Sometimes, you can be totally focused on the things around you, that you actually forget to look at the bigger picture.
In 2014, I was too pre-occupied with living life on a day to day, week to week basis, intently focused on achieving tasks that I never realized that I was able to accomplish something very few people can achieve.
It wasn’t a continuous ride, but over the past year, I managed to set a personal record of traveling to six countries, four continents, 10 cities, and a total of nearly 32,000 kilometers around the world. (It’s like a half season of Amazing Race!!!!!).
My personal journeys sent me to Israel, Palestine, The Netherlands, and Australia. Then the universe conspired and made my company send me to Spain and South Korea.
These trips are of course on top of short lay-overs in Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong and Jordan.
BREAKING PERSONAL RECORDS
Except for Seoul, South Korea, all the other cities and countries I visited this year are new ones, breaking all my previous personal records and making my dreams of conquering Europe and the Middle East come true.
Remember my personal goal og going out of Asia? I managed to accomplish just that and so much more this year.
In terms of airlines, it was my first time flying via Emirates, Iberia, Swiss Air, and Qantas,
Every trip, every country, I always tell myself that I was becoming a better traveler. Even if it was a minor life lesson, I consider it to be a valuable instrument I can use to shape the kind of person and traveler I want to be.
In 2014, with the sheer number of amazing experience and awesome people I have met on the road, I found a treasure throve of memories I will cherish for the rest of my days.
My trip to Israel was a last minute decision. My earlier plans to go to Sapporo, Japan fell through due to visa problems so I opted to go somewhere that will let me in without one.
As early as my first day, however, I quickly fell in love with this country and I thanked God for guiding me in my decision making. The city of Tel Aviv was just the cosmopolitan fun-city I was looking for and I spent days in various beaches, clubs and restaurants in the city.
|Jerusalem beach in Tel Aviv|
I went around Ha Carmel Market, Old Jaffa, Hilton beach and the marina where I met one of the most awesome and generoud people I have ever met. in this city, I was able to sleep under the stars, aboard a yacht parked in the Mediterranean.
In the holy city of Jerusalem, I reflected on life, my past mistakes and my new life goals as I touched the Wailing Wall. I walked around the Via Dolorosa, where Jesus carried the cross on the way tohis crucifixion. I visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Dome of the Rock. I also had a life-changing moment at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem.
|Old Jaffa in Tel Aviv|
|some of treats sold at Ha-Carmel Market|
|The Wailing Wall|
|Damascus Gate of the Old City|
|A View of Jerusalem|
From the Damascus Gate of the Holy City, I braved the local transport going to Bethlehem in Palestine in the hopes of seeing the birthplace of Jesus Christ. I did manage to visit the Basilica of the Nativity, along with the Milk Grotto. But what really struck me as memorable was the decade’s old Israel-Palestinian wall built at the height of the second intifada. I just stood there gazing at the graffities, stories and cries for help of the oppressed Palestinians wishing for freedom from Israeli rule. While short, I can say that my visit to Palestine was one of the most eye-opening experiences I have ever had.
|Basilica of the Nativity|
|The Milk Grotto|
No matter how many times you visit South Korea, it remains a great destination where you can create great memories. This time around, I visited South Korea with my officemates and I really enjoyed going around the major tourist destinations, I missed during my solo adventure, two years before.
We went to Suwon Fortress, and to the Woongjin Playdoci Snow complex. There, my childhood memories came back to me as I frolicked in the snow. One thing I like about traveling is that it gives you the chance to fulfill your childhood dreams. I also tried the wicked roller coaster in Everland, which literally shook my world. I went bargain hunting in Insadong and Myeongdong. My latest visit to Seoul also allowed me to to try another first. My couchsurfing host toured me around the city on a high-speed motorcyle ride, It totally rocked.
|Locks at the Namsan Tower|
I never expected it to happen this year. That is why my first visit to Spain and to Europe was such a blessing I continue to be thankful for. Thanks to a company project, I was able to fly to the gorgeous cities of Madrid and Seville.
They say that Europe is an enchanting place and my first few glimpses of Europe was totally that. Spain was totally magical. The archictecture, the transport system, the churches and the people just made me fall in love with the place.
I visited Plaza de Espana, Real Alcazar, Seville Cathedral, Calle Sierpes, Triana, Metropol Parasol, Alameda de Hercules, and the Guadalquivir river. In Madrid, I was mezmerized by the Gran Via, Plaza de Cibeles, Plaza Mayor and the Royal Palace. It was the longest time I spent away from home and it was then the best two weeks of my life.
|Plaza de Espana in Seville|
|Alameda de Hercules|
Thanks to very cheap flights courtesy of Iberia, I flew to Amsterdam for a hell of a 12-hour visit starting at a late night tour of the city’s Red Light District. I spent a whole evening roaming around the busy streets of Amsterdam, all the while, familiarizing myself with the smell of cannabis. I was totally shocked with the city’s windown prostitutes, but I fell I quickly fell in love with the city’s relaxed atmosphere.
The cool kids of Amsterdam also left a good impression on me. In the morning, I tried to take part in Amsterdam’s time-honored tradition of biking but realized all too soon that it wasn’t meant for me, hahaha. I spent my last few hours in Amsterdam going on a love cruise around the city’s many canals and bridges. Though short, it was definitely an experience and I promise to come back for more adventures.
|Amsterdam Centraal Station|
I decided to spend my Holiday vacation in Australia and indeed, it was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my entire life. I had the best Christmas and New year experience in Sydney, meeting and partying with people from virtually all parts of the globe.
The new year celebration alone, which lasted from early morning to midnight, and then daw the following day was enough reason for anyone to come visit. Of course, I tried to create as much memories as possible during my trip so I went around Sydney’s many beaches such as Coogee, Manly, and Bondi.
I hiked through the Blue Mountains and shopped at the city’s Market St. I spent many hours relaxing and thinking about life in the city’s many gorgeous parks such as Hyde, Elizabeth and Belmont. The decision to come check out the Opera House, Harbour Bridge and Royal Botanical Garden was made later duringt he trip.
As if those trips weren’t enough, I extended my Australia trip to the better part of January 2015, starting my new year on a perfect note. After two weeks in Sydney, I took a 12-hour Greyhound bus to the city of Melbourne and met with a high school friend. Of course, I enjoyed the city’s trams, marina and parks too.
Without a doubt, 2014 has been a banner year for me and if the previous year is any indication of what is to come this year, I can hardly wait.
|The Three Sisters|
|Queen Victoria Building|
|Art Gallery of New South Wales|