2015 in review, 2016 travels, and a big announcement

A personal update on the year that was… and the BIG changes to come in 2016!

First off, Merry Christmas, friends! (And a very hearty “Happy Holidays!” if you don’t celebrate all that Santa and Jesus in a manger stuff.)

For the first time in 7 years, I didn’t travel for Noël. In 2009, I celebrated the holiday in Arusha, Tanzania, amongst the strangers-turned-friends in my safari tour group.  In 2010, 2011, and 2013 I flew to Berlin to spend it with Liebling and his family (and eat my weight in yummy German kuchen). And in 2012 and 2014, Christmas Day found me in Toronto with my very large, loud, and loveable family, doubled over in raucous laughter while reggae-fied Christmas carols blared from strategically placed speakers in my mom’s house.

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Awkward Christmas 2015 photo taken in front of the tree in the lobby of our apartment building

Instead, Liebling and I are spending a very quiet day at our apartment in New York City. After a hectic past few months of travel and other activity, we decided to keep our festivities low-key: we opted not to put up a tree and our only gifts to each other are… well, each other. We went out for a nice dinner last night in our neighbourhood and our plan today is to hit up the Rockefeller Center tree and the Top of the Rock observation deck if the skies remain clear.

Which brings me, then, to the purpose of this post. At the end of every year I like to share a recap of sorts– it forces me to enumerate and evaluate the experiences that I’ve had, what I’ve achieved, and, inevitably the promises I failed to make good on (oops!). I also like to give a sneak peek into what’s ahead in the coming year. So let’s get started, shall we? 

2015- The Year of YOLO

This year I made “You Only Live Once” my personal mantra.  I said “yes” more than I ever had before and stretched myself creatively, professionally, and socially. If you keep up with me on social media, you’ll know that this year I began to post more on my oft-neglected Instagram page (click here to follow my adventures in real time!) and continued to dabble a bit in vlogging (pleeeassseee give my Youtube channel some love by subscribing here!).

 

2015 was also the year I broke into the world of conferences and public speaking.  I was honoured to give a presentation about the art of storytelling at the Blogging While Brown Conference this past June, as well as participate in a panel about travel blogging at the Nomadness Alternative Conference in September. I happily fulfilled a number of interview requests from media outlets, even appearing on national television to discuss the best destinations for African-American travellers.

 

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On set filming an interview earlier on this week

I also continued to work with brands on various projects, most notably a campaign with heavy-hitter Toyota! They flew me out to L.A. where I, along with other a few other travel influencers, filmed a few commercials about our experiences on the open road. I love the way they turned out!

On the travel front, 2015 was one of the busiest years I’ve ever had: I travelled to over 40 cities… in 22 countries… on 4 different continents!  Admittedly, all this travel was greatly facilitated by all the time I had off: when I quit my teaching job in Hong Kong to move to New York City this past June I decided to *not* look for another job and instead take the next 6 months off.  The great news is that this self-imposed sabbatical allowed me to live out some of my travel fantasies. I finally got to visit Bolivia, return to Jamaica to see where my mom is from, and rock out in Brazil and Colombia with my best friends. I recently made a video chronicling where I’ve been this year, check it out if you haven’t already seen it!

2016 Goals

Vlog more and do more on-camera work. I’ve fallen in love with video and being in front of the camera! While it’s no surprise that an audiovisual medium naturally suits a chatterbox like me, I also like the idea of being able to more effectively show people what to expect when they travel to a particular place. Still images and words are great, of course, but moving pictures and sound paint a much more vivid picture, don’t you think? Sharing more of my adventures (and travel advice) through video is definitely on tap for 2016 so make sure to subscribe to my Youtube channel!

Do more solo travel. While I’m lucky to have a loving husband and amazing family and friends who are always up for an international adventure, I’d like to do at least a couple of trips on my own in 2016.  I miss the feeling of independence and freedom that come with travelling on one’s own; selfishly I want to plan and execute a trip without having to consider anyone else’s preferences or travel style.  I also feel like I meet way more people and have way more interesting encounters when I travel by myself, proof positive that travelling solo doesn’t mean being alone.

2016 Travels and The Year of “Getting My Life”

I’ve already coined 2016 as the year where I will continue to “get my life” by doing more of the things that I love, like travelling. As such, I’ve already confirmed a few trips for the beginning of 2016! For two weeks in February Liebling and I will be heading to South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Botswana, then over Easter we’ll be heading to Russia.  

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“Getting my life” next year is also about challenging myself to do things I’ve never thought possible so… I’ve gone ahead and signed up for a marathon! Why? Well, I’ve been super inspired by some of my runner friends lately and, after running 4 half-marathons I figured it was high time I get on the marathon train.  Ergo, I will be flying to Taiwan to run the New Taipei City Marathon in mid-March… Which gives me about 12 solid weeks to train. Am I crazy? Yes. Am I pumped? Totally!

And a big announcement…

Well, if you’ve been reading this blog long enough, you know that I always like to keep things interesting and that I never reeeeaally stay put for long. With this in mind, it may not come as a surprise that… I’m moving back to Hong Kong (temporarily)! Whaaaa?!?!

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Yup! I’ll be back in HKG for 6 months starting January 1, just as I was starting to settle into my new home of New York City. For those scratching their heads at this revelation, here’s the deal: a couple months ago, my former school contacted me to ask whether or not I would consider coming back to replace another teacher who had left. After a bit of back and forth, I decided to accept the offer, so the new year will find me in my beloved Hong Kong for a third go-round (I lived there from 2009-2011, then again from 2013-2015)!

Liebling will stay on at his job in New York City, which means we’ll be back to doing the long-distance thing. But, honestly, at this point we are old pros at LDRs and realize that the short term pain of being separated will result in long term gain as we work towards achieving some financial goals.  At any rate, I love Hong Kong and a number of my good friends still live there, so I’m really looking forward to going back! I’m planning on producing more Hong Kong content so you can get a feel for why I adore the place so much!

So there you have it, 2015 in review and a sneak peek at what my 2016 holds. What are some of the things you accomplished last year? What are some of the things you have planned for 2016? 

19 Comments

  • Lara says:

    I want to move back to Asia again, at least for a year.

    Congrats on the Toyota Ad.

    You had a pretty interesting year…and May 2016 bring more happiness and joy for you.

    • Dee says:

      Oneika. Your stories are fantastic and so inspiring. We have a very similar path it is incredible! I just came across your Blog and I am hooked. My name is Dee, I was born in Paris and my parents are from Martinique and Guadeloupe. I studied in the UK then became a French teacher. I taught in London, Egypt, The Bahamas and now Germany where I met my German hubby :-). I am 10 years older than you and the bug of travelling is still intense. Congratulations on moving back to HK! If must be worth it! It is in my list to visit! If you come to Germany, please let me know so we can meet. Take care and keep inspiring us! Dee.

    • Theresa Mack says:

      So happy you are back in Hong Kong! I will be graduating in December and dream about teaching there so I look forward to reading your posts. I also just joined a Facebook page – Black People in Hong Kong – so I will also be looking forward to their posts as well! Be well!!

  • Stacy Citizen says:

    Congrats! I’m doing more of saying yes in 2016 to the unknown and adventures. I would like to do another solo or two solo trips in the new year too. I did my first solo trip this year, well it’s been a while, to Brazil and I had an amazing time and met some great people that I remain in touch. I was laid off in October and it has been the best life changing moment for me. I am not rushing back to work and I have been taking an advantage of traveling and enjoying regrouping with myself!! Happy New Year to you and continue success!!

  • Tamara says:

    Wait! My favorite travel blogger is coming to Botswana?! You must let me show you the salt pans 🙂

  • Crystal says:

    I’ll be embarking on a solo travel journey in New Zealand! I’ll be there on a working holiday, which I’m over the moon about since this will be my first time living abroad for an extended period of time, but not travelling abroad.
    2016 is the year of following my dreams!

  • Lola says:

    Congratulations on a fabulous 2015 and an amazing 2016 ahead!!

  • Terri says:

    So sad we couldn’t keep you in NY. 🙂 Make sure you get to the Okavango Delta and travel by mokoro. Also I am so so sad that I didn’t get to see the dessert in Namibia. Please go there.

    Safe travels in 2016!

  • Jamie says:

    Congrats on everything! I can’t wait to see what you do in the year to come, you are inspiring me to travel more this year!!!

  • Adrienne Lee says:

    Love your 2015 recap and your zeal for experiencing so much of what the world has to offer. I wish you continued success as you continue to “get your life”. You GO girl!

  • So cool that you will be doing some African countries! Wow..back to Hongkong? The six months will hurtle on before you know it.have loved your 2015 adventures and I’m definately looking forward to your 2016!

  • Kristen says:

    Oneika! I really enjoy reading all about your travels! Before I moved abroad, you were one of the travel bloggers/vloggers who inspired me to travel overseas! Here I am, 3 years later, living and traveling abroad! So thank you for sharing your story and experiences! God bless and keep in touch!

  • Danielle says:

    You’re so inspiring! Loved following along with your journeys in 2015 and can’t wait to see your travels in 2016 🙂

  • Mdot says:

    Oneika,

    You’re an inspiration. I enjoy reading your blog and watching your journey. I truly wish you the best. Happy new year and go get yo life!

  • Kathy Oscar says:

    As always you continue to inspire me. I love reading about your travels. Congrats on going back to HK. I’m sure it will bring with it new adventures and new stories. Happy 2016. My goal this year is going to be the theme of saying Yes and getting back to doing the things that I love!

  • I Say Oui says:

    I’ve never visited Hong Kong but definitely want to in the future, so I look forward to reading your posts there!

  • Zuki says:

    I am so inspired! Thank you, for this. My thing has been to do major marathons around the world to combine my love for traveling with my running and hiking.
    Definitely going to do the Fish River Canyon hike in Namibia and still going to dream up more adventure packed travels.
    Thank you so much.

  • Bethany says:

    Hey! I just found your blog and am loving it. I am also a Canadian teaching in HK currently, although it is my first long-term stint away from my snowy home. Looking forward to following your adventures, and who knows… maybe we’ll run into each other in this crazy city!

  • Debra says:

    I was looking for bloggers who travel and look like me. So glad I found your blog. I have some catching up to do and I can’t wait to read about your new adventures.

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