Let’s cut to the chase for this blog post — I’m actually thankful you actually want to read what I’m about to write here. This post is to both review my past year as well as force myself to create some small but conquerable resolutions that I can effectively hold myself accountable to.
Countries Visited: 7 (8?)
Cities Visited: 16
January: Seoul - Hong Kong - Shenzhen - Toronto
January is usually a glorious month of traveling and work for me, because I usually take this time off from my usual grind to go get some real KFC; Korean Fried Chicken that is. This was my 3rd trip to Seoul, and I usually meet up with my friend Jon to explore the hidden corners of Seoul. Do you know what happens when 2 Canadians, 2 Americans and an Iranian walk into a bar? Nothing, they just have a great time getting drunk and eating fried chicken; a national Korean past-time I might add. I also got to meet up with my friend Jessica who was in Korea learning French cuisine. She’s French-Canadian-ish; don’t ask. Check out more of Jon’s stuff here.
On this trip, I also got to go to North Korea for the second time; through some strange technicality. I blame it on Westphalia rearing its ugly head from 400 years ago.
I also decided to make a day trip to the Canadian War Monument in Kapyong, South Korea, now spelled Gapyeong. Those that want to read more can read about it here. As I’m writing this on the plane en route to Seoul for my 4th trip, I’ve forgotten to bring my buddies flag for the 2nd time. Perhaps a third time’s a charm? Sorry Eric. Side note, the restaurant beside the Monument is amazing. Food is great and English is non-existent; perfect for those moments when you don’t speak Korean either.
For me, Korea always feels like a pilgrimage for me, where I start the year strong with something exciting and different, which helps set the stage for the rest of the year. Seoul, I can’t wait to see your beautiful face soon.
Hong Kong - Shenzhen - Hong Kong
Hong Kong was the first place I travelled to outside of North America. This was my 5th trip to Hong Kong and I wasn’t going to let it go to waste. My first stop was to check out the infamous mansions at Quarry Bay, where they had filmed parts of the Transformers movie (I can’t remember which one), and try to find some new looks.
After a few days in Hong Kong I took a short trip up to Shenzhen because the Marketing Team from OnePlus had extended an invitation to visit. Since it was only 30 minutes away; why not? They were gracious enough to give me some free product; so I rooftopped their building in return.
After that, I roamed around Shenzhen aimlessly amazed at what I saw of the city. It felt like a cross between the density of Hong Kong architecture but with the same spaciousness that you would find in car-heavy American city like Miami. I am also one of those select few chosen ones that can not speak mandarin, barely read or write in Chinese, and overly reliant on Google services like Google translate; which is to say I was the most foreign Chinese person that Shenzhen people had met that day. Being in this strangely familiar yet very foreign environment really amped up the sense of adventure Shenzhen had on me. I also had to use Bing as well, which added to the confusion and frustration while I was there.
After my short 24 hour trip in Shenzhen, I headed back down to Hong Kong to meet up with some old friends I hadn’t seen in awhile as well as some new ones and roam the high side and the low sides of HK.
I ended my last night in Hong Kong scouring the streets for this mysterious McDonald’s Wasabi dipping sauce. It took 3 hours and 7 McDonald’s, but I found the promised land and emptied their stocks. The trip was coming to a close, and I had to go back to work in Canada.
February & March
February and March were fairly bland months for me working an office job. However in mid-March, I was fortunate enough to see the Northern Lights in southern Ontario. This was my 4th time seeing them in my life and the first time in Ontario.
In late March, I decided to test the flying powers of my DJI Phantom 2 over the frozen lake. At the time, I wanted to capture a lot foreground movement by flying low to the frozen lake so it would seem like a Star Wars scene in Hoth. In actuality, I ended up just flying too low and crashing it into the ice. The following day, a friend and I trekked out 1 KM out to the frozen lake to retrieve it; I bought him steak for dinner that night for his troubles. After a week of the Phantom sitting in a bag of rice, it flies with zero problems. Oh yeah, don’t walk on a frozen lake while it’s melting; it’s just bad form.
New York, New York and Toronto
New York, New York, it’s so bad that they had to name it twice. New York City, much like Seoul, has been a bit of a pilgrimage for me where I’ve been returning probably 3x a year. I go because it has the some of the best food (read: $1 pizza), and it’s always an amazing experience to meet up with like-minded photographers to just head out and shoot.
May was a slow month for me of just working at the office and grinding the hours in. You know the saying: no money; no honey. The Street Dreams Mag crew was also in town for the Issue 006 release, so I got to meet up with my friend @insighting and @leydiana.s and we decided to enjoy the summer sunset in Toronto.
Toronto & Banff
June was a strange month for me insofar as it was another month of grinding in the office, up until I got a surprising e-mail e-mail through my Contact Me page to work on a video project for both Banff and Lake Louise Tourism and Tourism Calgary. That was definitely one of the bigger highlights of my summer. I’d like to thank Karen for the opportunity, as well as @SashaExeter, @MeghanYuriYoung and @ThisRenegadeLove for the amazing time, and @DanielShoesmith for holding down the audio and video piece.
Toronto + Jamaica + NYC
The first half of July was the usual office grind prior to my trip for Jamaica; nothing special. Jamaica was completely different from what I envisioned. I had grown up in the unofficial Little Jamaica in East Scarborough, but physically being in Jamaica was unbelievable, insofar as the amazing food, the kind people, and the attitude of taking things one step at a time.
Following my vacation in Jamaica, I hopped on a Megabus that night upon arrival to go to the OnePlus 2 Pop-Up Shop in Times Square, NYC. OnePlus Co-Founder Carl Pei was on site autographing people’s devices (he’s a classy CEO), with Helen and Bridget providing his back up during the amazingly successful event.
NYC + Toronto
Only the beginning of August had anything particularly interesting, with me wrapping up my weekend trip in NYC, I just continued shooting the city and met up with some friends to spend my last 24 hours with. The rest of the month in Toronto was uneventful; just work and getting ready to leave for work in the Netherlands for the month.
Toronto + Netherlands
Netherlands was a country too clean and beautiful for my liking. The architecture was spotless and immaculate, everything I loved about New York City (aka New Amsterdam), was here but not there. The grime was seriously lacking, the graffiti non-existent, and the mass transit was efficient and timely. Not truly complaint worthy, but I wanted to point it out nonetheless. Regrettably, I only had time to really see North and South Holland, and never got a chance to check out the rest of the country. That is definitely on the bucket list for the following visit.
Toronto + New York City + Toronto
The highlight was still NYC here. Toronto was mostly spent on working in the office to make sure bills were paid, and to be sure I can thrive in NYC.
I also met up with my friend Joanne Wong to explore around NYC. I was fortunate enough to go during Open House New York (OHNY), and was able to see some pretty amazing things to include both the Brooklyn Army Terminal and the now being re-purposed JFK Terminal 5 (?). It was one of the few times where my trip was finally more photo focused than video focused, and was able to recapture some great moments.
Simply stayed in the city and grinded in the office; nothing out of the ordinary.
Toronto + Washington DC + Savannah GA + Miami FL + Atlanta GA
My time in Toronto for the remainder of the year was thankfully running short. I was getting ready to step on a mini-USA road trip that would take me through Washington DC, Savannah GA, Miami FL, Atlanta GA, and eventually home.
I loved Washington DC for the architecture, Savannah for its amazing barbecue and Southern hospitality, Miami for it’s amazing space-age architecture, and Atlanta for it’s fog and delicious barbecue.
New Years Resolutions