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Travel Blog

The Blogger Rises Again

August 16, 2012
beach

Inspired by Batman/ Bruce Wayne climbing up the prison pit in the Dark Knight Rises (geek!), I decided that it’s time to rise from the ashes and keep the blog alive again – and with a self-made promise to keep it going.

The prequel, or the reason why I stopped blogging in the first place, will be in a blog post soon – so as not to have a ranting post as my first entry in weeks.

But while my blog had remained quiet for the past weeks, I actually kept on travelling and boy did I travel a lot.

And so as not to spoil everyone, here’s a short summary on what I’m doing in the past few months and the posts I expect to write in the next coming weeks.

Finished my 25-country goal

Stockholm, Sweden

Lisbon, Portugal

Yes, you heard it right, I finished my goal last June!

While the blog didn’t have any post (yet) to celebrate the culmination of the goal, I had my Facebook and Twitter updates with photos and status updates. I conquered a surprisingly snowy spring weekend in Sweden for my 24th and finally capping it off with weeklong tour of Portugal and a big celebration at Festas de Lisboa.

Thailand and my brief return to Asia

Bangkok, Thailand

And three weeks after I finished my 25travels goal in Portugal, I headed into backpacker’s mecca – Thailand. It was my first trip back to Asia after leaving the Philippines at the end of 2011.

We travelled for two weeks long across Thailand hitting the rowdy streets of Bangkok, then partying it “half-moon style” in the island of Koh Pha Ngan then to putting our adventure gear on in the northern hippie city of Chiang Mai. Lots of great stories for sure!

In London 2012

London 2012

 

And finally, just a couple of weeks ago, I witnessed history as I became part of the thousands who had made it to London 2012. With the Olympics happening only every four years and the games happening a mere three hours from here, I knew that I have to make this one. From getting tickets, to being at an actual game and to making London as one of my favourite cities to be in (and live in too) – it was short yet very memorable experience.

And of course, I will be writing about what will be the next journey for me after my 25-country goal while still continuing to write about finding the balance between travel and working full time. So be sure you refresh your RSS feed, follow me on twitter and facebook, cause the man on a mission is back on the road!

Travel Blog

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

Confessions of a newbie travel blogger

October 12, 2011
Balloon festival

It”s been six months since I started this travel blog and I realised that this is a tough gig to crack.

For the most part, I”m enjoying the experience.  But as with any endeavours, I developed a  love-hate relationship from making this travel blogging work.

I”m not saying goodbye to travel blogging. I am not keen on doing that. But rather, I would like to tell a few experiences I”ve realised from a few months of being part of the community. Here are a few things that have made this whirlwind experience both challenging but most of the time, inspiring.

  • Travel blogging is, at most, a one-person show

It’s not easy to work and manage a travel blog. You work from start to finish – from buying the domain, doing the design work and fixing technical issues, writing blog posts to scheduling tweets and managing social media channels. It has become a juggling task, that  has taken most of my free time.  Building a blog from scratch requires a steep learning curve,and in order to get your head on the game – you need to have both discipline and patience.

It”s been difficult to keep up and you can see it with the ireggular number of posts I do per week. This is not what I want and I”m trying my best to put it back into a good rhythm – but mind you that it”s not an easy task to do to make sure that you have fresh & interesting content available.

But despite that most of the tasks belong to me,  I have friends helping me out with 25travels – proofreading, writing posts and giving editorial advice – I couldn’t do it without them.

  • Success doesn”t come easy

From a travel blogging context , it means that building your name online won’t happen in days, weeks or even months.  This is an accepted fact. But keeping the momentum going to write and improve your blog, without any return on investment, is sometimes discouraging.

  • Every new visit, follower or fan counts.

Checking my analytics has become a daily obsession. I check fanatically my blog”s search keywords, visits, page views, time spent  and comparing it with the previous months hoping that it’s going to be better. But that single increase on my page views is enough to put a smile on my face.

I watch the numbers closely and with every milestone – my first 100 twitter followers, my first blog comment, my first 25 fans on Facebook –  comes as a challenge to work hard and invest more time.

  • Comment Lover

Once you write and upload your post, then you wait on how your readers respond. How will your post fare to the reading public? Will they gate it and love it?

For me, comments are big metrics to see how popular your posts are. Also, if someone re-tweets your post – you are happy. If someone famous (more on #4) re-tweets it, then you start jumping out of your seat. 🙂

It bothers me when a post doesn’t get any comments or feedback.  If I don’t get comments on a post then I assume that there must be something wrong with it. Was my post boring,  uninspiring or just plain unreadable?

  • I get excited when talking to travel blogging celebrity

My first days as a travel blogger was like going to a new school. I am the new kid joining a pool of people who have been in that community for years.They, the popular travel bloggers,  have mastered the art of travel blogging and amassed a huge amount of followers, fans and comments on their every posts.

As a new kid, I get excited every time a travelblogger celebrity reply to my tweets, RT my blog posts or comment on my blog. I can’t help to get star struck. So if you are one and you are reading this, please do say hello and comment back – that will surely bring smile to my face.

  • Travel community is a great bunch

Being a part of a travel community like #TTOT, have given good traction for my blog and a supportive hand in improving it. New & fulltime bloggers work hand in hand in making everyone new feel welcome.

The community allowed to meet people who appreciate and value travel like I do. I’m continuing to learn about places I’ve never heard off , food that I never knew existed and experiences that is now on my ever growing bucket list. Through this community, I also got inspired to work towards doing an #rtw trip soon.

And I’ll also like to extend my thanks to the great people I met in the journey particularly beforeiam35, amzkiz, packsandbucks, hyperren, shivya, fourjandals, 2girls1journey, pckyourpassport, toniwonitravels, our_oyster, a6packofstories, confusedjulia, budgetplaces, AE_carhire.

  •  Small words can have an impact

I talked about success in the context of building a name online. And I”m far from achieving that form of success. But what is the measure of success anyway?

My biggest realisation in doing this blog is that through telling stories about my goal and adventures, I can impact the way you, my readers, think about travel.

This keeps me going,  knowing that through my work, I  manage to influence another person”s travel decisions – even if it’s just a simple hostel recommendation or to begin their own travel goal.

I remember that the reason why I started blogging was I was inspired by other bloggers to start my own.  And now that I am actually doing it, it’s been rewarding to see emails & comments pouring in. That validates me as a travel blogger, even if it”s only in a small way. It’s only a handful of emails since I started – but all those emails, tweets and posts, inspire me to continue this work.

Travel Blog

A short hiatus from my travel goal

September 13, 2011
25travels-hiatus

As you may have noticed, I’ve no posts recently about my aim to finish my 25-country travels this year. I’m 4 countries away with around 9 months left to finish my goal. Time is ticking as I speak. 

It’s because I am on a short travel hiatus.

Why?

Some of you may be aware about my troubles with my work permit to Belgium. It’s been a year since I left Brussels and during the past months  I’ve been working with my employer to obtain my permit. We tried several ways, but it’s as complicated as the Belgian government system so we haven’t been successful.

I  don’t understand how anyone who wants to legally work in Belgium (and a company wanting to hire him) can go to so much trouble!

It’s frustrating but I am hopeful that it will work out well.

For now, I continue to work for the same company from home at European time (meaning irregular hours). I’ve gotten used to the lifestyle to be honest despite some setbacks. It has its pros & cons and this Oatmeal comic is great summary.

I’m looking forward to coming back and working regularly. At the moment, things are looking positive and I’ll hopefully get the permit in the next few weeks. I’ve been saying this since I got here, but hopefully this time it will work.

And with that, I’ve put travels aside to save money for when I return to Brussels. There’s a lot to deal with – airfare, visas, flat rental + deposit and first month living expenses –  which are not cheap.  Being on a travel hiatus gives me that financial breathing space. “Spur of the moment” and weekend trips have drained my wallet the past few months and in the end, it only made me frustrated.

Of course,  I’m saving for long-term travel that I hope to plan after I sort out my employment.

Do you still have travel plans?

Of course! I’m eager to travel to four countries and finish before June 28 2012.

Thailand - Bangkok, Wat Phra Kaeo

I’m travelling to Thailand this November for a short holiday. I also bought tickets to China  where I plan to spend two weeks next January.  I also have small trips around the Philippines, so the wanderlust is still on. I am still looking for two countries to visit so let me know if you have some suggestions.

What can we expect from your blog in the next few months?

Being on a travel hiatus, it doesn’t mean that I’ll stop writing for the blog. Don’t despair my wonderful readers, I will continue to put posts regularly. Here’s what you can expect:

  1. Destination Round-ups–blog entries on the 21 countries I’ve been to in the past years. I will post travel tips and stories about the places, sights and experiences I’ve encountered.
  2. Travel lists– I’m joining the bandwagon and putting on some lists covering various topics such as places, experiences , culinary treats  and other random and often strange entries.
  3. Travel thoughts and inspiration– I’ll continue to write posts that hopefully will inspire non-travellers or those who want to travel but feel limited to take the first step. There are many ways to do it and all you need is to say YES, ILL GO AND SEE THE WORLD.
  4. I also have some guest blog posts, interviews and photo essays lined up.

If you have ideas or comments about my posts, I’m happy to hear them. Don’t hesitate to click on the contact page, I want to hear from you!

That’s it for me for now, happy travels!

Travel Blog

My Seven Links: 25Travels So Far

July 31, 2011
My Seven Links- Brussels

Starting My 7 links post was difficult as I don’t have much material to begin with. It’s been only a few months since I started theblog and with only 13 posts to date, there’s not much material to work on.

I’m not new to blogging and I’ve been writing my thoughts since 2005. But I’ve had moved from one blog platform to another, hoping it will bring the writing sparks back and 25travels was my latest – and my blog solely for travel.  I’ve written a few travel posts in between for my family and friends to read.  But for the purpose of this exercise, I’ll try to keep it within my 25travels posts.

Thanks to Ren of So Not Lost for the nomination.  🙂

My most beautiful post
My 10 Favourite Places in Brussels, Belgium

Grand Place, Brussels

I originally wrote this post for the Matador Network. However, I sent it haphazardly then forgot to proofread and it was eventually rejected (that’s why bloggers, it’s key that you proofread). I’ve since rewritten this piece and decided to upload it here instead.

I lived in Brussels for two years and it goes without saying that I miss the city and my friends there a lot. Writing this post brought back memories  from my time there. Brussels became my second home, and writing about a place where a part of you remains needs some thought and lots of crafting, that’s why I consider this as my most beautiful post.  I’ve put much thought in order to reflect my feelings for the city and the experiences I’ve had there,  hoping that people who haven’t been to Brussels will have the same feeling as I had.

My most popular post
Final Four: finishing my 25travels goal

Sahara desert Morocco, 25travels

My most popular to date is my recent post on countries to visit for  my 25-country goal. I’ve gotten my best amount of page views and social media sharing from this entry. At the same time, comments and suggestions from travel bloggers had made it useful for my upcoming trips. Now, I definitely am excited to boost my travels again!  Their advice will definitely help and I’m excited to pack and get myself back on the road again.

My most controversial post
25-country travel: Why That Travel Goal?

Bullfight in Madrid, Spain

The almost empty comment box on this post might not say anything about being my most controversial, but I do get lots of questions and emails about my travel goal of visiting 25 countries before I turn 25. Mainly, words of encouragement and well-wishes for my future travels. But I do get an occasional response that I shouldn’t ‘rush’ travel and force myself to visit countries for the sake of finishing my goals this year.  I’ve also received a feedback that  I don’t need to ‘count’ the countries and in order to ‘travel’ I should go beyond staying a few days in one city.

I do agree to some extent that travel should go beyond just a city visit and I would love to do so if money and time permit.

We all have our travel styles and unfortunately, long term travel isn’t for me yet. Some people dictate that there’s only way of properly travelling which is to immerse yourself through long-term backpacking. But unfortunately, not everyone has that privilege and capacity to do so. I want to do it DEFINITELY, but I can’t at this stage. And despite only being in Spain or in Austria for a weekend – that experience had inspired me to look into the world with a different perspective.

By starting this blog, setting this goal and working towards starting my travels, I’m hoping to inspire other people so see other ways of travelling. In the end, we are all travellers. Whether you have a full-time job, still in university, or a person short of money and time, nothing is stopping you from travelling and seeing the world beyond the confines of our four-walled homes. In the end, we all enjoy and reap the benefits of travelling – having an open mind and understanding that there is a world beyond our small piece of lot.

My most helpful post
How to: Travel by public transport from Manila to Clark airport

 

Philippine passport

This post comes from a horrible experience of having to go to Clark Airport ( Manila’s budget airport) early in the morning.  A normal route that can be done with a  2-hour drive took me more than 5 hours by public transport (includes waiting time, missing buses and haggling for the ‘better option’). Bus schedules are unreliable so I had to wait for an hour before it left. Shuttles run when they are already full of passengers, which at 5 in the morning is virtually impossible. I’ve extracted this post from my own demise and translated my frustrations into a short and easy to follow guide for those venturing out in the same way.

I’ve shared this post with many friends and travellers who will be doing this impractical journey to the airport from Manila and have gotten great feedback.

A post whose success surprised me
Two sides of the Cu Chi tunnels tour

 

Tank in Cu Chi

I wasn’t expecting that this post will be my one of the most popular but if we based popularity on numbers, then this was it. It got a good number of page views and clicks from external sources. It even got re-tweeted by Melvin from traveldudes.  But I’m not really sure what made it popular in the first place.  It’s a post I can describe as candid, it’s merely a telling of a story about the irony of the Cu Chi daytrip tour starting with a visit to Cao Dai temple and end up with shooting rifles in Cu Chi.  I guess there’s love online for a combination of church and guns.

A post I feel didn’t get the attention it deserved
El Nido: Our 48 hours in paradise

 

Bacuit Bay in El Nido

El Nido is paradise and  is my favourite place in the entire Philippines. El Nido is how I pictured it, pristine and almost secluded white beaches alongside grey limestone cliffs. I have all praises as well for the town’s atmosphere, food and local people and I can’t wait to come back there soon. It’s the perfect place for those seeking an island retreat or vagabond beachbum lifestyle. But I think the post was shabbily written and somewhat didn’t capture my emotions towards the place.  That’s the reason why I think it didn’t get the attention it deserved.  My writing had also become rustic these days and through this blog, I can hopefully bring back my passion and attention to content. But don’t let this mediocre post stop you from visiting it, go and go now. 🙂

The post that I am  most proud of
23 best travel moments at 23 years old

Riding a zipline in Loboc, Bohol

I’m proud of this post simply because of the travel experiences I’ve encountered over the past year. Looking back, it’s a good summary of what a great year filled with new  places I’ve seen and people I’ve met.  The fact that I’ve seen Angkor Wat, rode a zipline and experienced a great World Cup finals (even if the Dutch lost) – is something that I’m proud of. The world is beautiful and I’m happy that I’ve got to experience a lot during the year. Hope to continue this crazy adventure this year and the next!

Here are my five nominations:

Ally from The Further, The Better

Neil from Backpacks and Bunkbeds

Mica from Senyorita

Jade & James from The World is Our Oyster

Tina  from Tightrope traveler

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