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Asia, Expat Life, Experiences, Guest Posts, Travel Blog

Can travel heal a broken heart?

February 6, 2014
China

He flashed that smile; his green eyes twinkled under the fairy lights on Orchard Road that Christmas evening. I traced the dent on his cheek and muttered, “Dimples. That’s what it’s called in English.” “Grübchen,” he replied in German, and we walked hand-in-hand under glittering lanterns and trees covered in artificial snow.

Fast forward to a few weeks later and I found myself on that stretch of road again. The fairy lights are gone. So is the guy with the grübchen. What’s left is a dent in my heart, and a strong desire to kick myself for what just happened. Had I followed the first item in my rulebook—thou shall not fall in love with a long-term backpacker—I would’ve saved myself from this heartbreak.

But it happened, and ended as quickly as it came. It didn’t start in ways that you would imagine. No, not after hours of conversations during bus rides in Cambodia or some cinematic love-at-first-sight encounters in southern Thailand. He was not the first backpacker who had shown interest in me either. There were a couple of guys before him but I was too quick to dismiss them, sticking to my belief that developing feelings for someone doing a round-the-world trip is as good as effortlessly digging my heart’s grave. People always leave anyway.

We met in my city, which made it all the more heart-wrenching when it ended. He was travelling around Asia then, I happily surviving in my world with occasional encounters with backpackers. He flew to my city twice after our first meeting—which is considered two trips too many to a small island-state. We had initially thought we could make it work despite being in two different continents but the map is not something we can bend and adjust in our favour.

Though it happened in a span of months, it still felt long enough to have me crushed by the end of it; heartbreaking enough to leave me contemplating packing my bags and fleeing this city tainted with memories of—and with—him. I can’t sit long enough in Starbucks without being reminded of our conversations on geography and the NBA; I can’t play a quiz app on my phone because I know I wouldn’t score perfectly without him by my side. Every corner of my city feels like it’s stamped with that grübchen-filled smile. I cannot simply look away; I wanted to run away.

I have to admit, I’m the type who turn to airports for sanctuary. My knee-jerk reaction to any looming source of stress is to book a flight some place new and unheard-of, hoping that the ‘foreignness’ of it would leave me in awe, and push the stress away. Travel keeps my sanity when everything feels overbearing, the very reason my overseas writing assignments and personal trips are scattered all over the calendar to give me enough breathing spaces. It’s relatively easy to do so: Stressed? Book a flight. Come back. Work. Stressed again? Repeat. My magazine job is a 9-to-5 with specific deadlines, and as long as I don’t check my emails during trips, I will be fine. I wanted to apply the same approach to mend my heart, to go some place where there will be no reminders of him. My job and career, however, is not something I can just pack in my bag and bring with me, and of course, a broken heart has no offline button, no airplane mode, no deadlines to beat. Emotions have no sense of place and time; the soul-crushing pain is within me, and I’m afraid movement of any kind may not necessarily equate to moving on. The grown-up thing to do is to face the memories, no matter how sad, and not to crumble with the pain. And that’s exactly what I plan to do.

Can travel heal a broken heart? I hope it does. And I’m going beyond hoping; I’m off to find out.

On Valentine’s Day—yeah, that commercial excuse of a special holiday that makes single people feel miserable for being alone!— I’m going to the place where the guy with the grübchen and I had planned (didn’t go beyond planning though) to meet up months ago when he was still on the road. I’m visiting some temples in Java, the place that signifies the time when both our hearts are still whole and full of eagerness, the place (other than my city) where my being alone would probably be at it’s hardest. I hope that the gods would somehow present their divine intervention to heal my heart. I’ll still be back in my city to work but I made sure that a trip (for a few days, at least) is a monthly endeavour: an overseas writing assignment in March, a company trip in April, a writing trip in May, a holiday in June. I’m not sure if it would be travel or time that would eventually help, but I could only hope that somewhere between getting lost and finding my stories, I also get my heart back to its painless state. And find my way back to love, in time.

Experiences, Travel Blog

What makes an adventure an adventure?

July 25, 2013
Adventure

What’s an adventure? Is it something that needs to involve an exotic place or a dangerous activity?

It came to mind when Nigel Clifford, a traveler and the founder of Adventure Underwear, asked me to test their product on my next adventure.

I went through my travel plans to see if I have something on those lines planned. With neither Inca trails to climb nor neither oceans to explore, I had little options.

Finaly, I decided to test it at Belgium’s Rock Werchter festival.  While it may not fit the classic definition of an adventure, being in a crowd of 85,000 all jamming, jumping and singing, it sure felt like one.

And so begs the question, what really counts as an adventure?

25Travels - Adventure 1

I believe that an adventure is something that shouldn’t be limited by a place or an event. Being in the Himalayas can be an adventure, but so is walking on a neighbourhood in your city that you haven’t been to. For me, it’s about finding excitement into being in different places or doing different things.

 

25Travels - Adventure 2

I believe that a great adventure is not only about the places or activities you do but the people you do it with. On my travels, there are places that in terms of sights have not a lot to offer. But because of the people I was with, these places were often the most memorable. I believe that when you are with the right people, you can easily create moments that last forever.

 

25Travels - Adventure 3

I think an adventure should be something that will make you appreciate spending your time doing it.  It’s an activity that should push your boundaries and challenge fears. It’s an activity that should bring you learning and valuable experiences.

 

25Travels - Adventure 4

Our life is one big adventure. Each day, regardless how exciting or mundane it went, should be treated as an adventure. Our everyday moments shape who we are – our perception, values and attitudes. I believe that each moment, no matter how simple it is, should always be treated and regarded as an adventure.

 

25Travels - Adventure 5

In the end, it’s about living the life that you want to live. It’s about striving for your dreams and making sure that it happens.  I believe that if you aim for reaching your dreams – may it be climbing Mount Everest or learning a language – the journey to get to your dream IS an adventure in itself.

So instead of asking what is an adventure, your question should be what WILL BE your next adventure?

I got inspired to write this post thanks to Nigel and his innovative product – Adventure Underwear. They are currently raising funds on their kickstarter project.

It’s a simple concept – your normal boxers with a couple of pockets big enough to hold money, credit cards and even your smart phones. It’s waterproof and made from one of the finest wool. It’s comfort and usefulness in a small package.

It’s definitely one of the innovations that us travelers will never take for granted again.  It has a potential to be a classic travel gear with its simplicity and ingenuity.

I’ve been given a sample and been asked to review the product.  All opinions in this post, however, are all my own. 

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!

Asia

So I Went Alone: The Beauty of Solo Travelling

December 1, 2011
chiang Mai

“You’re someone who loves being with people, travelling with friends” was how one colleague describes me. And my latest trip – a three-day solo trip in Chiang Mai  – defies this belief and pretty much every fear I have of travelling alone.

Writers and bloggers the world over have romanticised the idea of solo travelling since time immemorial. It connects you to your deep self, it’s a good check of your map-reading skills, they would say. You know the motherhood statements that those narratives give birth to. I used to read those testaments with complete detachment – loathing the overly dramatic tones even – until I found myself in the middle of Wualai Road in Chiang Mai, walking along a sea of people scouring the Saturday market for tribal goods and found myself all alone. Ah, the freedom is overwhelming.

Chiang Mai, 31/01/10

I had not imagined myself writing this, really, waxing poetic about the joys of travelling alone, until I’m trapped in the middle of daily deadlines and found myself wishing that I were still relaxing and sipping hearty banana shakes in Thailand. For someone whose day job involves double-checking that all things are in place (grammatical and otherwise), it was a bit difficult for me to be as spontaneous as I hope I would be. Some of you out there may echo my sentiments: with only several days of granted leave a year, a depleting savings account and responsibilities that range from the emotional to the financial, we get tangled in our daily checklists. Every single day is a quagmire of must-dos and most likely, travel plans are the first to become collateral damage when ‘needs’ battle ‘wants’ (or as I used to say, when our wallet is at war with our wanderlust).

My weekend trip last month was my first attempt at going solo, and in a way, a small inch closer to spontaneity. I’ve stepped into the plane with only two things confirmed: I have booked a guest house (so my mum and dad would not worry where I would spend my nights) and I’m going white water rafting on my second day. Where would I eat, where would I go after dinner, who would I be with most importantly, deserve some big question marks in my head, which I had totally ignored.

Armed with semi-free tickets from a lucky draw (which got finalised less than 24 hours before my trip!), I told my parents and friends I’m going to Thailand alone. My parents and sisters are the most supportive surprisingly, with one of my sisters even telling me to also go to Koh Samui or Pattaya after Chiang Mai, and my mum is not as worried as I’d predicted. But my friends’ reactions range from surprised and worried (Why are you going alone? Is it safe?) to condescending (What is there to see in Chiang Mai?! Why there?) to that of awe (Can you do that? Are you gonna be okay alone?) At times, my petty concerns surfaced: What if something happens to me? What if I get sick during this brief period? What if I get lost? And the most superficial of worries: Who’s going to take my pictures?! (That’s why camera timers and tripods are invented, go use ‘em!) The trick is to get past the overthinking: pack your bags, hop on the plane and just wait for things to happen. Trust me, it’s all going to be okay.


Chiang MaiSo I went, I survived – albeit with a few bruises and whole body aching after falling from the raft  – and I’m here to tell the tales. There’s only one harsh truth about going solo: the first day is the most difficult, it’s like the backpacking rite of passage. The transition from your socially fine life at home and the lone backpacker mode before you is always hard. The moment I landed, I realised I’m really alone. The first meal is the most lonesome, since I am not used to eating lunch all by myself. But being free from the familiar is one the best things that happened to me this year. There is always something liberating about standing in the middle of a crowded street, looking for your next meal while grappling for the right words to say, as the people around you are speaking something alien to your ears. There’s no hassle of eating quickly, since I had no travel mate to worry about. The absence of an itinerary is also overwhelming; I can scoop the glass noodles of my pad thai with no ticking clock and printed schedule to always look at.

Back in the guest house, Wi-Fi has been my salvation, and not in terms of connecting with friends and telling them I’m okay, but because I realised I had not packed any maps or guidebook with me. I found a note on my phone saying that I should go to places called Love at First Bite and Mike’s Burgers (I forgot to list down the addresses!), both of which I haven’t had the chance to visit because I ended up ordering roti egg outside the Saturday market (It is love at first bite, too!) and having beef noodles and banana shakes with a fellow backpacker (concidentally named Mike) in a small corner of the walled city.

For some of you who have done an RTW backpacking trip alone for months or year, my concerns may sound petty, amateurish perhaps. But it’s a big step for someone like me who’s so used to being organised. And I loved every single minute of it. I was able to stop and stare at the nice views, and look at the souvenirs without someone nudging me to walk on. No one’s asking me to check my watch because we’ll be late for the next thing on our itinerary. I’m on my own time, reaching for my own targets (or lack thereof).

The truth is when you go out there, you are not alone, especially if you go anywhere near or along the Banana Pancake trail. Backpackers are everywhere and you just have to overcome the initial shyness and go talk to them! After all, the beauty of travelling is not on how we followed our itinerary by heart, but it’s the people we met, the stories that get swapped, the tips we take from those brief encounters with backpackers, who, after long days on the road, are reluctantly heading home. It’s those surreal moments when we are not defined by our jobs, by the gadgets we flaunt, by the clothes we wear, by the way we carry ourselves. It’s just you and the world, and the backpackers doing the same as you: exploring, leaving  the routine and the monotony of safe lives for a taste of the unknown across the border, or in my case, within a three-hour flight radius. Solo backpacking teaches you how to rely on yourself more, but more importantly, it connects you to strangers, to the places you only see in magazines and travel blogs, and you know, nothing can replace experience.

So before you roll your eyes (like I did, and I apologise) at those who continue to wax poetic about how they trudge along life’s offbeat paths alone, I suggest you go grab your backpack and step into the wide wide highways leading to your next great adventure. And if you can – actually you must, at least once – do it all alone.

Some of you have done an RTW for months or even years, but there’s always the ‘first time’. Where’s the first country you’ve been to alone? How was it? I’m so excited to hear your stories of “When I was in_____ alone, I_________… Hit the comment boxes and share your ‘travel firsts’! 

Cheers,

Nelly

from my sunshine spot north of the equator, wondering where and when my next solo trip would be

This is a contribution from Nelly Hernandez. Photos used from jrbubaker and Woody Shakti under creative commons license.


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

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!

North America

That day in 2002 when I visited NYC’s Ground Zero

September 8, 2011
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I remember the day I learned about the September 11 attacks in New York. It was a Tuesday about 9:30 in the evening in Manila, when my grandma called us to turn on the television and watch CNN.

Immediately, we saw people covered in grey dust and dried-up blood running across the streets and falling from the towers – a scene as if from a clip of the disaster movie Independence Day.

My dad immediately called my titas  and tito (aunts & uncle) in the US and fortunately, they were safe. We watched the scenes until we finally saw the towers, once landmarks of New York City, disappearing from the NYC skyline.

My dad, who had been inside the World Trade Center a year before the attacks, took out after a photo album and showed me and my sisters photos from their visit. One of the photos, had my dad and grandpa standing stiff, as if imitating the towers themselves. He also told us that you can almost see the entire Manhattan from the viewing deck on top.

Ground Zero in 2002

A few months after the attack, I never thought I’ll get to see Ground Zero.

It was May 4, 2002, eight months after the attacks of September 11, when we visited New York and Ground Zero. I was 14 years old and on my first trip abroad in America.

It was school vacation and my Tita Lucy sponsored a 50-day to tour across the US. We left Houston after a month of staying in my Tita Angie’s place and arrived afternoon at my Tito Junji’s place in Hauppauge, Long Island. We were to stay there for a week, and my tito, being as organise as he is, already have an itinerary in place.  Our first day was in New York City.

He drove me, my sister and my Uncle Tommy to the local train station to catch the train to New York City. We made it to Grand Central after an hour.

Tito Junji handed me and my sister a map of the New York city subway. I have never seen a map as complicated as the NYC subway – criss-crossing colours of and train numbers – with stops at almost every street in the area. On the map, there are the familiar stops – Wall Street, Central Park, Rockefeller Center – and the station once belonging to the World Trade Center.

We have an itinerary in place including Broadway and Times Square but Ground Zero was our first stop. We got off at the subway station prior to the Ground zero and walked towards the memorial.

It was early evening and the sun was just setting down turning the sky dark purple. It was a cold 10C, the coldest weather I’ve been then.

The way going to Ground Zero was quiet apart from the sound of sirens coming fire trucks and construction vehicles. Along with the chilly weather and purple sky, the near-silence elicit a somber feeling.

We passed by a church with its steel gates filled with tied flowers, ribbon bows, posted pictures and messages from people. On the photos, there were couples kissing on their wedding, parents with their children in vacation on the beach, and brothers and sisters with arms over their shoulders. The people in the photos were all smiling hoping that they may be remembered on their happiest moments.

Ground Zero in 2002

Below the photos were messages of love, prayer and longing. The most heart-breaking perhaps that I saw  was “I should have told you how much I love you”.

The messages and photos continue up to wooden platform going towards the view deck. We went slowly up the ramp, continuing to read the messages on the walls.

We finally got on the view deck and saw what were the remains of the once mighty World Trade Center towers. There were two big holes with trucks cleaning up the remaining rubbles.  Gone were the cinder blocks, dust clouds, bent steel bars we saw on TV. But I felt that the emotions were still there and I can’t help but feel heavy and gloomy.

We stayed there for a couple more minutes and gave a short prayer for the victims.

Ground Zero in 2002 - monument

As went our way down the ramp, we passed by a monument placed in honour of the iron-workers who worked long shifts to clear out the rubble. It was a steel bar with 11-men sitting on it and on its right side it was written: “The tribute to the Hard Hats of WTC – America’s forgotten heroes.”

My visit to Ground Zero was an emotional experience. Writing this post, even after nine years since this visit, a memory of my visit still remain strong.

On one of our photos on the platform (top picture), we were all staring up as if the towers still exist, imagining how high it may have been or how it may have felt to be on top of it.

The colour of the sky was reflective of the feeling we were all having that instance – dark but with a faint of orange light peeking out. It’s reflective of our thought that day that despite the darkness, hope and love still remains.

We need to live the moment and to cherish the love ones every given day that we have.  Our life is very fragile. We live in a delicate balance of life, and it is up to ourselves to live everyday as if it’s our last.

Have you been to the Ground Zero memorial? Share your thoughts and experiences on our comment box below.

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