How I Can Afford To Travel!

My most REVEALING post to date! If you've been wondering how the hell I've been able to last traveling this long, well here it is! All secrets are out in the open! This post tells you how I do it, and how YOU can do it too!

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Working On A Cruise Ship

I somehow managed to get myself a job working at a Cruise Ship. This post is an inside look on what it's really like to live and work below deck. You never know... You might be enticed to work for one too, and travel the whole world like me! Read on to find out more...

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Scotland: My Favorite Country In The World

I've been to many places in several different continents, and have seen spectacular beauty... But every time I visit Scotland, every other country pales in comparison. Read this post to find out why at this point, Scotland was and still is, in my opinion, the most beautiful place on Earth...

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On Finding My Bliss In Italy

When you go on big trips like this, however cheesy it sounds, you always do end up 'finding yourself'. And there are moments... difinitive moments when you achieve clarity, contentment, and pure happiness. This all happened to me in Italy. Read my most soulful post to date, inspired by the full moon in Italia...

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On Being Featured In A Documentary

I somehow managed to get myself featured in an upcoming documentary about "Voluntourism". This may be the big break I've been waiting for! The trailer is out - and I'm in it! It looks so good, I'm so excited! See for yourself... watch it here!

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An Epiphany At Cinque Terre

The Cinque Terre is one of my favorite places in Italy. We hiked 5 villages in one day, and it was breathtaking! But something completely unexpected happened on the hike... An encounter with a complete stranger made me realize possibly one of the most important things I need to do with my life...

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My Ayahuasca Experience

Ayahuasca, is by far, the most INTENSE thing I have ever experienced in my life. I died and was reborn. It is both horrific and beautiful at the same time... I can't explain it in a few words. You HAVE to read my story to believe... I promise it will be worth your while...

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

10 of 30: Volunteering Part 3 - Doing It For The Kids

Helping Children. THAT’S what it’s all about! I don’t know why it took me a while to figure this out. You ALWAYS win when you help kids! That’s why when my friend, W, asked me if I was available to help out, I was more than happy to oblige! I even brought my sisters who were visiting LA at the time!

The organization is called The Art of Elysium. They are an organization that encourages working actors, artists and musicians to voluntarily dedicate their time and talent to children who are battling serious medical conditions.

Well, I am not a working actor, artist or musician… But I play music? And I’m getting pretty good at the Ukulele? Does that count?

W said it does! But this particular event we were helping out on needed artists.

I can’t draw!!!

W said it was okay. They just needed our help, helping kids decorate some bags with artsy paint and sticky things. Like arts and crafts class…

I was fine with that. :)
The event was an outdoor picnic and fundraising RUN benefiting kids diagnosed with Rett Syndrome.  

Rett syndrome is a disorder of the nervous system that leads to developmental reversals, especially in the areas of expressive language and hand use. Rett syndrome occurs almost exclusively in girls and may be misdiagnosed as autism or cerebral palsy.

I have to admit that I’d never heard of Rett Syndrome till that day. All of the kids were in wheelchairs. They couldn’t talk, walk, or communicate properly. Most of them had their heads tilted to the side, and did jerky movements with their hands. I could tell why Rett could be misdiagnosed as autism. They moved the same way as autistic children.

What struck me about the whole thing was how loving their families were to these children. All of them had devoted sisters, mothers, fathers or grandparents… doting on them, by their side the whole time. I was touched, and I was instantly glad I was there helping them out.

When we arrived at the park, we arranged all of the art materials on a couple of tables. Got all the paint and stickers and colored glue sticks assembled properly for the kids to have easy access to them. They also had face paint available. I was intrigued.

W is a pretty good artist. I’ve seen some of her work hung in her apartment, and so the obvious choice for face painter was her. But they needed a few more people to help out.

I don’t draw – but I’m not horrible. I can copy really well, so all I needed to do was look up “face painting” online, and I was ready to go! All I need was a face to practice on.

As it turns out, W was thinking of the same thing.
So we practiced on each other! She drew a seahorse on my cheek, and I drew flowers and stars all over her face!

I had so much fun doing it, I started painting over my sisters faces too! 

Pretty soon, we had all these kids lining up to get their faces painted. We developed our own unique styles! W was the skilled artist who could draw animals, my sister drew cute Halloween creatures, and I turned each of my kid into a Sailor Moon character!

The children were adorable… And their families were so grateful to us for what we were doing. They genuinely thought the face painting was brilliant. Wow… who would have thought? We just fell into this craft. We didn’t even think we knew what we were doing at the start… Didn’t realize how happy we could make them!

Having fun with the paint!

W in action! I think she was drawing a lizard on the kids arm.
Apart from the face painting, the organization had us prepare a crafts table where the kids could make their own bags, and design it with paint and sticky thingamabobs. It was an awesome hot mess, and the kids and their families had a great time.

There was love all over. That was the best observation I had that day. I didn’t even notice the sickness. There was laughter, paint, face paint, food, smiles and balloons. I’m sure that when the families went back home, they had to face the realities of Ret Syndrome, just like they do everyday. I can’t pretend to know anything about it, but I’m sure it’s not easy.

But I’m glad, that at least for that afternoon, I got to experience and share a few hours of happiness with the kids and everyone there.

The Art of Elysium invited us to another program they have to help kids and teenagers who are physically disfigured to gain more confidence.

I can’t wait to help out. :)

My sisters and our painted faces!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

9 of 30: Volunteering Part 2 - Helping The Rich, Gay and Fabulous

Through Project Angel Food, I was introduced to people in another pretty active non-profit organization called – APLA – Aids Project Los Angeles, which is an organization that dedicates their time improving the lives of people with HIV disease.
One of my co-bartenders from the Project Angel Food event sent me an email saying APLA was in need of volunteers for their Art Auction event. She mentioned the word “celebrities” in there somewhere, and so of course I was only too happy to help out!

I was assigned as the receptionist for the night, checking people in, giving them their bracelets, ushering the VIP’s to their areas, etc. I saw a few minor celebrities, and met a few new people. The organization fed us a really nice dinner too! It was pretty awesome!

I made friends with the head organizers of the APLA events, and because they liked me, they kept emailing me for fun APLA events they needed help on.

Okay. It’s probably not that surprising that APLA is pretty much a gay pervaded organization. What was surprising to me was the fund raising events they hold, and how RICH these gay men actually are!

The next event I attended or, shall I say, was ‘employed’ for, was a Pool Party at one of APLA’s top dog’s house.  I’m not sure what his position is --- he could be a VP of some sort.
Anyway, his house is nice and everything, but his pool is probably just 10 meters long and 5 meters wide. But they were expecting around 200 people in there! I thought they were a bit insane for even considering this, but as more people turned up, I started to understand why it wasn’t a problem.

Let me backtrack.

I got there, and I was assigned to be a check-in lady. I’m supposed to check if the guests are ‘on the list’, and if not, I was to charge them 125 dollars to get in. I took a quick tour of the pool area before I started working. There were 2 bartender stations, a small pool, and a food area. There’s a small walkway leading up to it that had drink stations as well. This party was packed with alcohol.
As I walked back to my check in station in the front of the house, a young and really good looking and shirtless guy walked passed me, and said, “Hello there,” – in a BRITISH accent.

OK I know this is a stupid cliché, but this was actually one of the moments when someone literally “had me at hello.”

I said “hey” back a little too enthusiastically, and my jaw dropped when I saw him stripping down to his underwear when he got to his post.
He was one of the bartenders.
And the bartenders served in their underwear.
He had a sixpack.

But my heart sank just as quickly as it soared at the sight of him. I remembered I was in a gay event. So he was probably and most likely gay. Urrgh.
As I walked back to my post, I tried to remember the reason why I was there in the first place. It was to HELP, and not to gawk.

But then when people started to show up, I realized it was impossible not to gawk, stare,  or ogle with my mouth open. All of the gay men checking in with me were buff, or chiseled, or topless, and smelled good… They were all Greek gods… and rich ones at that. And it didn’t help that they were all so nice to me too! Complimenting my hair, my skin, calling me Pocahontas… Aaarghhh! I was losing my mind!

I didn’t realize that my ‘bosses’, J and R were observing me the whole time. They were amused at my pain. I asked them about my British bartender, trying to confirm if he was gay or not. J said, “Honey, you know you’re in a GAY function, right? Everyone here is gay…”

Sigh. That did it.

“But…” he continued. My eyes lit up, hopefully…
“I think your boy is the only straight guy in here.”

I was over the moon! They urged me to go and talk to him, so they gave me a break to go and get a drink from his station. So I did as I was told, and waltzed up to him, and ordered a Jack and Coke.
When he handed it to me, he said, “There you go, my love!”

Damn it. I was a goner.

Those who know me, and know me well, know that when someone speaks to me in a British accent, I couldn’t help but respond the same way --- in BRITISH.

So when I took my drink, I said, “Why thank you, dahling! Whereabouts are you from?” (It has to be said that my British accent is really convincing)

He laughed and said, “I live in London!  Been there?”
“Yes! A few times, actually. I have good friends who live in Shoreditch and Bow”
“Ah! Very cool…” he nodded.

Then, because I couldn’t help it anymore, I half yelled – “Could I take mypicturewithyoubecauseyou’resocute!?”

He laughed again, and said, “Yeah! Sure, love!”
We took the photo, I jumped up and down and said thanks, and ran away.

And there it is. That is the story of how I ruined my chances of having babies with the hot British Bartender.
It’s okay. I was there for a good cause. (And that is what I keep telling myself to this day.)

He's honestly better looking in person!
As I ran back, I noticed the pool area for the first time. And once again, my jaw dropped. There were probably more than a hundred people lounging around the place. There were gogo dancers keeping everyone entertained, about 20 people in the pool splashing about, 30 more standing around it, a whole bunch of people by the food area, and everyone else was scattered, socializing and just having a good time. These guys know how to maximize a space! And I suppose, since they were all practically naked, the closer they were to each other, the better!

When I got back to my station, I showed everyone my photo with the bartender as proof that I didn’t chicken out. And because J was so proud of me, he booked me for another event for the following week.
“Honey, if you think this is hot, wait till you see the Bartender Auction happening next week.”

A Bartender Auction. They gathered about 15 of the hottest bartenders from the hottest bars all over LA, and they were to auction them off to the highest bidder for ONE date. ONE DATE. And apparently those bids go up to more than 5 thousand DOLLARS. It sounded soooo crazy, I had to see it for myself.

This time, they assigned me as a “sales associate” of sorts. About an hour before the actual event, I was tasked to walk around the bar where the event was held, and sell auction paddles, to try and get more people to participate. Again, 100% of the proceeds go to their cause. These people are filthy rich!!!

And may I just say that this gay bar I was in, was oooozing with hot men as usual. But when the bartenders started arriving, that’s when the hotness was promoted to another level. Whoever organized the event really took the time and effort to find the hottest bartenders, and my goodness, hot bartenders they were!
There was a mini catwalk in the middle of the bar… and when the program started, the host called the bartenders up for auction one by one to walk down the catwalk and strut their stuff. Honestly, it looked more like a striptease show. The guys really knew how to work it for the gay crowd. 

The Bartenders up for auction. They look gay, but they're straight!
I had a favorite. His name is Adam. He’s sweet and cute and he called me ‘adorable’ when I came up and talked to him.  I loved him. But I wasn’t the only one who did. When he got up on stage, the paddles started raising before the bidding even started… and at the end of it – he raised a whopping 8 thousand dollars!!! For one date with him – 8 thousand dollars!!! 

This is Cutie Adam

And the organization raised a total of 75 thousand dollars for that bartender auction! 75 grand!!!
Isn’t that crazy? When I heard them say that, I was really taken aback. I mean I know it’s all for a good cause, but it was just a little too bizarre for me. And don’t get me wrong – I did have fun on all of those events! And I know I was able to help them.
But for some reason, I didn’t feel any fulfillment at all! I actually felt a little uncomfortable… Almost like I was getting more out of the whole thing than anyone else because there were free flowing alcohol and hot half naked men!  Yeah I was helping them raise money for their cause… But I don’t know… It just didn’t feel like I’m making much of a difference. It’s all been just fun and games, free food, free hot men…

I haven’t met any of the HIV victims they’re trying to help, or seen any of the real work they actually do, I mean besides all the fundraising efforts like the pool party or the bartender auction.

They are so RICH and they earn their money in the most creative and unconventional ways... which is cool, but not necessarily something I'm completely comfortable with though. I can't put my finger on it... maybe it's my innate desire to help those who are in need, and I guess with all the money APLA has, I don't think they necessarily need me that much.

How I feel about this whole thing is nothing against the organization at all. It’s just me, wanting to really get down and dirty when I volunteer… Immediate gratification, I suppose. Knowing and feeling that I’ve made a difference somehow. And I think that for me to accomplish that, I should focus more on a cause that I feel strongly for.

And at least now, I’m a step closer to finding out what it is… because I know now for sure that it’s not this. APLA is a great organization, with tons of rich people to support them. They will be okay…

Now, it’s time to move on to some place where I’m needed more. :) 
And until I know what that is, I will keep on trucking!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

8 of 30: Volunteering Part 1 - Kitchen and Bartending Duties

My high school did an excellent job of exposing me to the harsh realities of poverty. They immersed us in the culture of those who are less fortunate. We had outreach activities, did field trips out in the provinces or the mountains, slept in the modest huts of our host families, bathed in the rivers with them, raised money with them, and ate with them. These experiences I had while I was young, in my opinion, helped shape my character. Being aware made me grateful for what I had, and eager to give what I could when I can. I took it with me growing up, and as an adult, the yearning to do good and make a difference never left me.
Coming from the Philippines (a former third world country), the concept of poverty in the United States was a little hard to grasp. Which is why it took me a while to get myself into doing volunteer work when I moved to LA. I didn’t think anyone in such a rich country required assistance. But then I realized that one doesn’t need to be poor to need help. There are tons of causes that help the sick, the hungry, the children, etc. All I needed to do was look, and I found that there were a million ways to help!
For this entry, I am going to talk about my first Volunteering opportunity. Kitchen Duty!
It was my company that helped me get the ball rolling. They organized a group volunteer work for Project Angel Food, an organization that helps feed the sick, specifically those who are not strong enough to feed themselves. They cook nutritious and healthy food for them everyday, and they deliver it themselves to those who need it.
The volunteers helped in the kitchen. We chopped some fruits, de-seeded some tomatoes, baked some cookies, packed some dried goods… It was all basic manual labor, and you end up feeling tired but fulfilled! Those are the best kinds of volunteer work – the ones where you really feel like you’re needed, and you actually get your hands dirty!
I was pleasantly surprised at how organized everything was. The main chef assigned each volunteer to a specific task which could be chopping, packing, baking, or cleaning. One could not function properly without the other. It was real team work, and I loved it!

On my first day as a kitchen laborer, I was assigned to chop about 200 pears. We were asked to wear surgical gloves and a hairnet. Every time we went out of the kitchen, we were asked to dispose the gloves, wash our hands, and put on some new ones when we came back. Really clean and orderly!
I did kitchen work a few more times in the span of a few months. Afterwards, I sort of progressed to the EVENTS department. Project Angel Food, in order to raise money for their cause, holds several fund raising events. They ask for volunteers to help out during these functions too, and I was appointed to help out in some of them.

The first event I participated in was an Art Gallery function where famous artists donated some of their work for free to be sold by Project Angel Food. 100% of the proceeds go to the organization!
And my assigned job?


I couldn’t be happier. I mean – I’m technically not that savvy in the ways of the liquor. Luckily, all we had to serve was wine, beer, water and soda. I still had to learn the different types of wine they had there though. They had different whites and different reds. We had to taste all of them too, to make sure we knew what to say when we were asked.
I know, right? The things you gotta do…

Me and my fellow bartenders getting a "shot" in before the night got started

There were 3 of us that worked the bar that night, and I noticed that there were more people queuing up to be served by me than the others. At first it made me a little nervous. Was I just slower than them? And then it made me a little smug. Maybe because I looked pretty hot! But then I remembered that most of the guys there (if not all) were gay. So that wasn’t it.
Then I heard one of the guys a few feet away from me asking his friend where he should line up, and his friend pointed at me and said, “Go to her! She’s a heavy handed pourer! We’ll be drunk in 20 minutes!”
Ahhh. That was it. I had a heavy hand. And a heavy hand meant a full glass = more liquor! I loved it! And they loved me!

The night was hoppin’ and I made so many new gay friends! I was standing and serving alcohol for 4 hours. My legs and back were sore and my feet were wet. But I had the time of my life! I think I could honestly say that it was the best job I’ve ever had!

We weren’t even allowed to take tips – but because of the “tipping culture” in America – everyone kept giving us money anyway! Like they were required to! It was as if they felt bad if they didn’t at least leave a dollar for the nice bartenders who poured them free alcohol!

I ended up earning about 50 dollars at the end of the night (a significantly higher total than the others), and I felt so good about myself! We ended up giving the money to the organization, but still! Not too shabby for a first timer!

I kept volunteering at Project Angel Food after that, and my email address is still in their roster. They  email me if they need help with certain events, and also if they need extra bodies in the kitchen. It’s a really good organization, and the people there seem genuinely passionate about what they do. 
I’m not entirely sure if this is something I can say I’m truly passionate about – but I definitely see myself doing something like this… helping people out as long as my body would let me!

Next Volunteer Gig? Hanging out with the Gay and Fabulous.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

7 of 30: Paddleboarding And The Date I Never Intended

It was bright and early on a Saturday morning when my friend, W, and I stumbled over to Bayshore Park in Long Beach for our first Paddleboarding session.  The hardest part about surfing (for me) is being able to prop myself up on the surf board.  I’m really heavy and it’s extremely difficult to ‘push up’, especially when wet and twice my actual weight. So the idea of just standing on a surfboard with a nice long paddle, channeling the athletic prowess of a gondolier really appealed to me. It’s like surfing without the hard work!
We were greeted by a strapping blonde young lad named Kyle – who reminded me of Dude Crush from Finding Nemo. 

the fundamentals...

“Is this your first time?” he asked. And when I said yes, he nodded his head. “Right on, girl. Right on.”
“Is it fun?” I asked.
“Toootally…” he nodded again.

He handed me in a life vest and walked me over to the paddle boards for my training session. At this point, W already backed out, claiming she didn’t feel very well. I wasn’t too pissed off because losing a paddle boarding partner meant gaining a photographer! She took my camera and all was forgiven.

gently, he says...
There really isn’t much to paddleboarding. I guess the main thing you have to know how to do properly is how to hold the paddle – and even that you can learn in 2 minutes.  Also, to try and NOT fall off the board. I already have pretty good balance to begin with, so everything felt instinctual to me.

I was out in the water after only about 10 minutes of instruction. The sun was out, but not scorching, and the winds were still. It was a perfect day for my activity, and Dude Crush and I merrily paddled around the canals surrounding the Naples area. It really was reminiscent of the Venice Canals – both in Venice Ca, and Venice Italy. It was quiet, calming and very pretty.

The instructors were only supposed to take you out to a certain point, and after that you’re on your own. But because W didn’t come out with me, Dude Crush was nice enough to accompany me around Naples on my full hour. I didn’t even find out about the rules till the very end! What a sweetheart!
We were making small talk as we paddled through and it was cool because he's a nice kid and he was easy to talk to. It wasn’t until a few minutes later when Dude Crush was asking me about my family that I realized what was happening. Two people, in a quiet and romantic location, paddle boarding,talking about each other… alone…

Dude Crush and I were practically on a date! 

I almost fell over at this realization! And just as I was about to plunge down the shallow waters of the canal - head first, he held out his paddle for me to hold on to. My hero! Best date ever!!!

This what I found out about him. His name is Kyle, and not only is he a paddle boarder, he is a surfer and a skateboarder as well (figures)! He is originally from Newport Beach, and he thinks he is going to be fired from his job. And when I asked him why, he just shrugged and said, “The manager and I, man. We just don’t get along…” He didn’t seem to be too bothered by the prospect of losing his employment because according to him, “You can always grow some weed, man. That’s where the money is…”

I liked this kid. :)

My core started to hurt after about 20 minutes. It was a nice surprise to discover that stand up paddling is actually a form of exercise! Great for your abs!

I think Paddle boarding is more of a relaxing activity than an aerobic one though. It’s so quiet in the canals and it’s got quite a nice view too. I thought it was a really chill way to spend a Saturday morning, away from the city. The repetitive motion of your paddling helps keep your mind focused and clear. It was nice! And my good company was a plus too!

I got back to the shore an hour later, happily dry. They said people fall off every now and then, but I’m glad I escaped that fate.

The company I went to is called Stand Up Rentals. I paid 25 bucks for the hour that included the instruction, and it was 25 bucks well worth it! They have an early bird special for coming in before 9am, and you pay only 16 dollars for the hour. They also have Catalina trips and Dolphin Adventures! You literally get to paddle right next to the dolphins – and I wanna do THAT! 

I doubt I'll be coming back this Winter because it's going to be way colder in the canals than it will be anywhere else in Long Beach... I think. But I know that when I grow weary from my troubles, and the city noise overwhelms my senses... When I feel the yearning for a still mind and a light heart, I will hear Dude Crush's call... and I will paddle.

That is, if he still works there. :)