With the rapid spread of COVID-19, it's hard to say if I'll have a decent summer vacation. Everywhere I look, news and updates about the virus inundate my online and TV screens. Planning for my original trip to The Philippines now seems futile.

I was eagerly anticipating ten days of sparkling blue beaches, warm sunshine, and the company of lovely people. Exploring Metro Manila and indulging in the delectable dishes of Bonifacio Global City (BGC) was high on my list. Sadly, those plans got scrapped. Perhaps summer 2021 will offer better opportunities.

Thankfully, optimism runs in my veins. I always try to turn adversity into an opportunity for growth. Instead of dwelling on the cancelled trip, I decided to plan a vacation in Japan.

At the time of writing this, The Philippines reports 224,222 COVID-19 cases, significantly surpassing Japan's 68,392. It seems safer to stay put here. I still managed to satisfy my beach craving, meet new people, and savour delicious dishes. Wakayama Prefecture, known as the land of water in Japan, offers cool, crisp, and laid-back summer vacations. So I redirected my plans towards exploring Japan's watery paradise.

My break commenced with a visit to a blueberry farm, where I picked various types of sweet and sour berries. As I filled my bucket, I couldn't resist enjoying a mouthwatering blueberry smoothie. It was a moment of pure bliss. I've never appreciated blueberries as much as I did then. My mind raced with ideas on how to use the two kilograms of blueberries I had collected.

Two days later, I ventured to Nachikatsuura Town in Southern Wakayama to spend a day at the beach with a friend. The refreshing water, scorching sun, and delicious snacks created the perfect Pacific Island beach day imagery. Normally bustling with tourists embarking on the historic Kumano Kōdo pilgrimage, witnessing the majestic Nachi Falls, and indulging in the healing properties of Kuroshio's ocean current at exquisite hot springs, Nachi Town was quieter due to COVID-19. Nevertheless, it enhanced the tranquillity and enjoyment of the beach and town.

Two days after that, I found myself deep in the mountains of Kozagawa Town. Kozagawa Town, situated on the southern end of Wakayama Prefecture's Kii Peninsula on Honshu Island, harbours one of Japan's best-kept secrets—the Koza River. With its crystal-clear and sparkling water, the river teems with carp, various fish species, and river shrimp. Occasionally, mischievous monkeys make appearances, as expected from monkeys. While at the river, my friend convinced me to jump from a high bridge into the deep water below. Initially, my heart raced, but as I leapt, I embraced the realization that there was no turning back. Upon landing, it was sink or swim. That jump shifted my perspective on life. It taught me the importance of wholeheartedly committing to a task or goal once you've taken the plunge. It's amazing how a few seconds can transform your mindset. Setting philosophy aside, it was undoubtedly the most fun I've had in a long time.

No summer vacation is complete without a braai (South African-style BBQ), right? Fortunately, I had a few of those memorable gatherings. Hosting friends over for a braai, featuring popular South African meats like boerewors and ostrich fillets, brought immense joy. If only I had known how blown away everyone would be by the food, I would have prepared even more. The real highlight of my vacation arrived in an unexpected package. Since February, I couldn't get it any sooner due to travel restrictions and ports being affected by the pandemic. So it was quite surprising to have randomly received it during that time. The beloved package was a series of artworks from South Africa. A few of them were my unfinished projects. So I wasted no time in working on them again.

Would I have had more fun had I gone to The Philippines? I'm not quite sure. Initially, I thought I would. However, this summer vacation turned out to be just right.

Please enjoy the image slideshow below.