Since my birthday rolls around every September, it’s long remained as a month of reflection upon past experiences in various countries, and I often think about how I’d like to keep evolving as a participant in this magnificent world. Since I turn 35 on this Founder’s Note, I’d like to think back and treasure 35 things I’ve learned in 35 countries. Here it goes…
1. Kismaros, Hungary – The best night can happen in a 2,000-people village, and dancing all night long at a local restaurant.
2. Sintra, Portugal – Solo travel, especially after a major breakup, is incredibly healing.
3. Prague, Czech Republic – When you drink a little too much, your girlfriend will make sure you get your McDonald’s at the end of the night and not judge when you wake up with fries in your hair. #SoSexy
4. Tehran, Iran – To be an Asian is to create Beatlemania, according to Iranian school girls.
5. London, England – It takes more than a few trips to start seeing a city with a whole new set of eyes, and to REALLY love it.
6. Paris, France – It’s totally normal to end the night in a strip club watching your friend learn how to pole dance.
7. Kenya – Global warming is a serious threat and precious animals are suffering caused by our conveniences.
8. Ethiopia – Some airports make the most unexpected and the best shopping experience.
9. St. Petersburg, Russia – There are places in the world just as beautiful as Paris.
10. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico – The scar on my knee will never go away, but it’s a constant reminder of how much fun I had during Spring Break 2002.
11. Varanasi, India – Extreme poverty exists, and it’s a reminder of how lucky I am having enough food to consume on a daily basis. One apple is a gift to a starving child.
12. Iguazu Falls, Argentina – The extravagance of nature can move me to tears.
13. Bangkok, Thailand – Dress appropriately in religious monuments. No exceptions!
14. Shanghai, China – The ability to speak fluently in both English and Mandarin definitely pays off. Then, use Taiwanese or French as the secret language that no one else around will understand.
15. Tokyo, Japan – Pay attention not to what’s being said, but what’s not being said.
16. New York, USA – When Hurricane Sandy hits, you can still indulge in amazing frrrozen hot chocolates at Serendipity 3 with a great friend, then sip on champagne at Le Cirque.
17. Johannesburg, South Africa – When your world is falling apart back home, your family will always be right by your side to love with infinite support.
18. Kenitra, Morocco – Surfing is hard, but so fun!
19. Luxor, Egypt – Riding a camel is NOT like swimming, regardless of what your guide might say.
20. Brussels, Belgium – Best.Beer.In.The.World.
21. Zermatt, Switzerland – It’s still a place worth visiting if you don’t ski. Just stick to fondue and beer.
22. Lima, Peru – It’s okay to be a hermit at your hotel as long as the bar serves ridiculously delicious pisco sours.
23. Taipei, Taiwan – Home will always be home.
24. Siem Reap, Cambodia – As much as you’re tempted to adopt a child when you enter an orphanage, realize that not everybody can be Angelina Jolie.
25. Brisbane, Australia – Nude beaches are made for people who probably should think twice about going nude. Hence, I kept my clothes on.
26. Toronto, Canada – Ice skating and roller skating are two very different things, and don’t try to learn it the hard way.
27. Vienna, Austria – Where I took nerdy pride in being a classical music geek.
28. Athens, Greece – When revisiting a city where your mother has the funniest memory as a single woman back in the day will forever live in you.
29. Venice, Italy – How can pizza from stands on the side of streets taste so damn good?
30. Seoul, South Korea – Shopping + Korean BBQ x 3 days = Bliss.
31. Dubai, UAE – Morning swims at Burj al Arab’s sky pool is just as miraculous as swimming in Arabian Sea outside of Burj al Arab.
32. Thimphu, Bhutan – To live spiritually is the essence of who I am which is defined by Buddhism.
33. Amsterdam, the Netherlands – Sister trips are so good for the soul. Accompanied by endless inside jokes.
34. Bali, Indonesia – The first time my parents took my sister and I on an international trip. Although my future children will probably follow the same tradition, I will never put white swim caps on them in a public beach. Major fashion foul.
35. Kathmandu, Nepal – If we had gone there two months later, we would never have seen all the World Heritage Sites that were destroyed during the 2015 earthquake. I learned that we never know what will happen tomorrow, and each present experience is here to teach us how to live more sensibly and wisely.