This article may contain compensated links. Learn more in our disclaimer.
I’m getting a tattoo, she said.
Today. Before going back home. I have had this idea for a long time. Now is the time. Let’s go and see if your tattoo artist can get it done tonight.
It was October 2019. We were in Bali. My friend got a tattoo she wanted.
And the message was – Memories are better than dreams.
Memories Are Better Than Dreams
It’s a beautiful message I believe in and try to live by.
But I hadn’t heard it said out loud before that night. A few months have passed, I remember it once in a while. And that has made me to think – if I look at the last year it truly feels like the year of memories. Like the year when a lot of dreams were turned into beautiful memories.
When things I had only been thinking about were turned into reality.
It wasn’t easy, but it all feels worth it now.
And it makes me more confident about what I’m doing.
More confident to do, not just dream.
To do more what I really love doing.
Here Are Some of These Beautiful Memories
My year started with a long journey to Bali.
I had several, 1-4 days long, layovers on my way.
It was the cheapest option I could find, and it also looked like a very interesting option.
Visiting the Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi – February 2019
I also stopped in Dubai on my way.
But my main goal was to visit the Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi.
Oh boy, this place is spectacular. It’s the most beautiful man-made building I’ve seen up to this date.
A 4-Day Layover in Manila – February 2019
I really like big Asian cities.
And I had never been to Manila before.
I took the opportunity, and without any expectations I went to Manila.
This city is huge. There isn’t much to see for a tourist. But it’s also very unique and different from other Asian capitals. Would I recommend it to you? Most probably no (in most situations). But if you like big Asian cities, and you haven’t been to Manila, then give it a try.
In Manila I visited one of the oldest cemeteries – Manila North Cemetery.
It’s an extraordinary cemetery.
A lot of people are living there. Yes, living.
Of course, not because they love it that much. More because they don’t have any better options.
The vibe there? Very relaxed and with a lot of smiling people all around you.
Spending 3 Months in Bali – February, September, October 2019
I love Bali, it’s one of my favorite places in the world.
And I’m happy I got to be there that much last year.
And also because I managed to do this much of driving around on a scooter in Bali, and found the beautiful Bukit Terunyan Hike. I also almost drowned in Bali, and that helped me to learn some things. Here are what you should know before you go swimming in Bali.
Again, a silly and small thing for someone, but an important thing for me.
I had wanted to try something like cliff jumping for around 10 years.
Turned out you can do it also in Bali.
Just go to Aling-Aling Waterfall.
There you can jump from 5, 10 and 15 meters.
It’s awesome. I went there twice.
Got Myself a New Tattoo in Bali
And here comes a short story about choices.
I had 2 tattoo ideas. One was to get a tattoo of Barong on my right shoulder. The other – to continue covering the left arm.
First choice seemed like the right choice. I had a tattoo of the bad demon on my left shoulder. So now you should have a tattoo of the good one. On the other shoulder… because there’s no space for it on the same arm, I thought. In and Yan. Good and evil.
It felt like I should do it this way.
30 minutes before heading to my tattoo artist I said to myself – screw it, I’m gonna do how I want, not how I should.
I remembered about conversations we had with my friend just a couple days ago.
About how we people are taught to do what we have to do.
And how we don’t even know what is that that we really want to do anymore.
I knew what I want.
I wanted a new tattoo on my left arm.
How it turned out? My tattoo artist recommended me to do Barong there, on my left upper arm. 2 seconds later I said yes, let’s do it. I’m so happy about the result. Already thinking how to cover the rest of the upper arm, because the back is still blank. One/two is never enough, you know.
Do more what you want!
Exploring the Countryside of Cambodia on a Bike – March 2019
After Bali I went to Vietnam. It was fun, too.
But I’ll definitely remember driving around in Cambodia.
For 5 days in a row I was going on day rides from Phnom Penh. I wasn’t expecting too much. But it turned out to be much more fun than expected. Turns out, if you take the small roads, even an hour ride away from Phnom Penh you can already find a completely different Cambodia.
But if you drive for 4-5 hours or more, boy, you’ll get dirty.
And also happier.
Exploring Thailand’s Islands and Living in Bangkok for 3 Weeks – April, May 2019
Another few years old dream.
To visit islands of Koh Lanta, Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Lipe in Thailand.
It almost didn’t work out. We went to Koh Lanta for a week. I didn’t like it all. This place seemed that boring, that I said, enough, enough of the islands and that sh*t, let’s go to Bangkok. I don’t want any more islands like this.
We took a break in Trang.
And went to the most beautiful one (according to the internet) first. To Koh Lipe.
It was a very beautiful experience, so we went also to Koh Phangan. Just in time for full moon party in Koh Phangan. The party was another very cool experience, so we went further to Koh Samui. And after a week there from Koh Samui to Koh Tao.
Overall it was awesome.
Except for our first stop – Koh Lanta.
What we can learn from that? Don’t let something small ruin your experience.
And after all the island time 3 weeks of living in Bangkok, in one place, was exactly what we needed.
Spending a Month Living in a Capsule Hotel – May, June 2019
It wasn’t planned, but I had to go to Kuala Lumpur.
Out of curiosity I booked a night in a capsule hotel.
I had this small dream of living in such a place somewhere in Asia, I was thinking of Japan.
I loved it so much, and as I had to stay in KL longer, I spent a total of 3 weeks in this place, and then 2 more weeks in the autumn.
In a week I’ll be back to my capsule, when I’ll be in KL again.
The place – Space Hotel @ Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur.
It’s comfy. It’s modern. It’s cheap. The location is great.
Finding That Peak in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – June 2019
I have been to Kuala Lumpur a lot.
In 2014 I first tried to find this peak. A few times.
I misread the instructions and didn’t find it the trail. Now I finally did the whole Bukit Tabur West Hike in KL.
Visiting Macau for the First Time – June 2019
After Malaysia it was time to go home (Latvia).
But I didn’t want to just take a flight like everyone.
I wanted to have some more adventures.
So I booked a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Macau instead. It was cheap. And Macau is just a short ferry ride away from Hong Kong, a city I had been dreaming of returning to since 2014.
That would mean I could visit Hong Kong, too.
I was expecting fancy casinos in Macau.
But I also find something more, a very lively city. I even find a way to go on a short hike in Macau.
Returning to Hong Kong for a Week
Was it as I remember it from 2014?
It was much better.
I loved Hong Kong.
It’s the city I will want to live for some time in the future.
The climate is great.
The city is very lively. There is a lot to do. You can get all kind of foods in Hong Kong.
Visiting Shanghai for the First Time – June 2019
You know I love Asian cities.
The bigger, the better. Hence I had wanted to visit some of China’s biggest cities as well. Shanghai was at the top of my list.
This year I found a way to make it happen.
I booked my flights the way, that I had only 3 days in Shanghai.
That meant I wouldn’t need to apply for visa.
I applied for free Chinese transit visa instead.
Long story short – I didn’t like Shanghai. It’s big. It’s impressive.
There are some very beautiful places – like Shanghai French Concession.
But overall I had a feeling that all life has been taken off the streets.
Visiting Kiev and Chernobyl, Ukraine – July 2019
A week after returning home we had an opportunity to go to Kiev.
We took the opportunity.
Kiev is beautiful and the kind of city I like, a city I would like to return to.
There is the pretty part of it, and also the other, where as well you feel very good.
From Kiev we went on a day trip to Chernobyl.
Read all about our experience in Chernobyl here.
Kayaking in Riga – August 2019
And finding some Latvian jungle.
I didn’t know that kayaking in Riga can be this fun.
Trolltunga Hike in Norway – August 2019
We had wanted to visit Norway for quite a time.
And again… it seemed like there is not enough time for it. We had just a few days of time, and no idea if it’s doable during such a short trip.
But… we went to Oslo, and did the Trolltunga Hike.
And it was awesome.
Cycling in Singapore – September 2019
It may seem like nothing special for you.
But I had wanted to go cycling in Singapore for a few years.
It’s was one of those silly ideas, I think everyone of us have, that you feel kinda stupid to do. But I wanted to do it. And I did it. And it was fun. I ended up visiting a few cemeteries, seeing a completely different Singapore and almost getting a heat stroke, because as it turns out there are places in Singapore where there are NO SHOPS at all.
Returning to Langkawi Island, Malaysia
After Singapore there were 2 months in Bali.
And after Bali I stopped in Malaysia for a few weeks.
In the last years we have spent more than half a year in Langkawi.
It was nice to return to the island after a longer time.
The Gunung Mat Cincang Hike is beautiful.
Visiting Budapest (Hungary) and Bosnia for the First Time
We were with Una in both of these places.
Some things we like, some not.
Budapest is a beautiful city, and Bosnia, as much as we got to experience in 10 days, is an interesting country with difficult history.
We definitely wouldn’t recommend coming there in late autumn.
It’s too cold.
If you’ll be in Mostar, Bosnia, try the Hum Hill Hike.
What a Year!
Whoa, what a year has it been.
A never ending summer from January until November.
Nope, I’m not tired of hot weather. I’m loving it.
It may as well has been the busiest year of my life. I visited 10+ countries, 10+ islands, 20+ cities, slept in 50+ different places. While meeting some of the very best people I know.
I almost drowned in the ocean in Bali. This year I also traveled twice for medical reasons. One of these times I had to undergo a minor surgery and got tested for cancer (everything’s fine; but my legs were shaking a bit when I was going after the results).
At the same time I’ve also been working more or less full time.
Doing work I love for some 70% of the time.
I feel like it’s a pretty good.
Loving it. All of it. Every day.
It was the life I was dreaming of in 2012-2013, and now I’m living it.
Don’t just dream. Do.
Book Your Trip Like a PRO
1. Book Your Flight
2. Book Your Accommodation
Booking.com, Agoda.com and Airbnb. I use Booking and Agoda at least a dozen times a year, and Airbnb – when looking for a long-term stay. My best tip is to ALWAYS compare the price. Sometimes the same hotel is cheaper on Booking.com, other times – on Agoda. Always compare the price!
3. Buy Your Travel Insurance
World Nomads and SafetyWings are two companies I can recommend. World Nomads offers some extra benefits, that will be important for those doing some higher risk activities, while SafetyWings is significantly cheaper. SafetyWings is only $9.25 / week.