Part One: Where I’ve Been
Can we all take a moment to agree that 2016 sucked? A small minority of you may disagree, and that is okay. With the political turmoil that rocked the nation, and the departures of beloved icons of the 80’s. I’m still not over the loss of Bowie, Rickman, Prince, Michaels, Fisher or Reynolds. I am no stranger to sh*tty years (2007, and 2012 I’m looking at you). If I had to rank the years, 2016 would rank third on the list. Despite all that – there were some highlights of the year, and some bucket list items were crossed off as the year progressed. This post will be reflecting on the good, bad and the ugly that was 2016, and which resolutions I managed to accomplish. Let’s walk down memory lane, shall we?
January, aka my birthday month, started out promising with a new romance on the horizon. I was invited to spend a weekend in San Fransisco with someone that I was smitten with, only to be blindsided by heartbreak on my birthday. He was about to embark on an epic road trip across the United States, and San Fransisco was the perfect place for us to meet. We got along really well, bonded over the Yoda statue, got caught in the rain walking along pier 39, and dined at the holy grail of burger institutions that is In – N – Out. Since our meeting in Thailand few months prior, things progressed quickly despite the long distance and yet fizzled out just as quick stateside. We decided to stay in contact, to make an effort to be friends. Of course, that didn’t last very long (more on that later).
Couple months went by before I met someone new, by way of a best friend’s introduction. We had taken a short trip out to Death Valley to see the super bloom that had taken over the desolate land. After a horrendous drought, the rain finally came and the result was gorgeous wildflowers stretched as far as the eye could see. We drove four hours from Los Angeles to Death Valley but to our surprise, we arrived at an arid, desolate land with no wildflowers in sight – they had died out from the rising temperature. We drove to a nearby ranger station to ask around, perhaps we had driven the wrong way? Unfortunately, the ranger told us that we had missed it by a week, give or take. Unbeknownst to me, the ranger told him where there might be a chance of seeing wildflowers. Not long after we left the station, I began to wonder where we were driving to, as it didn’t look like we were heading back to Los Angeles. “Where are we going?” I asked him, noticing the change of the landscape as we ventured off road. Being a race car driver, he was in his element as the car shook and jerked over the bumpy rocky road, with sharp twists and turns. “You’ll see!” he smiled with a little devilish twinkle in his eyes as he sharply steered around the bend. He took the “scenic” route up to Dante’s View, not to be confused with the awesomely campy film “Dante’s Peak”. When we finally navigated the winding roads up the peak, he stopped the car towards the edge of the parking lot and got out and exclaimed as loud as he could “Aha! Look! Here is your wildflower!” pointing to a lone wildflower cluster jutting out from the side of the cliff. He drove fourteen miles out of the way, just so I could see a wildflower, and it was beautiful.
In all the years that I’ve traveled, sometimes I get amazed by the places that I’ve missed. How could I have missed this beautiful, desolate landscape in my home state? We often forget the beauty that is in our own backyard.
Fun tidbits: stop by an alienesque pit stop appropriately titled “Alien Fresh Jerky” in Baker, CA that is reminiscent of Roswell. You may indulge your X – Files alter ego as you spot alien and ufo’s sculptures/mementos that are scattered throughout the place. It is here, where you can sample on a long list of beef jerky, and choose from a large selection of wildly inappropriate titled hot sauces. South Park fans might get a chuckle once they see a sauce labeled “The sauce that killed Kenny! You B******!” and that is the least obscene hot sauce amongst hundreds. Beware which one you decide to gift your friends, otherwise, it might land you in hot water!
I spent the year rediscovering my home state that is California. In subsequent trips throughout the year, I visited the LA Brea Tar Pits, semi-crashed the Spockumentary Q&A with Nimoy’s son, and learned about cars at the Peterson’s Automobile Museum, which has a rotating lineup of cars.
May saw me in Vegas, where I had the opportunity to meet up with the lovely Diana, from Vegansbaby.com. I always love these random opportunities to meet with some of my dear friends, especially when they live so far away.
My dad was a construction worker in Vegas over 20 years ago. I remember driving out to Vegas with my mom when I was a kid and seeing a dozen of casinos, specifically the ones my father worked on (the Luxor, Circus Circus) with miles and miles of desert in view. The Vegas I remember is hardly the Vegas that exists today. Each time I visit, I am in awe of how much it has changed, it never stays still.
I met up with my mom and her friend Nancy at the glamourous Bacchanal Buffet in Caesar’s Palace. Nancy simply waved her exclusive card and got us in “Dahling, look how fabulous this place is” she would go on to tell me that this was the fanciest buffet in Vegas. Just the entrance with its marble floor, and giant sparkly crystal chandeliers, we bypassed the huge line that amassed out in the lobby, spilling out into the casino itself and snagged a table. I was awestruck by the smorgasbord that was presented before me – as a foodie this was heaven. There had to been over hundreds of selections in this enormous place, each room (yes ROOM!) had their delicacies dedicated to a region of the world. I couldn’t decide where to hit up first. Seafood? Chinese? Thai? Italian? I did what any sensible person would do, I grabbed a sample from each bar.
My family went on an impromptu road trip, through Seattle, up to Vancouver in May as well. Which coincidentally was one of my travel resolutions of the year; to take more road trips with the family. Even though we only spent a day in Vancouver, it was well worth it because I got to see a dear friend from an advert I worked on.
July rolled around where I took off to Sweden to attend the TBEX conference in Stockholm, followed by a camping adventure in the Swedish wilderness in Västmanland. This was my second trip back to Sweden, I often wished I had more time to explore the country since I had only spent two days on my last visit. Allotting myself almost two weeks in Stockholm, surely this would make up for lost time.
My best friend had to cancel Sweden, which also left me without an interpreter for the conference, I was really looking forward to traveling with her again since it had almost been a year since we’ve traveled together. I made do with lip reading, and the hearing aid remote device which focused on the speaker’s voice at the conference. Yet, the conference left me feeling disappointed, as I felt that the Swedish culture was vastly underrepresented at the conference. In all of the TBEXes that I’ve attended, it was disappointing to see the amazing Swedish culture taking a backseat. Although, POST FAM (familiarization) trip to Västamanland, more than made up for it. In two days, I learned so much more about Swedish culture, lifestyle, and food than I did at the conference. I admit I was a tad nervous about camping again since my last camping adventure in England almost left me freezing to death. Surprisingly the former charcoal huts at the Kolarbyn Ecolodge were incredibly warm, furnished with sleeping bags, sheepskin, and a little fireplace – I was taken back by how peaceful and cathartic the wilderness can be. My hands were stained blue from picking hundreds of blueberries on my daily hikes, searching for moose while the sun slung in the sky, never quite setting in the Swedish summers. We also ate a delicious meal prepared at a sheep farm in the midst of wolf territory. I honestly felt like I was in a fairy tale, it was truly magical.
More on my adventure in Sweden (coming soon).
I closed out the year in the Philippines in October for another conference. While the trip started out a bit rocky with a typhoon hitting Manila, another personal typhoon was brewing within the conference and made waves. Seeing someone you used to date at a work conference, can be awkward at best. It is even more awkward when you see them with someone new. I had only come to focus on my writing career, to learn about the new trends in the industry, not to be entangled in the petty drama that ensued. I put my best face forward, and said hi to her, only to be ignored and unfollowed on all social media accounts. No matter how hard I tried to be friendly, I would be met with cold stares and petulant behavior. I left them alone and yet I was treated horribly, and it started to affect our mutual friends as they started to act uncomfortable around me. I had moved on with someone new and didn’t need to be subjected to their petty high school behavior. I was burnt out, emotionally as it had reopened old wounds that I had struggled with in San Fransisco and brought me back to the dark place I was earlier in the year.
It took me a long time to write this part, I had debated on whether or not if I should reveal all of this. I decided to do so because if I can help one person recognize the signs of breadcrumbing (ghosting’s vicious cousin) and help them move on, then so be it. Ultimately, this conference catapulted the loss of our friendship, I struggled to hold on to it but eventually deduced that it would be wise to finally end the friendship and cut the toxic relationship out of my life. It broke my heart to do so as I lost a dear friend, but at the end of the day he never valued our friendship and that was a hard pill to swallow. Harsh lessons were learned, tears were shed, and I retreated to a tropical resort on Samal Island as soon as the conference was over.
Despite the drama, I did enjoy the actual conference. Highlights included participating in a traditional Filipino lunch on a table of banana leaves, to the opening party with gorgeous dancers, mesmerizing singers belting out songs from their culture, and lastly listening to the lovely Patricia Schultz (author “1,000 Places to See Before You Die”) closing keynote speech which was inspirational. In addition, I was interviewed by The Passion television show, which aired on television in Thailand! If you’ve missed it, not to worry – the episode is available on youtube. It was one of the best highlights of the year, I was so impressed that Faj took the time to learn how to sign each question, it truly meant a lot that she took the time. Huge thank you to The Passion and Faj for inviting me onto their program!
Myself and eight other bloggers were invited to participate in the Post FAM (familiarization) “Island to Highlands” press trip to Davao. I didn’t realize this at the time, but the trip would prove to be one of the best trips I’ve ever partaken in. It was exactly what I needed after the emotional turmoil and the networking overload from the week prior. It was as if I left it all behind and started over, I was finally in a good place, it allowed me to focus on the good in my life. I had someone waiting for me at home, I was in paradise with my best friend, and great opportunities were opening up.
In Davao, a city two-hour flight away from Manila – we were fortunate enough to visit the Davao Eagle Sanctuary, wander through a Banana Plantation, brave Durian tasting, spotted wild monkeys, learned archery and so much more. After our tour of Davao, we were lucky to stay at the luxury Pearl Farm Resort on Samal Island. It was there that I crossed off several bucket lists items, such as sleeping in an over a water bungalow, watching the awe-inspiring fire dancers on the beach, and snorkeled amongst giant clams as well!
Samal Island is heaven, with its crystal clear waters as far as the eye can see, deep shades of blue swirling around, tropical trees hanging overhead, completed with over the water bungalows. Paradise doesn’t even begin to describe this place. I fell in love with the Phillippines, so much so that my best friend and I have decided that we would retire here one day with our future husbands.
As soon as I returned to California from my whirlwind trip I was so happy to be reunited with my boyfriend. It felt so good to be back to sit on the couch, to unwind and binge watch our favorite shows with the cats curled up nearby.
Despite crossing off many bucket list items, a new flame, and traveling, you may be wondering why I considered this a rough year. For me, the heartbreak that I endured earlier in the year knocked me off my feet, it took me longer than I would have liked to brush it off. There’s a quote that I’m sure will sound familiar to you, “Don’t let anyone dull your sparkle”. But I did, the sparkle was gone even though I tried really hard to reclaim it. My motivation was lacking, it was hard for me to get really excited about work or travel. The only time where I felt content would be during my visits back to California, where I was closer to my dear friends, my boyfriend. But whenever I would fly back home in Idaho, I felt stressed, trapped and would immediately fall into a funk. My family sometimes would take offense, but it wasn’t anything personal – it was just me.
I spent many months doing a lot of soul-searching, and I realized that I had not accomplished what I set out to do in 2016. In reality, the two big international trips were for conferences, which in truth can be exhausting. It became hard for me to be excited about traveling, which bothered me immensely. To be perfectly frank, I started to feel that I lost sight of the reason why I blog, the true purpose of this site which was to share my experiences as a Deaf traveler.
However, with time and a lot of patience but I finally feel like I am in a great place, I am ready to conquer the world and focus on the things that are so near and dear to me. I’ve found the spark, and I won’t allow anything nor anyone dim it again. Bring on 2017!
Stay tuned for Part Two: Where I’m Going to get a sneak preview of what’s in store for 2017! 😉