It is almost 2017! That actually sounds terrifying to me, I remember when I was younger (way back when Pluto was still a planet for my younger readers) 2017 sounded like a year the Jetsons would live in when we’d all have flying cars and all that. Although I guess we’re not far off from things like that with driverless cars and delivery services for everything now. Anyway, it’s the end of the year so it makes sense to take a look back and see where I went and share lessons I learned along the way.
It started in California
So let’s go back to the beginning of the year. Personally and professionally things were changing pretty quickly as I had accepted a new position in my company that would move me to Singapore. But before we get to Asia, I took a trip with a good friend out to the San Francisco area where we explored Big Sur, Alcatraz, and a precarious cliffside photo spot in Sausalito.
Off to Asia
As part of my new role I ventured off to Asia to start getting the lay of the land of my new territory/continent. I spent two weeks traveling around Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Singapore. It was my first time doing business in Japan, which was…well let’s just say it was a bit different. But I got my legs underneath me and bowed at mostly appropriate times by the end of my stay there before venturing onto more familiar Hong Kong and Singapore.
On the tail end of my Asia trip I took a “quick hop” over to Dubai to meet up with some friends at Gulf Photo Plus. I got to experience Business Class on Qatar Airways new A350, which was a great experience, and also got a wonderful picture of the Burj Khalifa from my hotel room!
I returned from Asia with plans to start packing and setting a moving date around my birthday in April, even though I was a bit nervous about the move.
Mileage Runs to Asia
I wanted to make sure I locked in American Airlines Executive Platinum status through January 2018 so I needed to fly 100,000 elite-qualifying miles in 2016. My business trip to Asia definitely got things off to a good start, but I figured some mileage runs wouldn’t hurt. February and March are usually great for airfares to Asia and in February I managed to find a $460 roundtrip flight to Hong Kong from Chicago! It was way too quick of a trip but I used some systemwide upgrades to upgrade to business class so at least the flights didn’t kill me. It was during this first mileage run to Hong Kong where I took one of my favorite Hong Kong pictures ever!
March brought another mileage run, but this one had more of a purpose. Well, slightly. A company called Bluffworks got in touch with me and asked if I’d like to review their super awesome travel pants. Not wanting to do a typical “I wore these pants, I liked these pants, I’d buy these pants” review I instead found a dirt cheap flight to Hong Kong and Beijing and flew off to Asia yet again. I got some good pictures and climbed the Great Wall of China again, all in these pants. I put together two videos about the trip that I’ll insert below. All in all this was one of the first trips where I set out specifically to make a video and I began to appreciate just how hard videography is without a crew!
My flight back from Beijing was aboard American’s 787-8 in Business Class, which was an absolutely lovely journey.
In between all of these mileage runs I managed to grab some incredible pictures of bluebonnets in my lovely hometown of Dallas as well as a wonderful field of bluebonnets in nearby Ennis, Texas.
New York City
April brought some rough moments. First of all, and I never really posted much about this, but I’ll say it now: my move to Singapore fell through. It was one of the biggest shocks of my life, having committed to moving across the world only to find out a week before moving that it hadn’t worked out for some reason (we’re still not sure why). So that was a shock to the system, but a friend encouraged me to get my crap together and not let it get me down too much, so I tried to pick myself up as best I could and move on.
My sweet younger cousin received a devastating cancer diagnosis in December 2015: stage III ovarian cancer. It rocked our entire family. As she courageously took on chemo she displayed a strength that helped me and reminded me that all things happen for a reason. As part of her treatment she was scheduled for a highly complex surgery at Sloan Kettering in New York City. I was able to head up to NYC for a few days to be with my family and pray with everyone as she went off to surgery. I also had time for a stay at the new Park Hyatt New York, which was amazing.
I’m very happy to report that my cousin’s surgery was a massive success and it literally saved her life. She’s thriving and enjoying life and inspiring thousands with her story.
Looking back at the Singapore thing and the confusion and anger I felt when it fell through, I’m reminded that the moments I spent with my family in New York City are memories I will cherish for the rest of my life and I would not have been able to be there if the Singapore move had gone through.
Europe and my new all-time favorite picture
After things settled down at the office post-Singapore I ended up heading off to Europe to work with some prospects there to see if we could provide some value for them. I spent a few days in Paris and London before extending the trip for a quick trip to Italy. I did arrive a little early, however, so I could drive out to see an incredible place that was worth the journey, Mont-Saint-Michel.
My trip to Italy was pretty wonderful. I flew into Milan and then took a train south to Cinque Terre, where I captured two new all-time favorites in the village of Vernazza.
I finished off that trip in lovely Bellagio overlooking Lake Como.
Back to Asia
In a bit of an awkward trip I went back to Asia for work to do pretty much the same trip I did in January, only this time I wasn’t going to move there a few months afterward. I followed almost the same itinerary and hit up Tokyo, Singapore, and Hong Kong.
I put together a little informational video about the history of Singapore as well since I had some time to kill over the weekend.
Even when I was back home in Dallas I made it a habit to keep taking great pictures of my hometown too.
And then the travel sort of…stopped
After my Asia trip my big-time travel came to a bit of a halt, which was probably for the best (I was physically and emotionally exhausted). July consisted of some fun helicopter flights as well as a composite picture from the Addison Kaboomtown! celebration for the 4th of July.
August featured a return to Zion National Park to hike Angel’s Landing again. Most people would take their time and enjoy all the nature but I’m kind of a moron and did the entire trip from Dallas in one day. I did manage to capture an amazing sunset picture though where a bolt of lightning was in the left side of the frame while the amazing sunset was in the right.
Back to the skies for another inaugural
Lets fast-forward to October. Due to some gracious and sunny folks at American Airlines I was granted access for some once-in-a-lifetime shots of American’s new 787-9 aircraft on the tarmac at LAX after the inaugural domestic flight!
The interior, with its new business class seat, was very nice as well.
Dallas found its way into the blog yet again with the help of some new tilt-shift lenses.
Wrapping up the year with Canada and Mexico
It had been almost 6 months since I had traveled for work in November but I finally made my return to the road with a sudden trip to Toronto the week of the US Thanksgiving holiday. We worked hard and learned a lot, enough in fact to prompt a return visit in December.
My travel year ended in Mexico just last week. Some family friends invited me to join them at an incredible house they rented in Cabo San Lucas, where I saw some of the most amazing sunrises and sunsets ever!
That’s it for 2016!
I hope you’ve enjoyed my recap. Putting this post together reminds me how blessed I was to be able to travel the way that I do. Even through hard times there is a certain energy I get from traveling (to a certain point) and my appetite to see the world is as strong as ever. I don’t really know what 2017 will bring but I learned a massive lesson in 2016: no matter your circumstances you can always find the good in life but you might have to look harder than you ever thought possible.
Where did you go in 2016? Where was your favorite place? Tell me in the comments below!