It’s hard to believe just how much has happened this year. The past 12 months have taken me around the world and back again. From living in Jakarta to moving to Phnom Penh. From traveling to the beaches of the Philippines to the beaches of California. As always this year has been full of highs and lows and, of course, plenty of unexpected adventure.
To celebrate another year of travel and expat life, here’s a brief glimpse of my 2015 through Instagram!
December 2014: Christmas in Jakarta
Okay, okay technically this is a photo from 2014 but just go with it…
A photo posted by Justine (@thetravellush) on
At this time last year I was gearing up to spend my first-ever Christmas in Jakarta. Spending the Christmas holiday in a predominantly Muslim city was slightly surreal. I remember at the time being surprised by just how big of a deal Christmas was in Jakarta. Hundreds of people came out to witness the tree-lighting ceremony in my neighborhood, Christmas music played in every supermarket, and families shopped ’til they dropped at the city’s mega-malls. The was my second consecutive Christmas abroad, and while Christmas in Jakarta wasn’t exactly the same as it would have been back home in the States, Aaron and I still managed to have a great holiday filled with food and fun.
January 2015: Traveling to Cambodia
Right after New Year’s, Aaron and I decided to take an impromptu trip to Cambodia, a country that we’d only visited once eight long years ago. We were ecstatic to get reacquainted with Phnom Penh, a city that we’d both fallen in love with during our first trip to Cambodia. (Little did we know that we’d be moving to Phnom Penh eight months after this photo was taken!).
This morning I woke up to this view. I heart Phnom Penh! It is so good to be back and I can’t wait to go explore this crazy Cambodian city! A photo posted by Justine (@thetravellush) on
We also had the chance to visit the utopianesque island of Koh Rong, which is home to what is arguably one of the most perfect beaches in Southeast Asia. We spent about a week lounging around the island, hiking to hidden beaches, swimming with sparkling bioluminescence and thoroughly loving life.
I love that you’re able to camp on Long Beach, Koh Rong. I wish I had been smart enough to do so. The people who set up this bench had the right idea. A photo posted by Justine (@thetravellush) on
I spent the last week on the island of Koh Rong, Cambodia. I’d heard a lot of hype around this place and it completely lived up to its reputation. I’m going to miss it here! A photo posted by Justine (@thetravellush) on
March 2015: A quick solo trip to Singapore
While I was living in Jakarta I had to leave the country every two months to do visa runs. While it was a bit of a pain to have to pick up and leave every couple of months, I relished the opportunity to visit different destinations in Southeast Asia. It also pushed me to dabble in solo travel, something I’m grateful to have experienced. I was lucky enough to visit Singapore a couple of times. I always assumed that I wouldn’t like Singapore, but that’s not the case…at all! Not only does Singapore have some ridiculously amazing Indian food but it is full of fun, weird and cheap things to do.
Funky buildings in Singapore’s Chinatown. I want to live in the one with the flowers! A photo posted by Justine (@thetravellush) on
People say that Singapore is boring but I find it to be fascinating! Come on…what other city has giant, trippy trees as a main attraction? A photo posted by Justine (@thetravellush) on
April 2015: Visiting Bali TWICE!
One of the best parts of living in Indonesia was having the chance to explore its hidden corners. And this trip to Nusa Penida, a stunning island off the coast of Bali, was perhaps my favorite travel experience of the year. I knew next to nothing about Nusa Penida before my visit but I was wowed by its otherworldly landscape and authentic culture. Despite the fact that our trip was a bit of a disaster, I had a blast motorbiking around Nusa Penida and exploring its untouched corners. The fact that more tourists don’t go here still boggles my mind!
Stormy but still beautiful… A photo posted by Justine (@thetravellush) on
A few weeks after our visit to Nusa Penida, Aaron and I found out that one of our best friends had just booked a last-minute trip to Bali. So we boarded another flight to the island. Because our friend is an amazing photographer most of the trip was spent scouting locations and taking some amazing photos of Bali’s varied landscapes.
Can I please just spend the rest of my days right here? A photo posted by Justine (@thetravellush) on
New on the blog today – This Expat Life: Month 10. Also, head over to the blog (link in profile) because The Travel Lush got a makeover! A photo posted by Justine (@thetravellush) on
June 2015: Exploring Jakarta
After living in Jakarta for 10 months, I realized I’d failed miserably at exploring the city’s major tourist sites. So my final month living in Jakarta was dedicated solely to saying goodbyes and doing as much sightseeing as possible. Not only did I discover some amazing vegetarian street food in Indonesia but I learned that there is an abundance of fun and weird things to do in Jakarta.
July 2015: Vacationing in the Philippines & going home
The month of July was an absolute whirlwind of travel. We packed up all of our stuff, bid farewell to Jakarta, and started a very roundabout journey to our new home, Phnom Penh. Instead of going straight to Cambodia we took a week-long trip to the Philippines’ most famous beach, Boracay, where we learned that sometimes traveling during the low season downright sucks.
After a week of rain and wind in Boracay we lugged all of our stuff back to California where we visited our families, attended Aaron’s brother’s wedding and ate our weight in Mexican food in San Diego.
California is kinda the best. It’s good to be back! A photo posted by Justine (@thetravellush) on
During my month-long visit to the States, I also took a little side trip to visit my older sister in Boulder, Colorado, where I pretty much ate everything in sight. Seriously, Boulder has some damn good food!
Ah, I forgot how good sandwiches are in the States. I went to the best deli today in Boulder (the Organic Sandwich Company) and had a deluxe veggie sandwich with avocado, a mystery spicy sauce, caramelized onions, and some fancy cheddar. Whatever was in it, it was so freaking good. Oh, and did I mention it was on a pretzel loaf? Yeah… A photo posted by Justine (@thetravellush) on
August 2015: Moving to Phnom Penh, Cambodia
In August we arrived in Phnom Penh, moved into our apartment and started to settle into our new lives. Since August I’ve been able to really get to know Phnom Penh, including both the good and the bad.
September & October 2015: Visiting Bangkok TWICE
In September Aaron and I found out that another one of our friends just so happened to be in Bangkok on business. We booked a ticket immediately and found ourselves back in one of our favorite Southeast Asian cities. Aside from the fact that I came down with some sort of mysterious ailment (I blame you pad thai!) that lasted for over a month, we had a blast drinking ’til the wee hours on Khao San Road, shopping at Bangkok’s famous markets and, of course, catching up with a dear friend we hadn’t seen in years.
Lots of pretty Buddhas at the Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok. A photo posted by Justine (@thetravellush) on
One month later I found myself back in Bangkok for TBEX Asia, my first ever travel blogging conference. Despite being completely anxiety ridden about going to TBEX I managed to overcome my nerves and have an amazing time. I met some of my favorite travel bloggers and made some lasting connections with so many people.
I spent the past week in the great city of Bangkok attending my first travel blogging conference, #TBEX. It was a crazy week and a great learning experience. But I must say the best part was meeting so many fellow travel bloggers in person. I’ve been talking to many of these people online for well over a year, so to finally be able to hang out with all of these incredible people was pretty awesome. Thanks for all of the great memories Bangkok! A photo posted by Justine (@thetravellush) on
November & December 2015: Living in Phnom Penh
I’ve stayed put in the city for the past two months. Now that I’ve lived here for about five months I’ve learned a lot about this city. I’ve discovered Phnom Penh’s thriving street art scene, uncovered some amazing vegetarian eateries and experienced one of the city’s largest and craziest festivals.
I have become slightly obsessed with this building since moving to Phnom Penh. It’s called the Tonle Bassac Commune. In old photographs it was once painted a pristine white. It’s now in disrepair, but it was built in the 1960s to house athletes for the Asian version of the Olympic Games. Because Phnom Penh is developing so rapidly there is currently all sorts of controversy surrounding the commune. Residents who have lived there for years are under a constant threat to relocate to new housing outside of the city center as there are plans to build a strip mall on the property. I’ve also heard that the Tonle Bassac Commune is home to some great artists so I’m determined to find out more about that! A photo posted by Justine (@thetravellush) on
Bye for now Phnom Penh. In just a few hours I’ll be boarding a flight bound for Bangkok, where I’ll be spending the next week attending TBEX! Will I see any of you there? #tbexthailand A photo posted by Justine (@thetravellush) on
Luckily Cambodia has quite a few vegetarian-friendly street food options. These bits of deep fried goodness are called num kachay. They are made from glutinous rice flour and filled with a chive-like green. Dip them in some spicy sauce and they are divine! They’re available all over the place in Phnom Penh and they cost about $.25! A photo posted by Justine (@thetravellush) on
It is so crazy to look back on this year and see just how much has happened. In my last post, I did allude to the fact that I have some pretty major news regarding my upcoming travel/life plans. I’m not quite ready to reveal what they are. But it’s safe to say that 2016 is set to be an even more travel and adventure-filled year!
Thanks Leah over at The Mochilera Diaries for having the brilliant idea of looking back at 2015 through her Instagram photos and encouraging me to do the same! You can check out her travel-filled year here.
How did your 2015 pan out? What is your favorite travel memory of the year?