2018 in Review


I’ve neglected to post on this blog the whole year, but it would be strange if I didn’t post an annual review! Hard to believe I’ve been doing this for nearly the whole decade! And after doing this throughout my 20s, I’m writing this blog post as a now 30 something! You can check out my previous annual reviews here:  2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011.

How did with my 2018 goals?

Keep running and lifting

  • I only did one race this year, and it wasn’t even a half marathon! As a result, I didn’t set a new PR. Additionally, while I have consistently gone to the gym throughout the year (yay!) I haven’t increased my weights all that much. Perhaps I need to switch it up this year with classes?

Running the 2018 Cherry Blossom 10-Miler Run!

Keep cooking

  • This one surprised me. While I did continue to cook throughout the year instead of eating out, I didn’t really expand my repertoire of dishes to make…thanks Trader Joes!

Keep saving and investing

  • This one was a bit tough considering I was saving so much for grad school while paying down more student loans. I managed to contribute about ~$5k to retirement this year, but didn’t add to my emergency fund or set up a 529 plan.

Keep improving my Mandarin Chinese

  • Surprisingly, I did have a tutor (briefly) for the school year in the months leading up to grad school.

Get my Private Pilot’s License

  • I completely failed on this one. I didn’t even schedule a call with flight instructor to do a demo flight. This is still something I want to do, but not quite sure when it’ll happen. Now that I’m not doing grad school, hopefully I can get to this goal.

2018 Areas of Focus:


  • By far the big thing this year was my decision on doing a career change from marketing to international affairs, and the possibility of starting grad school. I finally applied, was accepted and started grad school at The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. Between juggling school and work full-time, quickly realized that while I LOVE learning about other cultures, international affairs as a career was no longer for me. So happy that I went through the process. I can finally move on with my life!
  • Switched jobs again from marketing analytics back to marketing automation. Realized that I (1) still prefer being on the execution rather than strategy side of marketing, (2) I operate better working in smaller rather than larger organizations, and that (3) it’s better to work for a company as a full time employee rather than as a contractor.

Getting an award for my efforts at my day job!


  • Continued to grow in my relationships, both with myself, my significant other and friends.
  • So happy that things are going well on this front! 

Friends visiting my apartment for my 30th Birthday Hangout/BBQ!


  • Managed to maintain my weight throughout the year, as well as continued to workout and cook my own food several times a week!

Meal prepping for the next few days! Shrimp and spinach linguine


  • Visited four new countries and crossed a few places off my bucket list: Ankor Wat/Cambodia, Brussels/Belgium, Paris/France, Monaco.
Sunrise at Angkor Wat!

Sunrise at Angkor Wat!


  • Paid off two additional student loans (roughly ~$7k) and have just one loan remaining!
  • Paid in cash my first semester of grad school (roughly ~$13k)
  • Didn’t get to saving more as a result of my focus on education expenses this year.

2019 Goals

After having done these year-end reviews for now 8 years, I’m realizing that most of my goals are pretty much the same as they are every year. Perhaps this means I need to think bigger and outside the box. In order of priority, here are my goals for 2019:

  • Finances: Pay off my car ($6.8k remaining) and Penn student loans ($4.2k remaining)
  • Traveling: Visit at least 3 new countries this year, go to someplace new in the U.S.
  • Career: Get certification in either Salesforce/Pardot/Marketo (tools I use for my day job)
  • Health: Gym at least 4x/week; PR my half marathon time.

That’s it for now, let’s see how this new (and final year of the decade) plays out!

2017 in Review


Another year has come and gone. Hard to imagine that I’ve been writing an annual review like this for the past six years. You can check out my previous annual reviews here: 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011.

I started out the year with five specific goals. How’d I do?

How I did with my 2017 Goals?

Improve Mandarin Chinese.

I majored in Chinese Literature in undergrad, but since graduating in 2010 I’ve rarely used my Mandarin Chinese. My goal this year was to get back into a habit of using the language again. Earlier this year I enrolled in a class through the Global Language Network, a language program based in DC. While I enjoyed my experience with GLN, I don’t think it was helpful in getting me to use or retain my Mandarin throughout the year.

Set another PR with my half marathon time.

At the beginning of the year, I was registered for three half marathons, of which I ended up completing two: DC and Raleigh Rock N Roll Half Marathons. I BARELY set a PR this year at the Raleigh Rock N Roll, shaving off a minute from my time to run the race in: 2hr 14min, 49 sec.

Learn how to cook.

Of all my goals this year, I definitely excelled at this one. Perhaps out of necessity, I began cooking a lot more after increasing my monthly rent due to my decision to finally move out of Arlington and into The District. Most of the recipes I’ve cooked have been fairly basic (baked salmon, chicken and vegetables, shrimp linguine, chili), but I’m glad that I’ve gotten into the habit of regularly meal-prepping on Sundays and Wednesdays instead of eating out for every single meal.

Stuffed tomatoes for dinner!

Continue working towards my second degree in Computer Science

I had tuition benefits through my previous employer, and began taking advantage of those benefits last year by enrolling a second bachelors degree in Computer Science. I ended up taking a total of 5 classes in math, databases and java programming for the degree. However, after leaving that employer in August and losing those education benefits, I haven’t taken any additional classes towards the degree. Given that I no longer have tuition benefits and would have to pay for the classes out of pocket, as of now, I’ve decided not to continue pursuing the degree.

Growing at my day job and enabling people to travel through my consultation service.

This time last year I began a travel consulting service to help people redeem their points for travel. While I got a few customers at the beginning of this year, I didn’t do a great job promoting my services and didn’t have any additional customers throughout most of the year. As for my day job, I switched companies in August. I’m still in the marketing space, but my focus has shifted from marketing automation to marketing analytics. Through the switch, I hope to deepen my experience in understanding how to build, track and drive high quality traffic that converts for businesses.

Those were my top five goals for the year. Here’s how I did with the other core areas of my life: 

2017 Focus Areas:


  • Moved from marketing automation to marketing analytics.

Going away cake from my coworkers at UMUC.


  • Focused on the most important relationship — the one I have with myself.
  • Moved on from a relationship that became increasingly unhealthy.
  • Learned what it means to be in a healthy relationship (!)
  • Continued to focus on making an effort to carve out more time to hang with friends


  • Regularly worked out throughout the year.
  • Got into the habit of cooking for myself instead of eating out.


  • Moved from Arlington to Washington DC (!!!)
  • Managed to visit three new countries this year: Iceland, Chile and the Netherlands
  • Crossed off another item on my bucket list: hiking at Torres del Paine National Park
  • A more in-depth of my travel experiences from this year here: 2017 Travel Highlights

Autumn colors on my new street in Northwest Washington DC!


  • Didn’t max out my retirement accounts as had originally planned, but still managed to contributed on average about 25% of gross pay to retirement.
  • Through market performance and an increased savings rate, increased my net worth by 140%!
  • Paid off a student loan, have about $11k in loans left (down from $85k when I graduated school).

2018 GOALS

Most of the goals I have from the coming year are a continuation of good habits that I’ve established in years past:

  • Keep running and lifting.
    • Set another PR for my half marathon time.
    • Increase weights used when strength training.
  • Keep cooking.
    • Experiment with cooking dishes from different cuisines.
    • Increase my repertoire of dishes that I know how to make.
  • Keep saving and investing
    • Max out my retirement accounts
    • Continue adding to my emergency fund
    • Set up a 529 plan
  • Keep improving my Mandarin Chinese:
    • Hire a tutor to help enforce discipline in my language learning journey.
    • Finally take the HSK, even if it’s just a really low level.

And an additional goal for this coming year:

  • Get my Private Pilot’s License. I’ve always wanted to become a pilot. Now that I’ve gotten my financial footing (seemingly) under control, I think it’s finally time to start earning my hours towards my PPL.

Well, I wrote a lot more than I had initially thought. Looking forward to see what happens in the coming year!

2017 Travel Highlights


Compared to years past, I flew a lot less this year. Check out my travel highlight posts from years past: 20162015, 20142013 and 2012.

Here’s where I went this year:

Cities Visited: 16
Countries Visited: 2 countries
Miles flown: 57,107 miles
Weekends away from DC: 25
Total miles redeemed: 85,000 miles

And here’s what all that traveling looks like for this year:

Cities Visited: Reykjavik
Miles flown: 5,568


Gulfoss Waterfall on a cold January day!


Cities Visited: Portland, OR
Miles flown: 5,603 miles

Portland, Oregon

Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach


Cities Visited: Miami
Miles flown: 1,851 miles


Murals in the Wynwood District of Miami.


Cities Visited: Raleigh, New York
Miles flown: 0 miles


Ran the 2017 Raleigh Rock N Roll Half-Marathon

New York

Walking along the Hudson Greenway looking towards Jersey City.


Cities Visited: Los Angeles, New York, Punta Arenas 
Miles flown: 10,965 miles
Los Angeles 

High school friend’s wedding in LA!

New York

Trying out Burmese food at the Queens Night Market

Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

Hiking in Torres del Paine National Park.


Cities Visited: Santiago, Chile; Amsterdam, The Netherlands; New York City; Los Angeles; Hilo, Hawaii 
Miles flown: 18,861 miles
Travel Costs:


Wine tasting in Santiago!


Exploring the beautiful city of Amsterdam

New York City

Marching with Spotify at the 2017 New York Pride Parade

Los Angeles

Walking around Fox Studios in Studio City, Los Angeles.

Big Island, Hawaii

Exploring Mauna Kea National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Cities Visited: Honolulu, HI; Cape May, NJ
Miles flown: 4,817 miles

Oahu, Hawaii 

Morning stroll along Waikiki Beach

Cape May, New Jersey

Beach weekend in Cape May, New Jersey

Cities Visited: Boston, MA; Portland, ME; San Francisco 
Miles flown: 5,577 miles

Friend’s wedding in Cambridge!!

Portland, Maine

Roadtrip to Portland, Maine

San Francisco

Friend’s wedding in SF!

Cities Visited: Chicago, Philadelphia, New Haven, Newport, Boston, Portland (ME), New York, Dallas 
Miles flown: 3,656 miles

Wandering around Chicago on a beautiful September afternoon.

New Haven, Connecticut

Trying out clam pizza at Modern Apizza in New Haven!


Having oysters in Boston!

New York

Visiting the World Trade Center Memorial in New York

Newport, Rhode Island

Exploring the amazing architecture in Newport, Rhode Island


Pre-wedding /  brunch in Philly


Hanging in Dallas on a work trip!

Cities Visited: Claymont, DE 
Miles flown: 0


Friend’s wedding in Delaware!

Cities Visited: Charlottesville, VA; New York 
Miles flown: 0 

Weekend trip to Charlottesville!

New York

Post-Thanksgiving Weekend in NYC

Cities Visited: Philadelphia, Durham (NC), Charleston (SC)
Miles flown: 0

Housewarming in Philly!!

Durham, North Carolina

In front of the Duke Chapel

Charleston, South Carolina

Walking around Charleston

How did I afford to do all this?

A lot of my travel this year was actually through road trips. I also redeemed quite a bit of miles not only for myself, but also for friends and family. A major highlight this year was redeeming 25k miles less than a day before a friend’s wedding for a cross-country flight for a friend who’s flight was delayed due to weather. I also redeemed my points to fly back to Hawaii, the first time I’ve been back in about two years, and for my brother to fly out east for Christmas.

I also relied heavily on Southwest. With the exception of my flight to Iceland and Portland, Oregon, all flights that I paid for were on Southwest. Now that all the major carriers have gone revenue-based and have made award redemptions increasingly harder to redeem, I’m going with the cheapest option. I’m even considering flying Spirit in the coming year!


Unlike in years past, I did not travel solo at all this year. All of my travels were either with friends or family. I’ve also done a lot less credit card hacking, having opened up just one new account this whole year! 2017 was another amazing year of travel, and hope to continue exploring more in 2018!

Everest Base Camp Trek – Highlights


Trekking to Everest Base Camp was a lifelong goal that I can happily say I crossed off my bucket list. This is the first in an eight part series I’m writing about my experience, and hope that this series will help those looking to make their dream of trekking to Everest Base Camp a reality! To kick off the series, I’ve curated a list of ten pictures that capture the highlight of my 12 day trek.

#1: Enjoying the thrill of both flying into and out of Lukla Airport.  IMG_4018

#2: Pausing for a moment during our second day of hiking where we ascended 890 meters!

#3: Watching buffaloes, horses and donkeys walk across these narrow suspension bridges high up the river valley floor.  IMG_4225

#4: Stopping for a break at the Trekkers Memorial. Trekkers Memorial#5: Feeling a complete sense of solitude walking through this desolate valley. IMG_4978

#6: Feeling completely alive during our helicopter ride around Everest National Park (highly recommend!)

IMG_5147#7: Appreciating the local culture and spiritual component throughout the trek.  IMG_5086

#8: Admiring the views of Ama Dablam throughout the trek. IMG_5045#9: Taking in the scenery of the surrounding mountains at Everest Base Camp. IMG_4879

#10: Reaching Everest Base Camp! IMG_4887

There were many other highlights throughout my 12 day trek to Everest Base Camp, but these were moments were definitely the most memorable. Stay tuned for more details on how I did it!