2018 is in the books and (as I say every year), this year has been yet for my personal growth, goals and travels.
In 2018, Deanna and I stepped foot on our 7th continent together (Africa!). We made Bangkok our new home base and we successfully held our first group trip. I cracked both 1 and 2 million social media followers and 500 million overall video views. I hired a full time cinematographer, Michael, who has taken my video production to a whole new level.
Through this year, I visited 41 countries. 35 of them were for the first time including 24 countries in Africa – almost half of the continent.
If you are a visual person, here is a map of my exact travels throughout the 365 days in 2018.
I will forever remember 2018 as the year of Africa as I had so many amazing memories and moments from Ethiopia to Somaliland to Rwanda and everywhere in between.
The following are my Top 10 experiences of 2018:
1. Isfahan, Iran
I cannot tell you how much I love Iran after spending 2 weeks there. It’s easily most misconceived country in the world and one of my absolute favorites. The most enjoyable city for me was Isfahan, home to the world’s second biggest city square and amazing architecture! Iranians are some of the most hospitable, friendly and kind people that you will ever meet and I’m already looking forward to my next trip there!
Another underrated country is Somalia, which I visited the sovereign north state of Somaliland for 5 days at the beginning of 2018. Going in, I was very nervous as the media says nothing good about Somalia, but I had a very safe and exciting trip! The capital of Hargeisa was filled with life, markets, and delicious food. The best part overall was the camel market and visiting a UNESCO site called Las Geel which is old rock carvings. A remarkable place, indeed
3. Omo Valley
In Ethiopia, I went to the Omo valley in the south western part of the country to visit the most remote tribes in Africa (and maybe in the world). Tens of thousands of people are living just like humans lived tens of thousands of years ago, and it was surreal to witness. The nomadic Mursi tribe was most fascinating with their giant pierced lip plates and over-the-top feathered headwear. It was a special experience to walk through their local markets, witness their traditional dances and see how they eat and interact. I hope to be back there again soon.
4. Uganda Primates
In Uganda, I visited both the mountain gorillas (who are only native to Uganda/DRC/Rwanda) and then the following day, pwe visited the chimpanzees in their natural habitat about 8 hours North in a different national park. The chimps were most human like, as they scream and jump around the trees. Despite the steep prices ($2K total just for the permits), I highly recommend going!
5. Syrian Refugee Camp
While in Lebanon 2 months ago, I wanted to visit some of the millions of Syrian refugees who escaped war to settle over the border. I was nervous to go inside, but then quickly settled in as the people are so welcome. I was invited into their homes with tea, coffee and smiles as I interviewed various families her their escape stories. They are such humble people and I can’t wait to go to Syria soon.
6. Maldives Bday
For my 27th birthday, Deanna and i had an amazing time in the Maldives. We first stayed on a resort island, but then I wanted to see the local life which not many people get to experience, so we headed to Maafushi island and it was a totally different experience of the Maldives than you may imagine. We were there during Ramadan, and despite most things being closed, I enjoyed spending it with my local friends and their families!
7. Bhutan Tiger’s Nest
Bhutan surprised me in many ways, such as their initiative to protect the environment, beautiful Buddhist shrines and pagodas and the unbelievably warm people whom I met. But nothing was more impressive than the 7 hour hike to Tiger’s Nest – that giant monastery built on the side of a cliff. I’m sure you’ve seen the photos, but no photos can do justice by how spiritual the entire experience is!
8. Gabon Iboga Initiation
In the Central African nation of Gabon, I did an initiation for iboga – the psychedelic drugs that’s found only in tree bark in Gabon, Cameroon and Central Africa Republic. I didn’t consume enough to feel any effect (only ate 1 stick and 8 sticks makes you trip), but I did all the rituals and it was out of this world incredible.
9. Namibian Road Trip
Overall, I think Namibia is my favorite country in Africa. It’s a place where glistening sand dunes meet with ocean. Wildlife is everywhere and so are nomadic tribes. I spent an afternoon with the Himba people, learning about their way of life. They do not wear clothes and their diet consists of goat and antelope that they kill in the bush. I love meeting nomadic tribes and learning about their way of life. In fact, we connected so much that they invited me to spend the night in their huts which I respectfully declined.
10. Mauritius Nature
We spent 9 days in this island nation off the southeastern coast of Africa, and the nature was breathtaking. High Waterfalls, rocky mountains, lush greenery, perfect beaches and scuba diving. It’s pretty much a perfect island, across the board, and I highly recommend it! It’s also the only Hindu-majority country in Africa and I enjoyed visited the various Hindu temples around town.
Looking back, 2018 was really an awesome year all around and I’m sad that it’s already over. I hope you guys can see the common theme from my highlights that all human beings are kind and hospitable. Even when I travel to the farthest places away from home, I am constantly surprised and humbled by the people I meet.
I want to extend an EXTRA THANK YOU FOR reading my blog and watching my videos! 2019 will hopefully be the year that I’ll finish all the countries on the world. The best is yet to come!
Places visited in 2018 in order
MANILA – ZANZIBAR – DAR – JO BURG – TULI GAME RESERVE – KRUGER – JO BURG – LESOTHO – JOBURG – SWAZILAND – MAPUTO – VIC FALLS – LIVINGSTONE – LUSAKA – LILONGWE – NKHOTAKOTA – LILONGWE – NAIROBI – KISUMU – NAKURU – NAIROBI – KIGALI – ENTEBBE – BWINDI – KIBALE – KAMPALA – ENTEBBE – ADDIS – ARBA MICH – JINKA – ADDIS – DJIBOUTI – ADDIS – HARGEISA – DAARBUDUQ – BERBERA – HARGEISA – DUBAI – SEOUL – LA – PHOENIX – ANTELOPE – ZION – EL PASO – PINK STORE – PALOMAS – EL PASO – DALLAS – ENGLEWOOD, FT MYERS, NAPLES, MIAMI, HILTON HEAD, NYC, DC, AZ, MANILA, PORT MORESBY, PINU, DILI, BALI, MANILA, SIEM REAP, MALE, KURUMBA, TEHRAN, YAZD, KERMAN, SHIRAZ, ISFAHAN, ABYANEH, TEHRAN, PORT LOUIS, VICTORIA, BANGKOK, THIMPU, PARO, BANGKOK, KUALA LUMPUR, ANTANARARIVO, DIDY, MORONI, WINDHOEK, SOLITARE, SWAKOPMUND, STOSHA, WINDHOEK, LUANDA, SAO TOME, LIBREVILLE, DOUALA, BUEA, MALABO, NDJAMENA, LOME, BAMAKO, NOUAKCHOTT, BEIRUT, BYBLOS, BAALBEK, BANGKOK, CHIANG MAI, CHIANG RAI, LAMPANG, NAN, BANGKOK, TBILISI, KUTAISI, BATUMI, TBILISI, JAKARTA, BANGKOK, MANILA, BAGUIO, ZAMBOANGA, HONG KONG, BALI, UBUD, PHUKET, BANGKOK