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Here we are again… looking over our sunglasses at the year that was!
Can’t believe it is time again for the annual blogging Year in Review. In the past 12 months, I made it to some of my dream destinations and landmarks. These include India (Taj Mahal), Romania (Dracula’s Castle), Switzerland (HR Giger museum and bar) … and we mustn’t forget our pilgrimage to the Amsterdam Miffy store!
But before the retrospective… let’s look ahead to my upcoming travels in January 2018. Can’t wait to escape the winter by heading to three new countries: Cuba, Panama, and Dominican Republic!
I’ll be spitting time between relaxing on Caribbean beaches, and investigating the local culture. Get ready for stories about Havana vintage cars and Santeria rituals. As always, if you have travel tips for me (Havana, Punta Cana, Santo Domingo, Panama City), please leave me a comment or message.
2017 was a meaningful year, as it was my 10th anniversary of blogging! I can’t believe I’ve been at this for a decade now.
We’ve come a long way since the site’s original focus on Japan and Gothic Lolita. In fact, I didn’t step foot in Tokyo at all this year. Although I adore Japan and still get inspired by every visit, the subculture scene isn’t what it used to be.
But there’s a whole world out there to discover. This past year, I continued to partner with travel companies and tourism boards, which let me visit new destinations worldwide (including off-the-beaten-path places like Romania, above).
Crazy enough, I’ve been to over 60 countries by now. Still pinching myself that blogs and the Internet have let me live this life.
Other milestones include being interviewed for the BBC’s radio documentary about Goths, and winning the Best Blogger of the Year award from Auxiliary (as well as being on their magazine cover). Once again, a huge thank you to all of you who voted for me, and for your continuous support. Every comment, share and like makes a difference to me.
At the start of 2017, my friends and I were saddened to say farewell to Rose, who had long been fighting gastroparesis and complications brought on by undiagnosed Lyme disease. Many of you got to know Rose through our early adventures on this blog, and her spirit made an impact on everyone she met.
There’s a tribute to Rose here, which includes our boat trip to Sechelt, BC for her last hurrah.
I finally hunkered down and completed my apartment decor project, which I unveiled in my house tour. I was happy to hear your kind feedback on my interior design, which is inspired by Zen minimalism, mid-century modern and kawaii. (And yes, it’s always this clean and sparse… death to clutter!)
Since I’m a Miffy fan, I included a lot of the minimal Dutch bunny in my apartment. It was fitting that my next was to her home country…
The Netherlands! It was great to return to Amsterdam after many years, thanks to an invitation from the tourism bureau. I had come here over 10 years ago, but when I was a less experienced traveler, I stuck to the tourist landmarks.
This time around, I sought out the artistic, off-the-beaten-path districts including Noord (above, the EBM music A’Dam tower) and De Pijp. I also made it to the Miffy / Nijntje store, and Mr. Maria’s lamp studio. If you missed these Holland blog posts, find them here.
And then… Acropolis Now. I partnered with Visit Greece to showcase both the ancient and modern sides of Athens. This photo by Joey Wong is one of my favorites from this trip, since it captures the “Athena the Greek goddess” feeling of being here.
After, it was time for some sunshine in Santorini, Greece. There’s nothing like staying in a classic white villa, with a private swimming pool and patio.
We went sailing around the islands, and witnessed the magnificent sunset in Oia. I wore blue to match the waves at Perissa Beach in Santorini.
This year, I had the good fortune of meeting up with friends from over the years, in various places. I made it to Austin, Texas for the first time — I was keen to check out the alternative sights in Texas’ most liberal city. “Weird Austin” did not disappoint, with gems like Satanic karaoke and floppy disk bars.
Yukiro and I had long dreamed of making a “Passage to India.” This summer, we toured Delhi and Rajasthan in style (would you expect anything less from us?) Seeing the Taj Mahal was one of my favorite memories of the past year.
India is an onslaught for the senses, and we adored it. We got to meet hijira (the third recognized gender in India), dress in saris for the first time, see cremations on the banks of the Ganges, and take care of elephants at an ethical sanctuary in Jaipur.
All these stories can be found here, under the India category.
Yukiro and I also journeyed to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (crazy that I’ve been to most countries in Asia by now). Can’t complain about the pool and spa at the Ritz-Carlton KL.
We also enjoyed sipping dragonfruit cocktails and drawing pentagrams in the sand, in Langkawi Malaysia. All our adventures in Malaysia are compiled here.
I ended up spending more time in the US this year. It’s always fun to return to NYC…
… and see the Magic Gardens and Mutter Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Right before Halloween, I was invited to Experience Bucharest, Romania (click for all stories). The land of Dracula and vampire lore was on my bucket list — and it was as dark and delicious as I hoped! (Above, I’m wearing Moitie and Peace Now inside Bellu Cemetery).
It was an honor to speak at the event for travel bloggers, influencers and media / tourism.
2017 was one hell of a year for Halloween. I reunited with friends in London, England; we haunted Highgate, saw The Exorcist play at the West End, and made an obligatory pit-stop at Cyberdog in Camden Market (above).
As an Alien fan, I couldn’t resist making a side-trip to Switzerland… to see the H.R. Giger bar and museum in Gruyeres! I haven’t released these photos yet, but above is a synthwave space-jacket outfit from Montreux.
I leave you with some bonus Xmas / holiday snaps from last year in Hong Kong. I bit into Frosty and Rudolph at Yum Cha, the cute dim sum restaurant.
At Yum Cha cafe in Hong Kong, you can order smiley-faced animal buns and other adorable “kawaii” decorated food.
And how cute are these Chinese Hello Kitty plush dolls, which look like daruma? These round, lucky figures are objects for goal-setting — a great way to prime yourself for the New Year.
Here’s to a soaring, successful 2018! Let’s all dream big, and make it happen in 2018.
As for me, I’m getting ready to fly to Havana Cuba, Panama and Dominican Republic! Let me know if you have travel tips for these places. I’ve also updated my Travel Destinations page (everything is listed by region and country). You can easily find all my travel guides / stories about each place I visited, such as Japan, Korea, Morocco, Iceland, Vietnam.
More by Morph8ne Clothing below, or click here to shop.
What were your favorite moments of 2017? Despite what my Long Clothing sweatshirt says… let’s make it a happy New Year!
Wow, 2016 went by fast! Can’t believe it is already time for my annual year-end reflection. Let’s whip out the “member-berries,” and muse about my favorite moments of the past 12 months.
I traveled to 15 countries this year, a personal record that takes the grand total to about 60. I made it to some of my dream destinations (New Zealand, Istanbul, Myanmar) and appeared on TV shows for NBC and Travel Channel.
“Member” my 2015 summary? (“Yeah, I member.”) Looking back, 2016 built upon those goals, and took everything up a few notches.
“Let’s start at the very beginning / A very good place to start.” Yukiro and I flew to NYC at the tail end of 2015, and celebrated New Years Eve with our friends, in full Gothic fabulosity. While in New York, we also made “field trips” to the Morbid Anatomy museum, Lovecraft bar, and more.
♥ New York City, NY – find all my adventures from over the years in the Big Apple.
Next, we escaped the cold in Riviera Maya and Tulum, Mexico. Of course, we dove into the spooky side of Mexican culture: Day of the Dead skull art, and Mayan pyramids where human sacrifices took place.
♥ Mexico – see our stories here, along with more photos of Chichen Itza.
Soon after, I was honored to be invited to attend the World Tourism Forum. The journey began in Los Angeles, where I reunited with friends and got my fangs on (rolling around Bela Lugosi’s grave, and drinking blood wine at a vampire lounge and ball).
♥ Los Angeles, California – I’ve been blogging about LA’s Goth and alternative scene for years, right here.
Then I flew to Istanbul, Turkey, and soared over the Sultanahmet district (the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia are beneath my wings). I’ve been longing to see “Constantinople” for years, and was happy that I reached this goal. With the world changing so quickly, it’s more important than ever to travel now.
♥ All my Turkey (Istanbul) travel stories, focusing on the art and culture of the city.
We filmed with Brussels and Wallonia Tourism right after, capturing the art and carnival culture. This was right after the death of David Bowie, and two weeks before the Molenbeek terrorist attack…. Travel safely and intelligently, and do it while you can. Who knows when the zombie apocalypse will come.
See all my Brussels, Belgium blogs.
Next, I got to hang out with Hobbits in New Zealand! Contiki Asia reached out to me, and I partnered with them on a showcase of their New Zealand North Island tour. What a magnificent country, filled with natural wonders like the mangrove trees of Paihia, and blue glowworms in the caves of Waitomo. And let’s not forget my photoshoot in the Lord of the Rings movie set.
♥ Enjoy all my New Zealand (Auckland and North Island) adventures.
Life is short, and you never know when you’ll return somewhere, or have an opportunity window… With that in mind, I hopped over to Sydney, Australia for the first time. I only got a taste, but I’m keen to see more of Down Under.
I applied this same philosophy to my next journey. I wrangled a 24 hour stopover in the Netherlands — which was enough for me to visit the Miffy Museum in Utrecht! I’m mad about the Dutch bunny, and this was my chance to “get my Miffy on.”
It doesn’t matter how nonsensical or bizarre your passions / interests / quests are. Make them happen, now.
I confess that Slovenia was never on my bucket list — but I’m all for saying Yes, and discovering something new. This little country turned out to be one of my favorite destinations of the year. My team and I fell in love with the creative food, kind locals, fairy tale castles…
♥ Read my guides to Surprising Slovenia (Ljubljana, Lake Bled, Portoroz).
I’ve been to all the major European countries, but didn’t make it to Scandinavia until this summer. (You can find my exact eyeball shirt here.)
Stockholm, Sweden is gorgeous during this time of year. I walked all throughout the capital, ducked into the Yayoi Kusama exhibition, and ate like a Viking. How I miss the local fish and caviar.
I rekindled my passion for minimal, modern architecture and design in Helsinki. My team and I loved the Eero Aarnio retrospective (he’s the Finnish designer of the 1960s Ball Chair).
You can get the spiderweb jacket I’m wearing here, on sale.
We took the ferry to Tallinn, Estonia. Once again, we discovered gems in a country that most people know little about. There’s a Depeche Mode bar and hipster art collectives, and a colorful restaurant culture.
Finally, I strolled through the hip neighborhoods of Copenhagen, Denmark. This photo is taken in Superkilen Park — I came across a photo of the urban design years ago, and it was a joy to to see it with my own eyes.
♥ See all my Scandinavia and Nordic Europe posts here.
In the fall, it was back to my old stompin’ grounds: Japan. I had the opportunity to work with J Rail Pass, and ride the rails throughout the country (I made it to Tokyo, Kyoto, Kobe, Osaka and Koyasan in a week).
I always feel energised here, and loved catching up with my friends. I also got to try something new: a Buddhist temple stay in the mountains of Koya. I’ll share this experience with you soon.
♥ All my travel tips about Tokyo and Japan are here. I hope you find them helpful for planning a trip.
In November / December, I returned to Hong Kong for a job with STAKK Factory, a new media site that specializes in fashion, travel and food videos. We shot a DIY nail art video about holiday nails, with much more to be released soon.
Finally, Yukiro and I flew to Yangon, Myanmar with HK Express. What an extraordinary country… I posted a few previews on my social media (@lacarmina), and the full story will come out early next year. Stay tuned — you don’t want to miss this one.
Here’s to friends, trying new things, and saying “yes” in 2017. As Yukiro wisely says, “Always go forward, but never straight!”
What were your favorite member-berries of the previous year? Do you have any bucket list destinations / goals for the New Year?
Goodbye, 2013! What a spectacular year you’ve been. Let’s continue our look-back with highlights of the last six months.
But first: a peek into a Hong Kong cat cafe! Watch my new video on Huffington Post, where I visit Causeway Bay’s “Ah Meow” theme restaurant. It’s home to dozens of adopted cats, including at least three Scottish Folds.
My round Basil Farrow makes a cameo too… Can you find him in there?
Now, back to the yearly sum-up. As you saw in Part 1, I spent the first half of the year traveling for work. In July, I remained in my hometown of Vancouver — but did I stop to rest? Hell no.
The famous German TV show, Circus HalliGalli with Joko and Klaas, flew in to shoot a challenge about lip-sewing body modifications! When it aired, it caused quite the stir among the tabloids. Watch my evil TV hosting in this episode, if you dare.
Seby and I also appeared as guests of honor, at Vancouver’s Anime Evolution convention. We had a great time meeting you, and hope to be back next summer.
Next, my film team and I did an epic journey in Central and Eastern Europe with Eurail. We “coolhunted” emerging trends, nightlife, fashion and more in Vienna (Austria), Bratislava (Slovakia), Budapest (Hungary), Belgrade (Serbia), and Zagreb (Croatia).
Our videos are getting hundreds of thousands of views, on Business Insider; I’m glad you’re enjoying this series. Here are all my east European travel guides.
Then it was back to Asia. Thailand Tourism sent Seby and me to Bangkok, to experience “T-pop” culture and share it with you. We were hosted by Sofitel So, a blissfully elegant 5-star hotel (this is their funky “Earth”-themed room).
We were enthralled by the colorful local fashion at Siam Discovery, and golden temple of Wat Pho. I still have more Bangkok posts to share with you, so stay tuned to the South Asia page.
I also had the chance to do more TV presenting. Some projects, I can’t say much about yet due to contractual agreements… but rest assured that when things air, you’ll be the first to know.
Every year, I go all-out for Halloween and Day of the Dead. This time, I celebrated my favorite holiday in Portland. Between partying, this space-girl floated to steampunk stores, vegan brunches and Lovecraft bars. Click here for all the PDX, Oregon action.
Are you exhausted yet? The year’s not quite done: a TV job meant spending most of November in Tokyo, Japan. I love seeing the cute Christmas lights and decorations during this festive season.
I was also on two magazine covers in December: the alternative fashion Rebelicious Mag, and the in-flight magazine of Hong Kong Express Airways.
And here we are, licking our feet. I can’t wait to see what 2014 holds. Already, there are meaningful travel projects in the works, and a new destination in January… Keep your eyes peeled for the announcement. Hint, it’s somewhere in the Middle East.
For you Tokyo fashion lovers, worry not: I have lots of Jpop posts coming up. You can get sneak peeks (along with snapshots of my cat) on @lacarmina Instagram.
And don’t forget to watch my new HK Cat Cafe video, wink wink.
Do you feel you’ve grown or changed in 2013? What are you looking forward to in the New Year?
Ready to ring in the New Year?
If you’ve been following my blog for some time, you’ll know it’s time for my annual Year in Review. This gives me a chance to reflect on the past 12 months, and share some bonus photos with you. So let’s head straight (or gaily forward, as my friends would say) to the first half.
My site’s focus and projects grew significantly in 2013. At this point, I’m traveling at least once a month to a far-off place, usually with my film team or a TV show. It’s my passion to report first-hand on alternative cultures around the world.
Last January, I escaped the cold at Miami Art Deco Weekend. I caught up with friends and did this retro 1920s photoshoot with Mayleen G. Enjoy the Florida posts, including a Bettie Page runway show, in this category.
I’ll never tire of going to Tokyo. I continue to be in Japan several times a year for television hosting and arranging jobs. Each time, there’s something new to experience, like the David Bowie cafe, Alphonse Mucha exhibit…
… and King of the Pirates theme restaurant. Best of all, I get to have fun with my friends. (Interested in hiring us? Learn about our TV production and consulting services.)
Next, my filmmakers and I were invited to a very special place: the Maldives. We fell in love with eco-luxury resort Gili Lankanfushi, and I got to live out my Treasure Island fantasies. Here’s our Maldives video and all the sunny photos.
We also landed in the Middle East for the first time. Dubai was a sci-fi wonderland, and I loved walking through the egg-like Grand Mosque of Abu Dhabi. Discover the Arabian peninsula’s grandeur in these blog posts.
There’s no need to jet to far-off places to have an adventure. I featured my home country – Canada – in a series about Montreal’s Goth culture and Kinetik Festival. One of the highlights was bagel-tasting with Aesthetic Perfection’s Daniel Graves.
It appears a lot of people read my site for the Hong Kong travel guides, which makes me happy. This city is full of energy and pop culture oddities, like cute food and giant floating ducks. (Intrigued? Then see my Hong Kong tips.)
I leave you with an image from Shinjuku’s Hanazono Shrine. Shinto worshipers write wishes on these little wood plaques (called ema), and leave them for the kami to hopefully deliver.
On that note, do you have any New Years resolutions? What do you hope to achieve or improve in 2014?
I think we can all resolve to take care of ourselves, do meaningful work, and treat our furry companions like the kings they are! I’m shooting everything with DSLR now, so you can expect more images like the one above.
Coming up next: part II of my annual reflections.