, we went to Vaduz and visited the castle where the real prince of Liechtenstein lives. READ: How I Travel Cheaply Around Europe
Our journey ended in Switzerland where I met up with my clingy friend from The Stinky Project, Marcel, who was back in his home country. He toured us around and offered accommodation (and free guide!) in Chur, Luzern, and Zurich.
This is another travel-filled month for me. This was the last opportunity to explore as much as I could before the crazy schedule in school started; I took advantage of it and went back to my beloved Austria. There were so many places I have been, but those that are remarkable are Lilienfeld, Rabenstein, Kirchberg, Innsbruck and Hallstatt.
Later in the month, I ventured to another backpacking trip and went to Venice and Verona in Italy, Ljulbljana in Slovenia, and Plitvice Lakes and Zagreb in Croatia.
My schedule was full to the brim from June and two months after. It was just so busy with school. Aside from wandering around my charming town of Marburg, the only travels I made this month in Germany were those in Frankfurt and Stuttgart.
However, my friends and I managed to scoop a discounted deal with Flixbus and were able to visit Amsterdam, Netherlands and Brussels in Belgium.
Another month full of schoolwork, July was. Not only that, but I was also panicking in preparing for the final leg of the Foreign Service Officer Examination which would be in August. Aside from going back to Vienna, Austria (READ:Free Things To Do in Vienna) and exploring my favorite city in the world, my only trips this month were those in Lower Austria (Lilienfeld and Myrafälle) and Budapest, Hungary.
Hungary became my 10th new and unexplored country to be visited in 2016, making it possible for me to cross out one item in my 2016 travel bucket list.
This was a very nerve-wracking month for me. I was about to take the final level of the Philippine career diplomat examination. It was a highly stressful event in my life. Being a diplomat is what I have dreamed of becoming since I was 16 and ten years later, I hoped that I would be able to achieve it. Aside from the busy preparation, nothing much happened in this month. I decided to allow my body to rest from constant traveling although I had those short trips in Tagaytay and Batangas.
I also turned 26 this month!
This was my unluckiest month of 2016. I was brought to hospital twice and had been sick for couple of weeks. I was diagnosed with GERD – gastroesophageal reflux disease and had to undergo series of tests. I thought I also had some heart problem, so I took some laboratory examinations, which turned out to be clear. Whew! I had an initial six-week medication for my crazy and sensitive stomach and from then I promised to take care of my body more seriously. How could I travel when I am sick?
This month: zero travels outside my city
To make up from my lack of travel last September, I finally plunged head on to the then unknown world of solo backpacking. For the first time in my life, I spent more than two weeks traveling solo in the beautiful country of Vietnam and explored this Southeast Asian country from top to bottom.
Then when I came back to Manila, I only had a few days of rest and catching up with family and friends before I went to another trip to Pangasinan, Philippines – in the beautiful cities of Alaminos where Hundred Islands are, Bolinao where the romantic beach sunset and captivating waterfalls are, and Dagupan with its tranquil beaches and rich marine life.
In this month, I swear the entire universe conspired and made me the luckiest person ever. The month started with the result that would change my life forever – for better or for worst. On 10 November, the website of the Board of Foreign Service Examination in the Department of Foreign Affairs reflected my name as one of the passers of the 2015-2016 tests. I couldn’t believe it for a while. I have passed! I have reached my goal! Soon, I would be working for my dream job – a Philippine career diplomat.
To celebrate, I went on a luxury trip to Puerto Galera, Philippines and tried to wrap my head around the result of the exam and the consequences it brought. I admit that it was not easy for my personal life, but I believed that there are always reasons for everything.
On the third week, I went on a joiner adventure to Gamu Gamu Beach in Pangasinan, Philippines with complete strangers and how grateful I was that I did! I met a lot of awesome people who would later become important fixtures in my life.
A week after, I went on a relaxing trip to a hot spring resort in Calamba, Laguna, Philippines.
To end a very wonderful 2016 full of travels, I ventured another solo backpacking trip in Indochina. I started from Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam and worked my way to Phnom Penh, Cambodia by bus. After meeting up with my student colleague from my university in Manila and seeing the capital, I took a boat ride along the Mekong River and went to Siem Reap, Cambodia. I spent my days there exploring the wonders of the massive Angkor Wat complex alone and sometimes with fellow Couchsurfers.
Then I moved to Thailand and spent six days in Bangkok aimlessly wandering. Later, I went to the province of Kanchanaburi and stayed in a leisure mountain resort. I chased waterfalls in Sai Yok and the seven beautiful ones in Erawan National Park. My Indochina trip ended in Bangkok where I did last minute shopping and partying in Khao San road.
I am ending 2016 with 12 new countries visited and several cities explored. So far, I have 25 countries in my list and I hope to add more to that next year. Would you like to see where I have been traveling? Check out that travel widget on the right sidebar on my homepage. You can make one of your own as well with this travel world map generator I have activated on the blog.
These are the highlights of my life and travels in 2016. To all who made my year special and memorable, thank you so much! I really appreciate bumping and being with you in this journey.
When the clock strikes 12 later whichever time zone you are in, please take time to reflect your year and celebrate your successes, failures, and achievements this 2016. Cheers!