A Look Back at 2016

Year-Fire-MonkeyWho does a “year in review” post in the middle of February? Apparently I do. And I’m not going to apologize for it, because one of my New Year’s resolutions is to stop feeling so guilty for things I shouldn’t feel guilty about. Plus, this is my blog and I can do what I want.

2016 was a crazy year, end of story. Future generations will look back on 2016 and think, Geez, I’m so glad I didn’t live through that year! (Ok, they probably won’t say the word “geez.” In fact, I’m not even sure why I’m saying it now, in 2017.)

In fact, I recently wrote a story about Chinese New Year, and the new Year of the Rooster. I interviewed various Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners to find out what the lunar calendar predicts for the coming year. They basically told me that each year coincides with one of the 12 zodiac animals, as well as an element (rotating between metal, wood, earth, water or fire every two years).  People will plan wedding and births around which animal and element align on which year, as it’s said that the baby will inherit traits of both the animal and element.

Well, 2016 was a fire-monkey year; and according to one of the doctors I spoke to, “everyone born that year will be crazy in one way or another.” In our interview he asked me, “What do monkeys do? They throw their shit everywhere. Add fire to that, and you’ve got yourself a real shit storm.” It was a fun conversation.

However, I have to admit that while 2016 was a bad year for many, it was one of the best years of my life. (I actually feel guilty about it, but I’m trying to suppress it for the greater good of following though with my resolutions.) Here’s what happened:

In January, I cut off my hair and donated it to charity.

Before-And-After-Hair-CutThirteen inches, people. Thirteen. That’s over a foot. I have to say, I have always been very attached to my long locks, but there was something freeing about the experience–and rewarding.  Now a little girl suffering from alopecia has a wig that makes her feel confident. And in turn, I gained confidence, because I learned I didn’t need my long hair to feel beautiful.

In February, I checked out the Harbin Ice Festival.

Harbin-Ice-FestivalOne of the coolest (and coldest!) experiences I’ve had thus far. Every year (Dec-Feb), the city in the far north of China (near Russia) holds one of the world’s largest ice festivals, made up of three snow and ice sculpture parks. It’s awesome and the food is insane. Read my post on Harbin to get some recommendations.

In April, I got to check Bali off my bucket list.

Bali-Motorbike-ViewI had been wanting to go to Bali for so long that I actually thought I’d be disappointed. I wasn’t. Beautiful landscapes, delicious food, and the most hospitable people on the planet–it was everything I wanted it to be. Read my post about Bali to see more pictures and get tips on where and what to eat.

 In May, I got a chance to camp on the Great Wall of China.

2016-10-15_0020That’s right–camping, on the Great Wall of China. Now if that’s not bucket list worthy, I don’t know what is. I would recommend this trip to anyone (well, anyone who likes camping and is okay with sleeping on the hard ground with a pretty fierce wind whipping at your tent all night). Read my article about camping on the Great Wall to get all the necessary details if you’re interested in planning the trip.

During the summer, Luke and I traveled around Croatia, Italy and Slovenia for six weeks.

Sail-Croatia-CruiseHiking-ItalyPizza-Da-Michele-NaplesBled-SLoveniaTalk about a romantic time. This trip is actually what sealed the deal for me (meaning, I knew I could spend my life with this guy, as we didn’t fight once in the entire six weeks…That’s romance, people!). We cruised around the Croatian islands for a week with Sail Croatia, hiked along the Amalfi coast in Italy, ate all the pizza, all the pasta and all the gelato, and were wonderfully surprised with the fairy tale country of Slovenia. We continue to talk about it as the best time we’ve ever had.

In September, I traveled to Australia to meet Luke’s entire family.

This trip made me think back to how easy life once was… you date someone for a month or two, you like them, you invite them home to have dinner with your family. Afterwards, they say their goodbyes, and then the boyfriend drives home–20-30 minutes, give-or-take. This, my dear readers, was nothing like this.

One week, two overnight flights, two connecting flights, countless friends and relatives (the man has almost 100 cousins!), a drive up and down the eastern coast, a visit to his hometown, meeting the sisters, and the finale: his mum’s wedding. Needless to say, it was exhausting. But I wouldn’t have traded it for a quiet dinner at home any day.

In October, we got engaged!

Engagement-DayClearly, the trip home went well. And, that sneaky bastard had his sister buy the ring while we were out shopping. He took me to Fuxing Park, hired a guitarist to play some of our favorite songs, and got down on one knee. Pretty good, huh?

In November, we did a weekend visa run in Taipei and ate all the food.

food-taiwanSince I’m on a tourist visa now (I pressed pause on teaching and have been working as a full-time editor), I have to leave Mainland China every 60 days. I usually opt for Hong Kong since it’s cheap and quick, but we decided to take a day off of work and spend a long weekend exploring and eating street food. I fully plan to write a long, food porny post about it, so get ready for that.

In December, Luke came home with me and met all my family and friends. Oh, and we eloped.

Eloped-MarriedWe fully planned to have a “real” wedding. I wanted to wear a white dress and have all our friends and family together. But the fact is, Luke’s from Australia and I’m from Florida–our homes are pretty much as far as you can get from one another. Plus, I’m 34 and can’t be bothered. We’ll get the fams together eventually; and in the meantime, I’ll keep my eye out for a pretty dress.

What’s in store for 2017?

Luke and I are heading to North Korea to run the marathon in April (let’s be honest, I’m doing a 10k), we’re moving to Bucharest in July, and are planning to do some traveling around China before that. After summer, who knows; but it’s looking good. 

What are your plans for this year? I hope whatever they are, they make you happy. Happy Chinese New Year, everyone.

18 thoughts on “A Look Back at 2016”

  1. What an awesome, adventure filled year- loved reading about it! Congrats on your elopement and I can’t wait to read more about Bucharest

    1. Thank you! We are SO excited to explore Eastern Europe; and I’ll be working part-time, so will be blogging much more! 🙂

  2. I am really happy for you =) you are an incredible girl and you deserve this and more, I love to read your post have a nice 2017

  3. Congratulations on your elopement! Your parents never mentioned it. I have never been to Romania. I can’t wait to see it thru your eyes. I am doing another walking vacation in June. It is the St. Olaf Way in Norway. This one is just shy of 400 miles. Traveling truly is a way of life for many of us.
    Carry on, Patty

    1. Thanks, Patty! Your walking vacation sounds amazing. My parents always talk about you and tell me how much we would love each other. They also tell me that you are my future self! Good luck and have a great time. 🙂

  4. Jen, as always, I love reading what you write. We are so thrilled that your life is so happy and carefree. Much love to you and best wishes for a fabulous 2017.

    1. Thanks so much, Sue. I wish you a great 2017 as well! Hopefully I’ll get to see you when I’m home in June. 🙂

  5. Jen, Your blogs are just like visiting these places. I’m so glad you’re getting to experience all of these amazing countries. Congratulations on your marriage. From what your mom says, Luke is a great guy. Be happy!

  6. What a great review and who cares if it was written in February?! That’s when the Chinese New Year is so it can actually be seen as the end of the year. Congratulations on getting married. What a great way to end the year! How exciting you’ll be moving to Romania. I can’t wait to read about your experience there. I live in Europe, but haven’t made it there, yet.

  7. Oh Jen, I’m just catching up now on your blog. Your happiness is infectious and I’m smiling right now because of all of the blessings in your life. I wish you another year of complete bliss and wish you the best transition with your move to Romania! Hell yes, girlfriend. That’s the way to live.

    1. Awww thanks, Jacqui! This made my day. I wish you another year of complete bliss! Join me in writing more?

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