2017, the sound, the vibe

I’ve written a year in review on this blog every year for the last three years. I started this tradition in 2014 because I wanted to recap every bit of travel I did while on exchange in Stockholm. For 2015, I wanted to hold myself accountable for yearly goals that I had set for myself. 2015 marked the year I finished university after having plowed the vast fields of law school and business school. It also happened to be the year my longest relationship ended and writing a blog post seemed to be one of many good steps I could take to get closure on that stage of my life. When I think back to 2016, all I remember is what a disastrous year it was for me, my emotional and mental health. But having just reread my post, I realised that a lot of good things did happen in that year too, like being able to work in London and attending my cousin’s destination wedding in New Zealand. The start of 2017 began a little like the scene where Bambi learns how to walk for the first time. It was like being just at the point where I had lost three rounds at Tekken but was given the opportunity to “Continue?”, pick a new character and try again. This is what I did with my second chance.

Chinese New Year and Malaysia three times
The stars aligned for me this year and I was able to make it home for Chinese New Year 2017. As much as I hate to admit it, going back to Malaysia is really important and not least because of the majority of my family that still reside there. In the same way Birdman gets his superpowers from approaching the sun, going home allows me to centre myself, reminds of where I’ve come from and where I want to go next. Aside from Chinese New Year, I was also able to make it back two more times, the second for my dad’s 50th birthday and the third, just a few days ago when I was home for Christmas.

Bowral Birthday Weekend
The girls trip to Bowral was so much fun! Especially, looking back on this year, we’ve all been so busy with new jobs, new responsibilities and new significant others for some, that we haven’t had much time for each other. So it was great that we were able to put some time aside for this trip. Biota Dining was an extremely memorable meal from this year.

Tokyo and Hanami
Travel continues to be a main highlight each year, one which I’m incredibly blessed to have as a strong theme in my life. Despite having visited Japan six or seven times in my life, I’ve never actually visited in Spring to see the cherry blossoms. It might be the most touristy and crowded season (not to mention, still oddly very cold) in Japan, but it was also the most wonderful time to be there. The beauty of the bloom and its fleetingness is hard to put into words, it makes absolute sense why prose and poetry trying desperately to capture its illusiveness could fill the largest of libraries . But even more striking than that is the vibe of Tokyo. For such an insular and sterile community of people, hanami felt like the one time the Japanese allowed a peak into their hearts and thoughts. I had never felt closer to my favourite city in the world, not least because of the amazing hospitality I was treated to by friends and friends of friends that I was able to meet. My love letter to Tokyo is here.

Melbourne by Heston
I didn’t think I’d be back to Melbourne so soon after having been there so often last year. But I had flight credit that I wanted to use, a good rate at the InterContinental The Rialto, and a great friend who was willing to make the trip purely for a Dinner by Heston reservation. This was also the trip I renewed my passion for swimming.

Whitsundays, Whales and Turtles
Probably the most memorable and enjoyable trip I’ve had within Australia, the Whitsundays needs to be seen and experienced to be believed. My write up on the Whitsundays is here, but what a wonderful place, amazing weather and excellent travelling companion I had.
Saint Peter, My Restaurant of the Year
My count for dining at Saint Peter is hovering somewhere upwards of fourteen times (I think), this feat alone makes it worthy of a mention in my 2017 recap. But beyond that, Saint Peter came into my life late last year, during troubled times, and has been a steady drumbeat throughout. The Saint Peter team have somehow been able to bring consistency despite an ever changing menu. This is now a metaphor for me to continue to bring my A game, no matter the storm and also that, if all else fails, I know a place to get a place for a great feed. I think about all of the people I have brought here, family, friends, acquaintances and how every single person has loved it, no matter their background, palate or potential dietary requirements. I think about the passion Josh and his team have for the sea, for sustainability, for keeping it real. Saint Peter, which recently attained two chef hat status, is my pick for restaurant of the year. My reviews are here and here.

Work, Newcastle and Hunter Valley over eight times
My new job was one of the things I was most excited and nervous about at the end of 2016 as I was just starting a role in a completely different industry. My one year work anniversary went by a few weeks ago, time has well and truly flown! I was lucky to start off with a strong team that was able to provide me with support while still encouraging my creativity and whatever new ideas and perspectives that I brought with me. This year has been fundamental to me defining my ideal career path and honing my skill set that would get me there. Professional development aside, I’ve also travelled more than I ever thought I would so early in my career, connected with colleagues both interstate and overseas and been privy to numerous work perks. I literally would not be in Sydney if it wasn’t for my job right now. I don’t think one’s career necessarily needs to be the be all and end all but I’m incredibly grateful that I get to wake up every morning and feel genuinely excited about going into work.
Rediscovering Sydney (and myself)
Having resided in Sydney for over nine years now, a lot of the magic that surrounds this city has faded into background noise. It took an unexpected guest visit for me to see this incredible city with fresh eyes and a re-invigorated perspective. It’s made me realise that while routines are important, it’s even more important to thirst for adventure. Even with all of the travel I’ve done this year, I think I’ve learnt the most from this and from my time grounded here in Sydney. It’s been a year long work in progress (which I’m sure will stretch on into many more years) but I’m finding that there is so much strength in vulnerability and in being brave enough to continuously put myself out there.

Hong Kong
This little island is so far from being a ‘new’ destination for me. It’s probably my next most frequented destination after Malaysia and even more so than Japan. It was a fairly short trip but I definitely packed a lot in as I got to meet a good friend from law school days, catch up with friends from Tokyo, train at a new gym, meet a Muay Thai fighter I’ve been a fan of this year, inhale a lot of food and spend time with my family that live there. I like travelling to new destinations but I also like revisiting past ones, that, like well-worn clothing, fit you in familiar and comforting ways.

Meeting Maldives
The Maldives was as picture perfect as you see in the postcards. And the people were as friendly and welcoming as they say. A few personal issues came up for me during this trip and I have so many words for this country but I’ll save that for the actual post.

Swung by Singapore
It’s been well over 10 years since my last visit to Singapore, which is insane considering how close it is to Malaysia. I’m currently finishing this post up as I’m embarking on my 2nd full day in Singapore. It’s still early days but I’m really glad to have finally made it here after such a long time.

Shiso
I own a cat. There was some internal back and forth on whether I could look after another living being besides myself, but I’m really happy to have her. Even if it means waking up earlier than my already stupidly early alarm so I can feed her and clean her crap before I roll into the gym and into work. I also continue to be surprised over how low maintenance she is in some ways but also how previously, I never had to consider optimal pet food nor the joys we both share when its furminating time. It’s a warm feeling to come home to someone – or something – mildly enthused to see you.

Muay Thai and forever
My mind tends to wander at times, like when I’m at work, on a walk, in mid-conversation or in the shower. And I’ll hear a thought in my head, almost as if it came from someone else and that thought is ‘Muay Thai is the most important thing in my life’. It’s both true and untrue. I’m still extremely new to the sport, I don’t have career aspirations vested in it and like all hobbies, you wonder if it will still be a a constant two or three years down the track. But it’s also all I talk about with some of my close friends, all I watch and post on Instagram and during challenging periods, all I feel I have to look forward to during the week. The hardest thing I’ve ever had to write was published on this blog and it was on the topic of Muay Thai and how it saved my life. I also had a small feature in Marie Claire this year, that spoke about how Muay Thai helped me get through depression. So I guess what that voice is trying to tell me, isn’t that Muay Thai is my goal in life, but that it is so intertwined with my life because of how it has helped me help myself and others. It hasn’t even been a year of training in Muay Thai and already I’ve changed gyms, lost friends, lost trainers and gained a handful of new ones. I’m still bad at skipping but I love it, still bad at running but I’ve gone further than ever and still incapable of stepping to the right (not to the front!) when throwing my left kick. Yet, having so many flaws excites me because I know with time, persistence and a body clock that gets me up at 4.42 am every morning, I will only get better.
I had no expectations for 2017 and set no resolutions other than to be kinder to myself. It’s something that’s been on the ‘to-do’ list for the last few years and while there’s no real way to measure it, I also know that it’s one of the hardest objectives for me to accomplish. This year has been the only year that I can truly feel I’ve actually been a better person to me. There are too many people to name, people who have not only gotten me through this year but taken me above and beyond what I thought was possible. I hope you all know who you are and I hope I’ve been able to express my gratitude and also reciprocate the love and support you’ve given me.
The end of 2017 is like the scene from Dumbo when he first learns that he can fly. He gets a crazy push from all his bird friends, a command or two from that mouse wearing a uniform and suddenly his ears are flapping, he’s in the air and it is both the most ridiculous and also the most real thing that’s ever happened for an elephant. I took on 2017 with good grace and a positive and relentless attitude. It hasn’t been without receiving a few blows and even one or two special combination attacks. There are already challenges right now which I will be seeing through into the new year. But I wouldn’t have had this year any other way. Let’s go 2018.

samanthawxlow

One Comment

Leave a Reply

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