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, November 29, 2012

A Backpacker's Backpack Review: Osprey Ariel 65

I actually thought that I could go on a Round The World (RTW) trip lugging around one big suitcase. When I first came up with the idea of traveling – I didn’t think I was going full-on backpacker. I thought backpacks only worked for campers and hikers and hippies… Boy was I painfully mistaken. 

After doing tremendous amounts of research, I have discovered that backpacking isn’t only the best way to go – it’s practically the ONLY way to go with the kind of thing I plan to do. My resources, of course, are other travel bloggers who have done it before. According to them, you want to travel as light as possible, bringing only a week’s worth of clothing with you. 

Now… I have written posts in the past about how I like to “look as good as the places I visit” when I travel. So naturally, the realization that I’m only supposed to bring a week’s worth of clothes for months (or even a year) of traveling - brought about a slight panic attack. I’ve never been a light packer… but I’ve never been one to back down on a challenge either. If I’m ever just one thing – that’s that I’m creative. If it means buying reversible clothing and washing every week, and only bringing 2 pairs of shoes (gulp!) so be it! Challenge Accepted!!!

Another harsh realization I’ve discovered is that backpacks are practically like cars… there are SO many things to consider before buying one. There’s size, fit, comfort, color, cost, etc. It’s crazy. You have to find one that’s specific to the type of traveling you’re going to do, and you have to make sure you’re as comfortable as you can be while carrying it on your back – because the weight of the pack has to fall on your hips, not your back. I know… my head is spinning as well. 

Enter Adventure 16

Adventure 16  is an outdoor and travel outfitters store where you can find anything and everything you’d need for activities under the sun (literally). I love them because they’re local… they’re exclusive to Southern California, and the company started out catering to specific needs of adventurous backpackers! 

Adventure 16 in West LA

They’ve been doing this 50 years and they have such a “homey” feel to them. I love locals!!!  I went to the West LA branch - which was the closest one to me. One of the many awesome things about them is that they rent out backpacks! For Thanksgiving, I had a quick 5 day trip to San Francisco, so I thought I’d rent one of their backpacks to give it a test run! I figured it would be smart to see how I felt when I carried it, or if I’d have any problems with it being a carry-on luggage at the airport.

Out of all their options (and with the help of their uber friendly and knowledgable staff), I decided to rent the Osprey Ariel 65L pack. 
 A lot of the other backpackers might say that 65 litres is too big for an RTW trip. I’ve seen a lot of them recommend nothing above 40 litres, or 55 litres at the most. But then I thought – I’m not really going camping or trekking or hiking on my travels. I’ll mostly be staying with friends, or couchsurfing, or HelpEx-ing… A lot of the walking I’ll be doing (with my pack) will be in airports and train stations only anyways, so maybe I could stand a little bit more weight. A lot of the backpacker guys I’ve spoken to carried 80 – 85 liter packs, and since I’m a big girl, I thought 65 might be an okay size to start with. That’s what this experiment is for anyways, right? To see if it works or not?

OK, so this is the Osprey Ariel 65 (pic above)  Since this is my first ever encounter with a backpacker’s backpack, all these little straps intimidated me. What the heck were they for? Why are there so many zippers? And dayumm it looks so small!!! But thanks to Devin, my Adventure 16 aid, I sort of got the hang of it eventually. This pack apparently works best if you go camping because it has a lot of compartments you can use for water or a sleeping bag, or anything else you might need out in the wild. I just figured if I wasn’t doing any of that, it just leaves much more space for all of my other stuff.

Even if technically the size is 65L, you also have to find your size as a user, as it comes in S, M, L, XS – depending on the length of your torso. I was all too happy to discover that I was a small. :)
One of the fun things about this pack is that you can get the hip belt molded to sort of go with the shape of your body for maximum comfort! One not so cool thing about it (in my opinion) is that the top portion is detachable and converts to a fanny pack. When you think about it – it actually isn’t bad, but I don’t really do fanny packs. There are other backpacks that have detachable small daypacks – and I think I prefer that over this.

Anyway, after picking up my pack, Adventure 16 gave me free coffee to wish me well on my journey, AND for being their fan on Facebook! Aren’t they awesome? I’ve never had coffee from a paper bag before --- they actually taste really REALLy good! Thanks guys!!!

Yay for freebies!
The review

A girl took this photo for me in the restroom
Ok let’s move on to the nitty gritty details. After stuffing my pack the way Devin taught me how (heavy and electronic stuff nearer to the body resting on my back, lay clothes flat – not rolled, pull strings backwards not downwards) I have to say that the backpack was quite comfortable. I think I was carrying about 20 – 25 pounds on it, and walking around the airport didn’t really bother me… it felt like the weight was evenly distributed. Devin also gave me a tip – when I get to the counter, wear the pack on my back instead of carrying it by hand… He says usually, the airline attendants don’t even weigh your bag or check the size if it’s worn like a backpack… and true enough, he was right. One attendant did stop me once to see the size. I turned around to show it to her, and she just nodded and let me right through. Phew! I would’ve hated to have to check it in! The dimensions of this pack when filled to the brim I think is exactly the dimensions allowed for a carry-on on a US domestic flight. I guess that’s why the lady had to inspect me. She probably thought I was cutting it close.

On my way back though, the ground attendant stopped me right before I boarded the plane. She said she thought the pack looked too big and I might need to check it in. I protested and said I flew in with the same pack just as a hand carry! She asked me to drop it in the size checker thingie so she could verify. I plopped the backpack and it fit snugly inside the alloted space. “I can even compress it further – look!” – and with the hands of a pro, I started fiddling with the straps, tightening them to make them look small and sexy --- and it work! The agent looked satisfied and let me through. Double Phew!!! That was a close one.

This is what it looks like from behind

The Verdict

Well, since this is the first backpack I’ve ever tried – I don’t know what the verdict is just yet because I don’t have anything to compare it with. All I know is that the size and dimensions work for domestic US flights – which is good. I don’t know if the limitations are the same for International flights so we’ll have to see. The beauty is that I’ll be spending a bulk of my RTW trip in Europe so I’ll be in trains more than planes, then this wouldn’t be a problem. The pack is comfortable, I didn’t have any problems carrying it around, and it was easy to stuff my clothes in and take them all out. Like I said – the only thing I wasn’t too crazy about was the fanny pack. I don’t have to use it if I don’t want to though, so that’s okay too.

I think I’ll have to go on another mini trip with another backpack of a different size before I can decide. If I ever do end up traveling with the Osprey Ariel 65, I don’t think I’d mind though.

Have you ever gone backpacking before? What kind of backpack have YOU used? What do you recommend? :)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Win Free Tickets to Chill: A Winter Wonderland at the Queen Mary

Last Friday, Nov 16th, I was given the opportunity along with my friends, to attend Chill – The newest winter attraction at The Queen Mary!

To those of you who aren’t familiar – The Queen Mary is a  retired ocean liner now being used as a hotel/museum/tourist attraction in Long Beach. For this winter season, they decked out The Queen Mary Seawalk and turned it into their version of a Winter Wonderland.

Now I don’t know about you guys, but living in California where the sun always shines make me excited for snow or ice! I personally vowed to visit Chill the moment I saw the billboards around my neighborhood, and going there and seeing it live definitely did not disappoint!
There was an Ice Skating rink, a Holiday Village (where I met Santa), Ice Tubing, and my favorite – An Ice Kingdom!

A skating rink!
Kiddies having fun with Gingerbread houses at the holiday village!

Wriss and I having fun with snowmen!

The Ice Kingdom!

Since it was technically Chill's "launch", there was a ribbon cutting and everything. And yes, even the ribbon was made of ice! They had to 'cut' it using a mini electric chainsaw!

That guy on the right is James Maslow - a kid from the show "Big Time Rush" in Nickelodeon. The two kids on the left are from the show, Ant Farm!

The Ice Kingdom is basically a huge frozen igloo handmade entirely out of ice. To keep the sculptures from melting, they keep the temperature at a freezing 9 degrees. And to prevent the visitors from dying from hypothermia, they hand out blue parkas for you to use while you’re inside exploring! I thought that was a nice touch… my friends and I definitely had fun in them. It was a necessity too because even with the parkas, our fingers and toes went numb. It was so cold, it felt like even the ground was made of ice! I think I can honestly say I haven’t been that cold in my life! It was fun!

Here are some photos we took inside. (Click any photo to enlarge)

Freezing in our Blue Parkas!
The Ice Kingdom!

Inspecting an icy sled

They made a Queen Mary ice replica! Pretty cool with the whale!

View from the top of the Ice Queen Mary

We were visited by the beauty queens of Long Beach and California!

Santa's Ice Toyland!

Stealing Santa's Ice Candy Cane

Wriss with a Panda!

Me with a Giraffe

Benny with a Bear

Beautiful Icy Nativity


When we got out to get some drinks to warm ourselves up at the Holiday Village, we were greeted and serenaded by these carolers! They were so good – they could sing any Christmas Song you could think of! I think we asked them to sing about 6 songs for us that night. We yelled out a song for them to sing each time we bumped into them!

They sang, "Santa Baby" - which was totally apt! It was originally sung by my namesake, Eartha Kitt!

Apart from the carolers, there were also these jugglers on stilts.

Yeah he clearly loved his job :)

And I did mention Santa, right? This has quickly become one of my most favorite heartwarming photos...


My friends and I had a great time hanging out at Chill. It's the closest we can get to a white winter down here in SoCal, so if you guys are in the area or planning to visit, I totally recommend it!


Chill is open from November 17 to January 6, and I am giving away 2 FREE TICKETS to one lucky California Resident (or ANYONE planning to visit LA between now and Jan 6!)

All you need to do is:

1. Like my Facebook Page here.
2. Post or Share a photo on my page's wall of the COLDEST you've ever been! (Could be a photo of you stuck in a mound of snow, or caught in a snow storm, or you in front of the freezer...)
3. Whoever posts the "coolest" photo by November 28 wins! :)

That's it! Good luck guys!

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

My A-Z Of Travel

I have been tagged! Traveling Ange challenged me to answer 26 questions about myself as a traveler… Well… CHALLENGE ACCEPTED! Apparently this meme has been circulating around travel bloggers for a while. Some of these questions are thought-provoking but I had fun! Here goes…

A: Age you started travelling?
With my family – 10 years old, and we went to Hong Kong.
By myself and for leisure (meaning not work related) – 23. My two girlfriends and I went on a fun trip to Singapore before I moved from the Philippines to the US.

B: Best beer you’ve had and where?
I’m not really a big drinker, so I wouldn’t know the first thing about how a beer should taste. I did, however, enjoy Czech beer in Prague, and the beer they were serving in Oktoberfest in Munich.

C: Cuisine (favourite)
Anyone who knows me will know the answer to the question, “What is your favorite food?” --- It’s BACON.
But since we are talking about Cuisine, it’s a little more difficult to answer. I am Filipino and will always love Filipino food. Apart from that, I’d have to say Indian food is a close second.

D: Destinations, favourite, least favourite and why
Why are these questions so difficult to answer?!
I haven’t been everywhere yet (but that’s the plan), but I do love visiting the UK…
Scotland in particular, I think is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited. It’s majestic, picturesque and overwhelming. Like my eyes constantly drown in its beauty… I would get lost there on purpose. I’ve explored big cities like Edinburgh and Glasgow, and have seen the Ben Nevis and went on the Loch Ness River Cruise. I’ve also been informed of the REAL story of William Wallace, about how he’s really NOT Scotland’s Braveheart, but Robert the Bruce! The next time I visit, I fully intend to go full-on Merida and run through the forests, climb waterfalls and shoot arrows. I am in love with Scotland…
Least favourite – honestly, I don’t have one!

Lush Edinburgh
E: Event you experienced abroad that made you say “wow”
Probably watching a live sex show in Amsterdam… it did not just make me say, “wow”… I probably uttered all the superlatives known to man. There was an act involving a banana that I’m trying to block out from my memory.

F: Favourite mode of transportation
I love planes. I really do. I love flying…

G: Greatest feeling while travelling
The best feeling about travelling, to me, is the excitement of not knowing anything… apart from the fact that anything could happen.

H: Hottest place
Easy! My home! The Philippines!

I: Incredible service you’ve experienced and where
Best service, hands down, was in our hotel in Boracay – Discovery Shores. When my girlfriends and I arrived, they had a welcome banner for us in our room and a free foot bath/massage for each of us. We had complimentary snacks and wine, plus a ton of freebies (like flip flops and a beach bag) for us to use during our stay. Every time we laid out on the beach, an attendant would magically appear offering us food and drinks. By the second day, they’ve figured out our “usual’s” (which were mojitos), and they would bring them over without us even asking! I was impressed, not by their efficiency, but by the warmth that emanated from them. Filipinos are generally known to have good customer service to begin with, but the ones we encountered in Boracay just brought it to a whole other level. They were just so sincere, that every time they said “Good morning,” or “You’re welcome,” or “Hello,” they placed their hands over their hearts and smiled. It seriously made me want to hug them all.

Our Hotel Room with the banner, freebies and snacks!
J: Journey that took the longest
The 26 hour journey it took to get to San Antonio, TX from Manila. It was brutal!

K: Keepsake from your travels
Post cards! I ask whoever is traveling with me, or whoever I meet in a new place to send me a post card! I love reading them when I get home…  

The post cards from all over on my fridge

L: Let-down sight, why and where
This may sound surprising, but Venice, Italy disappointed me. It’s a beautiful city, but I guess I just expected a little more from it. It was too touristy for my taste and not as photogenic as I thought it would be. I want to go back for the Venice Carnival though… maybe that would change my mind!

M: Moment where you fell in love with travel
There wasn’t just one specific moment. I think it’s more like a love that grew over time. My first trip to Europe via Contiki was 5 years in the making, and the moment I set foot in London, I knew I was hooked… And my insatiable thirst for travel just became a constant in my life from then on.

N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in
Shangri-La Mactan in Cebu, Philippines, courtesy of my company. I was sent there a few times when I was assigned to work in Cebu. It’s a resort hotel, and the beach is amazing! White sand and clear blue water, with the yummiest breakfast buffet I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating.

O: Obsession—what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while travelling?
Castles. I. Love. Castles.

Clockwise from top left: Dunguaire Castle, Edinburgh Castle, Dublin Castle, Windsor Castle

P: Passport stamps, how many and from where?
I have no idea. My Filipino passport currently holds more stamps than my new US passport. I think I may have visited over 20 countries thus far.

Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where
The Peeing Statues in Prague. And what makes them even quirkier is that they’re not just peeing – they’re actually writing. Their penises swivel up and down, left and right, writing famous quotes with the stream of water. There’s a phone number displayed next to the sculptures, and if you send it an SMS, they ‘write’ out your text message before carrying on with their quotes. Haha!

Curious... Very curious...

Jake, April, Claire and Phil!
R: Recommended sight, event or experience

A fun experience worth sharing (and something I’d do again) is attending the Edinburgh Fringe with my friends. The Fringe is the largest arts festival in the world celebrated the whole month of August in Scotland’s capital! It is an explosion of creative energy that makes Edinburgh come alive! There are street performers on every corner, and fliers… fliers everywhere! There are over two thousand performances/shows to choose from… performances that range from musical and dance theater to physical comedy. My friends and I ended up watching (and secretly enjoying) a performance patterned after the show, Glee!  (The boys will deny it, but we still talk about how we think Claire should have won the singing contest, and not April.)
I think attending The Fringe is a great way to experience Edinburgh. It’s fun, you get to see different ‘artistic’ performances, and it’s a good excuse to take copious amounts of alcohol. Two thumbs up!

S: Splurge; something you have no problem forking over money for while travelling
More plane/train tickets? :)
I’m a budget traveler so I hardly ever splurge… but I don’t mind paying extra for excursions or fun tours… especially if it’s something only that specific country can offer (i.e. Sound of Music tour in Salzburg, The Guinness Storehouse tour in Dublin, The Harry Potter movie tour in England)

T: Touristy thing you’ve done
I can be SUCH a tourist and I’m not ashamed! Best touristy thing I’ve done ever --- The Sound of Music tour in Salzburg, Austria! My travel buddy, Karen and I sang songs on the bus, ran around the movie locations (including twirling around in Liesl’s and Rolf’s gazebo), and stayed at Villa Trapp – the real house of the real Von Trapp family! Beat that! (Read my blog post about it here)

U: Unforgettable travel memory
When I met my hero, Danny Wallace, in London. Danny is my favorite writer (you may know him as the writer of the book, Yes Man) who has a breakfast show at a radio station called, XFM. My friend Lea and I waited for him outside the station, met him, and he in turn gave us tickets to see Paul McCartney playing at the Royal Albert Hall that night. They say, “never meet your heroes” but I’m glad I met mine. It was incredible to have met him and that encounter was one of my favorite moments in my life thus far! (Read about my encounter here)

V: Visas, how many and for where?
Having a Filipino passport made it really difficult to travel. I had to apply for visas EVERYWHERE I went… I needed the following: US Visa, Schengen Visa, UK Visa, Ireland Visa.
It was annoying, not to mention – expensive, to have to apply for them every single time. That’s why I’m so thankful for having a blue passport now. I plan to take full advantage and fill it up to the brim!

W: Wine, best glass of wine while travelling and where?
I’m no wino, and I have a tendency to like the sweeter wines… so I really liked the Ice Wine we tasted in the cellars of a wine bar in St. Goar.

The Cliffs of Moher and The Grand Canyon
X: eXcellent view and from where?
It’s a tie between The Cliffs of Moher in Ireland and The Grand Canyon in Arizona.

Y: Years spent travelling?
On my own, I’ve been doing yearly trips since 2008. But starting next year after I quit my job to travel full time, who knows?

Z: Zealous sports fans and where?
I haven’t been to any football or rugby matches in the UK where fans are meant to be overzealous… I really want to experience it though! The only game I’ve been to with hyperactive over the top fans (myself included) is a Lakers game at the Staples Center :)

Do you have an A-Z List? Let me know and I'll share! If you don't --- make one! It's fun! :)

My fave A-Z Lists that you should check out:

Traveling Ange
Solo Traveler
Julie Dawn Fox
There's No Place Like Oz
On The Luce
The Travel Bunny

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Color Run San Diego

On Saturday, November 3, I participated in The Color Run in San Diego!

The Color Run is basically just a fun 5K run where you get blasted with color powder. I personally am not a runner. I suck at it. I have poor endurance and I itch. That’s right. I itch. I think it might be an allergic reaction to sweat. In fact the only reason why I signed up for it is because of the colors! I wanted to be doused and saturated and smothered with color! I wanted to come out of it looking like a tie dyed shirt! There are zombie runs where you get chased by zombies, and there are mud runs where you toss and tumble and gooey mud. Not my cuppa tea. I’m more of a colored woman so to speak. Bring on the rainbow!!!

It doesn’t say it anywhere on their website – but I have a feeling they got the idea from India’s Day of Holi – or the Festival of Colors! From what I understand, this is a celebration of the coming of Spring, and they throw scented colored powder to each other! I saw this in a movie a long time ago, and I remember wishing we did something like that here in the States… And now – VOILA! The Color Run! Another dream come true! Whoopeee!

A photo from the Indian Color Festival - The Day of Holi

OK. It’s really easy to participate. Just register online (I paid cheap because I registered early) and you will be given instructions, which is basically just – wear white. The more white you have on you, the better and more colorful you’re going to look at the end! People came in wearing white afro wigs, white boa’s, white tutu’s, white tube socks, the works!

(Click on the photos to enlarge)

New friends with White Boa's

Creative white costumes!

They also give you tips about washing yourself and your clothes after. For example – smothering your hair with olive oil or leave-on conditioner at the beginning will make it easier for you to wash the color off. I didn’t bother because I wanted the colors to stain my hair. :)

I didn’t want to have to worry about ruining my fave clothes, so I bought a 4 dollar white shirt specifically for the event, so I can feel free to color it however I want!

You can run as an individual, or you can run as a team. I put a team together and I called ourselves – “The Pigments of Your Imagination!”
I know! Really smart, right? 

My Team - The Pigments of Your Imagination

Right. OK I will stop talking now – and just show you my awesome multihued photos.

Orange really is my color...
Bumped into my friend, Amy and her team!

My sister - the photographer for the day!
Look at them! They're my favorite Couple!

So every kilometer, you go through what they call a “Color Zone”. It functions as a marker to let you know how far you’ve gone, but also – and this is my favorite – it is an opportunity for you to get colorized! A group of volunteers literally throw a pail of color powder over you! It’s the funnest part of the run because each color zone has a different color assigned, and they have blaring music to accompany the fun color drenching! So you’re there in the blue zone, screaming at the volunteers to blast you with powder, jumping up and down to One Direction’s What Makes You Beautiful! Seriously, if you’re going to look like a dork rocking out to that song, might as well be in a cloud of blue smoke!

Blue Zone!
And at the end, right at the Finish Line, you run towards the Color Run After Party! Every few minutes, a burst of color erupts from every corner... so if you hadn't satisfied your color fix yet, there's your chance!

Colors Colors Colors!

Color Run After Party!

My Team

Don’t the photos look amazing? I totally recommend The Color Run to anyone who's looking to have some good clean (well, sort of) fun! Do it! I’ve never had so much fun running in my life --- and I hate running! It truly is the Happiest 5K on the planet!

While I am waiting to leave for my big trip next year, there's no reason why I should stop living like a tourist in my home in California, right? I will do anything and everything in the name of merriment and pleasure. And you should too!

They are expanding and adding more locations --- including Australia! Take a look at their schedule here.
They actually have another one coming up in Los Angeles this February!So If you live in SoCal – I’ll see you there!!!

Mandatory Jump Shot