With the rapid spread of COVID-19, it's hard to say whether I'll have a decent summer vacation or not. Everywhere I look online and on TV, I'm constantly bombarded with news and updates about COVID-19. At this rate, it seems pointless to even plan for my summer vacation.

Initially, I wanted to go to The Philippines for ten days. I was looking forward to the sparkling blue beaches, beaming sunshine, and the lovely people the country has to offer. Getting lost in Metro Manila and trying out some of the tastiest dishes in Bonifacio Global City (BGC) were also on the top of my list of things to do there. But now, those plans have been scrapped. Perhaps summer 2021 will be better than the summer of 2020.

Luckily for me, optimism is a part of my genetic makeup. I always try to turn a bad situation upside down. Or at least learn from it if. Instead of planning any further for a Philippines trip, I decided to plan a trip within Japan.

At the time of writing this, the number of infections in The Philippines stands at 224 222 cases, which dramatically eclipses that of Japan at 68 392. So, perhaps, it's safe to know that I'm safer here than I would've been there. I still got my beach fix, met new people, and even managed to try out a few new tasty dishes. Luckily, Wakayama Prefecture is also known as the land of water in Japan. Summer vacations in this part of the country are usually cool, crisp and laid-back. So, I decided to spend my vacation in Japan's land of water.

The break started with me going to a blueberry farm to pick various types of blueberries and learn about them too. As I filled my bucket with sweet and sour berries, my day ended with a cold mouth-watering blueberry smoothie. At that exact moment, it felt like bliss. The smoothie's ingredients were perfect and plentiful. I've never appreciated blueberries as much as I did during that moment. My mind was already racing with ideas of how I can use my 2 kilograms worth of blueberries.

Two days later, I headed over to Nachikatsuura Town in Southern-Wakayama to visit a friend and spend the day at the beach there. The water was refreshing, the sun was scorching hot, and the snacks were delicious. It was the type of picturesque beach day that comes to mind when you think about a beach day on a Pacific Island nation. Usually, Nachi Town is awash with tourists who come in droves to hike the historic Kumano Kōdo (熊野古道), witness the majestic Nachi Falls, experience the healing properties of Japan's ocean current, the Kuroshio (黒潮), at some of the finest hot springs in Japan. Due to COVID-19, Nachi was emptier than usual this time around. So it made enjoying the beach and the town a little bit better.

Two days after that, I found myself deep in the mountains of Kozagawa Town. Kozagawa Town also lies in the Kii-Peninsula on the southern end of Wakayama Prefecture on Honshu island. A friend of mine had taken me to a river that is one of Japan's best-kept secrets — Koza River (古座川). With the water being crystal clear and sparkling clean, it's easy to understand why the river is plentiful with carp, various types of fish and river shrimp. From time to time, you can also witness the occasional monkey or two or ten being naughty — as you would expect from monkeys. While at the river, my friend convinced me to jump from a high bridge into the deep water below. At first, my heart pounded a bit. However, once you jump and you're in mid-air, you realise that you are on a path of no return. Once you land, you have to sink or swim. Since that jump, my perspective of life has changed quite a bit. I now realise the importance of going in all-the-way on a task or a goal once you have thrown yourself into pursuing it. It's amazing how your thoughts can change in a matter of a few seconds. Philosophy aside though, it was probably the most amount of fun I've had in a long time.

Summer vacation is not complete without a braai (South African style bbq) now is it? A few of those also arose from this memorable holiday. I was happy to host a few of my friends over for a braai which included popular South African meats such as boerewors and ostrich fillets. Had I known people would be blown away by the food, I would have prepared more of it for them. The real magic of the vacation came from a package delivery I had been expecting 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 slideshow below.