Saturday, December 29, 2018

Goodbye 2018, Be Nice 2019

Counting down 1 day before we bid goodbye to 2018. It's the time of the year again to reflect and recap on the past year before work busy season rolls in right after the break. 

Honestly, work had been pretty s**tty this year. I don't usually complain about work and try to look at the positive aspects but I'm definitely feeling burned out this year. Reviews after reviews, deadlines after deadlines, loads of admin/metrics nonsense, losing team members, and for the first time in 8 years, I'm feeling overwhelmed with my workload. I guess with more money comes more s**t. 所谓的能者多劳, 者多忙。Looking on the bright side, I was able to work from home quite a good bit this year, perks of being a telecommuter. As for work travels, they were all 'confined' within the Southeast this year:
  • January - Raleigh
  • March & April - Atlanta
  • September - Orlando, Charlotte
  • October & November - Tampa

So happy to see these familiar faces again in Orlando after 4 years! From Penang to the US, we’ve all come a long way!

Took 3 trips covering 3 continents and 3 new countries this year - traveled home to Malaysia in May, camper-vanned around Iceland in June, and traveled to Fiji & New Zealand in Nov/Dec to celebrate our 5th anniversary. Thanks to points & miles, we didn't break the bank and I'm happy with the total 'damages' for all these trips:

Between pre-trip planning (including strategizing the use of points & miles), the actual travels, and updating the blog post-trip with trip and expense reports, I was able to keep myself busy throughout the year with travel stuffs, which I enjoy a lot. =) I should seriously consider being a travel!

Summary of my travels for 2018 (work+leisure):
  • Number of hotel nights - 69 nights (SPG/Marriott-48; Hilton-15; IHG-6) 
  • Number of hotels - 30 hotels (SPG/Marriott-17; Hilton-10; IHG-3) 
  • Number of flights - 58 flights (Delta-43; United-3, ANA-3; Alaska-2; AA-3, Fiji-2; Jetstar-1; Scoot-1) 
  • Number of airlines - 8 airlines (Delta, American Airlines, United, Alaska Airlines, ANA, Fiji Airways, Scoot, Jetstar) 

New Experiences
Few new experiences this year - went to my first Alabama football game, was interviewed on ChooseFI podcast, and became an aunt for the first time!


After 3 years of gardening, we decided not to do any gardening this year. It's been fun and fruitful, but it's time for a break.

The number of blog updates on this site has reduced to just quarterly updates and trip reports as I've been spending more time working on my other site.

Thank you 2018 for the travels (not work). I'm ready to move on to 2019. Hope that work will get a lil' better next year! Happy New Year 2019!!

Friday, December 28, 2018

South Pacific Anniversary Adventure ✈ San Francisco

Our 5th anniversary adventure brought us through 4 seasons and 2 new countries within 2 weeks. Started our trip hanging out with friends in San Francisco, followed by a relaxing getaway in Fiji, and ended the trip with a 10-day road trip across New Zealand. I'll share more about our adventures in the next few posts. Follow along!

Trip Planning

I've been eyeing Alaska's award sweet spot to travel to New Zealand and Fiji for awhile, but the actual planning for this trip started in January 2018 (10 months ahead) after booking our flights. We changed our flights multiple times (thanks to Alaska's old rules and schedule changes) and only finalized our final routes in September, but it all worked out.

Gotta stay organized when the trip involved 8 flights, 8 hotels, 3 rental cars, and 3 pre-booked activities. I would consider this trip a big 'points & miles' win. =) 

Before and after of our packing process. Ain't easy packing for 4 seasons but we managed to fit everything into two backpacks and kept everything organized with packing cubes. =) 

We intentionally selected the flight route with a long layover in San Francisco because hubby's best friend lives in San Jose and the last time they met was 3 years ago so this was a good opportunity for a quick catch up. Besides, it has been 12 years since I last visited San Francisco in 2006, so I was hoping to revisit. We were supposed to spend only 1 night in San Francisco but due to Alaska's flight schedule change, we managed to switch to the flight a day earlier, and spent one extra night in San Francisco. 

Nov 21 (Wed): Nashville - San Francisco

Due to Alaska's award redemption restriction (only 1 partner airline allowed), we had to fly Alaska Airlines for our domestic leg before connecting on Fiji Airways to Fiji. Alaska Airlines doesn't fly to/from our home airport so we had to depart from Nashville instead. Thanks to Dad for giving us a ride to Nashville airport on one of the busiest travel day of the year (day before Thanksgiving). 

Had dinner at the airport and had to pose with the Fiji water before we make it to Fiji for some 'real' Fiji water. =P

Our 5-hour flight from Nashville to San Francisco was a legacy Virgin America flight with the cool lighting. I was happy to find The Greatest Showman onboard as I've been wanting to watch this movie since I stumbled upon the soundtrack few months back.

Arrived San Francisco at 11.30pm (an hour delay). Thanks Kedar and Trupti for picking us up from the airport and hosting us at their brand new crib that they just moved in the weekend before we arrived. We were definitely honored to be their very first guest!

Nov 22 (Thurs): Thanksgiving in San Francisco

We were extremely lucky with our timing because the bay area was covered in smog for 2 weeks due to wildfires, and the rain cleared all the smog right before we arrived. We had clear blue skies and no rain, perfect for sightseeing!

Apparently it's a bad idea to eat out on Thanksgiving day. Everywhere we went was closed so we ended up having brunch at IHOP.

First stop - Lands Ends Lookout overlooking the ruins of Sutro Baths and the Pacific Ocean.

The park was a nice place for a stroll, offering great views of the ocean on one side and the Golden Gate Bridge to the other side.

Drove across the Golden Gate Bridge

Thanks Kedar for bringing us to Hawk Hill for spectacular bird's-eye view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the city. =)

Next stop...Ghirardelli Square for yummilicious desserts!

Walked to Fisherman's Wharf from Ghirardelli Square.

Freshly baked sourdough bread at Boudin Sourdough Bakery & Cafe. The bread smelt so good we decided to try some sandwich even though we were still full from the desserts.

Sea lions at Pier 39

Our last stop for the day...'rollercoaster' drive down Lombard Street, the crookedest street in the world. Ended the day with Thanksgiving dinner with Kedar and Trupti's friends and family.

Nov 23 (Fri): San Francisco - Los Angeles - Fiji

After a lazy morning, Kedar and Trupti brought us to Ramen Dojo for some amazing ramen. This was a small little restaurant but the ramen was so good, better than the ones we had at Ichiran in Japan. 

Quick photo stops at Facebook and Google before heading to the airport.

That's all for our 2-days in San Francisco. Even though it was a short visit, I think we did good catching up with friends, seeing all the touristy sights, and enjoyed some good food. Massive thanks to Kedar and Trupti for the great hospitality hosting us at their beautiful new home, treating us to good food, and bringing us all around San Francisco & San Jose!! 

Next destination...Fiji!!