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Travel Blog

Thoughts on Travel and that Country #25 Dream

April 26, 2012
P1040766

I came back from Sweden a week ago, and it’s country 24 on 25-country travel goal!

I experienced all the four seasons in one weekend but I still had a great time in Stockholm.  

But I’m not here to talk about my trip to Sweden (sorry readers, but I’ll keep it for other blog posts).

Stockholm, Sweden - Gondolen View

But while on top of the Gondolen view deck overlooking the Stockholm twilight,  I realised that my 25-country goal is soon coming to an end.

Rewind back to five years ago, I never thought that travel will play a large part of my young life. If I asked my 19-year old self then, “How I see myself five years from now?” – I can say “starting a career as a lawyer or a journalist” – a statement with no trace of travel aspirations.

I never thought I would travel as I had now. This 25 countries before I turn 25  goal is far-fetched and a goal reserved for globe-trotting travel journalists, National Geographic documentary filmmakers or young millionaires, but not for a Filipino guy who just graduated from university.

Jump shot - Paris

Society dictates that we must follow a normal pattern to life. It starts with graduating university, getting  job, growing a career and raising a family, then once you become successful, you may travel and see the world! 

My life started the same way but I made a choice. I am not waiting until the end to see the world.

I am still working on a full-time career, working at a 9-6 job and clocking in my timesheet everyday.

And still, I  travel and have no thoughts of stopping.  I’m happy to continue to have a balance of travel and work

But it didn’t come that easy. Working on a full-time job, the amount of holidays to map out and the money to pay for travel, made  it  difficult  to achieve my goal. But after three years and looking at my list, I feel that I accomplished a lot already.

And now, I am one country to go from achieving my list – and it feels great! And to help sort things out, here’s a simple Q&A just to explain my travel plans for country 25 and the destinations after that.

What will be Country 25?

To be honest with you, I am still open to options on where to go. All I know is that it’s in June – I am going to make it!

I’ve already have a few destinations in mind. Romania, Serbia, Portugal, Iceland and Norway are some of my choices to cap off my 25 country adventure.

How would I make my choice? It really boils down to the activities available in the country as well as my financial status. I have a little over a month to decide but regardless of the decision, I think it will be an epic trip!

What’s next for 25 travels?

Well, of course, obviously my website is named 25travels and have been built on the foundation of my 25-country challenge, it’s a question on what will I do next with my blog.

Just to assure you, I will keep on travel blogging and I’ll be keeping the name! But the idea of having 30travels lingers in my mind 😉

What will be my next goal? 25 countries in the next 25 years? Maybe. I have already something in mind, but I will keep it for now and announce it soon!

Amsterdam & Backpack

Where are your next travels after Country 25?

Finishing my 25-country goal doesn’t mean that I am stopping my travels. It’s motivating me more actually.

After visiting Country 25, I’m set to travel to Thailand in July for a two-week trip. 

I’ll be hitting the UK late summer to see the Paralympics with Neil of Backpacks and Bunkbeds (@packsandbunks) too. And definitely, I’m open to doing trips around Europe – Latvia, Lithuania, Switzerland and Estonia perhaps are on my list. And a possible return to Budapest (yes, again!), Prague and Berlin. I still have to hit Barcelona too!

These are just ideas – if you have destinations that you like to suggest –feel free to comment!

I think I’ll leave it to that – and as always you can follow me on Twitter and Facebook for updates.

Happy travels!

 

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

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

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.

Challenges

You don’t have to be rich to see the world

August 11, 2011
25travels - rich to travel

That man is rich whose pleasures are the cheapest. – Henry David Thoreau

Vietnamese Dong

Somehow, the phrase ‘luxury to travel’ have been used as if each word reciprocates the other. Our understanding of travel has been confined to the idea that you need to have lots of money to do it. Does this mean that travel is only reserved for the rich?

NOT AT ALL.

 

Travel is a lifestyle and a mindset. It’s not money that fuels that desire, but travelling comes from the desire to live life to the fullest, to go beyond the confines of our own space and get out and see the world. Travel is a state of mind – and you don’t need to have all the money in the world to do it.

And while having the ‘luxury to travel’ is true for some people who are lucky enough, the fact is that at this time, travel is not limited to those with deep pockets anymore.

The travel industry is continuously moving towards adapting business models that fit budget travelling – with flights, accommodation and transportation prices kept low – that normal people like you and me can now afford. We are living in a time where travel has been open to everyone – and that the idea of going out to see the world has been made easier and more importantly, cheaper.

I admit that my job allows me to earn more than a peer my age earns here in Manila and it is definitely an advantage that I’m lucky that I have. But I’m not living life like a millionaire. Like you, I pay bills and debts, I work 8 hours a day, and do public transport. And I save, too.

But I can say I live a life that I want and I’m sacrificing a bit of myself in order to make this a reality. AND YOU CAN DO IT TOO! And often, I have to get rid of material ‘wants’: instead of an iPhone, I booked a flight to Vietnam; instead of buying new shirts or shoes, I saved that money to pay for Angkor Wat entrance; and I’ve taken jeeps/buses instead of a cab, so that I can pay for a boat ride on the rivers of Loboc, Philippines.

That is how I travel – I work and save. And I feel happy because I know that this is a kind of long-term investment I want for myself. I’m sure I’m not going to remember when I’m 50 that I have had the newest Blackberry or the latest shoes or jeans during my youth, but rather, I’ll look back to the places I’ve seen, friends I met and experiences I had.

Morocco - Circle of friends

For me, it all boils down to motivation and passion. I am passionate about travel – and I work hard to keep the passion going.

When I do get on the road, I travel not with my wallet but with my eyes, ears and nose. I stay in hostels or ask for free hosting. I take public transport even if I’m scared of getting lost sometimes. I eat street food as if my mom cooked it. I’ve slept in airports, train stations, places of strangers, fast food chains and coffee shops. I’m a sucker for low-costs flights, too. I’ll take a flight that is 1000-2000 pesos cheaper even if I have to wake and leave at 2am or travel to the ends of the earth to catch it. This is the life I chose to live and I aim on getting the best out of the experience.

And there more people who are doing more with less – hitchhiking, volunteering for free accommodation, couch-surfing, walking thousands of kilometres just to see the world and live their life.  I admire them, and want to join their ranks soon.

That’s actually my aim for this blog: to let people know that there’s nothing that limits you from seeing the world, be it money, your job, your family, your phobias or your allergy to insects. There are more ways to travel, and all you need is to keep your desire and dedication to see the world.

Live your life now. Go and see the world.

Thank you to my travel heroes too for the inspiration behind this post

 

Travel Blog

Final Four : Finishing my 25-country goal

July 28, 2011
25travels - final four countries

I’ve been getting comments and emails asking me about my goal to visit 25 countries by 25. I’ve turned 24 last June. With less than a year to go, I’ve already been thinking and planning where do I cap-off my current goal.

NYC - MoMA: Jasper John's MapPhoto from Flickr

I have four more countries to go to for my ‘list’ and picking these countries and making plans weren’t easy.

I have two sets of plans for the year mainly because of a possibility of coming back to Europe for work in the coming months. So I divided my list into two – with one involving moving back to Europe and the other with me staying in Asia. Now of course, plans CAN and most likely WILL change but here’s how I see my year of travels going through.

If I come to Europe…

 

Sweden

Sweden 2011Photo from Flickr

I’ve never been to Scandinavia – and I’ve always been intrigued by the lifestyle and the winter weather. I’ve heard that it can be quite brutal on winter, but this is something that I don’t get to experience living in a tropical country (sounds like torture, but I’m all about challenges). One of my best friend currently lives there, and I’ve promised to visit when I come back to Europe. Hopefully, I get to arrange time to see the Northern Lights as well. Perhaps I will get try surströmming as well (not really).

Portugal

LisbonPhoto from Flickr

I had missed my flight to Lisbon back in 2009 because of issues with my visa – but once I get to come back, I’ll definitely give it another go. I’ve always heard lots of nice things about Lisbon and the surrounding cities. A trip from Porto down to Lisbon will most likely be on the itinerary – with visits to Peneda-Gerês National Park and Cabo da Roca.

Ireland

Cliffs of Moher 1Photo from Flickr

The Cliffs of Moher is a place that I’ve always wanted to see! With RyanAir flights coming cheap – definitely, this is worth a shot! There is a visa requirement though that I have to go through, annoying – but a must-do for someone like me. Of course, a definite visit to the Guinness factory and an Irish pub should be added.

South Africa

table mountain sunsetPhoto from Flickr

Now, it’s not close to Europe – but given a European salary and work holidays – this is a place that I’ll be able to visit. I’ve always wanted to visit South Africa and definitely a few weeks’ vacation here is something I’ll get to do. From Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town – this will be a great addition on my list and a great culmination for my goal.

Other countries on my list:

Norway:The fjords and all things nature. I want to stand on pulpit rock (Preikestolen)
Croatia:Dubrovnik and the rest of the Croatian coasts for a great feel of summer
Greece:Athens and Santorini – why not?

If I stay in Asia…

 

Thailand

Maya Bay (The Beach)
Photo from Flickr

I’ve already booked tickets thanks to flights sales from Cebu Pacific. Everyone has been raving about Thailand, so I need to see what it has to offer. Of course, I’ll get to visit Bangkok and spend a few days there – and then probably go down to the Andaman coast for some beach and drinking time.

Laos

Vang Vieng
Photo from Flickr

I’ve always been intrigued by this country and I been drawn by what I read of Luang Prabang, Vientiane and Vang Vieng. It’s a country rich with new cultures and experiences – I should say that I’ll regret not including it my list. I would also like to get to see the Irrawady dolphins. And it’s a relatively easy jump-off point after my trip to Thailand. So yes, this needs to be here.

China

Great Wall of China
Photo from Flickr

Of course, with only a sea separating Philippines and China, this is a definitive yes. The Great Wall, Olympicsstadium with an included train trip with the new train from Beijing to Shanghai. Plus of course, there’s Hong Kong and Macau – which is only an hour flight from Manila. The food is already enough drawcard for me – just say Xiao Long Bao and I’d book a flight there soon!

South Korea

My Farewell to Seoul
Photo from Flickr

I am not a huge fan of Korean soaps nor of their music, but I’m intrigued by its sudden growth in terms of destination. A visit to the de-militarised zone is an option, though I’m not sure if in anyway this supports the northern neighbour regime. But on anycase, definitely I’d like to sample Seoul’s vibe – and a few anyangsaeo. 🙂

Other countries:

Indonesia:It is our southern neighbour – and a visit to Yogyakarta, Bali and Lombok is on the list. Though flights from Manila is really bad for this.
Myanmar:The Bagan temples. Enough said – though the country’s political situation somewhat stops me from doing so.
New Zealand:Considering that I might be unemployed at this period, then this might not be a practical option. But definitely if the flight and visa gods support me – I will make sure this happen.

Have you been to any of these countries? What are your suggestions of places to visit or experiences to try? Do you have any countries you’d like to suggest?

Travel Blog

25-country challenge: Why that travel goal?

March 30, 2011
Goal Setting - 25travels

Welcome to 25travels!

Kicking things off! I’m doing my first blog entry – about how I got the name. 25travels  is about a goal to travel to 25 countries before I turn 25 years old.

Goal Setting - 25travelsPhoto from Flckr (angietorres)

I still have a year to do that – and having travelled to 19 countries in the past 23.5 years have made it relatively “easier” to achieve. But, I currently have a full-time job and am still waiting for the decision as to where I’ll be in the next year – uncertainty on its finest – so that makes this goal tougher.

But in the meantime, I decided to give my current travel goal a go. So , 25 travels is born. And defining a travel goal is an important portion that travellers should consider. And for me, here are some reasons why I decided to:

  1. Keeps me motivated
    I am motivated  by the fact that I like to travel – but having a timeframe makes it more challenging and the motivation is quite high for me to achieve this goal.
  2. Gives perspective
    It’s easier to keep travelling when  reality sinks in. Having this goal, I get to set-up what to do given this timeframe, and how I’ll use it wisely. You also get to look at an estimated budget and of course it gives you much time to prepare. I want to backpack across India, Australia and New Zealand but I don’t think that’s happening before I turn 25.
  3. Satisfaction after completing a goal
    Nothing is more satisfying than being able to complete a goal. So when I blow my 25th birthday candle, I should be also celebrating having travelled to 25 countries!
  4. I like numbers
    I like numbers as much as enjoy doing math (well, sort of). You’ll probably see more of my love for numbers in this blog – but the ability to be able to follow a numbered list is a thing for me.

You’ll see the progress of this goal in the posts in the next coming days… for now, it’s game on!

What are your travel goals? How do you keep up with your goals? Share them below!

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