My 2016 year of travel

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Hafa adai from Guam, USA!

As you all know, I can never sit still. Not only do I move around at least once a month because of medical school, but I also have the bad case of the travel bug.

2016 has taken me to many new places, places I never thought I’d ever be able to see. Places I never had even imagined, meeting new friends for a lifetime and making of course unforgettable memories. I thought 2015 was going to be hard to beat, but 2016 raised the bar even higher. 2017, where will you take me this year?

Click here to see My 2015 year of travel.

All photos are from my Instagram.

1. Ended 2015 singing for the Pope at the Vatican, and so began 2016

 

2. Exploring the cold, cold Chicago with my newly-met relatives

 

3. Started my new life in a new medical school in a new city, Linköping, Sweden

 

4. Weekend escapade with friends to Tallinn, Estonia

 

5. As usual, I always seem to come back to Hong Kong

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During my aimless walk around Hong Kong central, I notice a cute blonde guy holding a map doing the same in front of me. I continue walking and end up at Man Mo Temple. While exploring the temple, I notice the same guy taking photos in a corner. Now curious, on his way out, I decided to follow him a bit to see where he was going. I pass him and continue walking on the other side of the street. After a while, I look at the other side of the street and notice him walking directly parallel to me. I smiled, and turned to a side street of antiques. I reach a crossing by a main road and as I stop to turn around, I notice that he was directly behind me. We exchange smiles but unfortunately our eyes met for a final time, as the business of Hong Kong beckons one to always continue… If only I had the courage to say hi, perhaps I wouldn't be sitting all alone in Starbucks right now. I have 2h left here, maybe I'll see him again. But in a busy city like Hong Kong, one can only dream right? #solotravelatitsbest #manmotemple #hongkong #hk #solottravel #temple #samcation

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6. Explored the country of my birth Philippines solo for the first time in my life

 

7. Oh, and I also learned how to surf in Baler, Philippines

 

8. …and celebrated 20+ years of friendship with my childhood best friend Chy in Bohol, Philippines 🙂

 

9. Celebrated my sister’s 25th birthday in Iceland

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Midnight swimming at the Blue Lagoon ❤️

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10. Met the Pope together with 2 million other Catholic youths during the World Youth Days in Krakow, Poland

11. …and met the Pope again during the Swedish Papal visit in Malmö

 

12. Getting lost in translation in Tokyo, Japan

 

13. Living the tropical paradise dream in Guam, USA

 

14. Where I really did make memories and connections worth a lifetime

 

I knew 2015 was going to be hard to beat, but 2016 delivered. But now comes 2017, my final year in medical school (if all goes as planned). Even though I know I’ll have a tough final year ahead, I have a feeling I’ll still end up getting lost in translation in a new city or on another beach in another tropical paradise. Or well, I hope so anyway.

To kickstart my 2017 year of travel, New York, see you in less than two weeks! 😀

10 Typical Chicago places I visited in Chicago

It has been just over a week now but I am still having my Chicago withdrawal.

I was very fortunate to have my loving family take me to the “typical Chicago” places to go to, and act like a local. Except for the part when I need to ask the cashier to tell me if I have given them enough change since I didn’t know how much a dime was worth… Apart from that, I totally blended in!

Here are some places my family took me to which I definitely think people should visit when going to Chicago.

1. The Field Museum

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I thought it was pretty timely that I had watched Jurassic Park on the plane the day before… Definitely bringing my future kids here, with the hope of sparking an interest in science in them! Yes, I thought that far ahead.

2. The Shedd Aquarium

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Have you ever felt a sturgeon? Have you ever petted a sturgeon? Nope didn’t think so. That’s why you need to go. And also to see their amazing collection of species of course!

3. Portillo’s

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Their Italien Beef sandwich is to die for. Who knew a soggy sandwich could be so delicious! Also, the meatiest sandwich I have ever eaten. Just writing about it makes my mouth water…

4. The Bahá’í House of Worship

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I had never encountered the religion before, but now I know that not only do they have a beautiful building, they also have beautiful messages that they share to the world. So beautiful I even wrote a blog post about it!

5. Cloud Gate aka “The Bean”

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If I was taller then I could look like I had the Bean with the reflection of the city of Chicago as a beanie… but unfortunately I was unlucky at the genetic lottery. Nevertheless, I love this bean, I find it quite adorable hehe. Definitely my favourite symbol of Chicago – isn’t it the most famous symbol of Chicago too?

6. Milennium Park

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The Bean is a part of Milennium Park, but for tourists like me, we might not know that. If my cousin didn’t tell me to walk on the Milennium Bridge I wouldn’t have seen the figure 8 ice skating rink. The first figure 8 ice skating rink I’ve ever seen actually. So if you’re by taking photos by the Bean, don’t forget to continue to see the rest of the park too!

7. Pequod Pizzeria IMG_0459

Everyone knows that in Chicago, one must eat a deep dish pizza. Apparently, one of the best deep dish pizzas out there are made by the small family-run restaurant called Pequod Pizzeria. Frequently receiving awards and highly rated on TripAdvisor, what could go wrong? Also, you only need one, max two slices to be full… Yum!

8. Superdawgs

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Coming from Europe where drive-thrus are not as popular as in Europe, visiting a restaurant which builds on the concept of eating in your car was quite exciting. You park your car by a machine, order, wait until the waiter/waitress gives you your food in your car and then finally eat/or drive away with your food! However not only was the concept exciting, the food was pretty good too. Delicious Chicago hotdogs – with no ketchup or mustard. Apparently it’s a crime to put some on.

9. Chicago Premium Outlets at Aurora

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As I love shopping, especially if it’s good quality branded stuff at cheap prices, this place was like Disneyland for me. Here we are after over 6h of shopping at Armani Exchange. As you can see, I was still going strong. If you guys are wondering, I’m trying an entire outfit (blazer, skirt and shirt) for under $100! I ended up buying the skirt and the blazer. I know, that place was amazing. 

10. Skydeck Chicago at Willis Tower

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And of course the famous Skydeck at Willis Tower. I’m normally scared of heights but for this amazing view of this amazing city, it wasn’t hard getting over it. ❤

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Chicago until we meet again! Did I miss any sights? If so, where do you think I should go next time I’m in Chicago? 🙂

7 typical American things I did in Chicago

After watching all those American TV shows and movies, the everyday American life was quite exciting for me. What better way to visit a country than to be like the locals right?

1. Stay in the suburbs

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Here are my aunt and uncle plowing the snow and me not helping hehe… #suburblife

2. Overeat like a true American

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The biggest buffet I’ve ever seen in my life.

3. Drive literally everywhere

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Once my friend even drove us to the other side of the parking lot where my cousin’s car was parked. It’s true, everyone here has a car. And it’s a big deal to walk apparently. 

4. Make friends with strangers within minutes

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Meet our new friend from the elevator up!

5. Shop at Walmart

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They even have blood pressure machines!!! #excited

6. Eat at a drive-through

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At Superdawgs you park your car by a machine and the staff come out to give you your food in the car! Nomnomnom

7. Shop like a true consumerist

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Three days worth of shopping. I came at the best time aka, clearance of clearance time!

Topped with my accent, I think I blended in quite well. Hmm, maybe I could live here after all!

Chicago Day 4: Retail therapy and reunions

When people asked me why I randomly decided to come to Chicago for five days, I tell them, to shop. And everything else of course.

As a request, I told my family that I wanted to shop on the later days, so that I’ll just use all my leftover money at the end for shopping. So we did.

My cousin took me to Chicago Premium Outlets (Aurora, IL) where we literally shopped for over 8h straight without taking breaks. No food breaks, no sitting breaks, just continuous shopping. Fitting shoes and clothes, shopping bags. It was heaven.

What made the day even better was that an old friend of mine who I met in Sweden two years ago came out to meet me there too! She was with my cousin and I during the entire shopping tour, and we all even bought matching Coach bags and Blackhawks shirts. Nicole is probably the only person who can top my energetic-ness, extreme positivity and talkative-ness. Which is why we made a direct bond since last time we met, and have continued to keep contact ever since! Isn’t it nice to have friends who you don’t meet for years and then when you see each other again, it’s like nothing has changed?

After all the shopping, despite our tired legs and sore arms (they’re still sore until now), my family took me out to experience the Chicago nightlife. We went to Mad River, where another old school friend met me up too! Two reunions in one day, it can’t get better than that. Or wait it can, because I bought a wristband for $20 which gave me unlimited drinks until midnight. #onlyinamerica

It was a great night, and with that I even got one of the best “getting-hit-on” stories I have ever had. And I will end this structurally challenged blog post with that story, before I board my plane back to Stockholm.

A guy by the bar who turned out to be a birthday boy and “from” my hometown Manila, Philippines (Filipino born and raised in Chicago) bought me a drink. I returned to my friends and before we left the club I thought to say goodbye to him and greet him a happy birthday.

Me: Hey I’m leaving now but I hope you have an amazing birthday!
Him: Before you leave can I give you something?
Me: Yeah okay what is it?
*he kisses me on the cheek*
Him: I think you’re really cute and I’m sorry but I’m new at this…
*he takes my hand and kisses it*
Him: But I hope you had a great night.

Isn’t he the most adorable guy ever? Why aren’t all guys like this?! 

It was not only a great night, but the best last night I could ever have in Chicago. I hope his birthday was a good one too. Once again the American friendliness never disappoints!

It was a great trip. I will miss all the friendly Americans I met, all so warm and welcoming. I will miss being greeted everywhere I go. Heck, I will even miss overeating like a true American. However most of all, I will miss my amazing family who I now met for the first time, and definitely not the last time. I know because I promised Lola (grandma in Filipino).

Until next time Chicago, you have been amazing. But first, time to go home and become a doctor!

Chicago Day 3: Downtown Chicago

I am and forever will be a city girl.

Being raised in Stockholm, the capital of Sweden and Scandinavia, I love the big city. However, sometimes I do feel that Stockholm isn’t big enough. Where are the big buildings? Where are the high rises?

I needed a quick-fix for my big city withdrawal since it’s been a while. I wanted to be surrounded by the hustle and the bustle again. At least right before I move to the small and relatively quiet city of Linköping. So then I thought, why not use my miles and visit Chicago?

There is something about getting lost in the concrete jungle, surrounded by buildings towering the skies. It makes one feel like a small fish in a big pond. A small fish, being part of something so much bigger than itself, just waiting to be discovered. It leaves me with the feeling of optimism and hope, that venturing into the big unknown will actually lead to great things. Which is the mindset I need before I start at my new medical school next week.

Chicago, with your tall buildings and actually extremely kind people, you are exactly what I needed. The bean reflecting the beauty of the buildings around it and the Willis tower to appreciate the view from above. You are amazing. And I promise to come back to you. Soon. Because I love you. ❤

Chicago Day 2: the Baha’i temple

Today we visited the oldest living Baha’i temple in the world. I have never heard of the religion Baha’i before so this was definitely something special for me.

When my family told me about visiting this place of worship, my only expectation was to see this beautiful building by the lake – and take loads of photos of course. Little did I know, not only is this building beautiful, so is the message it brings.

At the Visitor’s centre of the temple, they have a great exhibit of the Baha’i faith, including a video of its history and the history of the building. It was there where I learnt what the faith entails, and was captivated of their teachings. The faith strives for spiritual unity of all mankind. They advocate for the oneness of God, religion and humanity.

The Baha’i believe that there is only one God who has manifested himself through various ways and religions, but they are essentially the same God. The past Divine Messengers like Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha etc., have each brought their teachings to address the needs and conditions of humanity of their time, but have all reflected the same Divine purpose. The Baha’i believe that the final Divine messenger was their founder Baha’u’llah, who gave the message of unity for all.

“God…is and hath from everlasting been, one and alone…eternal in the past, eternal in the future.”

In addition, they believe that all humankind have been created equal but are coupled with diversity. We are all created differently, but essentially we are all the same.

“Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch.”

All prejudice should end, as there is unity in diversity.

as it is in music where many different notes blend together in the making of a perfect chord.”

Today I was introduced to a beautiful religion who strive for oneness of the world. Optimistic and idealistic, but that is exactly what we need in the world right now. For the Baha’i, it is not about showing why one religion believes in something “wrong” or why we all look different from each other and behave differently. For the Baha’i it is not about focusing on our differences but rather, celebrating what we all have in common. And that is beautiful. This is a teaching we all should live by and if we did, I’m sure the world would definitely be a much better place.

For more information about the Baha’i temple and its faith, click here.

Chicago Day 1: Dinosaurs and fish

Today was Martin Luthor King day, which also happened to be Free day on museums. What better day to visit than today? Well, if you disregard the cold and the swarms of people everywhere. Nevertheless, what better way of celebrating Martin Luthor King than through education!

To start my authentic Chicago adventure, my family decided to take me to the famous Chicago museums at museum campus via train. After a few stations, we hear a woman from the other wagon run up to the driver sternly telling him about what seemed like a medical emergency. The driver goes out, then returns talking on his walkie-talkie continuing the train ride without saying a word.

Half an hour later, the train stops again. We hear some screaming on the platform. We hear the driver announce that we are put to a halt because of a police emergency (what seemed to be was drug dealing). After his announcement though, the people around me returned to reading their newspapers, and looking at their phones, completely indifferent. I on the other hand was on the edge of my chair, waiting for updates in excitement. I guess you could tell I was definitely a tourist. Eventually the emergency was over, and the train continued. When we finally got to our destination, my cousin said: “After all my years of taking the train whilst growing up here, I’ve never had a more exciting train ride.” Well, the same goes for me too, that’s for sure.

When we finally got to museum campus, we continued our plan of visiting the Field museum and its awesome dinosaurs and then the Shedd aquarium to see their amazing collection of species – I even got to pet a sturgeon! Both museums were absolutely amazing. After that, we went back home, pretty tired from our day of museum-ing.

But my Chicago adventure didn’t stop there. My cousin let me try the famous Portillo’s Italian beef and cheese fries (which was incredibly delish by the way), and took me to WALMART! I know I shouldn’t be too excited but… WALMART! A 24h WALMART!

I finally did it. I finally visited one. In an area not incredibly fancy with people passing for being part of the PeopleOfWalmart.com. At 10pm in the evening. My days of wondering how a Walmart was like from all the TV series and movies are over. And so is my pocket money budget of buying random things.

My Chicago trip is off to a great start!

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You may think it’s sunny and warm, but no man it’s -16°C and I’m freezing my butt off while taking these selfies…