16 places I traveled to in 2016

In terms of travel, 2015 was tough to beat. This year included traveling to Africa for work, planning a group trip to Peru, and returning to Paris on my annual another solo trip. A new job even led to a few opportunities for business travel. Five continents, seven countries, and 40 flights later, 2016 was quite an adventure.

1. Tokyo

“Hey mom, do you want to go to Japan in three days?” It was her first trip outside of the U.S. and Canada! We ate a lot of ramen and sushi as soon as we got there.

tokyo ramen

2. Kyoto

Beautiful temples, the bamboo park, Fushimi Inari Shrine, and my squad at the Arashiyama Monkey Park. Kyoto is my favorite city in Japan.

arashiyama bamboo park

arashiyama bamboo park

3. Hakone

Hello, Mount Fuji! What a view from the Shinkansen (Japanese bullet train) en route to Hakone’s hot springs.

mt. fuji - lesley siu

4. Chicago

Is your first trip to the windy city complete without this picture?

chicago - lesley siu

5. Honolulu

My annual trip to the homeland included a quick hike to Manoa Falls.

manoa falls - lesley siu

6. Malawi

A visit to the “warm heart of Africa” and fulfilling my professional goal of Snapchatting traveling abroad for work. Here’s the 5:30 a.m. sunrise at Lake Malawi.

lake malawi

7. Amsterdam

When you have a long layover here, you go into the city on a quest for stroopwafels.

amsterdam - lesley siu

8. Las Vegas

My favorite part was renting a car and driving out to Red Rock Canyon.

las vegas red rock canyon - places traveled 2016

9. Lima

The ceviche and sunshine make up for a terrifying non-taxi experience and having to purchase a new flight to Cusco (note to self: never fly Copa Airlines again).

lima peru - lesley siu

10. Cusco

We took a cooking class and made pisco sours, walked around the Maras salt mines, wandered through the markets, and met the best driver, César.

pisco sours - lesley siu

maras salt mines - lesley siu

11. Aguas Calientes

Pro tip: take the bus up to Machu Picchu. Always take the bus.

peru machu picchu -- places traveled 2016

12. New York

I always stop by Maison Kayser for a little taste of Paris, even on a 24-hour trip to NYC to shoot a video.

maison kayser new york - lesley siu

13. Paris

Then I actually went to Paris, because, you know… It’s Paris. Galeries Lafayette was dressed up for Christmas!

galeries lafayette - lesley siu

14. London

Crossed the Tower Bridge and another thing off my London bucket list.

london tower bridge - lesley siu

15. Oxford

I’ve missed the history and charm and studying in the UK.

oxford - lesley siu

16. Austin

A conference, UX class, and coffee at Dominican Joe.

dominican joe austin - lesley siu

 

Cheers to more adventures in 2017! Where should I go next?

15 places I traveled to in 2015

When work gives you extra vacation days, you take them. I was lucky to find affordable airfares and fortunate to have the flexibility to take time to travel. Six countries, two continents and 33 flights later, 2015 took me to some of my favorite destinations to date. My favorite trip? Solo traveling through Vietnam, where I perfected skills in dodging motorcycles, negotiating at markets and finding the best street food. It was a year of fulfilling travel adventures, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

1. Paris (twice)

The city I’ll travel to again and again and still be excited to return to every single time.

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2. Amsterdam

Wandering around the canals will never get old.

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3. Brussels

A city that feels like the European version of D.C. is even better at night.

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4. Ho Chi Minh City

A crazy and energizing city where it is 100 percent necessary to play Frogger in real life.

HCMC

5. Hoi An, Vietnam

My favorite place in Vietnam. Biking to An Bang Beach was a highlight of the trip.

Hoi An, Vietnam

6. Hanoi, Vietnam

A magical place where I discovered the French Quarter, Old Quarter, egg coffee and life-changing bun bo nam bo.

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7. Singapore

Clean and efficient, a bright city with a fascinating mix of cultures.

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8. Honolulu

Annual trip to the homeland.

ala moana

9. Haleiwa, Hawaii

Driving to the North Shore and around the island is one of my favorite things to do.

matsumoto shave ice

10. Charleston, South Carolina

The architecture. The history. The charm. The food!

charleston city market

11. London

Even in a quick 36-hour trip, there’s always time for tea.

tea in london

12. Reims, France

Santé to Veuve Clicquot for teaching me how to properly open a bottle of Champagne.

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13. Virginia

Just your average day trip to the vineyards with great friends.

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14. San Antonio, Texas

Congrats, grad!

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15. Washington, D.C.

Traveling and discovering new places within your city counts, too. There’s no place like home, right?

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2013: a year in review

paris - lesley siu

A year ago, I remember counting down to midnight and thinking, “2013 is going to be my year.”

And it was.

I accomplished a lot in 2013: graduating, spending months in Paris alone, trekking across Southeast Asia, starting a new job and moving to my first big-girl apartment. A year of milestones, for sure.

My favorite moments in 2013:

January
– returned to the homeland and went surfing in Hawaii

February
Her Campus American won the social media award for increasing its Facebook following by 30% in one week

March
– spent spring break in Jamaica
– presented to producers for MTV Insights in NYC

April
– hosted SELF Magazine’s first Workout on the Quad with Her Campus (and reached the #3 most page views in a week out of 200+ chapters!)
– wrote about why you should travel now for a Her Campus and Contiki partnership…and won a trip to Asia!

May
– graduated from college
– set 22 goals before my birthday

June
chased my dream of living in Paris
– concluded that fear is a choice

July
stepped out of my comfort zone
– celebrated Bastille Day in France
traveled to Prague

August
– completed a round trip to Amsterdam in 24 hours
– discovered Merci, my favorite store in Paris
– was mistaken for a Parisian
– took too many photos of the Eiffel Tower

September
rode an elephant in Laos and pet tigers in Thailand
– made a video about my summer in Paris
– wrote about my favorite coffee shops around the world

October
– switched to self-hosting my blog with WordPress.org (and still moving some photos over)
– wrote a guest post for Contiki about my trip to Asia
– had lots of quality bonding time with my dog (and celebrated Halloween with the party animal)

November
– got my first full-time job (!)

December
moved back to DC and into a new apartment
celebrated Christmas with my family

 

What an amazing year. I have to admit, changing my calendar makes me a little nervous. If a year could be that amazing, can 2014 really be better? The good thing is, I’m still optimistic about the future. I’m looking forward to turning strangers into friends, furthering my career, exploring different places and launching a side project. It can be my year again, right? Two for two. Let’s go.

day trip to amsterdam

Amsterdam canals - lesley siu

7 hours on a bus + 10 hours in Amsterdam + 7 hours on a bus = 24 hours in the life of a crazy solo traveler. I went to Amsterdam to see my friend Inge, who I met while studying abroad at the University of Glasgow in Scotland.

It all started with an overnight bus ride on the good ol’ Megabus. You see, Megabus and I have a complicated relationship. I love that I could get from DC to NYC without breaking the bank, but it was almost always delayed a few hours. This was my first time using it in Europe, so I was hoping for the best. Only $20 USD to get to Amsterdam? Sold. The catch? Seven hours on a crowded bus… overnight. I’ll deal.

The Megabus stop in Paris is at Porte Maillot Coach Park, near the Porte Maillot metro on line 1. My bus was scheduled to leave at 11:30 p.m., so I arrived around 10:45. I read that the metro had clear signs leading to the bus, but I think I exited from the wrong side of the station… I walked around like I knew where I was going, even though I had no idea. After a few minutes of following the signs to the airport shuttle, I found the bus. There was a handful of other frugal travelers waiting for the driver to open the doors, so I didn’t feel like it was too sketchy waiting in a dark parking lot.

I boarded the bus around 11:15, and we promptly left at 11:30. The overnight ride wasn’t bad at all. If you can sleep on a bus like I can, it’s definitely a good option to travel and save money. We arrived in Amsterdam around 6:20 a.m., 20 minutes earlier than expected. To get to the city, I got on a tram to the train station. The bus stop is conveniently located next to the tram, and the one to the city is the only one that stops there.

I met Inge and her friend Lotte at the train station around 8. We walked around the city, which was so quiet early in the morning.

amsterdam - dam square - lesley siuThe Royal Palace in Dam Square

We went on a boat tour of the canals, stopped for lunch, then went on the free walking tour. The canals are beautiful!

amsterdam boat tour canals

amsterdam canals

amsterdam

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dam square - amsterdamNational Monument on Dam Square

amsterdam canals

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amsterdam canal tour - lesley siu

I amsterdam

park RijksmuseumPark by the Rijksmuseum

I wanted to eat Dutch food for lunch. Inge and Lotte insisted that I try the pancake with bacon and cheese. They said whenever they make pancakes, they always eat them with bacon and cheese! It is served with syrup—Buddy the Elf would be proud. So good, yet so bad (for my health).

dutch pancake bacon cheese

They also bought me stroopwafels to take home. Stroopwafels are two thin waffles with caramel in between. I dream about these.

stroopwafels amsterdam

Before I knew it, it was time to catch the 5:00 p.m. iDBUS back to Paris. At 50€, it’s less crowded and much more expensive than Megabus, but it runs much more frequently. It’s more comfortable than Megabus, but I wouldn’t say it’s worth the extra money. It’s also further out from the city center—about 30 minutes walking from the Rijksmuseum.

idbus

IMG_7273Passing through the Dutch countryside

I arrived at the Bercy station in Paris around 11:30 p.m. (also 30 minutes earlier than expected), and took the metro home. The bus stop is about a 5-minute walk from the metro, but it was also a little sketchy difficult to find in the dark… I made it home around 12:30. It was an exhausting day of traveling, but I’m glad I got to see the beautiful city of Amsterdam.