2016 in Review


It’s already been a week into the new year, but I wanted to take this time to reflect on last year. I’ve already done that for travel, but surprise to say, there’s a lot more to life than trying to fit in a new destination every weekend! Here are the things that really stand out in my mind from 2016:


  • Made it a full year at my employer!
  • Implemented nurture programs at my job, something that had not been done before.
  • Completed my first two courses for a second bachelor’s in Computer Science. Two down, ten more to go!
  • Opened up a travel consultation service!
My workspace decorated with a nice birthday card from coworkers!

My workspace decorated with a nice birthday card from coworkers!

Signed book from one of my marketing technology sources of inspiration: Scott Brinker.

Signed book from one of my marketing technology sources of inspiration: Scott Brinker. Got this during Dreamforce 2016.


  • Have known my significant other for about a year!
  • Was a groomsmen for the first time in my friend’s wedding
  • Attended two weddings of longtime friends in one weekend: Saturday in Phuket and Sunday in Boston
Night before friend's wedding in Phuket!

Night before friend’s wedding in Phuket!


  • Trekked to Everest Base Camp
  • Visited Cape Town and the Cape Winelands
  • Traveled for the first time with my mom in about a decade.
  • Visited several new places: Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Seoul, Grand Canyon, Dallas
  • Attended NYC, DC and Chicago Pride; was on the Google parade float at NYC Pride
Trekking to Everest Base Camp

Trekking to Everest Base Camp


  • Paid off $8.5k towards my student loan debt. (Have about $14k left, originally $85k)
  • Contributed about $9k towards my retirement accounts
  • Increased my contributions to max out my 403(b) and 457(b) accounts in 2017

Health & Fitness:

  • Ran three races this year: Brooklyn 15k, Philadelphia and Brooklyn Rock N Roll Half-Marathons.
  • Set a PR this year on my half marathon time (2hr 15min)
  • Walked or ran a total of 216.23 miles, over 55 days, for a total of 35hr 31min and 44 sec.
  • Maintained a fairly regular and consistent exercise routine throughout the year.
  • Maintained a consistent weight throughout the year (~120 lbs)
My pacing during the 2016 Brooklyn Rock N Roll Half Marathon.

My pacing during the 2016 Brooklyn Rock N Roll Half Marathon, a PR for me!



2017 Goals

I don’t really believe in resolutions per se, but these are some of the things that I’m looking forward to working on an improving in this new year:

  • Improve my Mandarin Chinese. I majored in Chinese in undergrad and studied abroad in Shanghai and Taipei, but have barely used the language in the last three years. I just signed up for GLN’s Nearly Native Mandarin Chinese class beginning in February!
  • Set another PR with my half-marathon time. As of this moment I’m running three half-marathons this year, all affiliated with the Rock-N-Roll Series: Raleigh in April, Chicago in July and Denver in October. Really aiming to finally get under two hours.
  • Learn how to cook. I spend way too much on eating out, and in the new year I’d like to prepare and cook at least 50% of my meals.
  • Continue working towards completing my second bachelors in Computer Science by taking at least two classes per term.
  • Continue growing at my day job and helping more people achieve their travel goals with my consultation service.

Despite the ups and downs of 2016, it definitely was a memorable year. Looking forward to laughing, growing, learning and traveling even more in the new year!

A Decade on the Mainland: Five Things I Like About Living in the Northeast


This month marks my tenth anniversary of living in the U.S. Northeast!! Hard to imagine that I moved to Philadelphia for college way back in July 2006, and moved down to DC for my first job in June 2010. As a kid from the West Coast (okay, far West Coast), I always imagined that at some point, I’d eventually move back closer to home, either all the way back to Hawaii or to California. Ten years later though, and I’m still loving it here in the Northeast! Here are the top 5 reasons why I absolutely love being out here in the Northeast:

#1: We have seasons!

A massive tree changing colors in Philadelphia's Washington Square Park.

A massive tree changing colors in Philadelphia’s Washington Square Park.

In Hawaii, we have two seasons: summer and winter. And really, the only noticeable difference between the two seasons is that it rains much more often during the winter in Hawaii.

Compare that with the four seasons that we have in the Northeast.

I’ll still remember the first time I saw snow: December 7th, 2006. It was my freshman year of university, and I had just finished my last afternoon class for the day. Walking back to the dorms, snowflakes started falling!! I had seen snow before then, but always from a distance. I’d never seen it falling from the sky, let alone touched it. Definitely an unforgettable feeling.

And it’s not just the snow during the winter that I enjoy.

I really do enjoy the culture that comes during each season. Endless outdoor activities during the summer, apple and pumpkin picking in the fall, holiday parties and drinking warm drinks in the winter, and seeing the trees and flowers bloom and come back to life in the Spring.

I admit that I really don’t like the humidity and heat during summers in the Northeast, but thankfully the gross weather lasts just only a few weeks in July and August. I’ll put up with that if it means I can experience the rest of the seasons!

#2: It’s so easy to travel around the Northeast!

Flying over Central Park en route to La Guardia. Thank you British Airways Avios points for making flying to NYC a viable option.

Flying over Central Park en route to La Guardia. Thank you British Airways Avios points for making flying to NYC a viable option.

One thing that I absolutely did not like about Hawaii is that it was so expensive to travel inter-island, let alone traveling to the U.S. mainland or anywhere outside of Hawaii. Spending $200 on a 30 minute flight is certainly not uncommon in Hawaii.

Contrast that with traveling between cities or exploring other parts of the Northeast. First off, the sheer variety of options you have to travel in the Northeast is unparalleled to any other region of the U.S. Whether by driving yourself, taking a bus, riding Amtrak, or catching a flight, there are a ton of options for getting around in the Northeast. Best part of all is that it’s pretty affordable to.

For as little as $1, I can travel to pretty much any city that Megabus goes to from DC. Or, if I’m willing to live a little, tickets from DC to NYC on Amtrak, when booked far in advance, cost just $49 one way, not bad for a 3.5 hour journey (and a great way to avoid the traffic on 95). For example, even though I’ve never lived in New York, I’ve probably visited the city at least two dozen times since I moved to the Northeast a decade ago. I would’ve never imagined I’d be visiting New York that many times when I first moved to the Northeast.

#3: There’s so much to see and do, and if you’re ever bored, there’s another city to explore!

Watching Ariana Grande in Concert at Philadelphia, Wells Fargo Center.

Watching Ariana Grande in Concert at Philadelphia, Wells Fargo Center.

I think those of that live in the DC area are seriously spoiled with the sheer number of activities we can do in the city, that are unique to DC. From exploring the EU during embassy day, or doing something offbeat, there’s so much to do just in the DC metro area.

I’m a big fan of music, and one thing that I hated about living in Hawaii was that few bands ever visited Hawaii, for obvious reasons. In the Northeast however, pretty much any artist will have a stop in any of the cities from DC to Boston. I’ve driven up to Philadelphia to see one of my favorite singers, Ariana Grande (!), went to New York to see my favorite DJ Armin van Buuren perform, and have gone to Baltimore to see Justin Timberlake in concert. Simple day trips that living in Hawaii would’ve never been possible.

#4: We have public transportation systems that are actually a viable means of getting around.

At just $7.75 each way, the fastest, affordable and relaxing way to get to midtown from JFK is on the Long Island Railroad (LIRR).

At just $7.75 each way, the fastest, affordable and relaxing way to get to midtown from JFK is on the Long Island Railroad (LIRR).

The first time that I ever rode on a subway was way back in the Spring of 2002. I had gotten 2nd place during Hawaii’s National History Day Competition, and I was eligible to go to DC for the National Competition, which was being held at the University of Maryland College Park. During that week at UMCP, my family and I rode the subway from College Park to the Smithsonian to tour all the monuments. I remembered everything about that first ride: waiting on the platform for the train to arrive, shuffling onto the subway, trying to “surf” the subway while it was in motion, and looking at the metro map and being amazed by all the places I could go on the subway.

Fast forward ten years and I’ve pretty much used all of the public transportation systems in the Northeast: Boston’s T; New York’s MTA, LIRR and NJ Transit; Philadelphia’s SEPTA and Regional Rail, and DC’s Metro. Each system not only has an extensive rail network, but has an even broader bus network that is fairly simple to follow. Yes, I know that people have died using the Washington Metro, and personally I feel like the DC metro has gotten considerably bad and unreliable when I first moved here in 2010, but I still appreciate the fact that if I ever had to get rid of my car, getting around by public transportation wouldn’t be completely unfeasible.

#5: My life is here.

My humble apartment in Arlington, Virginia, where I've lived for the past five years!

My humble apartment in Arlington, Virginia, where I’ve lived for the past five years!

Probably the biggest reason why I like the Northeast is that my life truly is here. Although I was born and grew up in Hawaii, I’ve spent significant time (defined as more than three months) in Boston, Philadelphia, DC, Shanghai, Tokyo and Taipei. In each city that I lived in, one of the central themes that kept coming back to me was that people (aka your friends and family) truly make a place home. Having gone to college in Philly, I still have a number of close college friends living along the Northeast that I still see fairly regularly. Something that I wouldn’t be able to do if I lived in another part of the country.

When I moved to DC, I literally knew nobody. Fast forward six years and I’ve cobbled together a professional and personal life that I truly feel would’ve never been so awesome if it weren’t for the people that I’ve met and befriended along the way. As much as I’ve considered moving to another city, my ties to DC, to the Northeast, are an aspect of life that I’m not yet ready to give up on.


When I first moved to the Northeast ten years ago, I would’ve never imagined that I’d still be here. Along the way, I discovered so many unique aspects of this part of the country that I still appreciate. But above all, what’s gotten me to stay and make this place truly feel like home are the friends whom I’ve met along the way. Thank you for making this west-coaster feel at home in the Northeast!

3 Things I Wish I Knew at 18 to Travel More


This month I celebrated my 28th birthday, and next month marks my 10th anniversary of leaving Hawaii for the U.S. mainland. One of my biggest goals when leaving the islands was to travel more. And well, I can honestly say that I’ve traveled more in the past 10 years than I ever would’ve imagined. Looking back on this past decade, if I could have done it over again, here are the three things that I wish I knew before I started traveling:

Go to a cheaper school.

With my parents at my college graduation.

With my parents at my college graduation.

If I could have done it over again, I would have gone to a university that, while may have not been my dream school, would’ve left me with a lot less debt.

For most of my middle and high school years, I had always wanted to go to one school: the University of Pennsylvania. It was my dream school for years, and as a kid growing up in a working class family in Hawaii, strongly felt that attending a top tier university on the east coast was my ticket to, well, essentially everything.

As luck would have it, I ended up getting into my dream school. I had an amazing four years at Penn, but left college with about $85,000 in student loan debt.

And at 22, that kind of debt is crushing. When I graduated I felt compelled to tackle that debt as quickly as possible. Travel really didn’t feel like an option, nor really doing anything that wasn’t remotely lucrative. Feeling financially constrained is no joke, and is a big reason why I’ve spent most of my twenties living in a living room to free up as much money as possible to pay down my loans while still having money for travel. If I had gone to a cheaper school, student debt and feeling constrained would be much less of an issue.

Take a gap year, consider even taking two gap years!

My student ID card at National Taiwan University (Taida).

My student ID card at National Taiwan University (Taida). I took a “gap semester” between jobs after college graduation. Best decision ever!

If I could have done it over again, I would’ve taken a gap year between high school and college, and again during my college career.

When I first learned about the concept of a gap year, I honestly felt like doing something like that was really only for privileged folks that could rely on their parents to pay for their travel experiences. Fast forward ten years later, and the truth is, gap years can be as cheap or as expensive as you’d like, and there are many ways where you can do a gap year for free. It might not seem typical, and some might even call the experience frivolous, but there are a ton of volunteer and fellowship opportunities abroad that are available for high school and college students that can pay for your travels.

Get a work holiday visa.

At one of my favorite spots in all of Sydney: Jeffrey Wharf!

At one of my favorite spots in all of Sydney: Jeffrey Wharf!

There are five countries around the world that grant work holiday visas to U.S. citizens: Australia, Ireland, Korea, Singapore and New Zealand. Although each country has different policies regarding eligibility for U.S. citizens, the work holiday visa enables holders to stay in a country for an extended period of time, generally for one year, to legally work and earn money in the country. Below is a table of requirements by country:

Work Holiday Requirements





12 months max

18-30 years old


12 months max

Current post-secondary or graduated in past year


18 months max

18-30 years old and be either a current post-secondary or graduated in past year

New Zealand

12 months max, 18 months for those in agriculture

18-30 years old


6 months max

18 – 25 years old

If I had graduated with more manageable student loan debt, after college I would’ve applied for a work holiday visa to begin my career in either Singapore or Australia!

2015 in Review


2015 was another incredible rollercoaster of highs and lows. I can’t believe this is the fifth year I’ve been writing an annual review! You can check out previous ones here: 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011.

In no particular order, here are the top ten things that I’ll remember from this year, both the good and the bad:


Hitting the gym regularly. Here’s the breakdown month over month:

Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun
Visits 2 0 4 13 20 13
Month Jul Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
Visits 19 21 15 13 9 18

Since April, I’ve averaged about 16 visits/month to the gym. Overall, I’m glad that I’ve fallen into the routine of working out in the morning before work. Hoping it continues in the new year!


I had planned to run several half marathons this year, specifically the DC Rock and Roll and the Brooklyn Rock and Roll. Unfortunately, I ended up doing neither. In fact, since April, I’ve focused much less on running workouts in favor of more strength training. In the new year, I hope I’ll finally find that balance between strength training while picking back up on a regular running schedule.

Half Marathon Bibs


Bibs from half-marathons I’ve ran in the past. I hope to run more in 2016!


At the beginning of this year, I would’ve never expected that I’d have switched jobs twice in one year — but that’s exactly what happened. In April, I was recruited out of the education technology startup I had been working for the past year and a half and joined a healthcare startup. In November, I was again recruited out of that healthcare startup to join a university. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that something like this would’ve happened, in turn increasing my salary by 60% in just 12 months. I’m glad to say that I’ve found my niche within marketing, and am so thankful to be in a career that I find interesting, challenging and rewarding.


Swag from my new job at the University of Maryland, University College.


I’ve always wanted to start my own business, and when I turned 27 earlier this summer, I set out a goal that by Labor Day 2015, I’d earn my first dollar from consulting work outside of my day job. While I didn’t meet the end-of-summer goal, I did manage to find consulting work with a former employer, and finally got my first payment as a freelance consultant in December!

First freelance paycheck!

My first check as a freelance consultant!


My 2015 travel highlights post (see here) goes into detail on this topic, but suffice it to say, 2015 was another incredible year of travel. I would’ve never imagined that in the past 12 months, I’d be fortunate enough to visit six countries, 28 cities, flown over 100k miles on some of the most luxurious first class products (Singapore Suites Class, Etihad First Class Apartments, JAL Business Class), and do this all for leisure on vacation time. Not only did I travel way more than I could’ve imagined abroad over the past year, I also traveled a lot domestically, visiting Hawaii three times this year, exploring the beaches and lakes of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast throughout the summer, and traveling to California and Chicago. 

2015 Best Nine

My #2015bestnine according to Instagram. Most of which had to deal with travel.

Travel Burnout:

I always thought that there was no such thing as “too much traveling,” especially given how much I enjoy traveling, exploring and discovering new places. Well, without any notice, by mid-November, after a whirlwind three-day trip around the world, I was feeling major burnout from travel. In 2016, I’m hoping to find that balance between continuing to do the thing that I enjoy the most while being mindful of knowing when enough is enough.


I can’t believe I did this routing in just 80 hours.


2015 was a memorable year in driving, for two reasons. The first happened earlier this year down in Australia, where I rented a car in Tassie. It was my first time driving on the left, as well as the first time I’ve ever gotten a speeding ticket. The second reason why driving was so memorable happened just last month, in November, when I purchased my very own car! Again, I would’ve never imagined at the start of this year that I’d have a car, but I’m glad that I made the purchase. Otherwise, I’d have a 2-hour commute each way on my way to work, no thanks.

Driving on the left

My rental car in Tasmania. Looking forward to driving in foreign countries again in 2016.

Jason's Toyota Corolla

My very first car! Hoping to put on some serious mileage and do some road trips with this one in the coming year.

Breaking up:

I learned about relationships this past year, having broken up from my first serious relationship with a guy this past summer. It’s been a slow healing process, but by and large, I’m thankful for all the memories and experiences I had in that relationship. This was definitely the biggest life-learning experience I had from this past year.


A simple reminder that every beginning begins with an end.


I met some amazing people this year, a few of whom that I can already see as being solid friends for years to come. That being said, I do know that I could’ve been a better friend to others, and I’ve lost touch with others, but am hoping to rectify this in the new year.

2015 Friends & Family

A snapshot of some of the wonderful people that I’m grateful to call my friends and family.


Whether I was traveling abroad or somewhere around the States, I was fairly consistent at attending mass every Sunday at least once a month throughout the year. I’ve also continued to practice being more mindful, listening to more instrumental music to help calm and make my mind clear.

Sunday Mass at St. Patricks, NYC

Mass at St. Patricks Cathedral in New York City.


Overall 2015 was a positive year for me. It certainly was filled with challenges, many of which were completely unexpected. Despite the challenges, I can honestly say that this was another fantastic year where I truly lived my life to the fullest. No holding back, no regrets, nothing. Life is such an awesome and crazy adventure, and I can’t wait to see and experience what’s to come in the new year!