Goal: Travel outside of Asia

I detailed in an earlier post that I only started traveling back in 2011 when I was 33 years old. Since then I've been to several places, but all of them, except 2, have been in Southeast Asia (the other two are still in Asia). So my dream and goal is to be able to go out of the continent I was born in and the target is for this to happen in the next 12 months. 

Here are five of the more feasible places I would love to go to. I am reserving the Europe backpacking thing for 2019 (France, Italy, Spain, the usual) so unless an opportunity comes up anytime soon, then 2019 it is. 

 

1. Brazil or Colombia or Ecuador or Peru

Basically, I would like to just step on South American soil. I dreamt of going to the World Cup but circumstances (meaning, money) prevented me from doing so. Having read several books and watched movies and TV shows set in that region, I feel like it would be both familiar and strange once I get there. 

Plus, I would really want to watch a football match in football-crazy countries because they look crazy! 

 

2. New York

The main reason is of course to see my relatives, most of whom i haven't seen in a really, really long time. But of course I also want to do the whole touristy thing because of my various pop culture obsessions. And museums of course. And Broadway (I will dream of Hamilton!). 

 

 

3. New Zealand

Five words: Lord of the Rings Tour. Also, some dear friends live there, so it would be nice to pay them a visit as well. 

 

 

 

4. Luxembourg

If you go through my elementary days diaries (which I hope you won't), this country has always had a fascination for me. Probably it was due to a Childcraft entry that I read, where it talked about its various castles and picturesque villages that look like they came out of fairy tales or horror stories or both. 

 

 

5. Hawaii

I know we're spoiled when it comes to beaches here, so I would like to see what other places have to offer. Plus, the culture seems a very interesting one to learn about in person. And the food seems like something I would love. Also, male hula dancers. That is all.

 

 

So the next steps would be to really study which is the most feasible, come up with an actual plan, and start saving for the trip. I will post again in a year to see which one actually comes true. 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 reasons why traveling is important

To move to breathe to fly to float to gain all while you give, to roam the roads of land remote, to travel is to live.
— Hans Christian Andersen

 

One of the most annoying things that I hear whenever I talk about traveling is the "Grabe, ang yaman mo naman!" or "Ang sosyal, travel na lang ng travel!" 

Probably in the 80s or 90s, the only ones who were able to travel were the rich ones, but now with budget airlines and hotels, seat sales, Air BnB, and other tourist and wallet friendly deals, traveling has become a much more open aspect of one's life. (Wondering how to travel on a budget? I made a post!)

But this post isn't really about trying to give you tips on how you can afford to travel. Nor is it to romanticize the idea of traveling because some also have the tendency to do that. It's not about having great Instagram pics/videos to post or to have your peers envy you as you trot around the globe. Traveling is so much more than that. But really, you should travel at least once or more than once in your life, whether locally or internationally. Here are ten reasons why. 

 

1. Traveling lets you experience things for the first time. 

 My very first international trip. Excuse the ugly hairdo.

My very first international trip. Excuse the ugly hairdo.

 

You remember that commercial a few years back that asks you the question, "When is the last time you experienced something for the first time?" Traveling lets you do that, whether it's your first time to do whitewater rafting in CDO or Davao or you experience snow for the first time in your life or you get to eat spiders or you get to walk a certain street for the first time. We need to have these kinds of experiences every once in a while so you won't get weary of your world. Speaking of...

 

2. Traveling expands your world

If you are already weary of the every day drudgery of your commute or your work or your routine, it's time to go out there and see beyond the four corners of your tiny world. I first stepped out of the Philippines when I was already 33 years old, but immediately, I felt like I was a young child being given the freedom to explore for the first time. When you go to a country that is so much different and yet similar to your own, it is both a depressing and an exhilarating thing. Seeing how other people live and experiencing their world even for a little while will do wonders for your empathy and understanding of the world in general. I haven't even been out of Asia, so I can just imagine how my world will be rocked even more when I go to Africa or Europe or North America.

 At the historic and wondrous Angkor Wat

At the historic and wondrous Angkor Wat

 

 

 

3. Traveling helps you budget better.

Some people actually believe that traveling is a waste of money. I guess if it isn't your priority, then it will seem like that. But actually, it has helped me take care of my money better (well to the best of my ability, but that's another story for another time). I save up because I want to go somewhere. And then when i do go somewhere, I make sure that I spend just enough so as not to affect the rest of my paycheck when I come back. You look for budget-friendly places. You try to discipline yourself from shopping too much. And in the end, the experience you get from wherever you're going is actually priceless.

 

4. Traveling helps you be kinder

When I travel alone, somehow I always get to run into a person who's traveling for the first time. And normally, I am suspicious and somewhat aloof towards strangers, but being in a different place makes me act kinder towards them and extend help (but also carefully coz you never know). Traveling in a group also somewhat makes you nicer to each other since you don't want to spend the entire time arguing or getting annoyed with each other. And meeting locals is always an opportunity to be polite and nice, especially in cultures where those are pretty important things. Hopefully, you get to bring that kindness home with you. 

 Say hi to the ladies in their Ao Dai's 

Say hi to the ladies in their Ao Dai's 

 

 

 

5. Traveling helps you notice the details and "stop and smell the flowers" (sometimes literally)

Most city (especially Manila) dwellers are just too busy to notice certain things as they go through their every day routine. But when you go out of the city, whether locally or internationally, you marvel at green fields or how the tree patterns look scary and amazing at the same time or how the colorful doors in a street add to the place's character or how the locals seem to smile a lot more than usual. Noticing things like this brings things into perspective. And again, hopefully you get to bring with you that different point of view when you go home. 

 Sunsets always look better seen on the beach. Bohol 2016

Sunsets always look better seen on the beach. Bohol 2016

 

 

 

6. Traveling lets you meet new people

Whether it's your seat mate on the plane, a person you ask directions from, a fellow solo traveler, a group of other people who are also traveling, talking to people you normally would not encounter is one of the joys of going to different places. You have to be open to hearing other people's stories, and maybe even sharing your own.

 

7. Traveling helps you enjoy and learn lessons from the journey.

As cliche as it may sound, sometime the greatest lessons you learn from traveling is not the destination, but the journey to get there. The saving up, the planning, the give and take with your travel companions, the discomfort and the obstacles, the getting lost in an unfamiliar city, the countless stories you get to experience with your travel companions - these are some of the things I remember most when I travel, sometimes maybe even more than the actual places you visit.

 Our #CrazyCrazyCrazy trip to Bangkok in 2015. Ask me about the stories from this trip in person. 

Our #CrazyCrazyCrazy trip to Bangkok in 2015. Ask me about the stories from this trip in person. 

 

 

 

8. Traveling helps you become a better writer/photographer/"journaler"/diarist.

Whether you're more of a wordsmith or a visual person, traveling helps you put down things into writing or photos or even sketches. You don't want to forget certain moments so you take a picture or write bullet points and then later on, organize them into some sort of order. Being in other places has helped me write more and even take better pictures. And if you're so inclined, you can even start your own travel blog or website.

 Everyone's busy taking pics in Hanoi

Everyone's busy taking pics in Hanoi

 

 

 

9. Traveling gives you a (hopefully much-deserved) break

If I could, I would still not travel every weekend. Aside from the fact that it's painful for your wallet, the fact that you have something to look forward to if you just do it every once in a while, will give you some extra motivation to do well in your job so your boss will let you take a leave or you might even get a promotion and save up some extra cash that you can use for other things (like traveling!)

 

10. Traveling will make you look forward to coming home

And as much as I enjoy traveling, at the end of the trip, I look forward to going home to my own bed, my comfort zone, and the people I love most. 

 Home is wherever, whenever, I'm with these two. 

Home is wherever, whenever, I'm with these two. 

 

 

Why I Love Riding Planes Alone

Don’t get me wrong. I love traveling with my family and friends, But there is just something about riding planes alone that I truly love and prefer to be honest. Probably 3/4 of all my travels have been on solo plane rides and while some would find that sad and maybe even terrifying, those are some of my favorite traveling moments. Why?

Surprisingly I am more patient when I’m alone
There’s something about having people around you who are as upset as me that makes me more annoyed and upset at delays and the heat and incompetent airline employees. But when I’m alone, I’m like the most chill person in the midst of the angry horde and I feel like I'm in no hurry to get to where I'm supposed to be going (unless I have an appointment of course). 

People-watching
Airports are fascinating places to observe human behavior. There are the parents pushed to the brink by their screaming or bored kids. There are the couples oblivious to everyone else and just stare into eah other’s eyes or PDA to their heart’s content. The loners who are content to read, or stare into space or write or draw in their hipster journals. The old white guys with their young Filipina gfs or wives. Or the people like me who love to watch people and sometime invent stories or pass judgement or wonder. Oh and of course the random cute guy sightings.

Catching up on my reading list
My reading list never ends. At least when I travel alone I get to scratch of a book or two from that list. Then I add one or two more of course.

Sleep
I love talking to my friends during plane rides so I only get to sleep when I'm traveling alone. The drawback is I probably snore so sorry stranger /seatmate.

Think and listen to yourself
I seldom get to do that, so yeah plane rides are for that. A lot of my "deepest" journal entries that are not for public consumption get written during these solo plane rides.

Have a conversation with God
Of course not aloud. That might be cause for me to get thrown off the plane. But some of my more interesting conversations with my Father have been when I’m in “the air”. Nothing like seeing the clouds and seeing how small everything is in the scheme of things to make you long to ask Him existential questions.

So, do you like riding planes alone too? 

Tips on How to Travel on a Budget

Traveling isn't just something that rich people do. Well, not anymore. In fact, if you have a pretty decent job, a determination to save up, and a few tricks here and there to learn how to travel on a budget, you can actually travel within your country or even outside, but within your means as well.

 

We don't have to extol on the virtues of traveling (if you're reading this, we're guessing you're already convinced) but we do need to talk about money. You don't need to be filthy rich, but you do need some sort of financial stability to be able to travel. It doesn't have to be in the millions. Here are some tips you can follow to be able to travel on your own financial terms. 

 

 

1. Choose a dream destination, but be realistic.

 

If you're looking at your bank account and you feel like a European tour is out of the question at this moment, then choose somewhere that is more realistic (financially speaking) and more feasible. You may have to settle for somewhere nearer, and then do that dream vacation somewhere in the near future (but start saving up for it too!). Once you've settled on your immediate destination, do your research so you know how much you need to save up for.

 

San Juanico Bridge in between Samar and Leyte

 

 

2. Start an actual travel fund

 

Oh, we've all put that in our New Year's Resolution: start an honest-to-goodness travel fund. But how many of us actually do it? Well, if you're really determined to travel soon, you should actually put that bill (or coins) where your mouth is. Make sure that when you're setting aside that money every month, you will absolutely not touch it, even if there's a great sale on Saks or something. You can even moonlight or take on a second job if you still can, just to save up for your dream vacation. 

 

 

3. Watch out for airline seat sales

 

While we all of course would love to fly first class and with a top-notch airline, chances are that would not be a priority if you want to travel on a budget. So your best bet would be to watch out for airline sales from apps like Skyscanner Flights, Kayak, etc. The planes are smaller and the service may not be that great, but hey, at least you're on your way to wherever it is you want to go. 

 

 

4. Find a comfortable, affordable hotel/hostel

 

If you're going to spend 80% of your time outside, exploring a new place, then why would you want to spend a lot of money on a place where you're just going to sleep and take a bath? Sites like Agoda, Hotels.com are the best ways to look for hotels/hostels/apartelles because they offer cheaper rates than booking directly. Air BnB is also a great option if you're looking for no frills places (meaning you most likely will have to look after yourself). But don't just book the cheapest one you can find. Do your research. Go to Trip Advisor and see what they say about the place you're eyeing. Google your potential accommodation just to be sure. Just choose the minimum viable things you would need (WiFi, a small closet, air-conditioning) and make sure that the hotel is somewhere near the main areas so you also wouldn't spend a lot on transportation. 

 

 

5. Set the itinerary after researching well.

 

Having a planned and detailed itinerary will save you a lot of money. Going to a place unprepared is always a no-no and will always be more expensive, because, eventually, you'll end up hiring a tour guide or going with a tour group because you know nothing. But going on sites like Trip Advisor, CNN Travel, Lonely Planet, various travel blogs can help you whittle down the things you need to see and then help you plan out how much you will spend or which places will fit in with your budget. Remember, DIY-ing it is always cheaper and probably more fun.

 

 Senso-ji Temple is a must-see according to travel blogs. And they were right.

Senso-ji Temple is a must-see according to travel blogs. And they were right.


6. Don't fall into the tourist traps.


Every country has one, so make sure to do your research so you can avoid them like the plague. You don't really need that overpriced souvenir when you can get simpler, cheaper ones. You don't really need to go to a fancy looking place when you know you won't buy something or you won't enjoy touring it anyway. Travel bloggers are pretty helpful in weeding out these traps. 



7. Walk and take the bus or train as much as possible.


There are a lot of tourist places where walking is encouraged because after all, you can enjoy a new place more on your feet rather than on wheels. So as much as possible, walk. Or if their public transportation system is pretty good, go for the buses or taxis. Just try to avoid taxis as much as you can, especially if you're obviously a tourist. And if you have no choice but to take one, make sure you research beforehand what's the regular rate so you won't get duped.


 Walking to the Meiji Shrine

Walking to the Meiji Shrine

 

8. Limit your shopping and shop wisely.

 

Of course you can never avoid shopping, even if it's just for small trinkets and souvenirs. But make sure that you set a budget for it, and then stick to it. Find out where the best places to go to are and check if these are legit shopping meccas or just tourist traps. Buy only things that you would need or you would give to someone. Yes, you can treat yourself to something silly and cute or something that's really nice, but only if you're not over your budget yet.

 

9. Look for "freebie" tourist spots.

 

Sometimes, you have to pay an exorbitant amount to get into museums, temples, etc. But if you feel like that is beyond what you can spend on entrance fees, look for ones where you don't have to pay anything. You can still go to one or two places, especially if the fee is absolutely worth it, but there are also places where everyone is free to look around and take selfies. Some galleries and museums also have free days, so you can check them out too. 

 

10. Make sure you have an emergency fund.

 

There's nothing worse than being in a strange place and you run out of money. So make sure that you set aside a certain amount which you will only touch for emergency purposes. Remember, you can't call anyone to come pick you up in case you come up short on cash.

 

A Year After: Our HongKong Football Experience

One of the greatest things for die-hard football fans to experience is to travel to different countries (or even provinces) to support your national team or club.  My Kaholeros friends and I had a great 10-day trip to Bangkok in 2012 for the Suzuki Cup (which was also my first trip out of the country!) where the Azkals competed and so we were eager to repeat the experience.

This time around though, it was just four girls (Andi, Pam, Ysabs and me) plus one guy (Cedelf, who is now forever known as our HK group boyfie). It was for one game, a friendly against the Hongkong National Team. Easy peasy. We had other plans too, like visit Disneyland, shop, have a picture taken with the giant yellow rubber duckie, eat, etc. It was supposed to be a simple, fun, no-frills trip.

2013-06-09-15-29-10.png

 

Yep, didn’t turn out to be that way.

While I would always cherish the other parts of our trip (especially bonding moments between the five of us), what we experienced at Mong Kok Stadium on June 4, 2013 would forever be etched in our memories as the day we saw the ugly side of football.

Okay, it’s not technically clearly etched in my memory. Some details are now hazy, but some scenes you will never forget

How the four of us, all girls, were nervous and excited coz it was the first time we’d try to lead a bunch of strangers to cheer for the boys (Cedelf was there as media so he was on the other side of the stadium)

2013-06-09-15-27-49.jpg

 

How we found nice and cooperative and enthusiastic kababayans (mostly women, children and some foreigners who had Pinoy friends or loved ones) in the bleachers section

How proud we felt when we unfurled that big Philippine flag (which traveled with us all the way from Manila) and sang the National Anthem with tears in our eyes, because almost the entire stadium was booing us

 

How the actual game was exciting, especially when James Younghusband scored in the 33rd minute (the only goal of the game) and Neil saved an unjustly given penalty

How we felt a little hostility from the cheering home fans (which is normal for any football game) but did not expect things to escalate later on

 

How we were shocked and then angered when one HK fan threw a tetra packed juice at us, hitting one of the kids in the process

How the security people told us to calm down coz “you are winning anyway” and did nothing to quell the rising tension between the two sets of fans

How when after the game and the players went over to thank us, some HK fans started hurling water bottles at them and shouting expletives at them (again, a common scene at unruly football matches, but one that should never be tolerated)

(VIDEO: 24 Oras: PHL Azkals, na-boo at binato pa raw ng fans ng natalo)

How incensed HK fans started screaming at us, with some of them calling us a nation of slaves (later on, some of them claim that it was not because they lost the game, but because of their anger at the Philippines because of the Luneta hostage taking where a lot of HK citizens died)

How a group of Europeans protected us from the HK fans who wanted to rush at us in the stands

How the security people told us afterwards to not go out first because some fans might be waiting for us outside (we had to go out the side entrance when everyone had already left, with matching security escort)

How after we started tweeting about our experience, Philippine social media blew up, with a lot of people getting angry at what we experienced and expressing their support for us and the team

(ARTICLE: Racist issue mars Azkals win vs HK)

How, when regional and local media picked up the story, some HK fans claim that Filipino female fans in blue (we were wearing the blue kit) were the ones provoking them

(ARTICLE: Football hooliganism in Hong Kong? Filipino fans claim racial abuse)

How six months later, after filing an official complaint with FIFA about the behavior of the HK fans and the failure of the HKFA to control the situation, we got justice when FIFA fined them P1.4 million for the fans’ racist and unruly behavior

(ARTICLE: PH complaint upheld: FIFA fines HK over fans’ unruly behaviour)

How after all was said and done, we’re glad we got out of their physically unscathed, despite being emotionally scarred for life

How I don’t think I’ll be going to Hongkong anytime soon

How the experience has made us closer and most of the Filipino football community, despite being small and “young” for now,  reacted with righteous anger but still with grace and aplomb

How we realized first-hand that racism and discrimination should never ever have any place in football or any other sport or any other aspect of life for that matter