Year in Review: 2019

So historically, I’ve always done my Year in Reviews on January 1st, and this year I’ve totally failed at that since it’s.. January 19th.

There’s a good reason for that though and it is pretty representative of the year in general: I was travelling.

After Christmas I traveled to Hong Kong with my parents and then went to Seoul for a couple days on the way back to Toronto, which was a really fun trip. It was super nice seeing all my friends and family again and of course, to eat all of the wonderful food. I got back from that trip a week ago and I just haven’t had the time or energy to write this post until now.

Always excited to leave, always happy to come back.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is pretty much my 2019 in a nutshell. My 2019 was absolutely crazy. And the reason for that is because of all of my travels. It’s pretty cute because when you look back at 2018’s Year in Review, I wrote this..

For the most part, I just spent the year working while travelling whenever I could. Between personal trips and business trips, I actually flew out of Toronto seven times in 2018, which I think might be a record for the number of trips I’ve ever done in a year.

2019 Gary

And wow, seven trips. And the reason why I think that’s cute is because in 2019, I went to 17 cities outside of the GTA in 10 countries spanning 4 continents for a total of 13 trips and 33 flight segments.

Now that’s crazy.

Me at Gudvangen
And it all started with my trip to London and Norway.

It still blows my mind that I was travelling that much last year. For a dude who lives in Toronto and who doesn’t actually travel for a living, I certainly spent a whole lot of time last year travelling. I really don’t think I’d match these numbers ever again.

Most of those were work trips and I was fortunate enough that my work brought me all around the States. Because of that, I was able to hit up new cities like Dallas and Seattle while being able to rediscover places like Atlanta and Orlando.

And since my company gives you lieu time for when you travel for work over a weekend, it ended up being a weird situation where my many work travels enabled me to travel even more for fun. That ended up bringing me to fun places like London, Norway (Bergen and Oslo), Mexico City, Quito, New York City, Istanbul, Doha, Amman, and Hong Kong.

Friends at the Middle of the World
Hanging out at the equator in Ecuador.

It’s ridiculous even just listing out the places I went this year.

I definitely feel very fortunate that I had all these opportunities to travel in the past year. It was really nice to actually be able to go out and see the world. Plus, there was the added bonus of me being able to travel and see my friends. The biggest impact by far that my time in Korea made on my life was how I met so many people from all over the world. Being able to visit them and see their home countries was so nice.

It was cool because a bunch of them even came over to visit this year! I had the opportunity to host a bunch of them and showed them around Toronto and the surrounding areas, including Niagara Falls and Algonquin Park.

Canoe Lake
We made it a goal to find a mirror lake in Algonquin.

Reading over last year’s Year in Review, I do still agree that 2017 was a year of change and that 2018 was a year of rediscovery and settling back down. Continuing from that thought, I really think that 2019 was truly the year where I finally feel like I have my life here down pat again.

Not only am I firmly established in my job (I got promoted again as well!) but I’ve also been doing more stuff outside of work now. I started rock climbing in the summer and I really enjoy it. I’m glad I got peer pressured by my coworkers in giving it a try.

It’s hard to believe, but I actually go once or twice a week now. So, I apparently do physical activities again. A year ago I didn’t think I would be doing anything like this, so it really was a year of surprises.

Climbing in the Desert
Posing on some rock formations in Wadi Rum.

Between that and just hanging out with friends, I’ve been going out a lot more and been generally more active and social, which is nice. It’s funny because that’s reflected in my PlayStation 2019 Wrap Up. Apparently I only played a grand total of 8 games for a total of like 250 hours last year.

I laughed when I saw that because back in high school I’d clear that number in like a month. And yet now it’s a full year of my life. I guess that’s what happens when you get older I guess, you change and so your life changes as well.

And I think I’m ok with that. I still enjoy playing games but I definitely find less enjoyment in it than I did in the past. That said, there are games that I’m excited for every year, it’s just I don’t find myself playing as much anymore or wanting to play as much anymore. It’s weird, considering how big games have been in my life, but I’ve kinda also come to terms with it.

Kingdom Hearts III
I was so excited for KH3, and the DLC comes out next week too.

So yea, life is good I guess. 2019 was such a whirlwind of activity that I didn’t really have a chance to really just sit down and reflect, so this is nice to just look back and think of everything. I can’t really stress enough how crazy of a year it was.

But as things usually go, humans adapt and now that life has become my normal. I got so used to travelling so much that if I have no upcoming trips in the next two months (like now), I end up feeling awkwardly anxious, like “why am I here when I could be anywhere else?”.

It’s weird.

Plus now every time I see a plane (or a flight attendant!) I just get this like, complex swell of emotions and feelings. Maybe this is what wanderlust is. It’s a crazy, beautiful feeling.

Hanging out in Doha
Hanging out in Doha with my favourite flight attendant.

Speaking of feelings, I feel like my 2020 is going to be fun, but possibly less crazy than 2019. I think 2019 was a freak of nature in the sense that everything aligned so that I got to go on so many work trips which enabled me to go on so many vacations.

2020 should be a bit more normal in the sense that I might be travelling less. That said, it’s probably still going to be more than 2018. Which is still a lot, but my bar has already been raised so high that I’m not sure how long it’ll take for me to recover.

All I know is that I want to see even more of my friends in 2020. And I also want to keep, or improve, on my Air Canada Altitude status.

2019 Achievements and Statistics

  • 10 countries (England, Norway, United States of America, Canada, Mexico, Ecuador, Turkey, Qatar, Jordan, Hong Kong)
  • 5 platinum trophies (Detroit: Become Human, Kingdom Hearts III, Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition HD, Batman: The Enemy Within, Marvel’s Spider-Man)
  • 4 concerts (The Gazette World Tour 2019, Architects Holy Hell North America [Architects, Thy Art is Murder, While She Sleeps], Neon Alien Tour [Northlane, Erra, Currents, Crystal Lake], The Eternal Nightmare North American Tour Part II [Chelsea Grin, The Acacia Strain, Spite, Traitors, Left Behind])
  • 2934 photos and videos taken
  • A promotion to Unity Team Lead
  • Air Canada Altitude 25k

Year in Review: 2018

Well, another year, another Year in Review. This is my.. third time writing these? And it seems like the common theme is that every time I write one I’m surprised a year has passed already haha.

Maybe it’s just another aspect of getting older, but it really seems like every year passes by quicker and quicker. At the same time though, when you look back and think about things and events earlier in the year it’s like “wow that was this year?”.

Anyways, as I wrote in the 2017 Year in Review, that year was a rollercoaster year with “change” as the common theme. This year, on the other hand, had practically zero change. In a way, it kinda felt like the epilogue or post-credits scene of my time in Korea. It was just a year of me settling back into my life in Canada and adapting to a life of regularity and routine.

The Toronto skyline from the Exhibition Go station.

In a way, it’s a bit nice in the sense that the year wasn’t super crazy, but at the same time I’m feeling a bit antsy since it feels like my life just isn’t as interesting as it used to be. Granted, it probably still is quite interesting to some people, but it’s just not really on the same level as many of the other years of my adult life.

I think that’s reflected with the number of pictures I’ve taken this year as well. Looking at them now, since 2013, 2018 was the year where I took the least amount of pictures. Which is a bit odd too considering how I’ve officially had a full year with the Pixel 2, which to this day I’m still amazed at how amazing the camera is.

For the most part, I just spent the year working while travelling whenever I could. Between personal trips and business trips, I actually flew out of Toronto seven times in 2018, which I think might be a record for the number of trips I’ve ever done in a year.

My first flight of 2018.

The first trip I did was one to South Korea and Hong Kong. That was a legit vacation and I wanted to go back to South Korea to see my friends and check out the Olympics. That trip was fun. I’ve talked about it in my post about the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics already, but essentially it was nice to be back in Korea and to see the country so festive.

However, the main point of the trip was to see my friends again. Back in February, it was only like six months since I last saw them but honestly I really missed them (and still do!) so it was really nice to see them all again and just hang out over food and drinks.

I visited Seoul a lot when I lived in Daejeon but they were generally just weekend trips. Even though I was there this time for like a week and a half, it really just felt like one of those trips. I didn’t really do much sightseeing and really just spent the time like I would if I still lived in South Korea. It really did feel like temporarily jumping back into an old life.

The hangout district in Sinchon.

In the middle of my trip to Korea, I took a few days and went to Hong Kong as well. It was a natural addition to the trip since I was already in Asia and I really wanted to see my grandma, relatives, and other friends over there. Plus, I’ve been to Hong Kong every even numbered year in the 201Xs so I just had to go back in 2018 as well.

Despite living in South Korea for so long, I still think that Hong Kong is my second home. Considering how my family is from there and I speak the local language, it’s always nice to visit Hong Kong. Every time I go it’s always cool to see the new subway stops, check out the new things that have popped up, and to hang out with people.

The entrance to Lan Kwai Fong.

My entire trip to Asia was two weeks. I burnt through all of my vacation time in one go so I had pretty much nothing left for the rest of the year. But it went by so quickly and next thing I know I was on a flight back to Toronto and had to go back to work the next day.

But despite that being my major trip of the year, that was just the first trip of many. In May, I flew to Philadelphia for a long weekend to attend my cousin’s wedding. That was my first real visit to the States in a long time so it was a neat trip but little did I know that that was just the start of my 2018 American tour.

An Indian guy marrying a Chinese girl in America, multiculturalism at its finest.

From June to December I ended up going on five business trips, with four of those being to the States, so I ended up going to the States five times in 2018.

Honestly, looking back at that it’s been a crazy time. My first business trip was to Chicago and even though it was only six months ago, it already feels like forever ago since I’ve been so busy at work. Now, I consider myself a relatively experienced traveler but it was still my first time going for work, so there were a few things I was unsure about in terms of etiquette and stuff.

However after that first trip, I also went to Vancouver in July, San Antonio and Chicago again in October, and San Diego in December. After all these trips I can safely say I’m pretty comfortable travelling for work haha.

The INVIVO team at ASH 2018.

It’s been really nice though. For places that I’ve been before, like Vancouver, it was nice to re-visit, especially since I have family there. Other places, like San Antonio and San Diego, are places that I probably wouldn’t plan a trip to if I were thinking of vacation places. But I’ve always wanted to go to Texas and California and and so it was a great opportunity to go.

All of the places I visited for work also ended up being amazing places in general as well, so pluses all around really.

I even managed to extend my time in California a bit and travel to Santa Cruz to see a concert, and to quickly visit San Francisco as well. I wrote a blog post for Santa Cruz and considered writing one for San Francisco as well, but considering how I was only there for 24 hours and still have a lot more to see, I think I’m refraining from doing so until I get a proper trip in.

Pre-concert selfie in my new Slaughter to Prevail shirt.

Considering all the traveling I’ve been doing for work, it’s understandable that I’ve been pretty busy at work. It has been busy, especially the last couple of months, but for the most part I’ve been enjoying it. I’m no longer the new guy and I know what I’m doing now. The company has even recognized my hard work and efforts with a quick promotion this year.

So really, no major complaints. Especially since the work culture and environment is so great.

Overall, I think this year I’ve definitely settled into a regular routine. When I first came back to Canada there was an adjustment period where I wasn’t really sure what to do, who to see, where to go, etc. But over the span of this year I think I have a better understanding of that now and definitely feel like I have a life here again.

I have a solid group of friends that I see on a regular basis and I’m able to hang out with my family and watch my nephews grow up. It’s nice.

CN Tower with Christmas colours.

I still think about my life in Korea every once and a while, but with each passing day those memories get further and further away. It’s weird to think about it like that since I wouldn’t trade those memories and experiences away for anything. But at the same time, the life I’m living now is so different and disconnected from that now.

For one, it’s nice having an actual source of income haha. I still can’t believe I lived off of $1000 a month for three years.

But yea, 2018 is over. I think 2018 injected some stability and normality into my life, which I really appreciate since it helped me transition back into uh, a “normal life”. But like I mentioned earlier, life is alright but I think it could be more interesting.

I’ll have to find some ways to spice up my life a bit more in 2019.

2018 Achievements and Statistics

  • 4 countries (South Korea, Hong Kong, United States of America, Canada)
  • 10 platinum trophies (Life is Strange, Batman, Uncharted 4, Uncharted: Lost Legacy, Guardians of the Galaxy, Kamen Rider: Climax Fighters, Life is Strange: Before the Storm, God of War, Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls)
  • 1 concert (Ten Years of Exile with Whitechapel, Chelsea Grin, Oceano, and Slaughter to Prevail)
  • A promotion to Senior Interactive Media Developer

Year in Review: 2017

I can’t believe it’s 2018 already. It felt like the year went by so fast but looking back, I actually got a lot of things done and a lot of things happened.

It’s a bit fitting that I mentioned in 2016’s Year in Review that it’s been one giant roller coaster ride. I was hoping that 2017 would be less turbulent but if anything it was even more nasty haha. Honestly, breaking down your life by the calendar year is a bit weird to begin with because your life doesn’t abide by that, so it makes sense that the first bit of 2017 felt incredibly like 2016.

2017 started in the lab. Which feels really weird to say since that already feels like a lifetime ago. At that point, I was just finishing up some more work related to an older project and looking forward to starting my thesis project. It was a pretty rough way to start the year since that definitely wasn’t fun.

The Refrigerator was by far one of the craziest lab stories I have.

But it soon became fun though. Me and my girlfriend decided to go to Taiwan for a short vacation which was really nice. I’ve always wanted to visit Taiwan and it seemed like the ideal place for a short trip to just kinda unwind and get away from Korea. That was a nice trip. We even had a chance to meet up with a friend of ours and another friend of mine from Hong Kong.

After getting back to Korea the lab took a trip out to Gangwon-do again for HCI Korea 2017, which, similar to our trip in 2016, meant that I got to go skiing again. Unfortunately though, I didn’t win any money at the casino this time.

The sky lantern we made in Shifen, Taiwan.

The trip to Taiwan and Gangwon-do was really awesome because it was right before starting my thesis project. So once I got back into the lab I was ready to work. Now, for the most part I enjoyed working on developing my actual thesis project, but I wasn’t a big fan of the whole thesis writing and presenting part of it.

I wouldn’t say it was difficult but the entire process was overly stressful. Looking back, it almost seems like so much of that was artificial pressure that really wasn’t needed. I tried to take breaks every once and a while though, and one of those breaks was to the first and only concert I went to in 2017, Crystal Lake. I liked the band before I saw them in concert and seeing them live only made me like them even more. I’m really glad I went because it was a great show.

Ryo of Crystal Lake

Once my thesis started to wrap up, a lot of my stress dealing with getting my thesis done started to get replaced by the stress of graduating. It was almost a perfect cross-fade between the two levels of stress so I felt like I was pretty much at the same level the entire time, just thinking about different things.

On one hand I was essentially cruising through the rest of the lab stuff. Our lab started a partnership with a lab from a school in Japan and not only did they have a chance to come visit us, but we also had a chance to go visit their school in Nara. This coincided with a small international conference as well which had me present my thesis work for the first time outside our school department, which was nice.

But obviously the point of the trip for me wasn’t really to do any of that but really to enjoy my time in Japan. Not only did I go to Nara but I also had the opportunity to go check out Osaka as well, which was really nice. There’s nothing like being fully funded to travel.

The Glico Man and other advertisements at night.

Once I got back to Korea from Japan, I just kept the travel ball going. I essentially just handed in my thesis and a week later went on another big trip as a gift to myself for finishing my master’s. That was a really awesome trip and got me to Russia (St. Petersburg and Moscow), Berlin, Prague, and Vienna. I even had a chance to stop by Dubai for a couple hours which was a pretty nice bonus.

That trip was just outright amazing and unforgettable. Europe is awesome, especially after being in Asia for so long. I’m really glad I got to go to all of those places and see so much, especially Russia. In all my travels that was the first country that required me to get a visa to visit, and the application process was an experience of itself. And of course, the country was really unique and cool too.

A selfie by the Peterhof Fountain.

It was a pretty jam packed vacation and soon enough I was back in Korea. The month between the end of July and end of August was actually really tough. Even after going through all of the random crap dealing with school and my thesis earlier in the year, it turned out the hardest part of the year was actually the month where I wasn’t doing anything.

The Korean government gave me a one way flight back home so I knew I had a month left in Korea and would be leaving at the end of August. I had no job lined up so I figured I could look for jobs within Korea for that month and maybe get something. If I got a job in Korea, I’d go back to Korea after a brief visit to Canada. If I didn’t get a job, well, I’d just go and stay home.

It was a really bittersweet month.

Saying goodbye after a night of eating, drinking, and singing.

Before starting my studies at KAIST, every Korean I met was always like “Oh, you’re studying at KAIST? You must be a genius. You’ll have no problems finding a job”. Now I try not to let things get to my head like that, but there was a bit of hope you know? I didn’t really want to work and live in Korea, but I really wanted to try to keep my existing life intact.

But alas, it just wasn’t to be. Job applications went nowhere, interviews were tough, and visas weren’t being sponsored. The end result was that I just didn’t see a future for myself in Korea.

On one hand I was excited to go home, but on the other hand I didn’t want to leave my life in Korea. Now don’t get me wrong, I have no love for the country or it’s people. But that was my life for three years. I settled down pretty well, had a life of my own, friends to hang out with, and generally knew what I was doing.

Just giving that all up and going home hurt.

Getting the degree is actually not the hardest part when studying in Korea.

I don’t normally have anxiety or panic attacks, but I had a pretty major freak out the morning of my flight home. I stayed up all night packing and was quickly running of time and I just couldn’t seem to pack all the remaining stuff and it just felt like everything I did was causing myself both physical and psychological pain. It felt like my world actually was ending and I was making a decision I’d regret immensely.

It wasn’t very fun.

Wasn’t a very big room, but it was my room.

That was four months ago.

Since then I’ve settled back into a life here in Canada and everything has been a giant blur. I have a job now. I get to see my family and old friends whenever I want. I get to experience a proper winter again. And I even just got laser eye surgery so I don’t have to deal with glasses and contacts anymore. For the most part life is great.

First contrast shot with the Pixel 2 XL.

Or at least it feels like it should be.

I didn’t think reverse culture shock would affect me that much, but I have to say that it’s still an ongoing struggle. There’s some sort of balance between getting back to the life I once had and starting a new life, and I haven’t seem to have found it yet.

2017 is definitely defined by the fact that I came home. I can’t even properly put into words how tough a decision that was for me.

There’s not doubt in my mind that 2017 was by far the most emotionally and psychologically stressful year of my life. There isn’t a single day that passes where I don’t think about my life in Korea and miss everyone associated with that life. 2018 is gonna have a hell of a hard time trying to heal this hole in my heart.

But I’m hopeful.

2017 Achievements and Statistics

  • 9 countries (Taiwan, Japan, United Arab Emirates, Russia, Germany, Czechia, Austria, South Korea, Canada).
  • 2 academic publications (TEI 2018, AH 2018)
  • 7 platinum trophies (Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep, Kingdom Hearts 3DS, Infamous Second Son, Infamous First Light, World of Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy XV, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst)
  • Master’s of Science in Industrial Design
  • Full-time employment secured