2016 – Was it really that bad?

by Mike Still
2016 – Was it really that bad?

Okay so yeah.  The answer is yes.  In terms of progressiveness 2016 was pretty awful for the world.  Atrocities, natural disasters, war crimes against humanity and countless social injustices littered a year that most people refer to as the worst because too many celebrities died.

All that other stuff is pretty terrible but if you really want to get Facebook going remind it of the list that just keeps piling up.  So I’m gonna do my best to distract you with all the good things that happened to me this year.  Usually I run a ten post long series giving you my best photos of the year but frankly that was some petty attempt for me to get more hits and it was dumb.  Real dumb.  So without further adieu here is my favorite moments from 2016.  Think of this as a sort of year in review for Live, Travel Teach.

Live, Travel, Teach – Year in Review

(scroll down for the best photos of the year)

I started 2016 off with my amazing friends in Seoul, South Korea.  Shortly after the celebrations Ronda and I departed for the Philippines to enjoy our birthdays (and my 30th) on Cebu and Palawan.  Beach days, island hopping and snorkeling filled our week as my brother and parents flew in for a family reunion.

I landed back in Seoul for a few weeks of work before heading to Taiwan to celebrate Lunar New Year and present at a Google Apps in Education Conference.  It was my first time couch surfing and I loved it.  I even got to hike and motorbike around Taroko National Park.

With the spring came a new school year bringing a whole new set of 4th grade students and the second to last semester of my Masters degree.  I distracted myself from this workload by imagining what I would do next.  The decision to leave Korea was mostly complete but I wasn’t sure if I would really leave or where I would go.

I got on a few hikes and largely spent those months with my head stuck in books and writing papers.  Summer brought a brief reprieve and a welcome vacation to Indonesia!  Ronda joined me for a week in Bali and another on the Gili Islands before I spent a week solo traveling around Java and climbing 2 volcanos!

Fall meant digging back into the books but I still squeezed in 2 final visits to one of my favorite places in Korea, Seoraksan National Park.  I partnered with Bangawoyo Tours for a few getaways too.

Winter is coming.  Well I guess its here now but somehow Korea went from well below freezing on Thanksgiving to mid 50’s just before Christmas!  So it feels more like Winter is coming now instead of actually being here.

On Friday I flew to Japan to celebrate the holidays with my buddy Andrew.  We are road tripping around and I’m sure I’ll get some great photos but those just might have to sneak into the 2017 edition.  Now for what you’re really here for; my favorite travel photos of the year!

Top Travel Photos of 2016

#10  Cheeky Monkey – Sacred Monkey Forest, Ubud, Indonesia

I love monkeys.  Last year my favorite shot was of a little bugger but this year I got to see the calmer version.  If you’re on Bali be sure to check out the Sacred Monkey Forest and you’re sure to see families of monkeys all  around!

#9  Living in a Shack – Cebu, Philippines

Motorbiking around Cebu we came across this little village with kids playing all over the tiny dirt road.  A family of 6 lived in this tiny little shack.  Mortified at the living conditions we quickly drove to the corner store and grabbed some snacks for the family.  It was magical watching those stares turn into huge smiles!

#8 Night Temple – Ubud, Indonesia

This year I started experimenting with night photography a lot more.  Thanks to Ronda’s advice to “light paint” the temple came out fully illuminated in one of my favorite shots of the year.  We were strolling along just before dinner and noticed that this particular temple didn’t have a door.  Looking at each other we both agreed to come back after dark and captured this shot!

#7  Mt. Bromo at Sunrise – Java, Indonesia

This shot was my most popular Instagram of the year with just over 800 likes!  I love the way the sun beams golden light over the volcano as mist blankets the dessert surrounding it.  From this photo you’d never guess that outside the rim is a giant jungle!  I hope this photo convinces you to add Mt. Bromo to your bucketlist.

#6 Happy New Year! – Pingxi, Taiwan

Seeing a sky lantern festival was another bucketlist for me.  I didn’t add it to my 40 before 40 because I wasn’t thinking properly but thankfully I still managed to do it!  After arrival it appeared that the lanterns weren’t biodegradable and actually pretty awful for the environment.  While I love the photo and it was a truly amazing experience watching them I was quite mixed about the whole concept and opted not to launch my own.

#5 Colors of the Sun – Muuido, Korea

If you’ve been following my journey at all you probably know that I love sunsets (and sunrises).  Its by far my favorite time of day and I just love how nature entertains us with the dazzling light show.  This shot comes from a weekend getaway out of Seoul.  Can you believe that it was taken just 2 hours from the 3rd largest city in the world!

#4 True Paradise – El Nido, Philippines

El Nido is the embodiment of paradise… as long as you like island hopping around remote beaches with crystal clear water.  It was the perfect place to celebrate my 30th birthday and Ronda enjoyed being my muse for some tropical photo shoots.

#3 Turquoise by Day Blue Fire by Night – Kawah Ijen Volcano, Java, Indonesia

Seeing this volcano in person is truly awe inspiring.  The blue fires at night are natures most other worldly thing I’ve ever seen with my own eyes.  Oh and watching the local miners work in these harsh conditions is a whole other kind of eye-opening experience.  Kawah Ijen is a place of natural beauty and a testament to human willpower.

#2 Night Palace – Seoul, Korea

How could a list of the best photos be complete without one that I took in Seoul?  I’ve been living here for 3 years and been to the palaces countless times.  But this past year I had the chance to go on a few night tours and happily dragged my tripod along.  It was one of the few chances I’ve had to see the palace without mobs of tourists and I love the unique perspective seeing it lit up against the midnight sky.

The Best Travel Photo of 2016

#1 On the Edge of the Abyss Cemoro Lawang, Java, Indoensia

This photo is my favorite for dozens of reasons.  Its one of my first recreations from my own travel inspiration.  I planned the trip to Mount Bromo largely because I saw photos very much like this one around the internet.  Then when I visited the tiny town of Cemoro Lawang on the edge of the volcano I quickly fell in love with the region.  You’ve already seen a photo of the volcano itself but I simply love how the clouds settle in the crater as the sun rises bringing an amazing glow to everything before you.


Did you enjoy these photos?  Let me know in the comments which one your favorite was!

Honorable Mentions

In 2016 I took somewhere around 10,000 photos.  It was hard to whittle that down to just 10 winners and there were plenty of other amazing shots that simply did’t make the cut.  Here are few honorable mentions from the other 9,990 photos!



Need some more inspiration for traveling?  Check out my friend Sanne’s post about the 12 countries she visited in 2016!

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Mike Still
Mike is a travel enthusiast, photographer and teacher. He loves adventure travel, meeting the locals and exploring new culture. As an outdoor enthusiast you can often find him hiking mountains or exploring forests trying to capture the beauty of mother nature. In 2013 he founded www.LiveTravelTeach.com as he left his home in America and has been teaching or traveling around the world ever since!

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Peter J. Levy December 28, 2016 - 12:12 am

You have become a terrific photographer, no small feat. Even for a slow year, you had more adventure than most people have in a lifetime. Onward and upward.

Mike Still January 1, 2017 - 6:27 pm

Thank you Peter! I really do feel like y photography has improved too. I definitely need to keep everything I’m doing in perspective. Sometimes it feels so mundane since I’ve been living here for over 3 years. I have to stop and remember that the things I’m seeing/doing aren’t “normal” for most Americans.

Mom December 30, 2016 - 12:24 am

All your pictures are great, I don’t know how you picked only 10!

Mike Still January 1, 2017 - 6:25 pm

Sometimes I have no idea how I picked just 10 also! Thanks mom <3


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