It’s a rainy winter day in December, the perfect weather to reflect on the year and writing a blog post. I have been tinkering with photography lately and love inspirational quotes, hence the birth of this post marrying both. It has been an eventful year for us and taught us not to take each other and life for granted. Life goes on regardless of what happened around us, so prioritize and live life with no regrets.

In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.

Robert Frost

We are blessed that our adult children would still spend time outdoors and travel with us, despite their busy school and work schedules.
A snow storm changed the landscape of a green trail into a winter wonderland. Instead of staying inside, we opted to put on our snowshoes and explored.
We appreciated friends who brought us new knowledge and pushed us beyond our limits because they believe we can!
It was a great accomplishment standing on this mountain summit in my hometown. You’ll never know what you can achieve unless you do it.
It was our first long trip with friends and we all had a great time. We talked, we laughed, we ate amazing food, we climbed a mountain, and most of all we supported each other along the way.

How small we are in this beautiful world, there is so much to see and to experience. Why stop yourself at ground level?
A different experience under the sea. Totally out of my comfort zone but exhilarating to be with the sea creatures for a few hours. It was this experience that inspired me to take a swimming course to conquer my fear of the deep sea.
Giving back to this beautiful planet on Earth Day by participating in a beach cleanup project. We all need to learn to be a good guest on this planet.
Okay, this is not the mountain nor the woods, but a quiet beach by the coast away from the hustle and bustle of the city life. A stunning venue for our first backpacking trip and beach cleanup project.
Another awesome backpacking trip in our own Pacific Northwest playground. A place to cleanse the mind and strengthen the body.
This is an eventful year for us, turning 50, coping with illnesses, moving out of our house of 17 years, and taking off work. I don’t know what’s in store in the future but I have been loving these changes and intended to keep reaching for the stars.
Life goes on no matter how we feel, why not focusing on the positives and trust that we have the knowledge and will power to deflect any adversity.
Our annual family trip brought us to Australia, experiencing a different way of living, exploring new adventures and seeing the interesting native wildlife. We will definitely be back to explore more of this region.
Unique experience √, happy moments captured √, unforgettable! What will we be doing next to top this? Do I see skydiving in the future?
As I aged, I find that I am more inclined to believe in my ability to do anything. I don’t want to look back and think about the ‘what ifs’. I am not the best nor the strongest climber, but I enjoyed every minute of the time on the crags.
I have been mentally spent from working for a while, so I decided to take a break from it. I don’t want to be the person who complains about their current lifestyle and yet not willing to do anything about it. It takes courage and I am very thankful to have the support of my family.
A storybook castle we visited during a recent trip to Germany with my mom. It was a wonderful trip that we will be talking about for years to come.
An extended trip to the East to see my family made possible by the support of the people I love most in my life.
A simpler life allows me with ample time to plan my trips and see the world. I spent the first part of the year decluttering our physical belongings and in a way, felt lighter. The second part of the year was spent reorganizing and prioritizing our daily life. With careful planning, we can enjoy and spend more time with family.
A yearly reflection is a way for me to grow and celebrate my achievement. We all experience the ups and downs of life. I like to look at all the ups and positives and be my own cheerleader.

2019 will definitely go down as an unforgettable year for me and my family. I hope to inspire you to embark on your own journey of discovery and exploration. I can’t wait to see what 2020 will bring. Happy Holidays to all and see you again in 2020.

Traveling—it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.

Ibn Battuta, The Travels of Ibn Battutah

My recent trip to Germany left me in awe of the beauty of the region we visited and with a thirst to see more of the country. This trip marked the first time I traveled with an organized tour group and with my mom. My mom is an expert in group tours, so I let her choose the destination. We ended up with a 10-day trip to the Bavarian region spending most days along the Deutsche Alpenstraβe (German Alpine Road) outside of the major cities. After all the air traveling and time differences, we were left with a jam-packed 7 full-day itinerary. Since this was not my usual travel style, I didn’t know what to expect of the trip but to spend time with my mom. With that in mind, we set off to make the best of what the tour had to offer and to seek out the unique experience in each destination. A picture speaks a thousand words, in this blog I hope to show you the beauty of Germany through my lens.

The Itinerary:

Day 1 – Taipei to Frankfurt

Day 2 – Frankfurt to River Rhine cruise to Heidelberg

Day 3 – Heidelberg to Titisee and Bodensee to Fussen

Day 4 – Fussen to Neuschwanstein Castle to Weiskirche to Garmisch

Day 5 – Garmisch to Zugspitze to Berchtesgaden

Day 6 – Berchtesgaden to Konigssee to Munich

Day 7 – Munich to Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Day 8 – Rothenburg to Nuremberg to Frankfurt

Day 9 and 10 – Travel back to Taipei

We hit the ground running as soon as we arrived in Frankfurt. The first destination was a riverboat ride along the River Rhine. It was a great first impression of Germany as the shores of the river were lined with charming buildings, old castles, rolling hills, and vineyards. The day was cloudy and cold, but we decided to bundle up and stayed on the outside deck of the boat to soak in the beauty of the area. While our tour mates shopped at the little souvenir store after lunch, we opted for a stroll along the River Rhine. It was a good way to walk off the heavy lunch and breathe in some fresh air before we had to board the tour bus for a long ride to Heidelberg for our first palace/castle visit. It was a ‘wow’ moment when the city came into sight with its reddish-colored Old Bridge and rooftops. We could see miles and miles of the breathtakingly colorful landscape atop the palace grounds. I was glad that we visited this time of year despite the cold to appreciate the vibrant colors of autumn. The cool crisp air and the gloomy sky added a mysterious vibe to the city.

We visited many more castles after Heidelberg and the best was Neuschwanstein Castle. There were three ways to get to the castle from the parking area; walk, by bus and by horse carriage. We planned to take the bus up and walk down. Before the visit to the castle itself, a must-see is Mary’s Bridge where you can walk across the suspension bridge to have a full view of the castle and the hillside surrounding it. Words escaped me when I saw the castle. It’s truly a fairy tale castle standing tall and gleaming with the striking countryside as the backdrop. However, the inside of the castle was telling a different story; it was dark and depressing. You would need your imagination to picture the grandeur of this enchanted castle in its glorious days.

Lakes and mountains were in store for us as we drove through the Alps. We stopped at Titisee in the Black Forest region. This lake is fed by the Feldberg glacier and it’s the home of the world-famous cuckoo clocks. We took this opportunity to walk around the area and learned about the cuckoo clocks from some of the shopkeepers. It was very tempting to bring those clocks with me. We also tasted the best black forest cake ever here. I wish I could bring back some of those cakes too. Of all the lakes we saw, we had the best experience at Konigssee in the Berchtesgaden National Park. A must-do is the short boat ride to St. Bartholomew church. The astounding contrast of the red-roof top of the church and the surrounding snow-capped mountains created this amazingly magical place. I didn’t want to leave this place and hopefully, we can be back in the future to hike the trails to neighboring Austria.

I was happy that this itinerary includes a trip to the top of the highest mountain in Germany. We reached the 2962-meter high Zugspitze by a 75-minutes cogwheel train ride from Garmisch-Partenkirchen to Gletscherbahn station on the Zugspitz Plateau, and then a 5-minute cable car ride to the summit. The cogwheel train is specially designed to go on a steep grade, and it’s an experience not to be missed. The equally thrilling experience was the cable car running practically vertical from the summit down to Eibsee station. Other activities worth considering are having lunch at the restaurant on the summit and walking a short distance to the Austria side of the mountain. The high altitude did get the best of me, and I ended with a headache and shortness of breath. Luckily, that was our only destination of the day, and I was able to sleep it off on the way to the hotel. 

We stopped at a few major cities and medieval towns along the journey, such as Frankfurt, Munich, Nuremberg, and Rothenburg ob der Tauber. The cities consist of buildings with modern and old picturesque architecture. The city halls, music halls, churches, gardens, museums, palaces, and even the cobblestone streets all seem fascinating. We were lucky to be there to experience the German Christmas markets, especially the largest and famous Nürnberger Christkindlesmarkt (Nuremberg). Everything looked and smelled festive. The mouthwatering Christmas goodies were calling our names. A variety of cookies and bread, roasted nuts, sausages, fries, crepes, popcorns, chocolates, and drinks. My favorite was the German Glühwein (hot spiced wine). It felt comforting and soothing after drinking it in the cold winter night at the market. I’ll have to start making those at home.

Reflections and tips:

  1. My first group tour was better than I thought it would be since I started with an open mind. We met some nice people and made new friends along the way. It’s not easy traveling with a group of strangers, just relax and enjoy the journey. After all, you are on vacation.
  2. I enjoyed this trip because we were able to spend a lot of free time roaming the area after a brief introduction by the tour guide. Picking a tour that suits your interest is important. My mom was able to find a group tour that offered more outdoor activities in nature, which I enjoyed. We were able to clock in at 10,000 to 15,000 steps most days.
  3. We sought out unique experiences in each destination and enjoyed them as best as we could in the time allocated. We tried to walk a little farther to less crowded areas.
  4. Don’t be afraid to travel during the cold or winter season. We didn’t encounter any adverse weather and was rewarded with less crowd and breathtaking scenery.
  5. Spending time enjoying a new country with my mom. Priceless!

Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.

Theodor Seuss Geisel 

Trips and vacations are so much more. These experiences show you what’s possible and challenge you to examine the paths you’ll take in the future.

Blake Mycoskie, Founder of TOMS Shoes

Vacation, noun: a period spent away from home or business in travel or recreation. Synonym: break, holiday, leave, trip, and to me the time to experience the wonder of this world. Vacation planning is probably my favorite thing to do. It gives my mind the freedom to daydream and transform that into reality. After years of vacation planning for my family and friends, I have devised a process that I follow each time to ensure a successful and stress-free vacation.

Step 1: Picking the destination. This is the most fun and yet challenging step, especially if you have a big travel group to plan for. Often, where you are going depends on who you are traveling with, a couple getaway might be different than a family or friends’ trip. Here are some ideas that I have used to choose our destination.

  1. Working from a bucket or to-do list such as our Banff National Park road trip, China trip and climbing Mount Kinabalu.
  2. Family members take turns to pick a place such as our Europe vacation (a graduation choice by my daughter).
  3. Just go to where you can get cheap air tickets. Our most recent Australia trip happened because of both cheap air fare and on our to-do list.
  4. Careful consideration should be given to the time of year the vacation is planned. Do you care if it’s the rainy season, snowing, sweltering heat, or crowded because of school holidays?

Step 2: Research and planning. This is the most time consuming and yet crucial step. A well-researched and well-planned trip will go a long way to avoid disappointment and stress later in the trip.

  1. The first thing I do is to research the prices of airfares or cruise fares and lodging to come up with a budget for the trip. Having a budget motivates me to find the best deals, and keeps me on task to decide on the splurge items. For airfares, I generally start with Google Flights or Expedia and then go to the individual airline website to compare fares. I also look at all the different airports in the vicinity and find one that offers the best options as far as pricing, frequency of flights and ease of getting ground transportation. Lodging is the other big-ticket item but there are plenty of options out there now to suit everyone’s travel style. As a family, we always prefer Airbnb type lodging over hotel rooms. Some of the websites I use are Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway, Expedia, and TripAdvisor. I pay special attention to the locations, reviews and ratings, service fees and other charges; and cancellation policy.
  2. What is the purpose of the trip? Are you visiting for a specific reason? Find out everyone’s interest and the must-do and see in the area. Having a budget early on will help you to decide on what to splurge. For example, for our most recent trip to Australia, we rented apartments and able to save money by preparing our breakfasts and/or lunches and splurge on dinner. We also did most of the self-guided tour of the area and splurge on guided activities such as Harbor Bridge Climb. For our Europe cruise, we saved money by arranging our tours instead of using cruise excursions and able to visit places of our choice. It’s also helpful to note the cost of entrance fees and line up activities that are popular or hard to book. 
  3. Rent a car or public transportation? This is dependent on the travel party and destination. For example, for our Taiwan trip, we hired a driver and a car because it is cheaper and relieve the headache of maneuvering the confusing streets and hard to come by parking spots. We opted for public transportation in New York City since the subway system is amazingly convenient. We typically walk whenever and wherever we can, a good way to exercise during a vacation to offset the food we consumed. If we do decide to drive, I would find out the parking situation ahead of time to ease the stress of looking for one.
  4. Of course, if you decide to use an organized group or private tour agency, you can skip a lot of the above research. But then, you will be missing all the fun!
  5. This is also the step to ask yourself these questions. Is your passport up to date? Do you need a visitor visa? What is the driver’s license requirement if driving and renting a car? Is there a vaccination requirement? Set up a timeline to get these done on your plan.

Step 3: Finalize itinerary. After all the planning, it is time to put everything down on the spreadsheet, share with family or friends, make changes and finalize the plan. I usually list down all the possible activities for a destination and pick from it during our trip, depending on our mood for the day. Just make sure to leave some open or rest days on your itinerary to accommodate for change of plans.

Step 4: Preparation for the upcoming trip. At least two to three weeks before the trip;

  1. Finalize all the bookings and print out if needed, place in a folder along with other travel documents.
  2. Set up vacation mail holds with the post office.
  3. Prepare the packing list.
  4. Download apps for travel. I use TripIt to keep all the travel documents, SmartReceipts to keep track of all the spending, Currency for quickly looking up currency exchange rate, Lyft or Uber or similar ride share app, Mobile Passport where you can fill out immigration information for faster entry, WhatsApp or similar app for communication, local maps, and any game apps as necessary.
  5. Will you have cell service for your phone? Will you be using your phone for direction or rent a GPS?
  6. Decide on whether to use credit cards or cash.
  7. Find a house sitter or someone to check on your house.
  8. Leave your itinerary with a friend.
  9. Have emergency contact handy.
  10. Find out the closest embassy/consulate at your destination.
  11. Find out how to call for emergency help at your destination.

Step 5: Bon Voyage. You have done all the hard work. It is now time to breathe, relax, and start the long-awaited adventure!

I love travelling full stop – so while I’ve had some harrowing instances, I never look at them negatively. Memories are made when you’re travelling – not when you’re chained to your desk.

Richard Branson

After months of anticipation, we finally made our way across the ocean and stepped onto the land down under. We were greeted with blue skies and sunshine right off the bat that energized us despite the long flight. The view from above was amazing, with miles and miles of sparkling sea and the equally beautiful coastlines. Our itinerary was simple with three main destinations, which includes city walks, National Parks and beaches.

Brisbane, the sunny, capital city of Queensland. We arrived in Brisbane bright and early after a long flight from Los Angeles. We’ve decided to rent a car so we could utilize Brisbane as the base for our Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast travels. Driving on the opposite side of the road though, was an adventure in itself. The city center is situated by the Brisbane River with a well-maintained paved pedestrian and bicycle walkway and beautiful scenery. We stayed in the South Bank area and is an easy walk to the city with plenty of restaurants nearby. The city also offers an array of activities that span from museums and art galleries to rock climbing or bridge climb. We visited the Queensland Museum, enjoyed the sun at Streets Beach and did some rock climbing by the river.

We, of course, wanted to see the koalas and kangaroos and opted to visit Australia Zoo, which is the home of the crocodile hunter Steve Irwin. It is a wonderful place to learn about the different animals found in Australia. What we like about this zoo is that the visitors are offered opportunities to interact with the animals. We were able to touch and took pictures with lizards, snakes, koalas; and kangaroos. The crocodile show is not to be missed and during the show, we were taught how to avoid deadly encounters with crocodiles.

We had planned on a visit to the Gold Coast Hinterland but stopped short by the forest fires in the area. We ended up driving northbound about two hours to Noosa Heads on the Sunshine Coast and hiking the trails of Noosa National Park. It was a wonderful hike with marvelous views. Noosa was voted as our favorite destination for this trip. The sun, cafes, shops, and beaches created a soothing vacation vibe. We wished we had more time than just a day trip there.

Airlie Beach, Heart of the Reef. After spending a few days in Brisbane, we headed to Airlie Beach, a resort town and gateway to the Whitsunday Islands National Park which is a part of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. We picked this destination to explore the Great Barrier Reef area because it’s less crowded compared to Cairns. The September weather was warm during the day and cool in the evening. However, during the week that we were there, the wind gust was strong with big swells and waves at sea. We were drenched and holding on to dear life on board the tall ship Providence V when we set sail for the Whitsunday Islands. It was an experience not for the faint of heart and especially not for those with motion sickness. After what seemed like an eternity, the captain decided to turn back, which he later said had never happened before. We tried again a couple of days later with better sea conditions and were rewarded with an incredible time on the island. We anchored off the beach of Whitsunday Island, which is the largest of the 74 islands in the Whitsundays. We walked up to Hill Inlet lookout and admired the stunning colors caused by the swirling sand, exfoliated our skin with the pure white silica sand on Whitehaven Beach, snorkeled and saw the corals and colorful fish. The kayaking trip we did departing from Shute Harbour to White Rock was another highlight of our adventure. It was quite a workout because of the currents in some parts of the route but we had beautiful weather, a friendly guide and we even spotted a turtle coming up for air. It was the perfect ending to our Whitsundays adventure.

Sydney, the harbour city and home of the iconic Sydney Opera House. Our last destination for this trip to see the iconic Sydney Opera House and climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge. We were again welcomed with perfect weather for this leg of our journey. We enjoyed walking in the Royal Botanic Garden, seeing the Opera House up close and from above, visiting the Rocks Markets and shopping at the old Queen Victoria Building and the adjacent Westfield. The highlight was hands down climbing the Harbour Bridge with BridgeClimb Sydney. When we were at the top, it seemed like we could see as far as New Zealand.

It was a short two weeks to get a taste of what Australia offers and to spend some time with family and friends in the area. We will definitely be back again to see the rest of Australia in the future. Here are some tips I learned from this trip:

  • September is winter/spring-ish in Australia but temperature varies from region to region. Check the weather before you travel. We wore short sleeves shirts and shorts almost all the time with a light jacket for early mornings and evenings.
  • Water temperature is still cooler in September and wet suits are recommended if staying in water for a long period of time such as snorkeling.
  • Don’t forget your sunscreens regardless of time of year you visit.
  • Tipping is not mandatory in Australia. We did find the restaurant service a little slow at times but people were friendly.
  • Don’t forget your driver’s license if you plan on renting a car. There are a lot roundabouts and it can be confusing for US drivers. We went in the wrong way once and had a scare.
  • As always, relax and enjoy the adventure!

Your task, as a human being, is not self-augmentation, but self-discovery. Look at yourself with curiosity. Let yourself explore your interests. Delve into your talents. Face your fears. Accept your faults, and give yourself unconditional love.

Vironika Tugaleva

I have a lot of fears, fear of deep water (where I can’t touch the bottom), fear of falling, fear of being alone, fear of big dogs, fear of time getting away from me, fear of criticisms, and so forth. If you have been following my blog you would notice that I still participated in activities that involve those fears. I would push myself and tell myself that ‘I can do it’ while I was white-water rafting or scuba diving or doing anything that I was afraid of. I had fun but I’m not sure if I was enjoying myself though. There was always a voice in my head that said ‘get out of there’. Last weekend, I confronted my fear of swimming in deep water head-on. I took a special swimming class and had a totally different view of the water. I still have a long way to go but for the first time in my life, I know that I am in control and I was able to have fun and enjoy myself swimming in deep water. The biggest take away so far from the class is to live in the present. This means when I am in the water, I feel everything at that exact moment and not let my mind wander off to something else. I feel the water lifting me, I feel the tension in my neck, I feel my arms and my legs floating in the water at that very moment. Often times when we are in unfamiliar or fearful situations, our minds wander to past events masking the present. Our minds and bodies are not in the same place and we lose control. I found an interesting article that explains the present concept and mindfulness here. I am hopeful that with my newfound knowledge, I can overcome my fears and practice living in the present; and explore all the new sensations by being more aware of my feelings.

The ability to be in the present moment is a major component of mental wellness

Abraham Maslow

The idea of writing had always been in my mind but I did not do anything about it because I was afraid of failing and being laughed at, even though I thought it would be fun to have my own blog. Writing does not come easy for me, let alone in English since it is not my first language. Sharing it in a blog means I’m opening up my vulnerabilities and flaws to the world to see, and I must learn to accept criticisms. I could not remember what propelled me to start the blog at that moment three years ago but I am grateful that I did. It had become a crucial part of my mental well being. I have also been thinking a lot about the direction of my blog and what my intention was for writing. Over the years, so much has changed within myself and what I want to share seem to be transformed with that. In my early research about blogging, most recommendations or suggestions revolve around having a solid niche for your blog, getting a big audience, increasing and keeping followers, likes and comments, and be an influencer! Yes, those all are true and sound like good bits of advice. I won’t lie, getting new followers and likes definitely bring excitement to my blogging ‘career’. But, was that my intention? What am I sharing that is different than everybody else? Am I just following the social media craze? Ultimately all I want to do is to have a way for me to preserve and document my thoughts and my journeys in life and share my discoveries with others. You might also say it’s a journal and I can always look back to seek reminders and keep myself accountable to my goals. The tagline for my blog ‘Explore, Enjoy, Experience’ is truly the direction I’m heading. I am constantly exploring what the world has to offer and my inner identity, enjoying and experience all the unique moments along the way. With this mission in tow, I revamped my website and updated some posts. Reading through my own posts again from the beginning rekindled the sparks and excitement that I felt when I wrote my first post three years ago. There is no niche in my blog, it is purely a personal blog, a place for me to open up my journeys, offer tips and inspirations for you to create your own experiences, and sometimes I may even rant (just a tiny bit)! Here’s a glimpse of my recent moments. As you can see, all of my fun times are outdoors. I enjoy the openness of the outdoors and especially on the mountains. Breathing in the mountain air often gives me a sense of serenity and calmness. I am truly present to feel every inch of my muscles aching and my knees screaming; and yet it’s the place where I can clear my head, regroup and recharge. It’s my happy place! By the way, one of my goals is to be able to jump in and swim in the lake in that last picture; and I am well on my way!

Are you focusing on the present? What are your fears or worries? Are they stopping you from doing something fun? Here’s a quick guide from Mindful.org if you are interested in starting the practice of mindfulness and living in the moment.

But to be richer, happier, and freer, all you need to do is want less.

Francine Jay, Miss Minimalist: Inspiration to Downsize, Declutter, and Simplify

After a few stressful weeks, I can finally sit down and breathe for just a moment. We have been busy decluttering and getting ready for a downsized life. All the collected items over the past twenty years were dug out from every nook and cranny in the house. Looking at all this stuff, I still cannot stop asking myself “WHY”! Why do we need two chips and dip platters, or the dozens of bar soaps, or the ten boxes of Ziplock bags, or the totes of Christmas decoration sitting in the storage room, and … well, there’s too many ‘and’s. The ‘just keep it in case I need it’ mentality had always prevailed. Last winter I channeled Marie Kondo and used her KonMari method to start decluttering. Throughout this process, I learn to let go of most of our possessions and thaught my family to do the same. I gave the kids each a small box that they could hold things dear to them. We spent some fun nights looking through boxes of old school projects, trophies, artwork, etc. that we kept since they started school. We read, we laughed and then we let them go to paper heaven. My husband, on the other hand, needs a little more convincing. However, after seeing the packed garage, he is finally convinced that we have too much. Trying to scale down our belongings that fit into a 3500 square-foot house to possibly something half of that is no easy feat. It requires lots of self-control and discipline, and with a clear goal in mind, it is definitely propelling us forward day by day.

Downsizing is stressful yet exciting. The biggest decision was to sell the house that we had lived in for 17 years. It’s the house that our kids grew up in and the house that hosted many gatherings with friends and family. it has been an amazing and wonderful sanctuary for us and it is now time for another family to build their memories in this house. Downsizing also provides us with a chance to reevaluate our priorities and to forge a new path. Our ultimate goal is to live a simpler life, travel the world together, sleep in our van somewhere, spend more time with friends and family; and be content with that life. Another huge decision is for me to finally able to leave work and consider myself ‘retired’. Most people say I’m too young to retire and that I will be bored. At this stage of my life, I want to slow down, be selfish and think of myself and my well being. Maybe even sleep in some days without the alarm waking me up at the crack of dawn. I definitely won’t be bored with a couple international trips to plan, backpacking trip, climbing, camping, working on my hiking stamina to summit more mountains; spending more time with my parents, working on my photography and blogging more. Heading out to nature is the best therapy for me and it can’t get any simpler than that. No disruptions from electronics, just spend time lounging around and have meaningful conversations, with yourself if alone or with others. Social media is probably my one luxury item that is hard to give up. It has become an outlet for me to learn and discover, reconnect me with far away friends and family, and a platform for me to share my passions in life.

The interpretation of simple life varies from living in a tiny house or living in a van or on the road or even living off the grid. For me it is a mentality to not overthink and live in the moment. Downsizing to a smaller house gives me the time to enjoy what I love and not being bogged down with the cleaning and upkeeping of a bigger house. It also means not keeping boxes and boxes of untouched items in the house. It’s not an easy task to stay on that mentality but we are taking small steps now in the hope of reaching that milestone in the near future. Setting a clear goal is definitely the first step in this process and here are some tips and motivation for you to move towards that simpler, freer life:

  1. The goal, checked! We made the decision that I would retire from work about a year ago. Since then every decision and preparation we made had been purposeful so that we can realize this goal. Downsizing came right after as our children are both away from home.
  2. As we declutter, we’ve been careful to recycle, sell or donate our belongings rather than them ending up in the landfill. Just google and you’ll find local second-hand stores or online stores that will take those items.
  3. Cut the cord with cable tv. We had been without cable for quite a few years now and happy with it.
  4. Develop a hobby that relaxes you, or learn something new. I have already found a handful of activities through local Facebook groups or local stores.
  5. Volunteer your time for a cause that is near and dear to your heart.
  6. Don’t buy up the whole store when you go shopping. For starter, I am going to not stock up on grocery and buy smaller portions.
  7. Whoever you have in your life, motivate each other, and most of all, just have fun!!

We are all travelers in the wilderness of this world, and the best we can find in our travels is an honest friend.

Robert Louis Stevenson

It has been a while since I traveled back to my hometown in Sabah, Malaysia. Sabah is located in the northern part of Borneo Island. A state surrounded by islands off the coast, plenty of sandy beaches, coconut trees, lush rainforests, beautiful sunsets, amazing food, and friendly people. I grew up in Kota Kinabalu, the state capital which is located on the west coast of Sabah. I have been talking to my friends about climbing the highest mountain in Malaysia, Mount Kinabalu since we met maybe about twenty years ago. We were finally able to coordinate everyone schedules and made the trip together in February. We have gone on hikes and camping trips but this marked our first trip together for two weeks. The highlight of our trip was summiting Mount Kinabalu at 4095 meters (13435 ft.). It was a gruesome two-day hike/climb to reach the summit from 1866 meters (6122 ft.) but we made it despite the difficulty with minor altitude sickness and lack of sleep. With the beautiful islands nearby, we decided to try scuba diving and there’s definitely going to be an under the sea adventure in the future. We also spent our off days wandering around the streets of downtown Kota Kinabalu and trying out all the different street food and local delicacies. We had a blast and our final destination was Nexus Resort Karambunai which is a beachside resort about 30 km (18 miles) north of Kota Kinabalu. This was supposed to be the ‘relax by the pool’ part of our vacation, but there were so much to do at the resort. We spent time kayaking in the mangroves, watching the sunset and luring the fireflies to come out and play, learning to use a blowpipe, adventure fishing with interference from the monitor lizards that live on the grounds of the resort, cooking local food with the chef, yoga by the beach, a relaxing massage at the spa and a bonfire to top it all off. The staff at the resort was amazing and kept us entertained and happy for the duration of our stay.

I was proud to show off my hometown to my friends and happy to see the development and improvement done throughout the years. I love nature and outdoors the most and with the little time we had we were only able to experience a small part of the state and in the future I would like to experience the turtle island, hiking in the rainforest and searching for waterfalls, cave exploration, and many more. Good friends are hard to come by and good friends you can travel with and be crazy with are even harder to find. So go and have fun, and don’t be afraid to try out new things.

Throughout this trip, I think we learned something new about each other and that we have similar values in terms of traveling and immersing ourselves in the culture and mingle with the locals. Our priorities are different than a lot of the tourists who would just be there, took pictures and left. I hope you find some inspiration to go out there and create new experiences for yourselves.

I would like to take this opportunity to show my appreciations to the following people:

  • Thank you to my friends who encouraged me along the way and carried my pack up the mountain when I was losing steam especially to Howard and Sam.
  • Thank you, Howard, Kim, Trudy, Sam, Jessilyn, Richard, Carol, and my husband Danny for all the photo contributions and a grand old time.
  • Thank you to my aunties, uncles, cousins, friends who met with me during this trip. I hope to see you all again soon.
  • Thank you to our mountain guides, Lawrence and Bonny, our diving instructors Dixon Davies and Fai; and all the wonderful staff at Nexus Resort.

 

Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.― T.S. Eliot

A few years back I was stuck in a rut and needed a change of pace in my life. I started to read a lot of self-help books and research on clean eating and clean living. Most of all, I discovered the love for outdoors and adventures through some great friends. I wanted to see the beauty of the world and unbeknownst to me at the time, I was embarking on a journey of self-discovery. This is the year I turn fifty, yes the much anticipated five zero and you’ll probably see more posts around the subject this year. Although my son had reminded me that I’m half a century old, I view it as the beginning of a new chapter with new freedom to experience life at a different level.

As we are packing up our house now for our move, I feel a sense of great accomplishment as I browse through old pictures, certificates, and all the sentimental items collected. I also feel a sense of relief as I let them go and take this opportunity to teach my children to let things go. The changes I see in myself is profound. I no longer crave shopping for trendy clothes, instead, I shop for clothing that I can hike and go around town in. I look at hiking boots instead of heels, climbing gears and backpacks instead of handbags, and I really don’t care if I have to go potty in the woods. Recently, I suggested to my friends about snow camping in the winter, which I never thought I would do just a year ago. I am glad that I have a better half who is willing to do all these crazy things with me. We traveled through different continents, experienced different cultures and hiked through some amazing mountains.

Pushing fifty means my body is not as tough as it used to be. I am still in good health but my joints are feeling the wears and tears from the constant ‘beating’. Often times during a hike or climb, I have to keep motivating myself by envisioning the end goal, be it the summit of a mountain, the comfort of the car or a good ol’ hamburger, my favorite after-hike food. Most of the times, the mountain wins but I always bounce back and tackling them slowly but surely. It’s pure bliss when I’m high up there looking at the horizon and reflecting on the journey up. To reach my goals of at least 26 hikes this year, and fulfilling all the challenges and adventures heading my way, I definitely need to take care of myself with plenty of exercise, physical therapies, and healthy eating.

Just breathe and soak in the view

Age is just a mindset. I try very hard not to let it stop me from doing anything. What had helped me to stay on track are;

  • Writing down my goals on my blog, or just write them down on the calendar.
  • Don’t wait until the new year to come up with a new year’s resolution which often times failed. You can start at any time in the year.
  • Find a friend, a family member, or even a community group who share the same goals or enjoy the same experiences as me. It’s more fun and better yet if this person can also push me to reach further.
  • Be at peace to the fact that I am no longer in my twenties and it just takes twice the time to heal those muscle soreness.

The world is a big place, there are still many things to experience and many more adventures to explore. What are you waiting for?

Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us. ~ Hal Borland

Time flies so quickly and leaves us with another year of exciting experiences and fond memories. After a trying 2017, 2018 was bound to be better and it didn’t disappoint. We had a lot of firsts and celebration last year. I learned to climb in the gym and on real rocks in the outdoors with my son.  My husband and I became empty nesters. I checked off almost all items on my to-do list from last year except for the daunting Spartan race. It will require a very rigorous training schedule and I’m still trying to figure out my own strength mentally and physically.  However, it’s not completely off the table yet.

I went on quite a few amazing hikes and summit a few mountains. When I was younger, I never pictured myself to be this active at my age and into hiking and climbing. I love the quietness and the serenity of nature and especially enjoy being high up on a mountain.

I am fired up to start this year on the right foot. We began the celebration with a hike up a mountain with our family and friends on New Year’s Eve to welcome 2019. We started this last year and plan on continuing this tradition.

So what’s in store for us this year? Time to set some goals and challenges to keep the fire going. Here’s a shortlist of items that we hope to accomplish.

  • We want to stay active and will embark on a 26-hikes year. I’m thinking of starting a spreadsheet and tally the miles and elevations with all the hikes. You can follow our journey on Instagram or my Facebook page (links on the bottom of the page).
  • Continue to improve on my climbing. My goal is to be able to set up top ropes to climb outdoors with my son and to introduce climbing to our friends.
  • Learn about backpacking and do at least one backpacking trip this year.

Keeping an active lifestyle is not easy regardless of age. It is especially frustrating for me with arthritis setting in and dealing with the constant aches and pain. However, I am determined to beat this and continue to march on. If you are embarking on the same journey, I have a few tips to offer.

  • Find friends or family members who have the same interests to join your quests. Make sure to motivate and push each other in the right direction.
  • Keep a healthy diet and lifestyle. We are what we eat and keeping a clean diet will go a long way.
  • Take time to rest and recharge.
  • Most of all, spend time together, go outside and enjoy what nature has to offer.

The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.
― Eleanor Roosevelt

It has been a couple of years since we last visited Taiwan. Taiwan is a small island country with friendly people, mouth-watering local cuisines, and a plethora of exciting outdoor experiences. A perfect combination for any traveler and outdoor enthusiast. For those who have been following my blog, you probably know that roaming in a modern city is not my traveling style. I like old towns with colorful cultures and unique architectures, but most of all I want to immerse myself in the natural beauty of the place and challenge myself (and sometimes my family) with new experiences. I crave for the fresh air and serenity of the outdoors. With my new-found passion for rock climbing, I searched high and low on the internet for a place to climb in Taiwan and found Longdong (龍洞), situated at the Northeast corner of the country. I was drawn to this place because of the rock formation and its proximity to the ocean. Words can’t describe what I felt when I actually arrived and saw the place. The blue sky and water are just pure bliss. After months of research, I finally found Qxadventures, the rock climbing guide service in Longdong. Choosing a good and qualified guide/instructor for rock climbing is no small feat. You can check out my tips at the end of this post for choosing a guide.

Qxadventures is owned by a couple of rock climbers, QX and his wife Kelly, originally from Singapore. Maybe I am biased because of my root in the neighboring country Malaysia or maybe it’s the passion for climbing that I felt from perusing their website, I just had a gut feeling that they are the right people for this trip. I then enlisted my brother-in-law, his brother, and two other friends to join in the fun. Since this is their first time rock climbing, we decided to split into two groups. Kelly led the beginners and I went with QX for one-on-one instruction/guiding. It was a sunny and hot day (temperature is probably close to the 80’s) even though it’s November. I am glad we chose to come on a weekday and awarded with the crags to ourselves the whole day. We started at the School Gate area and after a couple warmup climbs, QX and I split off from the group and headed to the Music Hall area. I think we were only about an hour and a half since we arrived at the crag but I was starting to feel weak and light headed from the glaring sun. It was about a 30-minute hike between the two areas and I had to just lie down under the shade until the dizziness passed. I was glad to have my Nuun tablets with me to give me the boost to go on. We must have stopped and rested for about 45 minutes until I came ‘alive’ again. During that time I had some good conversations with QX and learned more about them and their passion to improve the quality and service to the climbing community, and help create awareness for the public to take care of our environment so that the future generations can still enjoy what Mother Nature provided.

I have not been climbing or hiking a lot since my knee injury in August. After quite a few physical therapy sessions and a resting period, I was able to hike up Mount Washington back home which is 8.5 miles roundtrip with a 3250 feet elevation gain hike. The Longdong climb was another test and I was ecstatic that I did not experience any pain during my climb. The sandstone cliffs here are amazing sights to see, and I love listening to the waves hitting the rocks during the climbs. These climbs were the highest I had done and perching on the ledge admiring the scenery from above was unbelievably soothing. It felt like home and I didn’t want to come back down.

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What’s a better way to live life to the fullest than to do what you are passionate about every day and to live life with a purpose? Those who know me know that I don’t give recommendation lightly unless I felt strongly about something or someone; and I do highly recommend climbing with Qxadventures while you are there. Meeting QX and Kelly during this trip truly gave me something more to chew on than just a rock climbing experience. Thank you for teaching me new climbing skills and opening my eyes to the myriad possibilities out there.

Here are the tips I promised:

  1. Do your research by searching the internet for reviews, reach out to the relevant community or group often on Facebook for recommendations.
  2. Ask all the questions before committing and know what you want to accomplish during the trip.
  3. During any activity, know your limits and listen to your body for a safe and pleasant experience.
  4. Most of all be prepared with your ten essentials or some sort of modifications and practice Leave No Trace (LNT) on the trails, rocks, beach etc.
  5. Lastly just enjoy the experience.

My previous posts about Taiwan:

  1. Holiday Adventure Part 1: Escaping the Urban Hustle and Bustle
  2. Holiday Adventure Part 2: The Food

 

 

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