FOR ALL OF US, EVERY YEAR IS A MIX OF GOOD AND BAD. I hope that you looked back at your year, not wishing it was different but as an opportunity to move forward and make yourself better.
In 2017, I saw Grand Teton’s famous snow-capped peaks and Yellowstone’s buffalos, boils and bubbles. More than ever, I spent time with my Neri and Superal families. I cooked, read and worked out more. We travelled to Bohol, Batanes, US, Korea, Japan and China. But it wasn’t a perfect year – there were tears and hardships too.
In July, my husband Jovi and I got separated for almost 2 months because my family needed me. In November, we seriously asked ourselves when’s a good time to have kids. This year was particularly difficult for me at work. I learned that I’m extremely tolerant and good with time, but I also have blind spots in big-picture thinking and making decisions too fast. Here’s a look back at all the happy and sad memories in 2017:
2017 started with sad news: the project I was working on will have to end abruptly, and my sisters Princess and Ace will be leaving for the US as green card holders. After wiping a few tears, I went about my month focused on lifting weights in the gym and travel planning for the year.
As I was slowly wrapping up my tasks at work, I received happy news. I got invited to speak at the first ever Tech Ladies Meetup in Cebu to talk about how I got into marketing. My major in college, Multimedia Communications, was really what lead me to this path. I was nervous for the entire duration of the 15-minute speech, but I had a great time preparing and meeting the other ladies in tech like me.
Also in February, I signed up for my longest run ever (7 kilometres) for the SM to SM Marathon. I have many friends and a husband who are avid runners, so I felt like a beginner in their world. But running in the rain at 4:OO AM for 7km rain was not a joke!
March was a challenging and busy month for work, travel and my husband’s 8-day absence. Every year, Jovi the PAL Men’s Golf Championship. I’m always sad to see him go, but I’ve found ways to fill up his absence in the last couple years. One time, I travelled solo to beautiful Surigao, and this year, I updated all my Inbound Marketing certifications.
On the first week of March, Sierra arrived in Cebu. We got massages, pedicures and sampled Filipino food. With Jovi in tow, we spent a weekend in Bohol to see tarsiers and Alona Beach. I was so glad that despite the years, Sierra and I remained good friends and that 2017 was finally the year that she visited the Philippines.
With the end of my work project, came two big opportunities right after. I was sourced by a recruiter for a social media project and got hired to consult as Inbound Marketer. In March, I had to juggle three jobs (at one point) that I remember spending nights at a cafe just to finish my long to-do list.
Jovi and I travelled to Seoul, South Korea on the last week of March. What a trip! Within 4 days, we saw the Changdeukgung and Changgyeoggung palaces, visited DMZ and ate some of the world’s best street food at Myeongdong. If you’re ever visiting Seoul, check out the video above and my blog about things to see and do there.
I’m a big fan of birthdays, so April is always a special month as I turn 26 years old. As a pre-Holy Week and early birthday celebration, Jovi and I travelled to Batanes, the northernmost tip of the Philippines. Many Filipino dream of visiting Batanes, but many are put off by the price and how hard it is to get there. Batanes does not look like anything else in the Philippines – rolling hills, ‘Honesty’ stores, and having four seasons make it unique. If you ever dream of seeing Batanes, stay tuned for my next blog about how we got an affordable travel package there.
When we got back from Batanes, it’s already Maundy Thursday. Holy Week in the Philippines is always a very big deal – everything shuts down and families tend to travel or stay home. We usually spend Holy Week in Amara and I’m thrilled to have my sister Ace fly in for the week. This year, my 26th birthday landed on Easter Sunday. My family had dinner in Italian heirloom restaurant Trattoria Gianni, with a special appearance from Matteo De Guidicelli.
After Seoul and Bohol, we had to plan for another mammoth trip – the Neri family cruise. My in-laws brought the entire family (15 of us!) to a 5-day Royal Caribbean cruise from Shanghai, China to Kumamoto, Japan. I volunteered to handle all cruise registrations and help with the Chinese VISAS.
To take advantage of the trip, Jovi and I flew to Shanghai one day earlier than everyone else to see the Bund and the Shanghai Museum. That turns out to be one of the best decisions of the year! We saw some of the oldest artefacts of jade, porcelain and silk in the Shanghai Museum. And we rode the Maglev train, the first and fastest commercial train in the world. Stay tuned for my next blog about 24-hours in Shanghai.
The cruise was perfect – my in-laws, Nelia and Julius, spent a wonderful 51st anniversary onboard Quantum of the Seas and everyone enjoyed our bonding time. My family especially loved shopping in Yatsushiro, and some of us even got to do a side trip to the Kumamoto Castle. This deserves a blog post on its own, so I will write one soon. We hope that we can continue to do family trips like this in the future.
My mom asked me to fly to San Diego, California to help my sisters acclimate as new immigrants there. I thought this would be the perfect time for an extended trip, but I felt bad leaving Jovi for 6 weeks. This would be the longest separation we had since 2014. (Turns out, Jovi will end up losing 10 lbs. and be in the best shape of his life in my absence.) I spent most of June freelance writing, hiking, driving and caddying around Escondido and San Diego. Thinking of visiting San Diego soon? I highly recommend the San Diego Safari Park! Here’s a list of things to do and see there.
Every year, July is the highlight of our year because of the Callaway Junior World Championship, an annual golf tournament for elite junior golfers. Even if I don’t play that tournament anymore, I’ve been delegated as driver and caddy of my sister Ace.
Mid-July, me, my mom Grace and sister Ace went on a trip of a lifetime – to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park. We saw 500 buffalos, dozens of elk and moose and some of the best views of waterfalls and snow-capped mountains in the entire U.S. From San Diego, we flew to Salt Lake City, then drove through Jackson Hole to Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. Anyone who’s had any similar long drives with the family will attest to how fun this was. I’m so thankful for my Mom for this trip and for teaching me to be an adventurer!
After 6 long weeks in the US, I finally came home to Cebu. My husband has lost so much weight, we had to go shopping and alter his clothes. I’m so proud of him! He’s back to running and going to the gym again. It’s time to double down on my work again as I committed to a bigger role in the company where I was freelancing. I felt travel exhaustion, so Jovi and I cancelled any other trips for the year (even our fully-paid tickets to Clark, Pampanga).
I prepare for one big golf tournament at the end the year – the PAL Ladies Golf Championship, the biggest ladies golf team event in the country. It’s like going on a tournament with your closest friends and also be with other friends you rarely see. I’m so happy to have my sister Princess and best friend Inez fly in for the PAL tournament. On our free days, we would sneak out for dessert, lunch or a movie. To prepare for this tournament, I start my weight lifting two months prior and reach up to 88% max for deadlifts and squats. I play a whole lot more, too. This year, I didn’t finish the tournament well, but that’s just how golf is. We’ll try again next year!
October continues to be busy with the birthday of my husband, golf tournaments, and the annual Cebu Country Club Halloween party. On his 40th birthday, Jovi played golf with me and some friends who joined us for dinner at the Japanese restaurant, Kamakura. It was a night of memorable fresh soba noodles flown in from Japan, then served and cooked in front us.
As an ode to my time in San Francisco, I’ve taken the Halloween costume to a serious level. We join the Cebu Country Club Halloween costume contest every year. In 2016, I won as Wonder Woman. This year, I wanted to be Linda Blair from The Exorcist. My costume was so scary that I had to sleep with the lights on for so many days. At the party, I’ve never made so many kids cry. It was so great to share this experience with my best friend Jonathan, who not only flew in for Halloween but was also my partner priest.
November was a time for reflection and finally investing in a few procedures. Jovi and I seriously asked ourselves if we should have kids, but we’re just not ready yet. My husband is the most incredible, supportive person and I have to keep reminding myself how rare it is to be married to someone like that. Also this month, I’ve finally decided to pay for laser hair removal. Just imagine a future where you never have to bring any razor to any trip – that alone makes it worth the hassle and expenses for me. To prepare for 2018 travel, I volunteered to process my family’s Japanese and US VISAS. I’m so impressed with the US Embassy’s Interview Waiver Drop Box Program. If you’re a Filipino who wants to renew your US VISA, this is a must-read.
The only way to avoid traffic and jam-packed streets and malls in the Philippines during December is to do Christmas shopping early. Every year, we have a 30-person gift list. I started shopping for them 6 months ago, so our December was stress-free! Yet, this month is still always a whirlwind of parties and hosting friends and family. For some miracle, my sister Princess was in town, so she spent 9 wonderful days with us. Daizo, Ryoko and baby Ryusei, our friends from Tokyo visited Cebu for the first time in years. When I married Jovi, I didn’t expect a whole barangay of family and friends who would accept me and love each other so much. When my big family is being loud while eating and laughing, my simple happiness is knowing that I’ve helped organise the get-together in some way. December is always a reminder of that.
My goals for the year:
- To give away more free stuff for my readers (ebooks, itineraries, travel packing lists, etc)
- To learn more about Stoicism and do my daily journal. In November, I signed up for the Daily Stoic, a free daily newsletter about Stoic lessons. Stoicism was invented by the Greeks and perfected by the Romans – as a way to deal with everyday life. It’s the best thing I read every day
- To learn how to say no more often and be more “authentic”
- To take on a 30-day no shopping challenge. No shopping clothes, accessories, bags or shoes. The reason is that I already have too much stuff and I need to pull back
- To take on monthly 24-hour fasts. My goal is to calibrate my need to eat. I find that it really curbs my appetite for the next few days/ weeks
- We hope to go to Europe at the end of the year. I’ve been saving up for this! So far, we’ve already booked flights to Coron in March
- To eat more mindfully. I’ve always been an intuitive eater, but I could be better about eating when I’m not hungry
- To reach my goal of lifting 2x my body weight. That means I have to deadlift and squat 240 lbs. The reason is that I’ve hit a plateau and want to take my strength to the next level
About the Author
Crystal Neri is a Content and Social Media Marketer. She is a Hootsuite and Hubspot certified expert, covering travel, self-improvement and marketing trends. A graduate of Academy of Art University in San Francisco, Crystal currently works as a marketer in Cebu City, Philippines. Say Hi to her on Twitter (@nericrystal) and Instagram (@nericrystal).
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