Looking Back at 2016 Through Instagram: Travel and Expat Life

Around this time last year I put together a similar post looking back at my year in expat life and travel through my Instagram photos. So I figured I might as well stick with the tradition for a second year. It was actually really fun to go through my old snapshots and see what a jam-packed year 2016 was. This was the first year since I left for Asia in 2013 that I’ve worked a 9-5, yet I still managed to travel to nine countries in the past 12 months!

Anyway, it was yet another wild year. So without further ado…

December 2015: Living in Phnom Penh

Around this time last year I was getting ready to say a very premature and sudden goodbye to Phnom Penh. For those of you who have been following along for the past couple years you might remember how ecstatic I was when I learned I’d be moving to Cambodia’s capital. Well, it turned out to be kind of a rough ride for me and after a mere six months it was time to move on.

Phnom Penh from above…it’s kinda pretty don’t you think?

A photo posted by Justine (@thetravellush) on

Moving on turned out to be the right choice, but Phnom Penh will always hold a special place in my heart. It was just the wrong place at the wrong time. I do love that city and I know I’ll be back.

Helpful blog posts: 5 Fun & Weird Things to Do in Phnom Penh & Phnom Penh’s Booming Street Art Scene

January 2016: Going Home to California & Preparing for My Next Big Move

I spent the first part of January packing up my things, scrubbing my Phnom Penh apartment clean and mentally preparing for my next move. Because I knew that I’d be moving on from Southeast Asia for the foreseeable future, I made an effort to really appreciate my surroundings while I had the chance. I took walks along the Mekong River, ate at as many of my favorite vegetarian restaurants as humanly possible and basked in as much Southeast Asian sunshine as I could. When all was said and done I felt like I left Phnom Penh on a high note.

On January 18 I left Phnom Penh and flew back to my home state of California for a blissful month-long visit. Aaron and I had just basically signed up for 18 months in China starting in February. So we had exactly one month to go back to California, visit with family and friends and pack up everything we needed for our new home in Beijing.

February 2016:  Chilling in California & Moving to Beijing

The beginning of February was spent hanging out with friends and family back home and prepping for our move. I’d been warned about Beijing’s brutal winters, but because I’m a California girl I had no idea how to prepare. So I basically spent the first weeks of the month frantically attempting to find winter-appropriate clothing. Flip flops and tank tops apparently weren’t going to cut it in the Beijing winter.

On February 17 I left San Diego, bound for the great unknown in China. I went into the move petrified that I wouldn’t be able to hack it in China. I was terrified of the cold winters, hazardous air pollution and government censorship. But when I got to Beijing I immediately loved it, flaws and all. The cold weather was a refreshing difference from the incessant heat and humidity of Southeast Asia, the air pollution was disturbing but tolerable, and with a VPN I was able to get around China’s Great Firewall. I realized that Beijing isn’t so scary after all!

Helpful blog posts: 9 Things to Know Before Traveling to Beijing

March 2016:  Adjusting to Life Beijing

Within the first few weeks of my arrival in Beijing I moved into my apartment, found a job and developed a routine. Rather surprisingly, everything just kind of clicked right away. My days were spent commuting downtown from my out of town apartment, writing more than I’ve ever written and slowly starting to explore my new home. And while life wasn’t without its quirks and challenges, I was shocked by how quickly I adjusted to life in Beijing.

Taking bizarro selfies at the 798 Art District in #Beijing.

A photo posted by Justine (@thetravellush) on

So many colorful temples in #Beijing!!

A photo posted by Justine (@thetravellush) on

April 2016:  Spring in the ‘Jing & Traveling to Hong Kong

I kind of over did it during the month of April. I was commuting two hours a day, working 9-5, freelancing in my free time… and after all that I would attempt to blog. This was a routine I would get into for the next few months and it was a lot.

Other than work, I didn’t do much in April, but I did manage to see all of the pretty cherry blossoms around the city. I wrote a whole post about my crazy experience viewing the flowers at one of Beijing’s many amazing (and really crowded) parks.

I also had the chance to go on an all-too-quick trip to Hong Kong. Because we only had 48 hours to explore the city, Aaron and I barely slept the entire time. We traversed the city on foot, ate amazing vegetarian treats and went bar hopping with an old friend. It was incredible. Hong Kong is everything I imagined it would be and more.

May 2016: Same Old, Same Old in Beijing

I’m not sure how else to say it but the month of May was fairly uneventful.

This weekend was a pretty perfect one in #Beijing. Blue skies, warm weather and ancient buildings. Love it!

A photo posted by Justine (@thetravellush) on

June 2016: Visiting Tokyo

I have dreamed of going to Tokyo for what feels like forever. And my dream was finally realized in June. Tokyo ended up exceeding my wildest expectations.  Sometimes, when you’ve built a place up too much in your head, it often disappoints. But Tokyo did not disappoint, not in the least.  It was just as quirky and crowded and fascinating as I had expected.

Helpful blog posts: 9 Wonderfully Quirky Things About Tokyo

Oh Tokyo. You keep managing to blow my mind at every turn.

A photo posted by Justine (@thetravellush) on

July & August 2016: Spending the Summer in Bali

At the beginning of July I found myself making travel plans, booking plane tickets and packing my dusty backpack for two months in Indonesia, one of my favorite countries in the world. I spent the entire summer slowly getting reacquainted with Bali. Despite what everyone thinks this was far from a vacation for me. My days were spent working but my weekends were spent exploring the beaches of Gili Trawangan, the vistas of Uluwatu, the street art of Canggu and the natural attractions of Nusa Penida. It was a pretty special summer.

Helpful blog posts: 5 Incredible Things to Do on Nusa Penida, BaliGoing Street Art Crazy in Canggu, Bali & The Ultimate Vegetarian Guide to Bali, Indonesia

First gado gado in over a year. Man it’s good to be back in Indonesia.

A photo posted by Justine (@thetravellush) on

September 2016: A Quick Trip to Thailand & My Return to Beijing

After two solid months in Bali, Aaron and I said farewell to Indonesia and flew to Bangkok for a week-long visit before heading back to Beijing. After two months on the road it felt good to be back home, and it didn’t take long to fall back into my Beijing routine. I also did a lot of eating during September, which is evident in my Instagrams.

Helpful blog posts: Exploring Beijing’s Local Food Scene with Lost Plate

October 2016: A Much Needed Visit to California

In October I decided  to go back home to California to see my little niece get hitched. It was such a quick trip but I’m so glad I went. Not only did I get to see a large chunk of my family in once place, a big rarity since I moved abroad a few years ago, but I got to hang out with all of my siblings, got to see my beautiful niece get married, got to spend quality time with my parents, and got to eat lots and lots of Mexican food and drink lots and lots of craft beer.

November 2016: My First Trip to Seoul

In November fall rapidly transformed into winter. The golden leaves fell from the trees and in the beginning of the month it actually snowed! This is was highly exciting for me since I’ve never lived in a city where it snows. I also had the chance to tick a whole new city off of my travel bucket list last month. I finally made it to Seoul, South Korea! It was a fairly quick trip but I basically fell in love with that city immediately.

Bye bye fall.

A photo posted by Justine (@thetravellush) on

Yesterday I woke up to the first snow of the season in #Beijing!

A photo posted by Justine (@thetravellush) on

I can’t get enough of the beautiful fall colors and historic villages in #Seoul. This city is amazing!

A photo posted by Justine (@thetravellush) on

A sea of love locks overlooking a sea of buildings in #Seoul.

A photo posted by Justine (@thetravellush) on

December 2016: A Winter Break in Vietnam

December in Beijing was OK. I expected the weather to be absolutely freezing but the temperature would go from being a frigid 22F one day to the high 40s the next day. All in all the cold weather was kind of nice. Plus, I kind of love bundling up in warm-weather clothing. The air on the other hand was downright awful. We were issued our first red alert of the year from December 16-21. It was basically five days of horrible air. It’s definitely the worst pollution I’ve experienced since I moved to Beijing.

As I announced in my last post, I’ll be spending the next six or so weeks in Vietnam! I left Beijing for Vietnam on December 23. Let’s just say I’m thoroughly enjoying the fresh air in Nha Trang, the seaside city where I’ll be ringing in the new year and spending the first month of 2017. Yay! I’ll also be doing a bit of traveling while I’m here. But I haven’t decided where I’m headed yet. If you have any recommendations feel free to share them in the comments section below!

Happy New Year everyone! Where in the world are you ringing in the New Year?

About Justine

Justine Lopez is a California native who always seems to take the unconventional route in life. She also suffers from a serious case of wanderlust. In 2013, she set out on a yearlong round-the-world journey and never looked back. Since then she's lived the expat life in both Jakarta and Phnom Penh. She's now living and working as a freelance writer in Beijing. As she meanders her way through Asia she's always seeking out great vegetarian food, budget travel deals and amazing new travel destinations.

7 thoughts on “Looking Back at 2016 Through Instagram: Travel and Expat Life

  1. Have a great time in Vietnam!! I’m excited to be back in Asia myself for the next several weeks 🙂 I’m in the airport in Melbourne now, enroute to Singapore to have New Years with some friends!! Looking forward to hearing about your time in Vietnam 😀

    1. You should definitely come to Beijing 😉 And it looks like we’ll be staying in china for awhile (fingers crossed) so a trip back to Seoul seems inevitable. Actually, judging by how much I loved it, I might just move there! Happy 2017 to you and your family!

  2. 2016 was SUCH a good year for you! Really nice reading a positive year recap post from someone, haha. It’s -20 here now, so I’m a bit jealous of you’re being in Vietnam now – have fun!

    1. It was good. It had its ups and downs. But that’s too be expected! Haha, it’s about that in Beijing right now, so I’m relishing the mild heat of Nha Trang (as well as the non-toxic air). It’s crazy that I went from wearing full-on winter clothing one day to sandals and shorts the next. I can’t complain 😉 It sounds like your year was great too. I’m so excited for your move toward blogging full time and I wish you the best. I’ll be following along, as always 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge