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A look back: My ABCs of Travel

February 1, 2012
London bridge

This travel blogger meme has been going on for some time and I’m finally getting my hands out on answering it. I’ve been tagged by brilliant travel bloggers –  Jade & James of OurOyster.com and Tom of Waegook Tom.

Here goes my ABCs of Travel:

A: Age you went on your first international trip

My first international trip was to the US when I was 14. It was a 50-day trip jumping from San Francisco then to Houston. After, we headed to New York, Washington DC and Orlando in Florida. A whirlwind trip with the family but I got a good taste of what travel entails.   I got to see snow for the first time (for a Filipino it was MUST) and also travel to ground zero a few months after the September 11 attacks.

B: Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where:

Belgian beers

Oh man, HANDS DOWN – beers from Belgium! Travelling in Belgium won’t be complete without tasting their world-famous beers. I feel very lucky that I live here now. 😛

And as for beer types, definitely Houblon Chouffe, Delirium Tremens, Duvel and Triple Westmalle tops my list.

C: Cuisine (favorite):

Vietnamese cuisine. I spent most of my days in Ho Chi Minh enjoying Vietnamese street food. Who would have thought that you’ll find baguettes in Southeast Asia? They manage to achieve a fusion of Asian & Western delicacies.  I will go back there simply for the food!

D: Destinations, favorite, least favorite and why:

Favourite: Amsterdam. The city has a great vibe, interesting history and active nightlife. And of course, the canals and architecture are beautiful. I’ve been there five times and don’t mind coming back again!

Least Favourite: I have to say Paris. The city has interesting places and attractions but it’s too touristic and chaotic for me. And it’s also too expensive for my taste. The city never really captured me that some other were. L

E: Event you experienced abroad that made you say “wow”:

Rock Werchter 2009

Music festivals in Europe particularly my first one – Rock Werchter in 2009. I didn’t expect that I’ll get to see Coldplay, The Killers, Bloc Party and Jason Mraz in one night! In Asia, it’s rare for a foreign band to visit so seeing three of your favourite bands in one night was a shocker.

F: Favorite mode of transportation:

Trains – comfortable, cheap and convenient. 

G: Greatest feeling while traveling:

The feeling that you are now on a place that before you only see on postcards, television or in movies. It’s the thought that you are really in this place always stands out.

H: Hottest place you’ve traveled to:

Morocco. It was the beginning of summer when I went there in 2009. I remember carrying a litre of water everytime we had to go out. And there are no beers around and that didn’t help out relieving our cool feeling. 😉 Good thing there were orange juices everywhere to keep us feeling sweet and hydrated.

Jus d'Orange in Marrakech

I: Incredible service you’ve experienced and where:

Happy Guest house

From Happy Guest House in Siem Reap, Cambodia.  The family managing the place was really friendly and takes care of their guests as if we are part of the family. The best bonus was we got to stay and got free airport pick-up,  bicycle rentals, wifi, towels and bottled water – all for 3 USD a night!

 J: Journey that took the longest:

Aside from 20 hours trans-continental flights, the longest and also the most painful journey I did was with a bus ride from Berlin to Brussels. It was supposed to be an 8-hour trip but turned into 23 hours because of the heavy snow! The bus ride was very uncomfortable  –  Toilets were clogged, chairs were small and the driver hardly stopped for toilet or eating breaks. Never going to do that again!

 K: Keepsake from your travels:

I collect t-shirts from different countries particularly those with bizarre prints on it. One of my favourite shirt was the one I got in Prague saying “Czech me out!” – it’s a bit touristy, but I like it. 🙂

 L: Let-down sight, why and where:

Atomium in Brussels, Belgium. We had to pay 13€ to go inside, but apart from cool escalators – it really has nothing to offer. The view from the top was quite disappointing.

M: Moment where you fell in love with travel:

When I first moved into Belgium, I fell in love with travelling and living abroad. I didn’t imagine that I’ll be able to make really good friends with people from almost all corners of the world. It made me proud of who I am and also made me realise that there’s a world out there waiting to be explored.

 N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in:

Marriott Hotel in Champs-Elysees in Paris. I didn’t pay for it, thank God, but the idea that we stayed right in the main street of Paris was pretty convenient and fancy.

 O: Obsession—what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?:

Jumping photo in Tower Bridge, London

Jumping photos – I have loads of photos everywhere. I can create a big folder from my travel photos with simply jumping photos.

P: Passport stamps, how many and from where?

I’m not counting but I know that I’m now almost halfway through my passport.

Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where:

Cu Chi tunnels in Vietnam. You get to be inducted to the Viet Kong idealogy, show you some deadly traps,  drag you under the tunnels, hike through the jungle then finally give you an option to fire a rifle! It’s one of the most unique experiences I had on my travels.

 R: Recommended sight, event or experience:

Angkor Wat - Siem Reap

Angkor Wat. It’s hard to imagine that it was once a thriving civilisation – but it’s grandeur was simply breathtaking. It’s a nice reminder that you only live once and it’s up to yourself have to take the most out of it.

S: Splurge; something you have no problem forking over money for while traveling:

Experiences , whether it’s shooting rifles, swimming with whale sharks, crossing ziplines etc – it’s those experiences that you’ll  remember on your travels. So I don’t care if I had to eat street food all the time or fly low cost, as long as I know that in exchange  I’ll get a rewarding experience, it’s fine!

T: Touristy thing you’ve done:

Climbing up the Eiffel Tower. We queued for 2 hours to start with, then queued some more to go up the tower peak. Ended up losing a day just on that. Hahahaha.

U: Unforgettable travel memory:

There are two:

First, when I went swimming with the whale sharks in Donsol, the Philippines. The opportunity to see wild life up close (and not just any wildlife but bus size fishes!) was both a memorable and humbling experience.

Second, was my trip to Morocco. We were on a cross-country trip from Marrakech to Tangier. It was only for a week but we got to see breathtaking sights like Dades Gorge, Sahara desert and the medinas of Marrakech and Fes. It was my first “backpacker” trip as well – complete with sleeping in airports, haggling for prices and being tricked into buying a damn carpet (my friend, not me)

Camel head in Morocco

V: Visas, how many and for where

I had three – US visa, UK visa and my current and very precious Schengen working visa. On the latter, it took me almost one and a half years to get! (no joke)

W: Wine, best glass of wine while traveling and where?

I’m not really a wine person so I can’t really name anything in particular. 😉

 X: eXcellent view and from where?:

El Nido – the town is right smack in front of limestone cliffs. A world wonder no doubt.

Y: Years spent traveling?

I started living in Belgium when I was 21 – so I’d say three years. 🙂

Z: Zealous sports fans and where?

Not really a big sports person, but I’m a supporter of the Holland National Football team and also of tennis’ Novak Djokovic.

I tag:

Tom from Active Backpacker

Neil from Backpacks and Bunkbeds

Cole & Adela from Around the World in Four Jandals

Roy from the Riding Dutchman

Euan and Rachel from Our Wee Trip

 

Travel Blog

Travel Blogger Feature: Jade and James – Our Oyster

January 30, 2012
Jade&JamesSM

This Monday’s Newcomer Interview is with Jade & James of Our Oyster. Their travels are inspiring as they often look for the best experiences while keeping the budget and their environmental footprint in control. They have great resources on budget travel all over the world, and with your truly doing a contribution about Budget Travel in the Philippines.

Here’s my short interview with Jade and James of Our Oyster

Jade & James - Our Oyster


Name – Jade Johnston and James Cook
Where are you from? – Jade is from Canada and James is from England
Website: www.ouroyster.com
Twitter Handle: @our_oyster
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/ouroyster

Can you tell us a bit about yourself ?

Jade is 25 and has so far been to over 30 countries during her last five years as a traveller. James is 23 and has travelled the world since he was 16, when he joined the merchant navy – although in some countries he has only seen the ports. We met while both travelling through New Zealand and ended up living in New Zealand together for one year before recently moving to Australia.

Why did you decide to start a travel blog? 

We both has separate blogs before we met each other, and we didn’t really think to combine our efforts until James ran out of space for photos on his free hosting account. Once we started blogging we quickly became addicted to it.

What’s the most challenging part of being a travel blogger?

Travel blogging is the biggest killer of free time. If I’m not actively working on the blog, I am thinking about it. One of the most challenging things is figuring out all the technical aspects of blogging, and of course, the biggest time killer is social marketing. I think we actually spend the least amount of time on the actual article writing!

Jade & James - Our Oyster

Can you tell us about your first travel experience?

Jade’s first travel experience outside of Canada was to the Dominican Republic when she was 17. She went there over Christmas holidays with a Dominican friend from one of her Uni classes. It was your typical relaxed, beach side type of holiday.

James’ first travel experience was in Portugal when he was 4. It was the first family vacation away and they celebrated by letting James eat loads of ice cream. He consequently threw up all over the waiter. Things haven’t changed much since then….. (with the eating of lots of ice cream I mean…!)

What’s your favourite destination and why?

Jade’s favourite destination is more of a region. She loves travelling in Eastern Europe. The people are so friendly and the food is incredible! Spain is another of her favourites, its just a really chilled out place to visit with lots of great art and culture.

James’ favourite destination is Zimbabwe and Africa in general. He loves all the wildlife that can be spotted, and the friendly and open people.

 If you can travel with a real or fictional character, who will you travel with and why?

Jade picked Phileas Fogg from Around the World in 80 Days, because despite all the obstacles put in his path he never got upset or phased and always found a way around them (unlike Jade you gets stressed), and he was rich… haha!

James was going to pick Phileas Fogg as well (as we both just read the book and he came to mind) but then decided that he travels far to fast (Around the world in 80 days that would be far to hectic!), instead James would like to travel around with Diana princess of Wales. She was big in volunteering and an inspiration to many people!

 What’s your favourite travel quote (from a book, film, TV show etc)?Jade & James - Our Oyster

James like Bilbos quote of “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door. You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to”

Jades is “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness” by Mark Twain.

If you have one flight ticket to go anywhere in the world tomorrow, where will you go?

For Jade it’s Mongolia! She wants to get there before the nomadic culture disappears. For James it’s Antarctica… although I think that might be more of a boat ticket than a plane ticket.

What is the strangest thing you have eaten, drank or experienced on your travels?

One of the strangest things that Jade has experienced was a parade in Malaysia where the people participating had large metal poles piercing through their lips and cheeks, and one was even pulling a cart by hooks in his back. The strangest thing that James has eaten was a meat pie … but the meat was possum meat.

Advice to fellow newbie travel bloggers 

Don’t give up! It takes a lot of work, and a lot of time to be successful, and you need to be prepared for that. Also, don’t forget to get as involved as possible in the travel blogging community.

Jade & James - Our Oyster


“Jade Johnston and James cook are travel writers and can be found writing at their website for budget travellers and long term travellers. “

All photos in this post are Jade and James’ property but are hosted on this blog’s flickr count. All rights remain with James & Jade.

Do you want to be interviewed on our next session of Talk with a Travel Newcomer? The only requirement of course is that you have to be a newbie travel blogger.  Contact me  if you’d like to be featured!

Travel Blog

Secrets to a travel-filled lifestyle while on a full-time job

January 27, 2012
6768264595_c3678a8d59

One question I often get asked is: How come I get to travel across the world and still get to keep a job?

There’s nothing special about me really. I am the same as most young people my age. I work full-time from Monday to Friday, pay my bills, do grocery shopping, study and sometimes have a bit of social life.

But I travel – and travel a lot.

After my trips,  I come back every Monday morning and continue my daily work routine.

My desk on my first day at work

I read travel blogs and I get inspired by people who have left their jobs and travelled the world. It’s an amazing feat and I want to do that as well someday. Often, there’s this voice saying that I take the same leap, but my practical mind always wins and says that it’s not yet time.

Why? There are many reasons and it’s possible that you may have the same hesitations.  I’m young and I have just started my career. And perhaps I’m too scared or practical to afford such a big leap. Besides, I enjoy what I do for work and as of now, I have no plans of leaving. I have debts to pay and I think I’m not yet financially stable to take such a leap.

So how can you  travel and still get to keep your work? 

First make a choice to actually WANT to travel.

 

They are right. Why not TRAVEL?

Every new year, my Facebook feeds contain resolutions from my friends and their desire to travel. Everyone seems to want to travel. But the drive fades out because of work, money or other reasons. And as the year ends, some would sigh and say “Oh, I will make  travel happen next year”.  

BREAK THE CYCLE! Plan ahead and make it happen.


Plan in advance when is the best time for you to take a break from work and ask your boss for a vacation leave. Merge it with public holidays  to save on your holiday counts.

Book a flight (even months in advance), buy a guidebook, research and even book hostels or search for a couchsurfing host. Do everything that will force you to travel. If you can, book trips with friends so you have people to plan a trip with. If you can’t find anyone to go with, go by yourself and make friends when you get abroad.

SAVE.  Don’t use lack of money as an excuse not to travel.


One of the excuses I often hear is that people could not travel because they don’t have the money. You don’t need to be rich to see the world.

Money is crucial in our lives but it should not be used as an excuse from achieving our dreams.

Control your spending. Do you need the newest iPhone? Think twice. Use these savings to plan a big trip. Or if you are really short on cash, travel small and visit a neighbouring country, island, state or city.

Arrange if you can ‘work virtually’.


Thanks to the conveniences of the Internet, virtual offices are possible.

I’ve worked ‘virtually’ for one and a half years in the Philippines. It was a positive experience for me; working away from an ‘office desk’ didn’t have any negative impact on my productivity and output level (I hope so 😉 ).

And working abroad means that you have the weekday evenings and the weekend to explore and travel.

Changing environments often encourages you to be motivated. Why sit in front of your boring desk if you can do work in the beaches of El Nido, for example. There is the downside of course that you have to work – but with a view like this, I don’t think you’ll regret it!

If you have to work with a view like this, then YES

Ask your boss if you can work for 1-2 weeks virtually, and often if they trust you enough, they would say yes. You can do almost everything  virtually – check and answer emails, make phone calls, attend meetings and even do presentations. 

Travel doesn’t need to take long –do it on weekends.


You don’t need to fly 12 hours or take a month-long holiday for it to be considered as ‘travel’. There’s no standard duration nor distance for a trip to be considered well, a trip. For me, the essence of travel is when you take the extra step in order to know and discover a destination regardless of the time spent nor the location.

I’m a fan of weekend travels and I’ve done it on several countries in my list.

There are times when I think that these days weren’t enough. It’s true –  but there’s no stopping you from coming back there again.

Travel does not dictate any location nor destination

You can go to a neighbouring city or a country across the border and still do what all other travellers are doing: exploring, ‘travelling local’ and getting drunk. 🙂

And finally, if you have an option: WORK ABROAD.

 

Find a job abroad that you like and apply. There are lots of opportunities available for people to work abroad. The salary may not pay well or the position may not be as prominent – but hey, at least you are in a new destination!

I’ve done most of my travels in the past four years while having a full-time job. I never stopped from actually having one. And if I add all the travels I’ve done in the past four years,  it will equate to almost one year of being on the road (yup, almost equivalent  to me travelling for one year around the world). For me, there are no differences whether you travel for one year or one weekend.  

But I still manage to earn a living, go forward with my career and be happy. There are no secrets really. Happy travels!

How do you balance work and travel? Do you have any other tips or advice to share? Feel free to comment below!

Travel Blog

Travel Blogger Feature: Beverley – Pack your Passport

January 24, 2012
Beverley - Pack your Passport

Glad to start-off my newbie travel blogger interviews again. 🙂

I’m happy to start of course with the sweet Beverley of Pack your Passport! Her travels began when she took her first plane ride to Australia in 2010! We met through #TTOT and exchanged a lot of travel answers and since then I’ve followed her stories as an expat in Australia.

Here’s my chat with Beverley of Pack your Passport.

Beverley from Pack your Passport

Name:  Beverley from Pack Your Passport
Where are you from? I’m from a very small town called Stamford in England. No-one knows where it is…..I probably wouldn’t recommend going there……!
Website: www.pack-your-passport.com
Twitter Handle: www.twitter.com/PckYourPassport

Can you tell us a bit about yourself ?

I’m a 20-something travel junkie and marketing graduate travelling the world and writing about it!  I’m travelling with my boyfriend and we’ve been in Australia for 18 months but we’ll also be heading to New Zealand and Asia too in the next 6 – 18 months.Beverley from Pack your Passport

Why did you decide to start a travel blog?

I started my travel blog out of a genuine love for both writing and travel – it’s my little outlet for all the ups and downs of my travels so far but I also hope that it inspires others to travel too.

What’s the most challenging part of being a travel blogger?

The most challenging part is finding the time to publish new posts when you’re actually travelling!  Writing the posts isn’t the problem (I use the Notes app on my iPhone to draft out posts wherever I am!) but actually getting them out there is the problem!

Can you tell us about your first travel experience?

I didn’t properly experience what it felt like to travel properly (ie. not a holiday with the parents) until I came to Australia in June 2010.  It was a big step into the unknown, having never flown or travelled further than France before, but I honestly believe that it’s the best decision I ever made.

What’s your favourite destination and why?

Well I still have so much more of the world to see, but so far my favourite destination is Sydney purely because, as the first destination I arrived in, it will always be a special place to me.

If you can travel with a real or fictional character, who will you travel with and why?

Can I be really geeky and say that I’d like to travel with Dallas Green (google it!) so that I could constantly listen to his music LIVE!Beverley from Pack your Passport

What’s your favourite travel quote (from a book, film, TV show etc)?

I visited a cafe in Kings Cross (Sydney) once and on the wall was a quote by Henry David Thoreau: “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined” and that really spoke to me.

If you have one flight ticket to go anywhere in the world tomorrow, where will you go?

Go back to England to visit my family because I know I’m not going to see them for a long time

What is the strangest thing you have eaten, drank or experienced on your travels?

The strangest thing I’ve eaten on my travels so far was octopus which, just in case you’re wondering, takes like one of those rubber bath mats with the suckers on the bottom: gross!

Strangest thing I’ve experienced?  A man clipping his toe nails on the tram in Melbourne: disgusting!

Advice to fellow newbie travel bloggers

I’m still a newbie travel blogger myself but my one piece of advice would be to be yourself!

 

Get to know more about Beverley from her blog – www.pack-your-passport.com

Beverley from Pack your Passport

“Pack Your Passport is the hopefully-inspiring, sometimes-hilarious, always-honest adventures of a 20-something English girl travelling the world and writing about it: Australia, New Zealand, Asia and beyond!”

 

Do you want to be interviewed on our next session of Talk with a Travel Newcomer? The only requirement of course is that you have to be a newbie travel blogger.  Contact me if you’d like to be featured!

Travel Blog

Hello 2012!

January 17, 2012
Hello 2012

I’m back! And ready to begin 2012 with a huge set of energy and travel spunk!

I know that I’ve been missing in action for more than a month and there was a reason for my absence.

2011-12-28 15.18.45

Three weeks ago, I’ve made a change in my life. I made a big move from Asia to Europe.

I moved from my hometown, Manila, Philippines to Brussels, Belgium. I will be calling Brussels my home again for a while. And as with many movers, I was involved a lot with it – packing, arranging flats, sorting out visa requirements, parties and more packing. When I got into Brussels, I also had to do the reverse – unpack, finding a flat,settling down and an added bonus of travels with my mum.

Between those times, it was tough to find a moment to sit down and write.

But now, my schedule has been bit freed off  so here I am writing my first post for 2012. I’m going to give a quick run through of what has been happening so far , how I arrived into the idea of the move, and what to expect from the blog and my 25-country travel goals!

The Story: The Big Move

What’s with the big move? Actually, this has been in the works for more than a year.

While I was kept busy with work and travel, I was working behind the scenes with ZN, my employer in Brussels, on fixing my work permit and moving me back to Europe. I was working with them before for a year then had to move back to the Philippines in 2010 to sort out my work permit. It was a tough process – filled with paper works, interviews and constant visits to the embassy.  After more than a year of applications and waiting time, I manage to score a work permit last November.

The Story Part 2: An Unexpected Surprise

And there was more good news – more like the icing on the cake that came a few weeks after I got my work permit approval.

I found out that I won two free return tickets to fly from Manila to Europe for FREE with KLM Philippines through their Tweet Me To Europe contest. It was an amazing opportunity and fitting struck of fate that these two opportunities came at the same time. I decided to bring my mum with me as it will be her first time to be in Europe as well.

The Story Part 3: Long and busy December

Now, having my work permit on one hand and a free plane ticket on the other, there’s definitely no turning back. I am set to move to Europe!

I spent most of December doing my visa, preparing for the move, packing and repacking, meeting friends and doing parties. Packing your life into a 23 kg suitcase wasn’t easy. At the same time, it was Christmas, so there was the added bonus of more parties and dinners. 🙂

The Story Part 4: Asia to Europe

Finally, on December 28, 2011, we flew to Europe. Our first destination was Brussels, Belgium as I worked my way on finding a new place and settling down. After all that was settled, me and my mum went to Paris, France for a couple of days for New Year’s Eve.

Paris on NYE

I started work the week after NYE. While my mum, being a backpacker’s mum, travelled to Germany by herself for the rest of the week. We met back that Friday and went to Amsterdam, Holland for the weekend.

A few days after, we both went to Helsinki, Finland for my country 23 and a real winter experience (as Western Europe failed to produce a good weather now). My mum left just last Friday, contented and happy about her travels; I went back to Brussels to resume my normal working life.

So now, pretty much a new chapter of my life unfolds again  – a life back in Europe with the same (if not much higher) travel motivation!

Are you still working on your 25-travel goal?

Yes, of course – I may have been off the grid for the past few weeks but in between I went to travel to Hong Kong/Macau (Country 22) and Finland (Country 23). I am now down to two countries with approximately six months remaining. I’m very excited!

I’m still thinking of which two countries to do to finish my goal – any suggestions?

So what can we expect with 25travels?

Lots and lots of travel stories and inspiration notes of course.

I’ll be writing about my last trips in Asia –  Hong Kong & Macau plus local trips in the Philippines. There will be tips as well on the process of leaving home and all the run around it

There will be stories too about coming back to Brussels, Belgium, and how is it to travel with mum (I’m not sure she reads this blog) and of course, our travels to Paris, Amsterdam and Helsinki.  And I will resume my weekly travel blogger interviews and the usual travel tips and inspiration sets.  There will be guest posts too.

It’s a plethora of posts, interviews, tips and advices. I’m about to update my editorial calendar and  I’m already assuming post ideas for the next 3-6 months. 😉

So don’t forget to follow me on twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed, and visit and Like 25travels facebook page for the latest news and blog stories. And I’d like to hear from you too – so write below what have you been up to and your travel goals for 2012!

Let the new year begin!

Amsterdam 2012

Travel Blog

Travel Blogger Feature: Julia – Homeless and Confused

December 5, 2011
Julia - Homeless and Confused

Julia is one of the first travel blogger I met when I was just starting this blog. I’ve been following her trips (Vietnam and Mexico in particular) and her stories as she prepare to travel the world soon.

She sold her house in order to fund her upcoming round the world trip starting on February 2012. It’s a feat that best exemplify that enriching experiences trump the need for material possessions. I admire her for doing that and I’m very happy to have her in this interview.

Here’s  my small chat with Julia of Homeless and Confused.

Julia - Homeless and Confused

Name: Julia
Where are you from? Manchester, England
Website: www.homelessandconfused.com
Twitter Handle: @ConfusedJulia

 Can you tell us a bit about yourself ?

I’m a web designer currently living in my home city of Manchester but am planning to take off on a round the world trip beginning in February 2012. I have been documenting my previous travels over on my blog Homeless and Confused since January this year and I think it was partly this and reading other travel blogs that spurred me on to pursuing the dream of travelling long term for a while.

 Why did you decide to start a travel blog?

I already work in the travel industry with my day job and used to update the company Twitter account on a daily basis. I had booked my first solo trip to Vietnam towards the end of last year and noticed a lot of great novice bloggers out there documenting their travels through their own blogs and I thought that maybe I could do that, too. Somehow I just knew that that trip would be the start of many more awesome travelling adventures.

What’s the most challenging part of being a travel blogger?

I think sometimes when you start getting a good number of readers there is pressure to put out posts regularly, even if you have no inspiration to write from. I really try not to do this; if my heart isn’t in a topic then I simply don’t enjoy writing about it and know that my work won’t be my best. At times like this, I just don’t write anything at all. If I lose followers because of it, then so be it. At the end of the day, the blog is for me more than for anyone else, so if I’m not happy with it then what would be the point?

Can you tell us about your first travel experience?

When I was a child we used to holiday regularly on the coast of Wales during the summer and I have some great memories of hot weather, ice cream and arcade games during those years. But my first travel experience in a foreign place was to Prague (for a day trip) a couple of days after Christmas when I was around 9. It was my first time on a plane and I was so excited and nervous at the same time but I loved every minute of it. The weather in Prague was bitterly cold at that time of year and we spent the day mostly hopping from cafes to restaurants in attempts to keep warm, but I can still remember how exotic it seemed to be in a foreign country where they spoke a different language. I don’t think I’ve ever stopped loving foreign travel since that day.

What’s your favourite destination and why?

That’s really tough because I don’t necessarily have a favourite – I have fallen in love with lots of places I have visited, usually based on the great experiences I’ve had there. To be honest, the only place I have ever been and thought to myself “I could see myself living here” would have to be Mexico, but my favourite holiday destination is Las Vegas, without a doubt.

Julia - Homeless and Confused

If you can travel with a real or fictional character, who will you travel with and why?

Harry Potter would be a pretty cool travelling companion because he could magic you out of any tricky situations and I could borrow his invisibility cloak to gain entrance to anywhere  in the world free of charge – every budget traveller’s dream! Only downside is he doesn’t really have a great sense of humour, what with being chased by evil spirits most of the time, so that would be a definite negative in my eyes.

What’s your favourite travel quote (from a book, film, TV show etc)?

“Travel often; getting lost will help you find yourself.” – The Holstee Manifesto

If you have one flight ticket to go anywhere in the world tomorrow, where will you go?

It would be a toss up between Hong Kong and New Zealand. Both very different, but alluring nonetheless.

What is the strangest thing you have eaten, drank or experienced on your travels?

Strange experiences tend to follow me around both at home and abroad, but one that sticks out in my mind is the time I went on an elephant ride in Sri Lanka and the elephant decided to lie down in the middle of a shallow river, with me still sat on top. All the while, a kindly local was snapping photos with my camera from the other side. I thought I would never see either my camera or dry land again…

Julia - Homeless and Confused

Advice to fellow newbie travel bloggers

Always try and put your personality into your blog, no matter what you are writing about. There are so many generic travel blogs out there, but I love reading ones that really capture the essence of the writer and their outlook on life and hope that mine achieves this too.

Get to know more about Julia from her blog – www.homelessandconfused.com

Julia - Homeless and Confused

“If you like to read the crazy ramblings of someone who’s trying to find her feet in the world then you’ll love my blog. Either that, or you can just have a good laugh over how ridiculous I can be :)”

Do you want to be interviewed on our next session of Talk with a Travel Newcomer? The only requirement of course is that you have to be a newbie travel blogger.  Contact me  if you’d like to be featured!

Newcomer Interviews, Travel Blog

Travel Blogger Feature: Neil – Backpacks and Bunkbeds

November 28, 2011
Neil - Backpacks and Bunkbeds

Welcome to a new series in my blog!

After writing about my thoughts on being a new travel blogger, I decided to start a new series on my blog that features travel bloggers who are newcomers like me. I think that it will be nice to offer a bit of space to introduce newbie bloggers to the big travel blogging industry. This interview will run weekly every Monday.

To start things off, my first interview will be with Neil of Backpacks and Bunkbeds.

I remember meeting Neil through #TTOT and have started my travel blogging journeys with him. He’s been a good mate and had been helpful enough when it comes to giving some external advice to some of my blogging questions. He has travelled a great deal as well in Sri Lanka, South Africa and Australia!

Here goes my short interview with Neil:

Name: Neil
Age: 27
Current location:  London
Home town:  London
URL: http://www.backpacksandbunkbeds.co.uk
Twitter: @packsandbunks

1.       Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your travel blog?

Hi, I’m Neil.  27 and from London.  I currently work the 9-5, dreaming of escape to glorious, distant lands where it doesn’t rain 95% of the time.  I am the creator and editor of the travel blog   www.backpacksandbunkbeds.co.uk which is my online travel diary, full of stories, images, tips etc.

As blogs go it’s pretty casual, and written as a traveller rather than as a travel professional in the hope that other travellers can relate to what I’m writing about.    The site’s still pretty new, so hopefully it’ll start to look a bit more polished in time.  I’m pretty happy with it at the moment though.

2. Why did you decide to start a travel blog?

After getting back from my RTW trip in 2007 and splitting from the girlfriend I’d met on said trip, I needed something to focus my thought around.  I ended up going to night school to learn web design.  I’ll miss out the gory details, but www.backpacksandbunkeds.co.uk was born out of a passion for web design and diarising my travel stories.

3. Can you tell us about your first travel experience?

South Africa 2005.  Five weeks volunteering as a football and rugby coach in Port Elizabeth, followed by two extra weeks travelling the Garden Route to Cape Town.

It was a total blast spending five weeks in a volunteer house, playing sport every day and going out ‘socialising’ most nights.  It was a bit like university, just in warmer climates.  Each weekend we would have the chance to travel, a favourite destination amongst the group was Coffee Bay.  Our weekend travels also led a number of our group to jump off of bridges and out of planes.  South Africa was a seriously fun time in my life!  It was so good I actually had quite a hard time getting over it once I landed back home.

4.  What’s your favourite destination?

Sri Lanka – It’s got everything I want and all within a relatively small space.  No long journeys and no worries.  The people, food, weather etc are all amazing.

Neil - 25Travels interview

I believe the country is totally under-rated in travelling circles, but in a selfish way that’s good as it means it’s not overrun with tourist and I can still consider it my little paradise.

5. What’s your most memorable travel moment?

Wow, now that’s a toughie!  I’ve been very very lucky with my travels.  They’ve taken me all over the place and I’ve seen some amazing things. Picking out a single favourite is just a wee bit too tough.  My highlights would include diving on the Great Barrier Reef, living with a native Fijian tribe, watching the sunrise at Uluru, Climbing Adams Peak in time for sunrise in Sri Lanka, doing the world’s highest bungee jump (at the time) in South Africa … the list goes on.  Sorry, but I’ll have to pass on picking just one.

Neil - 25Travels interview

 6. If you can travel with anyone famous, who will you travel with and why?

Definitely Bear Gyrlls if it was out in the wilderness, as he would probably save me from some form of gruesome death at the hands (or feet) of giant killer ants.

If I was in somewhat more comfortable surroundings I’d probably like to travel with a band i.e. on a tour.  Not quite backpacking, but its travelling none the less.  My favourite act at the moment is Chase & Status, so I’ll go with those chaps.

 7. Your ultimate travel dream

Being a bit out there, I’d like to say my ultimate dream would be to travel to another planet.  I have trouble grasping that this is the only inhabitable planet out there.

Closer to home it would have to be South America, for six months at the very least,  ideally during a year when the FIFA world cup was taking place.  I imagine the celebrations would be rather extravagant and I’d love to be able to join in.  I’d also like to teach English out there and try learn some Spanish myself.

 8.    What’s the best advice you can give to your travel readers?

When travelling – Take chances and make mistakes, it’s the best way to learn and find things you’d have otherwise missed.

When blogging – SEO is important, but content is king.  I’m sure you’re heard that 100 times over, but its true.  Write content that is engaging and ask questions.  Include your audience, and when they respond to your writing, you should respond to them.

Visit his blog – www.backpacksandbunkbeds.co.uk

Neil - 25Travels interview

Do you want to be interviewed on our next session of Talk with a Travel Newcomer? The only requirement of course is that you have to be a newbie travel blogger.  Contact me  if you’d like to be featured!

Travel Blog

Checking in Country #22 and future travel plans

November 21, 2011
Hong Kong skyline

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks and it’s good that I finally manage to get the blog updated! 🙂

First, I’d like to apologize for the lack of updates for the past two weeks. I’ve been doing a mix of  travel, planning for future travels and then financing those future travels (i.e. going to work).

So to do a quick recap, here are some short snippets of what I’ve been doing.

From Thailand to Hong Kong

My last blog entry dealt with my frustrations about my supposed trip to Thailand. If you’ve been following my Twitter and Facebook  feeds, you probably saw that I didn’t go and decided to re-route. It was a difficult decision but in the end I didn’t really want to worry about my trip while I’m there.

But I didn’t let my week off go into waste and I divided my week to two main destinations – Hong Kong and a trip to the Philippine island of Siquijor.

Hong Kong at night

I decided that I want to travel internationally and at the same time spend a relaxing few days in the beach. I know that in Hong Kong, I couldn’t do that. And other destinations such as Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia are expensive to go to given the last minute nature of my trip. So I opted to split my week between Hong Kong and a beach weekend in Siquijor.

Checking in #22 in Hong Kong & Macau

Despite cancelling Thailand, I didn’t waste the opportunity to tick a country off from my list. As it was my first time to be in Hong Kong (or in China – the country it is officially in- on that matter), I was glad to still be on track of my list and tick off country #22!

Hong Kong – one of Asia’s financial centers – was perhaps the most modern city I’ve been to in Asia and to be honest I don’t mind living there someday. I’m most impressed by the city’s skyscrapers and the city skyline at night. Of course, there is the food (ahem, dimsum) which is cheap and often delicious.

I’ve also made a day trip to its neighbouring city – Macau and discovered both its modern gambling establishments and its Portuguese colonial history.

My trip has been mostly about meeting friends so I missed out on a lot of sightseeing but it doesn’t mean that I don’t have travel stories and tips to share – watch this space definitely!

Rest and relaxation in Siquijor

Then, I flew back to the Philippines to Siquijor – an island province in the Visayas.

A seemingly juxtaposing destination to cosmopolitan Hong Kong, Siquijor is a rural place filled with empty roads, untouched beaches, evergreen waterfalls and friendly locals. I spent a couple of days in our own secluded beach, with a great view of the full moon at night.

Siquijor beach

We spent a few days relaxing by the beach and roaming around the island on a rented motorcycle. This small province also has a surprisingly good nightlife which we didn’t missed out on!

I also got to stay a night in Dumaguete, the birthplace of my father and got to spend roaming around the city’s seaside street.

I plan to write about these destinations as well in the next couple of weeks.

Coming to Europe soon!

And finally, I’m happy to share that I’m going to Europe really soon!

In some really lucky turn of events, I won two free roundtrip tickets to Europe through a contest with KLM Philippines.

And within the same period, I’ve also received the confirmation that my Belgian work permit has been approved! This means that I will start working in Europe again next year! I’ve been waiting for this permit for quite sometime now (14 months).

So armed with free tickets plus a work permit, I’m going to be heading back to Europe really soon!.

With three more countries on my list, and a cool opportunity coming to get back to Europe – I’m looking forward to capping off my 25 country list.

And, my dear readers, I’m happy as well that you’ll be a part of my journey. So if you have any destination advice on where to go in Europe – don’t forget to share some stories below.

Asia, Challenges, Destinations, Experiences, Travel Blog

Bumps on the Road: Why It’s Important for a traveller to Be Flexible

November 3, 2011
Travel-flexible

Here I am – three days before my flight schedule to Bangkok, a trip that supposedly will tick off country #22 of my 25-country travel list.  However, the trip remains to be a big question mark.

I’ve booked my ticket to Thailand five months ago and next week will be my first holiday after six months. And now, most likely this trip will be cancelled unless the flooding situation dramatically improves.

As you may have seen,  most parts of Bangkok are still underwater and are showing no signs of returning to normal in the next couple of days. The flood water was from accumulated monsoon water coming from the north in the past 2 months and has so far claimed more than 400 lives and billions worth of damages.  I’m watching the news 24/7 and the situation more or less looks like it’s going to remain in the next coming weeks.

Splashing on the StreetMy original plan was to spend a few days in Bangkok and then work my way to Chiang Mai just in time for Loy Krathong before heading back again to Bangkok.  Another option is to fly to the south to Krabi or Phuket.

To be honest, I am very disappointed about not pushing forward. I’ve been looking forward to going to Thailand for a while now – fuelled by excitement from reading various travel blogs and sorting out advice from fellow travel bloggers. And to add that this is the third time that my trip to Thailand will be cancelled. (once in 2007, second in 2009)

But who am I to complain? My rant and worry are nothing compared to the problems the floods have caused to the Thais.

It’s tough to accept but I have no other choice but to suck it up and face these changes.

As a traveller, we are bound to have our plans change.  Plans are mere guidelines.

Things will not always go our way.  It can come as an unexpected detour, a delayed flight, or a personal tragedy and we have to be prepared to face it.

For example, how many times have  have we hesitated on visiting a place but end up staying there longer than we expected.

Or planning an itinerary then ending up changing plans last minute because some of the people in the hostel wants you to join their road trip.

But what is an adventure without being ready for the unexpected. Changes and spontaneity make travelling exciting. Often it’s the spontaneity that brings the excitement and thrill of travel – the offbeat path, the hidden thrills and the spontanous night where you get drunk and hooked up with this hot Swedish chick 😛 . those are the experiences that, as travellers, we often best remember.

Changing plans test out our capability to adapt to a situation and seek alternatives if needed.

As for me,  I’m looking into a Plan B for my trip – the current list is between Hong Kong or travelling locally in the Philippines to the beaches of Siquijor, Boracay or Coron. I have yet to make the decision and may leave it to chance come this weekend.

And still, there’s a possibility of going to Bangkok on Sunday and braving the floods. Ground reports are saying that the situation in the center remains to be normal and other cities such as Chiang Mai, Phuket and Krabi are unaffected. So why not push forward with it?

Lille

Who knows what will happen? Even I can’t even make my mind and I’m going to decide maybe in a couple of days.

Life is not constant. Events will pop out that will and can change our lives. And travel has taught me to be flexible and accept these changes whole-heartedly. Change will come, sometimes when we least expect it but it’s up to us to face it and make the best out of it.

* Thailand flooding photo from Flickr norsez and is used under Creative Commons license.

Travel Blog

Filipino Friday: Backpacking experiences in Bohol

October 28, 2011
Bohol

Bohol aside from being home to tarsiers and Chocolate Hills, is one of the most ecologically rich places in the Philippines. Travellers flock here  to experience its natural wonders. Most avail of group package tours when travelling, but for those seeking something different can look into “backpacking” for an alternative experience.

Loboc River view from the top

Backpacking and independent travelling usually doesn’t involve arranged tours, airport pick-ups, and tight itineraries. Free yourself from these and you’ll be in for a unique experience, a less-stressful vacation, and a way to travel cheap and sustainably.

For those who are clueless on how to begin, here are some suggested backpacking experiences to make your trip to Bohol more enjoyable:

Tarsier

* Photo from spamangr used under Creative Commons license

Visit Tarsier Sanctuary at Corella

 

At all cost, avoid the tarsiers along the town of Loboc. Many, if not all of them, are kept out of their natural habitat and instead made to fit onto small cages. Tarsiers easily suffers stress from continuous exposure to humans and are known to commit suicide in captivity.

If you want to view them in a more sustainable manner, head on to the Tarsier Foundation in the town of Corella. The sanctuary allows you to view the creatures in their natural habitat. Paying a visit helps in their conservation efforts too. The sanctuary can easily be reached via a Sikatuna-bound jeepney from Loboc.

One of the huts at Nuts Huts

Back to basics at Nuts Huts

Tuck within the jungles of Loboc, Nuts Huts offers accommodation alongside the Loboc river.  This no-frills (no airconditioning, hot water, TV and wifi) backpackers place are for those who are ready to leave the comforts of a hotel, and are ready to roughen it up in the jungle. It’s not for everyone but it’s a definite experience for those seeking something unique.

Getting there can be thrill on itself. From Tagbilaran, take a Loboc bound jeepney and ask to be dropped you to Sarimanok for a 15-minute ride to their place. For those looking for a cheaper alternative, take a minibus to Carmen and ask them to drop you at Nuts Huts (around an hour from Tagbilaran). From there, it’s a 750 meters walk and another 100 steps down to the reception and another 150 to get to the huts (getting to paradise isn’t easy).

But once there, you’ll be rewarded with great views of the jungle and the river. Plus, the Belgian owners can help you fix some activities to do around the area (hike, zipline or mountain bike). Standard room for two costs 700 pesos a night.

Chocolate Hills Bohol

Take public transport to the Chocolate Hills

In Bohol, a visit to the Chocolate Hills is a must. To get there, ditch the private vans and take public transport instead.

Public transport are cheap ways of going around. It also gives you a chance to interact with the locals. And for those adventurous enough, you can ride on top of the bus for a majestic view and a thrill from dodging powerlines and tree branches.

Buses to Carmen run every hour from Tagbilaran and takes 2 hours. From the bus stop, it’s another motorcycle ride away to the viewpoint. From there, you can also opt for a habal-habal tour around the hills itself.

Jerick & his friend, Dennis atop a bus in Bohol

About Filipino Friday: Every Friday, I’m going to showcase something unique about my home country , the Philippines. It can be a place, food, experience, custom or tradition that highlights what we our 7,107 islands can offer. I remember that on my travels, there are some people who are still unaware of where the Philippines  is or what the country has to offer. So I hope that through these posts – I can help bring awareness about the Philippines,  it’s beauty, hidden sites, quirkiness and diversity.

Are you a travel blogger? I’m inviting you to take part of Filipino Friday with me. All you need to do is post something about the Philippines every Friday. Contact me if you’re interested.

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