How I Spent My Year 2018

My 2018 was about crossing things off my bucket list. Traveling solo, eating and exploring my way through Japan. Also attending WWDC festivities in San Jose to hang out with fellow Apple geeks. Just throwing myself out there into places I've always wondered about…I finally got to experience them.

For the 16th straight year, here is my annual run down of how I spent my year 2018.

1. Happier or Sadder?

HAPPIER. (More on that later)

2. What places did you visit?

  • JAPAN. So life-changing I went back a second time!
  • WWDC in San Jose! First time going to a conference for fun, for myself. I've always been used to being the biggest Apple geek in the room. But once I got to WWDC, I felt like a freshmen being surrounded by seniors, lol.
  • An Event Apart in San Francisco! This was my second time going to this conference and once again I walk away feeling inspired as a developer. Not gonna lie though…after going to Japan, I realized how filthy of a city SF is...
  • Las Vegas for Christmas! As usual, spent Christmas with the Blakes. This time, I got to meet Alan's first-born, Greyson.

3. What was your best musical discovery in 2018?

After rewatching the "San Junipero" episode of Black Mirror, I went down a rabbit hole of 1980s Synth-Pop music and stumbled upon Michael Oakley, which became my jam for half of the year.

The rest of the year I was obsessing over electronic/house background music to use for my Japan vlogs.

4. What TV shows did you follow this year?

Three shows I follow religiously:

  • The Walking Dead

Finally caught up and can't wait for the next season:

  • Mars — Amazing job showing what kind of real-life drama will happen when we colonize Mars.
  • Game of Thrones
  • Black Mirror
  • Silicon Valley
  • New Girl

Barely following:

  • Fear The Walking Dead

5. What were your most favorite movies this year?

  • Avengers: Infinity War — So many reasons to love it! Spoilers: I love how even after Civil War, Tony still keeps a cell phone specifically for getting a hold of Cap.
  • UFO — This movie gave me the same feels as the movie Contact back in the day.

6. What was your best food discovery in 2018?

  • Korean-Style Hot Dogs in Tokyo! I never would have thought the combination of mozzarella cheese, batter, french fry bits, sugar, honey mustard, and ketchup would be such an exquisite combination. I can see why this stuff is all the rage throughout Tokyo.

  • A5 Wagyu Kobe Beef — Melts. In. Your. Mouth. I learned from my first trip to Japan that the best way to experience A5 Wagyu Kobe Beef is to have a professional craft it to perfection for you. My experience in Kobe, Japan was well worth the $115.

7. What songs will always remind you of 2018?

By far, my favorite song of the year:

"Lost in Japan" by Shawn Mendez will forever remind me of my time exploring Kyoto.

Also, each of the five vlogging soundtracks I used for my second Japan trip:

  • "Sunrise" by Baoj reminds me of arriving to Shinjuku.
  • "It Just Makes Me Happy" by DJ Quads reminds me of my kickass Airbnb in the heart of Koreatown in Shinjuku.
  • "Breeze" by MBB reminds me of Shinjuku and Shibuya.
  • "Wake Up" by MBB reminds me of Yokohama, Kyoto, and Nara.
  • "Paradise" by Ikson reminds me of Kobe and Osaka.

All my Instagram selfies and videos from Japan. It felt spectacular being able to do exactly what I wanted on my solo trip while, in a way, enjoying it with my friends.

9. What political issues really stirred you?

I wrote this last year:

Donald Trump. I absolutely hate how a symbol of racism and bigotry was voted to lead the country…

Trump is the epitome of white privilege. He's teaching the world that if you're famous, have a lot of money, in a position of power, and keep yelling over everyone else…you can get away with anything.

I hate it. I hate everything he stands for. I hate how so many people can't recognize the patterns of previous authoritarians throughout history.

10. Did anyone close to you pass away? Any notable celebrity deaths?


  • Mark Gonzalez — I'll always remember how fun it was playing basketball with him in college.
  • Mr. Dean — One of my favorite parents out of my childhood friends. I loved how he encouraged us to hang out at his house because he'd rather us be rowdy there than be causing trouble elsewhere.


  • Stephen Hawking — One of the most brilliant minds of our time.
  • Stan Lee — Looking at how big the Marvel Cinematic Universe is in pop culture today, it's astounding that it all started decades ago by this one man.
  • Tex Winter — Former assistant coach of the Bulls dynasty, Shaq-era Lakers, and Kobe-era Lakers. The architect of my favorite basketball system and how the game should be played.

11. Who were your celebrity crushes?

  • Amber Heard in Aquaman.

  • Hannah Price aka "Currently Hannah" on YouTube.

12. Where did most of your money go?

  • Japan! No souvenirs. Everything expensive I paid for was to cross things off my bucket list and experience something new. Worth every single penny.

  • Apple — Of course. To be specific, I bought three HomePods, the Apple Watch Series 4, and of course, the fully-loaded iPhone X🅂 Max.

13. What was the best thing you bought?

  • AMC Stubs A-List — LOVE LOVE LOVE. It gives me a reason to get out of the house every Saturday morning and I love the fact that I can reserve the exact seat I want ahead of time. Well worth the $20/month.

  • Selfie Stick with Built-In Tripod — Essentially my wingman for my travel vlogs in Japan.

  • Alpaka Air Sling — Another one of my new travel gear favorites. I can keep my passport, iPhone, keys, external battery, and other essentials on me at all times. Will come in handy when I travel to another country that are known for pickpockets.

14. Did you drop any old habits or pick up new habits this year?

Cleaning up after others. In Japan, instead of hiring janitors, kids are taught to keep everything clean. Not just clean up after yourself, but collectively keep everything clean.

After seeing how beautiful Japan is because of that, I am much more conscious about making sure all trash ends up in trash cans instead of just around the trash can.

Oh, and I've basically smoked weed every day since it became legal, lol.

15. Describe a typical day for you in 2018

Wake up 6:30ish. Catch up on tech Twitter and RSS Feeds while on the toilet. Out the door by 6:45. Work from 8ish to 11ish. Quick lunch and nap in car lol. Work until 4:40ish.

I stopped going to Zumba because of lack of inspiration (i.e. my favorite Zumba instructor left and it never felt the same.) Instead, for most of the work week, I had salsa classes.

Once I get home, I catch up on RSS feeds and social media. Lately I've been putting in a little extra work while I semi-pay attention to the TV. Play with Kogi or browse Imgur while Kogi licks my head until I fall asleep before midnight.

16. What did you do to further your career?

Taught myself some Javascript! This has always been a gaping hole in my resumé and now I can add it to my skill set.

This is particular a good time to learn Javascript too because it can be used for front-end, backend, and also desktop.

17. What was the best thing you built or created?

My travel vlogs. It felt good to tell better stories creatively on Instagram. But even after that, I love How I can rewatch my videos and relive my entire Japan trip in my mind.

18. What kept you sane? What gave you hope?

Last year, I wrote this:

This past year, Salsa Class was definitely my happy place. I love the people in my class. After one year of classes, I'm still not confident on the dance floor but I truly love the process of going to class and learning with friends.

Still rings true today but I'm a little more confident in the dance floor and definitely confident in going to salsa classes at other dance studios, which is a great way to meet new people.

19. Did you develop any new hobbies or passions?

Up until this year, I always traveled with friends or to meet up with friends. After Japan, I am in love with traveling solo now.

My favorite part about traveling solo is not having to rush for anyone or wait up for anyone. Everything is done on my terms, on my time. I don't have an itinerary nazi yelling at me, "It's in the itinerary!" If I walk into a tourist attraction and get bored after 5 minutes, I don't have to stick around for my travel buddy who might want to stay longer.

If I get lost, I don't have to deal with anyone getting mad at me. If I want to eat breakfast at three different places, I can go to all three places. If I want to spend 30 minutes to an hour just to take the perfect selfie, I can damn well spend 30 minutes to an hour taking that perfect selfie.

I felt so free being able to explore on my terms and not have to make any compromises for anyone else.

20. Who were you most proud of this year?

Mei for her commitment to Keto throughout the year. She stuck with it like a champ, even through social events, which is something I was never able to do.

21. Without naming names, who disappointed you the most and what did they do?

I found out how passive aggressive a certain old coworker was.

So pathetic. Glad this person is gone.

22. Which new person(s) in your life are you grateful for?


23. How did your New Years Resolutions hold up? Any new resolutions for 2018?

Last year I wrote:

More Salsa Dancing — I want to take more risks with my salsa dancing and actually get my ass out on the dance floor on salsa nights.

Proud to say I was doing 7+ hours of salsa for most of the year! I only went to a handful of socials but hopefully I can build on that this upcoming year.

Also last year, I wrote:

Retirement Fund — I need to take some actions that will better prepare me financially for the future.

As for my retirement fund, I started putting more money into my Vanguard every paycheck. I need to do more though, which is why I'm looking more into real estate.

As for new years resolutions, this year I want to work on two things:

Expanding my Vocabulary, specifically learning more adjectives instead of just overusing "amazing" all the time.

Beating my Social Anxiety. All of my best memories and achievements in the past few years have been directly traced back to my group therapy sessions I attended in 2015. This year I realized how much my social anxiety has killed my relationships with people. Even trying to talk to people who genuinely want to talk to me, I struggle with maintaining conversations with. If I can beat this, I know my life will be so much more fulfilling.

24. What did you do this year that you've never done before?

  • backpacked solo in a foreign country
  • stayed in a capsule hotel
  • experienced living in small, modern Japanese apartment in the city
  • stayed in a traditional Japanese inn
  • ate A5 Wagyu Kobe Beef
  • bathed in a natural warm springs onsen (with a bunch of naked dudes lol)

25. What's been on your mind this year?

Last year I wrote this:

Traveling Solo. For the first time in 7 years, I have paid time off again. I'm crazy jealous of all my friends who travel multiple times a year, especially when I see friends posting about Japan (#1 on my bucket list).

I realized that as a bachelor in my 30s, I have the opportunity to do things that my married friends can't do anymore. Particularly, travel wherever the fuck I want.

Japan — Specifically, where to eat, lol.

Real Estate — I'm not going to catch up with my retirement fund through traditional Roth IRA or 401K investments. I need to look for other means. I binged on the Bigger Pockets podcast for months and feel like "house-hacking" is something I could do.

Office Politics

26. What valuable life lessons did you learn this year?

Real Estate — I've known for a while that I need to catch up on my retirement savings. After getting addicted to the Bigger Pockets podcast this past year, I feel so inspired. I think after a couple more solo adventures, I'll be ready to commit to getting into real estate.

27. What was your biggest failure?

Gaining 37 lbs since my birthday, LOL. Totally self-inflicted. I'm gonna have to rethink my whole, "I'll do keto, then switch to low-carb, then full-on fat-ass mode during the holidays."

28. What is the one thing you are most grateful for from this past year?

I am truly grateful for everyone I crossed paths with in Japan. Soo many countless times I got lost, but I was always able to ask a local — english-speaking or non-english speaking — for help…and they always came through for me.

I've never seen a society of people so courteous and patient before.

29. What was your most memorable moment this year?

My entire time in Japan.

But if I had to pick a single specific moment, I'd say it was when I stepped out of Shinjuku station. I was completely lost. I remember looking around at all the building and struggling to find my next station. Right then it hit me that I'm traveling solo, I got nobody else to guide me, and getting lost is all part of the adventure.

30. If you could tell your past self something exactly one year ago, what would it be?

Enjoy your trips to Japan; they will open your eyes and change your life in multiple ways. Enjoy the times you get lost. Enjoy the times you try to communicate with the locals. Enjoy the toilets, lol. Take too many photos and record too many videos.

This is truly your time. Put yourself out there knowing you don't have to make any compromises for anyone else. Truly live in the moment first and then share it on Instagram later.

Everything else is good. Work is fine. Salsa is great. WWDC was a fun experience. You're in a better position financially and you have a better idea on how to hit your retirement goals.

But above all that, enjoy your trips to Japan.

—Mel, January 2019

31. What are you looking forward to this upcoming year?

  • Toronto! It'll mostly be for a developer conference but I plan on spending a couple days to hang out and explore.
  • Arizona Reunion! Sounds like this is gonna be a great turn-out, not just for the 577 crew but for other Aramcons.
  • Italy! Japan will always have a soft spot in my heart and I will always love going back there…but this year I want to explore a new land.

32. If you could ask your future self anything one year from now, what would it be?

Dear Future Mel,

How was your next big foodie adventure in Italy?? How is the vibe different than Japan? Was it harder to get by with the language barrier? Would you go back again?

How's work going? It seems like I'm moving into more of a tech lead / project manager role now that I'm coordinating Maricopa and other upcoming projects. You still feel like you're growing there?

Have you done anything to get into real estate yet?

Overall, I can't help but look back on this past year and smile. I sincerely believe that Japan changed me in multiple ways. I'm not sure how many other places I'll be able to cross off my bucket list as a solo traveler these next few years, but it's right up there in the best things I've ever done in my life.

Whatever you've done this past year, I hope you're able to look back on it with a warm heart the way I am right now.

—Mel, January 2019