10 Highlights of 2017

Another year has passed—and as you would expect, here I am with yet another recap blog post! I don’t think I will ever get tired of writing this; it’s so much fun remembering all the things that have happened in the past 12 months and reminiscing about the awesome adventures and funny misadventures. So even if some people might not like year-end posts like this one, I will continue to keep this self-initiated tradition!

The year didn’t start that great to be honest—I faced some personal challenges related to career, money, and household—but when I really think about it, 2017 was pretty fantastic! I guess it really just depends on you how you take things that happen to you, but personally, despite the not-so-welcome stuff, I’m very grateful to have experienced so many new things this year.

And as for you dear reader, thank you for your continued support, and I wish you more success, happiness, love, travels, health, and wealth in 2018.

Read on about my top 10 highlights of 2017.

10 | Getting Myself a Drone

I have always envied photographers posting their aerial shots on Instagram, and I told myself, once I had extra bucks to spare, I would purchase my own drone. On April 2017, it happened! I was in the US and I bought myself a DJI Phantom 3 Standard—my first ever drone, which I named “Albus”. My excitement was incalculable when the package arrived!

The weird thing was, I lost interest a few weeks after I had it. I got lazy to fly it (probably because of too much office and blog work) and to practice, but when a friend finally convinced me to do so—and even taught me and gave me tips—I got so into it again and I brought it to Palawan. It feels, to some extent, liberating to be able to see places from a different perspective, and with Albus I know I can create so much more nice content! Please pray that I become better at flying it! LOL!

9 | Turning 30

They say life begins at 40, but to be honest, I was scared of stepping into the thirties. For me, this is the stage when people start getting more serious about life and leaving whatever juvenile whims behind.

When you’re in the 20s, you only care about getting your dream job, being paid well, affording vacations, and experiencing new things. Sure, there are some of us who go straight to starting families or setting up businesses earlier than most, but the majority doesn’t—and I think I belong here. Now, in my age, I want an enjoyable job, a good salary, lots of vacations, and tons of new experiences—and at the same time, pursue business opportunities AND take my loved ones along with me while I fulfill these dreams. I think I had enjoyed life immensely, but now it’s time to share this with others more than ever.

8 | Being Invited to My First Ever Travel Talk

People always say I’m more of a food blogger than a travel blogger (dear friends, I think I am just 50/50), so getting an invite to talk about my travel experiences was like telling myself “Hey, Pepe! Finally! You’re legit, LOL!” My pal Jaey, owner of HeyJaey.com, organized a small travel forum last November and invited me to be one of the resource speakers.

The event, called “Travel to the Next Level”, touched on topics such as getting out of your comfort zone, capturing moments through photography, exploring Philippines, Asia, and the world, and scoring the best flight and accommodation rates when planning your trip. I talked about my experiences in Indochina, shared tips on how we planned our trip, and told the audience stories they wouldn’t normally hear anywhere. It felt amazing seeing them take notes, nod in agreement, and laugh at my jokes—seriously! One of my favorite experiences this year.

7 | Ticking “Sumilon Island” off My Bucket List

For years, I’ve been dying to go to Sumilon Island in Oslob, Cebu and last Sinulog 2016, I was actually supposed to go there but wasn’t able to because of lack of time. Then Gelo, my brother, won 2 roundtrip tickets to Cebu in a raffle, and guess whom he took with him? That’s right! OUR MOM.

So I booked my own ticket (two tickets in fact, because I missed my original flight, hahahaha), and the three of us had a nice, relaxing 4-day holiday in Cebu! We visited a couple of new spots within the city, ate a lot, and of course, headed north to Oslob, where we had a fantastic overnight stay at Bluewater Sumilon Island Resort. The water is incredible—and INSANELY BLUE. Like WTF, how can it be so blue?!? The famous sandbar was really nice, but I enjoyed the luxurious resort more—our beautiful sea-facing villa, the exquisite food, the chill vibes. Definitely one of my best vacations this year! Shout-out to Bluewater Resorts for being awesome!

6 | Organizing My First Ever Blog Event – the “Best of the Coast Boracay”

Boracay is close to my heart, and where better to hold my first ever ambitious blog event than in my favorite island, of course! Last March, I flew to Boracay along with Pinas Muna, Manila Eat Up, and @iameleimath to explore the best of Boracay. We did a 2-day food crawl with the island’s top restaurants, stayed at the amazing COAST Boracay, shot videos, and discovered new things about this favorite destination! Of course, we shared our amazing experiences in our blogs and on social media.

It was incredibly challenging to organize this event because of the venue, but thanks to our gracious partners COAST, Los Indios Bravos, Dos Mestizos, Solana, Nami Resort, and Steampunk Burgers, I was able to pull it off! Not to mention the sponsorship granted to us by Cebu Pacific, our official airline partner. Hopefully I can do another one in 2018! Which destination should we visit?

5 | Switching to a Slightly Healthier Lifestyle

Last May, I had the most epic birthday party ever. We got a table in one of my favorite bars in Poblacion (Pura Vida) and basically threw away Black Label like there was no tomorrow. The result? Fifty drunk foreigners whose names I didn’t even know, a wild rant on Facebook, shameful IG stories, some lost items (I learned later than I gave away my cap to a security guard, and that I threw my power bank out of my best friend’s car), and tons of funny stories to tell my future children (or godchildren, whatever).

The strange thing? After this night, I also realized how much I’ve been abusing my body. Late nights in the office, followed by drinking sessions that last until morning. Smoking. Eating whatever I want. Spending my money on things I don’t even remember buying (“Hey Pepe, you gave him a PhPXXX tip”)! Something snapped, and I said, “I’m gonna change my lifestyle”.

And change, I did. I enrolled in a gym. I started being more conscious with what I eat. I decided to drink less (or should I say, get wasted less). I lessened my somking (though I still do occasional sticks, usually when drinking). I slept more. Not only do I look better now, I also feel better now. Thanks also to a handful of my friends who are incredibly supportive and not mocking my lifestyle decisions (and who go to the gym with me).

4 | Traveling Solo for the First Time

While it was technically a business trip, my Texas adventure last March to April was the first time I have visited a new place completely alone—and I loved it! Yes, I am filing it under “solo travel”. Who cares if I was in the office 8 to 5? Once I leave my desk every day, I transform into full traveler mode: I check out downtown by myself, hop into bars and meet new people, explore the food scene, and make new friends! On some days, my Filipino friends (who work and are based in San Antonio) take me out to eat or visit famous landmarks, but still, a huge chunk of the time I was there, I was walking alone and exploring by myself.

It truly feels liberating doing things solo and indeed, you will learn many things about yourself. It will force you to get out of your comfort zone, and be more practical, confident, and perceptive. I’m looking forward to my next solo trip.

3 | Visiting Palawan for the First Time

“I have a theory that the most beautiful things in life are beyond the reach of words. I can rave on and on about how soft the sand felt against my toes, how the sun lingers across my skin, how the sea calms me or awes me while watching the tumbling waves roll towards the shore, but it may not even come close to the real thing.” These are my best friend’s words when she first came back from Palawan, and I’m repeating them here, because I couldn’t think of anything more accurate.

Palawan is such a stunner. It left me in awe, and I couldn’t believe that something as beautiful as it exists! All the clichés are true, and when it comes to Palawan, people don’t mind saying them. Puerto Princesa is like a sleepy city that makes living in Manila feel ten times more stressful. El Nido is magical—great beaches, chill ambience, the feeling is inexplicable. And Taytay? We stayed at a private island called Talacanen (Floral Island Resort), available on Airbnb, and it was FREAKING AMAZING. I fell in love with Palawan—and this from someone who doesn’t exactly love water, LOL. I’m looking forward to coming back to Palawan, like ASAP.

2 | Exploring Indochina (Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam)

You know how some of your trips are A LOT more epic than others? My Indochina adventure was such a trip! Incredible places, perfect travel buddies, an exciting itinerary, tons of cool photos, endless parties—had my US trip been a boring one (OK, how you know what’s number 1), this would’ve been on the top of my list! So many new experiences and friends—I swear, I was having travel blues for two months after our 10-day jaunt across Asia.

Favorite country from the three? I’d have to say Cambodia (it hypnotized me). Favorite dish: banh mi. Favorite drink: Klang (Cambodian beer). Favorite party spot: I want to say fucking Khao San Road but I loved Pub Street in Siem Reap more. Favorite experience: convo with a kid in the bus on the way from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh. Favorite moment? Probably the Angkor Wat sunrise.

Favorite photo? I CANNOT CHOOSE!!!!!

1 | Visiting the US (San Antonio and Austin, Texas) for the First Time

When I first heard I was going to the US for a business trip, I wasn’t that excited. America didn’t really excite at all before. I was more into exotic destinations, rather than big cities. So when they told me I would be visiting Texas, my head was filled with images of ribs, briskets, cowboys, and cacti. Little did I know that Texas was way more than those things.

San Antonio is a relaxed and wealthy city—a perfect retirement area, in my opinion. The residents value family time and personal time, so they don’t work the way Filipinos bury themselves in work, and they make sure they still have time to jog, walk their dog, visit their kids at school. The people follow rules. Although it wasn’t as vibrant as I would’ve wanted, there are still interesting places like the Blue Star Arts Complex, where I spent most of my nights, and the Pearl District, a quiet and wealthy neighborhood.

Austin is another story. More youthful, more energetic, more developed, more fast-paced. College crowds mix with adults in hipster bars, but barkadas and families still hang out in cafés and parks. Music is a big thing. The food is crazy. I loved Austin so much that I went there for 2 consecutive weekends!

After all the experiences I had in Texas, my perception of America changed, and since then, I’ve been dreaming to come back. The number of new memories I had was so overwhelming that I actually cried like an infant on the day of my flight back home, LOL. I look forward to go back, and hopefully visit other states next time.

What are your favorite memories of 2017?

You might also like: 10 Highlights of 2016

If you like my posts and would love regular updates on travel photos, food finds, restaurant reviews, dance articles, and drunken tales, follow Pepe Samson on Facebook!

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