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best of 2017

travel + culture

on the road and what's out there.


best of 2017

Caitlin Surakitbanharn

2017 is inching near its end - where did this year go?  we've been back State-side for over a year now!  it was such a big year...we did so much, saw so much, accomplished so much.  great years are always punctuated by great "things" - great albums, movies, lessons learned, adventures, friends, loves, moments, and memories.  so here are a few from this year.

best album: Kendrick Lamar, Damn. + Young Thug, Beautiful Thugger Girls

hip hop is my life-force.  and after 2016, with Chance, Beyonce, Frank Ocean, and  Young Thug's Jeffrey...I didn't know if 2017 could really deliver.  but boy, was i wrong.  in March, Kendrick dropped his first single off his mysterious upcoming record...Humble.  it was everything you need in an early spring banger...good lyrics, great beat, amazing video.  and then on Good Friday, while the rest of the world was doing Jesus resurrection things...he blessed us mere mortals with Damn.  a raw, powerful record that addresses the current political system, racial and gender inequality, police brutality, love, hate, relationships, and everything in-between.  Kendrick is so talented, it's like he barely needs a producer.  he's super talented, lyrically, and you cannot stop listening to him rap.  plus, Kendrick is hot.

then later in the summer, Young Thug dropped Beautiful Thugger Girls.  this is not Jeffrey.  but it doesn't need to be.  "Me or Us" gives us a softer side of Young Thug that we didn't know we needed, and "Family Don't Matter" reminds us blaze that ass like a candle, honey.  it's a great record, it came out with powerful imagery that pissed Cover Girl off, and I'll just say it - Young Thug is easily one of the most talented new rappers out there. he's different than Kendrick, his records are definitely more produced, catchier beats, etc.  but not every rapper out there has to be a lyrical genius.  sometimes, it's like...good lyrics and great beats.

best video: Future, Mask Off + Kendrick Lamar, DNA

Future's Mask Off video was IT for me this year.  a few things going on here: first of all, Future is HOT.  like he's def in my top 3 of celebrity men that i find ultra hot (don't @ me - ASkars is still in the top 3 too).  next, this video is stylish as harkening back to the days when music videos were good and not just stock footage of girls running around.  like not only making a musical statement, but a counter-culture statement, a political statement, and visual style statement.  Amber Rose looks edgy, sexy and smart.  the Bentley (ain't compromising, half a million on the coupe) is a perfect, stylish contrast to the rioting (and makes the right political statement, along with his jewelry, his tracksuit,and smoking in the car).  and finally, the message of the song resonated with me this year.  mask off.  be your truest self.

now i know you'd expect me to pick Humble - which is an amazing video AND spawned this absolutely f'ing hilarious article on Breitbart (no link, I refuse to give them clicks) about how Kendrick Lamar was bashing Trump and impersonating Jesus, making a statement that Jesus was black or something - the comment section had some gems like "JESUS WILL SMITE HIM THE LORD WILL SMITE HIM" - and for that hilarious entertainment, I will always be grateful...BUT...DNA was a more powerful video for.  I love how great Don Cheadle is in it.  I love this's really powerful and I love the non-subtle Fox News shade.  and I love how avant-garde it gets at the end.

and finally, a quick honorable mention - this video is pretty old (from 2015), but I just discovered CL and this song this year and i love how in your face this video is.

best realization: being "fashion" isn't the same thing as having style.


when we came back to the US and I started my final semester of classes in January of this year, I noticed a WAVE of Canada Goose coats all over campus.  literally everywhere.  and not just the rich Chinese and Korean kids - even the average income Indiana girls/guys had them.  I knew what these coats were but I was out of the loop as to their meteoric rise to being THE "fashion" winter coat.  I googled them and was FLABBERGHASTED at the $900 price tag.  I could not believe the amount of $900 coats that were casually cruising around the middle of Indiana.  I looked down at my own super toasty got-it-for-$99-on-sale Uniqlo puffer coat (that I f*cking LOVE, BTW), and thought to that thing 9x warmer? and I MEAN YOU COULD GO TO SEOUL FOR THAT MUCH MONEY.

(and yes - me - the former girl of i-will-do-anything-for-$1000-Loubs... yes.  I am making this statement)

this really came to fruition for me this past weekend.  i was in Chicago with my husband and in-laws shopping.  and we were trying to explain what the Canada Goose coats were to my in-laws.  and I mean Michigan Avenue was just...literally a sea of these coats.  about every 3rd person had one on.  and I kept thinking to myself - why would you spend all that money to wear the exact same coat like a bajillion other people?  and it dawned on me - and this is something I'd been struggling to articulate for awhile (and I think accounts for my distaste for shopping lately).  

these coats are expensive and they are all over the blogs and they are "fashion" or FASHUN or whatever you want to call it.  they're a status symbol.  but they are not style.  most of "fashion" isn't style.  it's what magazines and marketing have told us to do - and group psychology has been beaten into us so we think this is what must be done.  buy the coat.  get oxblood loafers.  buy this. own this.  spend $700 on the Miu Miu shoes that Vogue tells you is hot for the season.  but is that really style?  and yeah, maybe you like the coat or you love the shoes.  fair enough.  and it doesn't mean that if you're wearing oxblood loafers that you don't have style.  

But what I've realized in the past year is my mass-shopping/consumer of fashion in my past was just this: it wasn't really a style, or my "vibe" - I was doing what my fashion-girl obsession Vogue-running puppeteers were telling me to do.  it wasn't MY style.  it was an interpretation of theirs.  

so running with the mask off theme from earlier - that's my favorite realization of the year.  I've embraced my true, personal style and stopped worrying about what's "in" or what's "hot" or what would give me status.  I dress the way I like, the way I want to, and in the brands that fit me and make me feel powerful and cool.  and that's that.

best moment: graduating and having my family and friends there to celebrate

graduation was so satisfying.  it was the culmination of lots of work, and the kick off to what remains to come.  I got to spend to spend those two hours sitting with my advisor, Steve Landry (upper left picture, next to me), and it felt like such a great wrap up of our previous relationship, and the start of our new one.  a transition from boss/mentor to friend/mentor.  and then I got to celebrate this achieve with my husband, parents, sister, grandparents, in-laws and our best friends that flew out from California to pop bottles with us.  it just felt so GOOD.  getting my hood was just SO satisfying.  and yo, hello!  Dr. Caitlin Surakitbanharn in the house!  I learned so much in my graduate school process, I had the BEST mentor (Landry! Love you), and I am just continuing to learn and grow in all the ways I've been taught to keep my mind open.  The Ph.D., the hood..its' just the beginning.

best obsession: Kim Kardashian West


Kim is the American dream.  hate all you want, but she'll keep rising.  and yeah, I once posted about how I wished we could all rise above what the Kardashians stand for and be a better version of society but I take it back.  I mean really, should we?  She's a boss-ass businesswoman, she loves her kids and takes care of her family, and she's hot (and she works out for that bod, it doesn't come naturally).  how much higher can you rise?  so yeah, total 180 on Kim.  I am living for her blondness again this year (but she did recently tweet that she's super tired of getting her roots bleached every 4 weeks and toning and how much work the whole thing is and yes Kim I fucking FEEL YOU GIRL.  it is so much work), her body is slamming, and omg I am YEARNING DEEPLY for the KKW Beauty Ultrabeam Lights (I'll get it soon).  

best of the best: me.  

(sorry your head is cropped out there, Bamboo).

for me....the best thing about this year, 2017, was me.  I was feeling myself this year.  I felt better than ever.  30 was great - being older is great.  I felt good about myself, about my look, about my style, my confidence..everything.  I have never felt more alive than I do now.  I feel so confident.  I feel like I have finally found myself, figured out a little more about who I am (truly), and what matters to me.  I feel proud of my work, proud of my accomplishments.  I did what I wanted to do this year - I was blonde, I embraced MY style.  I was just doing the damn thing.  I love what I do.  I love my husband, I love my family.  I LOVE MY BEST FRIEND.  I have found that in this period of immense self-discovery and self-empowerment, I have never been closer to my best friend (LYNDSAY LOVE YOU BOO THANG), our relationship has never been as deep or real as it is today.  same with my husband - in really embracing my truest self, I think our relationship has become even deeper, more real, more in touch.  LIKE YOU GUYS I JUST FEEL LIKE I'M VIBRATING A HIGHER FREQUENCY NOW.  like I'm connecting with people more genuinely, I'm loving my life, I'm happy, I love our misfit group of friends we've made here in Indiana....  it's been absolutely, without a doubt, the best year of my life.

so that's my best of 2017.  Cheers to another great year ahead - I promise myself big things!