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, October 25, 2012

Remembering Oktoberfest in Munich

When I signed up for the Contiki tour I went on in September of 2008, I didn’t even know that it was in the itinerary. How was I supposed to know Oktoberfest started in September anyway??
Later on, I found out that most of my tourmates chose that tour specifically because of Oktoberfest! Out of 51 people in our group, only 16 of us opted to see a little bit of Munich. The other 30 went straight to the fairgrounds to… well, to drink!

I’m glad I got to spend a few hours exploring the city though, because Munich is beautiful and I’ve never been to Germany before. Besides, if I hadn’t gone, then I wouldn’t have been able to buy this authentic Bavarian beer maid costume (called a Dirndl) that I absolutely adore!!! 
With Alicia and our tour guide, Sandy
I’ve worn this outfit at least 10 other times after I’ve bought it (for Halloween or local Oktoberfest celebrations) and it still does its magic (read: they make your boobs look amazing).

After the short pit stop, the other 15 and I set out to find the group. The fairgrounds were HUGE! There must have been thousands of people in there that day.  
Reminds me of a carnival!

When we finally caught up with the rest of the gang, as expected, most of them were already drunk. What else is there to do in a festival celebrating beer after all? It’s hard not to when the steins are this huge!

Got Beer?
Apart from the beer, my tourmates and I delighted in some of the traditional German staple food. There was the Schweinebraten or roast pork, Wurstl or sausages, Saurkraut or red cabbage (I’m not a fan, unfortunately) and my favorite, Schweinsaxe or Pork Knuckle, the German equivalent of Filipino Crispy Pata. Mmmmm…

Cav and his Pork Knuckle!

The atmosphere was incredible, and everyone was friendly – especially the locals. It didn’t hurt that they were cute too. Who would have thought that I’d think a lederhosen was a turn on??

The ones I’ve met taught me a few things. First, never wear sandals (or open toed shoes) to Oktoberfest because a stein drops and breaks every few minutes, and you don’t want wet and bloody feet to ruin your vacation. Second, when you toast, you say, “Prost!” – which means, “Cheers”. Third, when you toast, you have to look people in the eye, or else it’s seven years of bad sex. (NO BLINKING, PEOPLE!)

Me hanging with my two new cute German friends in Lederhosens ;)

Sandy, our tour guide, pretty much gave us free reign over our activities for that day. I mean – there really was only one activity if you think about it. Anyway – she only had one rule, and it was, “Make sure to be back in the bus by 10pm sharp, or else you’re going to Italy on your own.” She was serious. Our hotel was more than an hour away from the fairgrounds, and there weren’t any taxi’s to take us all the way there at that hour. It sounds harsh, but to be fair, she made us a little sheet with the names of all the nearby hotels, plus the train schedules for us to be able to catch up with the rest of the group in Venice, in case we get left behind. Whenever Sandy said, “sharp”, she meant “sharp”. No exceptions.

I didn’t think it was going to be a problem – until it was 9:30 and everyone was drunk out of their wits, and our driver was parked about 3 miles away from where we were. When people started to realize this, panic ensued. Suddenly, there was only one thing in our minds – We needed to GET TO THAT BUS!

It’s all a little hazy, but I remember a lot of running. Lots and lots of running. It was only then that I realized what it meant to ‘run for your life’. Imagine about 30 people falling over, throwing up, dodging the crowd, scampering to get to the bus… my roommate even lost her flip flop (just one) amidst the chaos. It wasn’t pretty.

By some miracle, we made it in due time, all panting like we’ve run a marathon as we hurried to our seats. I remember right when I sat down, Sandy started counting heads. I was a little nervous. It didn’t look like all the seats were filled and I found myself feeling bad for whoever was left behind. I’d honestly hate to be in their shoes because how the heck could you find a hotel in the dead of night with that much alcohol in your system?

Then Sandy came up to the front, turned her microphone on and said, “Guess what? WE’RE ALL HERE!!!”

And the bus erupted with cheers loud enough for a pork knuckle to crack!
A bus full of inebriation!

How we all managed to get there in one piece is beyond me! (It turns out, the seats I thought were empty were occupied by people crouched down, throwing up.) Our driver roared the engine to life, and we started our journey back to our hotel in high spirits – both literally and figuratively!

Sandy played our tour song (which she chose for us on our second day together), “You Shook Me All Night Long” by ACDC, and all of us sang it at the top of our lungs word for word, albeit a little slurred. I think we were all just so relieved to have made it, most of us lost our intoxication that when we got back to the hotel, the drinking continued. No surprises there! :)

After our action packed day and the exhaustion started to kick in… one by one, we started to head back into our hotel rooms… but not before grabbing one last glass, to stare into each other’s eyes and say one final, “Prost”. :)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

How I Plan to Travel The World With Free Accommodations

At a recent travel event I attended, I got acquainted with one of the speakers who made a living traveling the world as a TEFL instructor. When I asked her how she got started, she told me a story of how this lady gave a talk at her school about traveling. She got so inspired that she came up to her to ask how she paid for it all, and the lady said – “Oh I just sold my condo. It went for 400 grand and I’ve used that money to travel ever since!”

“What!??” I asked, dumbfounded and annoyed at the lady in her story, whom I’ve never even met.
“I know!” she said.
“That’s completely anti-inspirational!” I added.

My new friend refused to believe that selling her non-existent condo was the only solution to being able to travel, so she did a little research and found out about TEFL. She’s been doing that ever since! Good for her! It’s nice hearing stories of how people get started, especially since I’m practically at the starting point myself. Whenever I meet travelers, usually the first thing I ask is – “How did you fund your trip?” or “What do you do for money?” I’ve heard a variety of responses ranging from “I saved up for a year,” or “I teach English abroad,” to “We sold everything we owned, and freelance while on the road”.

I’m definitely looking into all those options myself. Teaching English – maybe. Freelance – why not? I have been offered quite a few money making opportunities I can take advantage of while I’m on the road, which I will talk about the closer I get to my launch date. But in the meantime, the main goal is to save – save – save. I’ve already taken the first step by moving out. I’m also looking into getting part time work to earn some extra cash, so hopefully I’ll have a nice start up fund to kick start my tour.

But since I do not own a condo that I could sell, and I’m not some big shot executive from Wall Street who brings in the big bucks every month, I have to think about practical ways to stretch my dollar while I’m on the road. Board and lodging alone will drain out most of my funds. In fact, it takes up about 30 – 40% of one’s budget. That’s a lot of money… and I thought if I didn’t have to pay for room and board, I won’t have to worry about being a penniless ukulele player wandering the globe! I could actually survive the trip, and maybe even go for longer than I intended!
And so I got a little creative and devised a plan to go on this trip without having to pay anything for accommodations! With tremendous research, a little luck, and a little help from my friends, I present you my Grand Master Plan of Travelling the World with Free Accommodations!

1. Staying with Family and Friends

            Okay. I am lucky in this aspect. I have a lot of family and friends that are spread out across the globe, and the first leg of my trip will be heavily reliant on them taking me on as a moocher. Or as an annoying guest. :)
I will go from LA to my home in the Philippines, then to Australia to visit my cousins, to New Zealand to stay with a friend, to Japan to stay with my half sister and good friend from high school, to Dubai to stay with my friend Tina the desert fox, then to the UK to stay with my usual besties. I still haven't worked out my route after that, but I'm exploring most of Europe for sure. This is all a very rough itinerary, but I’ve already spoken with all of the above and they’re all willing to take me in. Bless them! Bless them all!

2. CouchSurfing

I’ve mentioned that I’m currently couchsurfing at a friend’s apartment but this type of couchsurfing is different. is an organization that helps tourists become travelers by helping them experience life as locals in different cities/countries. All you need to do is sign up, and you’ll have the opportunity to either be a host, or stay with a host for free. I’ve been a member for a while now, but I haven’t had the chance to try it out. I do have friends who’ve done it though, and they sing praises about it. The subject of safety often comes up when it comes to things like these and seems to be on the ball about it. They have a page dedicated to that subject alone, and they offer comfort by providing host information such as their references (from former couchsurfers they’ve hosted), a detailed profile, verification (to see if the host’s identity and address has been verified) and vouching. I have no qualms about doing this, and am looking forward to meeting these hosts! To give my parents peace of mind, I can always choose to stay with a woman. And I think it goes without saying that I have every intention of being a sensible surfer. I will clean up after myself, take my hosts out to dinner, cook for them if they let me, or help them out around the house. I don't think Couchsurfing is synonymous to being a leech. ;)

3. Help Exchange – (My Secret Weapon)

            Ahh. Help Exchange. Where do I even begin… First let me start with – Help Exchange is a freaking LIFE SAVER! Take a look at this ad.

Hello HelpX Helpers!
My partner and I live in Umbria, central Italy, in a beautiful house in the country with two very friendly dogs and four lovely cats
I need a lot of help working the land. We need help pruning, picking up chestnuts and other fruit, and cleaning herbs, etc. The work varies with the season and is different every day
I can offer you a room complete with bathroom and a lot of good organic food.
We will provide accommodation in our spacious guest bedroom with king size bed, three meals per day (Breakfast, lunch and dinner) with drinks, free WiFi broadband internet and also plenty time off to explore central Italy. We live only 1,5 hours drive from Rome... We are quite good fun, chilled and enjoy a peaceful life. Also, we throughly enjoy meeting new people and hearing their amazing stories about their travels!
If all this sounds good to you, I'd like to hear from you. So get in touch!

            Um – if that doesn’t make you jump up and buy a plane ticket to Italy now, I don’t know what will!

Help Exchange (or HelpX), similar to Couchsurfing, is an organization that helps travelers immerse themselves in the local culture for free. The difference is that HelpX gives you free board and lodging in exchange for a few hours of labor. You actually get to work hard for your keep! The time of stay varies per need – yours, and your hosts. I’ve seen people needing help for as little as a week, to as long as a few months. And if you stay longer, you actually could potentially get paid too! Imagine the possibilities! You could do anything from helping a couple tend to their vineyard or their land like in the example above, to working as a part time receptionist at a hip and happening hostel and make friends along the way! And after your work is done, you have the rest of the day to do some exploring!

WWOOF is a comparable organization that connects travelers with organic farmers who want to trade room and board for an extra hand. I just prefer HelpX because WWOOF limits you to organic farming. I like a little diversity in my life and HelpX provides just that!

I'm so excited about everything! The possibilities are endless! I know I may sound like a naive bright eyed little girl, but I never let my excitement overshadow my common sense. To my good friends and family members who are reading this --- Don't worry. I'll do my research and I'll be smart. I'll take the necessary precautions to ensure my safety, and if all else fails, I always have my 10 years of boxing experience to fall back on. ;)

And to the rest of you guys -- If you're up for hosting me, or know a relative or a friend who's willing to take on a fab couchsurfer next year, surf's up! I'm raring and ready to go! :)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Art of Letting Go

The day after my big decision to quit my job to travel, I started unpacking my bookshelves and tossed my books in a big balikbayan box. I figured, to be able to save money to afford this trip, I needed to move out and save all the money that was going to my rent. (I got this idea from my professional couchsurfer friend, Natalia of 52 Weeks, 52 Couches.) And even if I didn’t know where I was going to move to yet, I didn’t waste any time. I was on autopilot. My books were both the easiest and the hardest to get rid of. Easy because they were mostly just on display and they didn’t serve a daily purpose to me – unlike my bed or my couch. They were small, they were all bunched up together, and were very accessible. Hard because I love them the most. I could even go as far as saying they were my most prized possessions.

Out of more than a hundred of them, I probably ended up keeping a dozen or so (like my Harry Potter books), and donated the rest to my friends and to the public library. I’m not going to lie. I wept. I didn’t just weep for the loss of the loves of my life, but also for the knowledge of what’s to come. I knew it was only the beginning, and that I’d have to let go of much, much more. 

Packing is the worst!

couldn't even go to my own bathroom

For an entire month, all I ever did was fill up tons of trash bags and boxes of my clothes, shoes, books, bedding, small furniture, plus all the unnecessary items I’ve acquired over the years, and I took them to the nearest Goodwill Donation Center. It’s mind-boggling how much we accumulate over time. We have certain possessions we couldn’t throw away because of their emotional association. But what we don’t realize is that soon those little trinkets turn into boxes of random crap that fill up your space. The paraphernalia that once had sentimental value just becomes unnecessary clutter after a while. I know it sounds unsparing, but try looking in your storage units, in your closets or underneath your bed. You’ll see what I mean.

What once was my bedroom. What it looked like while I was packing to when it was finally empty. :(
It didn’t take me long to lose my sentimentality. Pretty soon, all that was left of my lovely apartment were the clothes I still needed to use (for work and play) for the next 6 months, a few small bins for my electronics and toiletries, and a big bin for my shoes. Everything else was gone, and the new tenant was set to move in just days after my last. Just like that… the home I called for years wasn't mine anymore.

I went from sleeping on my bed, to sleeping on my couch, to sleeping on a mattress.

I loved my apartment. It was my first home living by myself. It was colorful, cozy, and comfortable. Any friend of mine who have ever stayed with me can attest to my apartment’s hospitality. The location was so close to work, I got it brand new, and it was always 5 degrees colder when you’re inside – which I loved! Ahhh, it was perfect.
On my last day, when the former glory of my place was finally empty, I hugged the walls (literally), thanked it for everything, said goodbye… and that was it.

I miss you :(

Now I’m living in Long Beach, “couchsurfing” with one of my very good friends, Wriss. I had to put quotations on “couchsurfing” because she’s letting me use her bed. She’s a little weird like that, but I can’t complain!
It’s a lot farther to work than where I used to live, but all the other perks of living here cancels that negative out. I mean, I’ve always wanted to live in a cute beach town – and now I am! It’s so laid back over here away from the hustle and bustle of the city, and it’s completely refreshing. There are local café's, pubs and art galleries all around my neighborhood, and I can walk everywhere! I love the vibe – it’s artsy and chill. And honestly, it’s just so much fun having a roommate again.

I do miss my apartment and the convenience that came along with it. Of course I do… that’s just normal, isn’t it? It’s difficult, letting go. Not just of material possessions – but of anything in general. You go through a lot of resistance and denial, especially at the beginning. It’s a struggle, you doubt your intentions, and you struggle some more. Then, if you’re lucky like me, it just gets easier as you go along. Eventually you realize that holding on to certain things just weigh you down. And sometimes, even if it’s some of the hardest things you’ll ever have to do, you’ll come to realize that dumping your old crap and baggage just gives you more room. Room to grow, room to breathe, and in my case, room to fly. 

It’s like the snakes, see? They have to shed their old skin to make way for a new and shiny one. That way, they could gracefully go with the flow of their own lives with nothing held back.

Being as clumsy as I am, I doubt I’d be as graceful as a snake.
But I do know, that one way or another… I’ll shine.