Today is my 25th birthday. As a gift to me/ per my request, my boyfriend, Alec, and I have traveled to ten countries this year, so that I have now been to 25 countries in 25 years! For the past eight months we have been traveling throughout Southeast Asia and Western Australia. Our ventures have been absolutely epic so far, and the places and people we’ve met along the way are memories we’ll cherish for the rest of our lives.
Our journey is all about spontaneity and winging it, and if you know us, that describes us perfectly! To better explain, I’ll share the story of our first flight out of the states to Asia and the irony behind it... After months of preparing for our travels and planning our trip to begin in Vietnam, we somehow found ourselves on a one way flight to Taiwan! I’d like to take a moment to forewarn my fellow travelers; Lunar New Years is a time when government workers are off the clock and can charge massive fees for rush visas needed during this week— which just so happened to fall on February 14th- 20th this year!
So there we were at LAX on February 14th, dealing with this Valentine’s Day tragedy that had fallen in our laps. Although we were not able to take our travels to Vietnam as originally planned, we remained optimistic and turned our layover into a new destination! After a fair amount of airport drama, we landed ourselves a spontaneous week in Taiwan and an opportunity to wing it, as we often love to do! This could not be a more us way to being our journey.
Taipei was a treat! Though this region typically runs 24 hours a day, the week of Lunar New Years is an exception... many shops and business are closed for the holiday— just our luck! However this does not apply to the local night markets. As this is a time for families to get together, markets like the “Shilin Night Market,” one of Taiwan’s largest, was busier than ever! We found ourselves overwhelmed with new, tasty street snacks and unique dishes like oyster omelets and takoyaki (fried octopus tentacles)!
We gave oursleves a day to explore the Yangmingshan National Park, which is famous for Taiwan's tallest dormant volcano, Seven Star Mountain (1,120 m). Hiking up to the peak was beautiful, breathtaking (literally), and also quite smelly in certain areas due to the frequent sulfur deposits found spread among the mountain! These volcanic vents, while horrendous in smell, were of course, fascinating to Alec.
Other attractions of Taiwan that we were able to enjoy during the week include the ever-impressive Taipei 101. Towering 101 floors over the city, this engineering wonder is a beautiful sight to see and even more impressive lit up at night over the glowing town.
The National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall is a beautiful landmark honoring the former president of the Republic of China and Taiwan’s history. We got here early for the changing of the guards and nearly got trampled when entering as the doors opened up! Peep my 85-degree bakery iced coffee— a fam favorite back home that I was stoked to find in Taipei!
Located in Tamsui Fisherman’s Wharf, there is the Tamsui Lovers Bridge. Though the bridge remains full of people, there is a lovely rock Beach nearby with hardly any visitors! After a long walk-about, we caught a glorious sunset on the bridge with a flock of other tourists. The bridge is full of people-watchers and nearby vendors with readily available refreshments and treats on deck. As it got dark, we rented “U-bikes” to ride back to the station. For less than a dollar you can rent a bicycle and simply return them at any of the several other bike lock stations conveniently located all over the city.
So planning is not our strong suit (obviously). The point is that life doesn’t always go according to plan, and it’s not necessarily supposed to! After Taiwan, we went to seven other countries before even getting to Vietnam. There were so many wonderful experiences and incredible friends made along the way, that it could not have worked out more perfectly if it had gone the way we planned it! Honestly, I love waking up full of wonder and excitement about where the day will take me! It’s a beautiful feeling, anxiety and all, and I wouldn’t change trade it for the world.
That being said, while I am loving every moment of my journey, milestones like today are not always easy being far from home. I actually spent my 21st birthday in Australia as well, and while that was an adventure on its own, it’s safe to say that then and now, I dearly miss my friends and family back in Texas and California! It’s never easy being away from those you love, and I’m hoping that this platform can bring us even closer.
A friend of ours from Brazil who we met in Perth, says he treats birthdays like New Years— a time for rebirth and resolutions. This is a part of my resolution. My goal is to better document my travels and experiences so that I can share them with friends, family and travelers alike. Keeping in touch and posting up-to-date photos has never been my strong suit, so we’ll see how this goes! Cheers to another trip around the sun and a year full of more adventure!