For top L to bottom R: coffee with Mayoyao Rice terraces as background (July), swimming with sea turtles at Apo Island, Negros Oriental (August), Salagdoong Beach, Siquijor (October), Bulusan Lake, Sorsogon (May), Falls #2, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato (December), Tinuy-an Falls, Surigao del Sur (December),  Cambulo Rice Terraces, Ifugao (August),
Porchetta at FAT, BGC (because there ought to be food), Batad Rice Terraces, Ifugao (August) 
2015 has been a year of green and blue hues, of an unending love affair with the outdoors, of curveballs, and of unparalleled great times. I'll always remember 2015 as the year I finally (wo)manned up and took the leap to my longtime wish.

Experiences on the road make up a huge chunk of this year, and more than the places I've seen and things I've done, it's the people who I've spent moments with (even the short ones) who fill up my overflowing happy memory bank. I'm writing this post to thank everyone who has been a part of my 2015.

I will spend the next few days envisioning what 2016 will be for me and I'm excited about what the year will bring, both in terms of travel and other aspects of life, because gasp! I've come to terms with the fact that there are other things in life other than chasing adventures. I want to take the time to wish you a great year ahead. May your days be filled with beautiful, jaw-dropping sunsets, long conversations that make your heart soar and dream, fun nights that go on until the wee hours of the morning, and with all kinds of love that inspire.

I wish to see more of you in 2016! Cheers!

From a corporate employee, I have turned myself into a freelance writer/online worker/ self-employed individual. I'm still at loss when answering forms that asks for Occupation because I still can't believe that yes, even when it doesn't feel like it, this is my occupation (at least for now). I've been tempted to write non-practicing telecoms professional. I would love to romanticize how the whole decision-making process went, how years of imagining finally became reality, and how it felt to finally take the leap into the giant unknown but you can look that up and I swear I feel the same way as the others who have gone before me.
I'm here to write about the reality of the pursuit and some of truths I have discovered so far.
Who doesn't want to see this view all day, every day?

The lifestyle is not for everyone.

Because, of course, there's the monetary side and there are bills to pay.

If you can't figure out how you can earn outside of the four walls of the office, then don't even try. If you can't create self-imposed deadlines and if you can't meet your own deadlines, then stay in the office. If you need someone to help you in setting your career goals and if you are always acting based on mandates, this life is not for you. Being location independent is best suited for self-motivated individuals who can work on his own defined structure. There are no rules and no guidelines to adhere to so it will all be about you and your discipline. It's a process I'm still working on because of the next item.

And there are days when you just don't want to work.

And that's ok.

I've learned to forgive myself for days when I would rather read a book, blog, or hike. Same as in the office, there are lazy days except that in the office, even the lazy days are paid. Since I'm doing freelance writing, all my transactions are result-oriented which means lazy days equal no income days. The key is balance. 

And taking your laptop to the beach sounds great.

But it only looks good in photos.

I'm not saying it can't happen because it can but to work well and to be productive means setting up a good place where you can actually think and focus and where internet connectivity is great. I think it also beats being in the moment. It may not work for me but it can work for someone else. Setting days for recluse and days for making money works for me.

*That's a crappy photo of me failing miserably to work, distracted by the sound of waves. The other guy out front was watching a movie. He knew better than to work with that view.

And you need to have a to-do list. Maintain a calendar.

Or else you can easily be sucked into days of lounging.

A to-do list also helps you keep track of things you have accomplished. Even the smallest things can help you feel motivated. If you go on Google and find the daily schedule of the most successful creative individuals who ever lived, you'll find out that they have set specific chunks of their day to do meaningful work. It's easy to get sidetracked if you don't set your day's priorities.

And start thinking about what's next for you.

Because it's easier to climb a corporate ladder, with the rungs well-defined and you just need to know how to get to the next level.

Self-employed individuals have to sit down and define the rungs themselves because while there are plenty of options, you only have time to pursue a few. It's even harder for location independent persons (or digital nomads) because there's also another question of when and where the feeling of wanting to settle will take place. As for me, I have not figured out this part yet. I'm focusing on learning the ropes, expanding my knowledge, and keeping my world open to endless possibilities.

My own journey is new and so far it has been a good start of self-discovery. Sometimes it feels like a complete struggle but I always go back thinking that this is something I know my future self will thank me for.

Are you living the location-independent life? Cheers to living the alternative lifestyle!

Today marks the sixth month that I've been out.
Out of my old loop, out of a regular job generating steady income, out of my previous routine.
I thought of writing this post to remember this day and to tell the story of how the past six months have been. To say that it is bittersweet is an understatement. To romanticize the experience would be to lie. The digital nomad, location-independent, strike anywhere life is not all unicorns and rainbows as one would like to imagine it to be. It's hard work, and I can honestly say that this is harder than when I had a corporate job with a regular stream of things to do and things to worry about. However, it is the path that I wish to keep and cling to as long as I could, if the universe permits.
For the past six months, I've been living off my meager savings and when it ran out, I relied on my earnings as a freelance writer to sustain me (and I still write for a living up to now). I started with the vision of living by the sea, going anywhere, anytime I want to, and I did exactly like that. I was someone with too much time on my hands, going anywhere aimlessly and for a moment, I may or may not have been a hedonist. A friend once told me that having too much time can sidetrack you from seeing and doing what's important. And that scared me for one bit because time, while I have plenty, is something that I can never take back.
Photo taken last Dec 17, 2015 - after spending 3 weeks in Mindanao

Six months later, I have met a lot of people who are true to their passions, who are dead on sure about the path they want to take, and who selflessly share their time, talent, and resources with others; it humbles me to know them and I wish I could infuse each bit of them into myself. Each person and experience has made me feel that there is something more, something larger than myself and my selfish vision of going anywhere, anytime I want to.

"Happiness only real when shared"

That phrase from Into The Wild says it all. Purpose is important and I think mine lies in that phrase (I think.. because one can't be too sure). I am most happy when I get to share the joy of experiencing things with others, may it be friends or strangers. The 'Why' of things is important. I've been searching for that one 'Why' and as of this writing, I still couldn't say I am 100% sure but I am there, almost certain. If you've come this far in reading this and still haven't figured your 'Why', take the time to do so. Your motivation ends when your 'why' ceases to make sense.

Sea turtle rescue at Dahican, Mati - I wished to see a turtle and there it was the next day
I've learned that: 
  1. Some dreams you just have to give up (maybe just for now or maybe it will never happen) in exchange for what you feel strongly about.
  2. You get to decide what you can throw out the window and what you can't live without.. I don't need much. 
  3. The things most important to you can move you to tears. The things that don't matter don't evoke that much emotion.
  4. There is much joy in having a genuine connection with people regardless of how fleeting the moment is.  
  5. You should always choose to be kind but remember that being kind is different from being plain stupid.
  6. It's easy to get lost in new ideas and experiences. You need family and friends to help you stay grounded and connected.
  7. You can change your mind (consequently, your reaction) about a person, about places, about events. Meditation has taught me to watch my emotions as they unfold and from there choose how I want to handle things.
  8. I'm turning into a dog person - which is fine - read number 7. 
I'm afraid I'll turn this post into a long winding post about self-realizations and start posting month's worth of notes but I'll keep it at this. The past 6 months were fun, revealing, rash, all a blur, enlightening, a rollercoaster of experiences, sudden breakdowns, fits of laughter.. anything and everything but a waste of time. Just like any good thing, I need to work harder this coming year for the life that I choose to live. I'm looking forward to spending the next months and years striving for the life that fills my big, fat heart with joy. <3 
Thank you to family and friends who have all been very supportive. See you on the road!

A few weeks ago, I felt like dark clouds were settling in and that I was starting to get stuck in a serious rut. Life seems to be going nowhere, and unfortunately, I do not have any fight within me to beat it.

It got me thinking why I never felt that way when I was on the road. What is it about traveling that makes your serotonin shoot up through the ceiling and allow you to see the world as your playground, consequently throwing you into delirious happiness?

I have learned that the fastest way to get out of a jam is to summon my traveling state of mind and try to recreate it in my 'other' life.

What happens to us when we travel?

**This post is mainly me giving myself a pep talk

We find a lot of amazing things 
The feeling of being in a new place leaves us breathless. We listen closely and watch people intently. All our senses are heightened and we find ourselves in awe of the people, things, and culture that surrounds us.

Amazed by the golden Shwedagon Pagoda

"Familiarity breeds indifference", Aldous Huxley once wrote. When you know a place so much like an old lover, it loses its magic. Think about the people who grew up by the ocean - are they still amazed by the crashing waves and the view of the massive sky everyday? Remember that feeling of being at peace when you saw the Buddhist monks in Myanmar perform a solemn ritual? Do you experience the same feeling when you witness the rites performed here?  I don't. We can all agree that it's a matter of perspective.

How to do this today: Always find something amazing. The key is in paying attention to the little things - the ones we usually never bother to notice. Take the time to look at the trees on your way to work, or notice how clearer the skies are after raining. That view by your office window, that's neat right? You used to think that view was great until you saw it hundreds of times in the past 5 years and then it meant nothing. Try to look a little closer surely you'll find a new patch of green.

No one judges anyone
When traveling in a foreign land, no one knows you and you don't know them - at least at first. We postpone judging, just drop our thoughts, and let life happen. No stereotyping. Part of the excitement while traveling comes from meeting people on the road. Not everyone will end up as a long-term friend, some will be our companions and most likely be forgotten in a few days, but everyone we meet affects us in subtle, little ways.

Now back in the homebase. If you grew up in a society where people have created nice, little spots for everyone, it can be hard to break out. Once we are in our designated spot, it can be daunting to venture out and the thought of having to explain ourselves is twice as stressful.

How to do this today:  The golden rule does not apply, not judging won't stop others from forming an opinion about you. There really is no other way to put it. Quit judging and quit minding those who judge. 

We don't hesitate to share a part of ourselves

In a sea of travelers, each one stands out and becomes an ambassador of the place he came from. How many times does your country take the spot in conversations? When we believe in something, we passionately share stories about it. Talking about one's homeland or skills need no rehearsing, it all comes out spontaneously.

How to do this today: When things are all too familiar, our interests wade and relationships go stale. Make an effort to reach out and share your insights about that new project you are working on or about the group you've just joined. Build on your new interests and continuously make yourself a better person.

We have at least an idea where we'll be in the near future 
Also known as an itinerary. When traveling, it doesn't necessarily mean that we have to follow our plans down to the dot and kill spontaneity, but most of us do have a rough idea where we will possibly be in the next few days.

Libona, Bukidnon at 6AM

In a place of comfort, we usually do not find ourselves looking for something else. However, comfort can equate to stagnation too and that's the voice that just won't quit nagging. When was the last time you penciled in a goal for your career or personal life and you actually did something about it? And that time when you missed great chances because you were so focused on that one thing you thought you wanted? That doesn't happen with your traveling mind. What's good about traveling is we can make plans and scratch them. Draft plans but make nothing definite.

How to do this today: Make tentative plans and throw randomness in. Will you have a lot of free time over the weekend? Plan to create things with your hands, to pay a surprise visit to your friends and family (suprise is key here), to cook your favorite chicken dish. If something comes up and you need to go to some far-flung place for an overnight trip, drop your makeshift plans and go!

We're up for absolutely anything 
When on the road, we take every opportunity and rarely think twice about it. Jump off the cliff to the sea? Why not! Start being serious with surfing? Go hang out with the locals? Get inked by the monks? Trek to the Everest Base Camp? Hmm.

In our 'other' life, we tend to have more reservations. We're hounded by the intricate plans we made and the judging voices in our head. In the absence of worrying about judgments and of ditching plans, we open a window for endless possibilities. Chances are we will have a grand time with whatever we come up with and if turns out to be one of those what-was-I-thinking moment,  it will still be a great story to tell.

Mt. Ugo - After a 7-hr trek

How to do this today: Say 'yes' to anything that you have even the slightest inkling too.. within the bounds of reason of course! My mantra has always been to try everything at least once. If you're feeling lazy about an activity, think trekking, push yourself through the door and still do it. You will like yourself more once you're done with it.

Your mind is always open to learn

"The more that you learn, the more places you'll go", said Dr. Seuss. Learning is exciting and it keeps us on our toes. Being in a foreign place always brings out the curious cat in anyone. We find ourselves reading about the Vietnamese War and the French Revolution. Watch Les Miserables and follow it right up with a fun one, maybe like Amelie. Maybe learn a few Gaelic phrases. We'd go as far as finding out the best chicken tikka masala in town. It's the thrill of learning that keeps us wanting for more.

Back in the non-traveling life, it's easy to lose one's self in the daily routine. The commute sucks but it could also mean the time to read. The innate need to learn and to keep ourselves interested will propel us through the tough days.

How to do this today: Learn new things. Always thought about cooking your own meals? Google a quick recipe. Pickup a phrase book and utter 'I need to eat something' in Spanish. Take home a bit of new knowledge everyday.


I evoke my traveling state of mind every single day. So if suddenly I ditch my plans or I seem zoned out, please do understand that I'm trying to get by. 😉

Any thoughts on how travel affects you? Share! 

I remember writing in 2012 that I welcome 2013 with anticipation for all the things that it might bring.
And it did bring things in little waves.
For one, I seem to have abandoned this space, with posts less than half the number of entries last year. I could blame it on writer's block, but the truth is, I simply did not find the time to spew something out.

I spent the first 3 months of 2013 holed up in Brunei, and though it did me good for my personal goals, it did not motivate me to write as much as I thought it would. I did spend a weekend away with friends in Singapore and wandered solo in Miri, Sarawak, Malaysia for CNY. But even with those, I only managed to come up with one for each.
Clockwise from top left: Brunei's Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque; Singapore's Henderson Waves Bridge; Chinese Temple preps in Miri, Sarawak, Malaysia; CNY celebrations

By summertime, I was busy reconnecting with friends back home. When you have been away for a few months, would you rather capture the time when you meet your friends and folks again or would you just want to stay in the moment? See. I thought so too. There goes Baguio, Samar, Batangas, Tagaytay, and Cebu.
Clockwise from top left: with my family in Sky Ranch, Tagaytay; a deserted beach near my Lolo's place in Daanbantayan, Cebu; brocolli-picking with friends in Baguio; La Luz in Laiya, Batangas; Baguio roadtrip; Liliputan Rock Beach in Eastern Samar
Towards the end of the year, Bali seemed to pull me out of the writing rut I was in, but with only one post after spending a week in The Island of A Thousand Gods, who was I kidding? The only thing that moved me to write was the moment of bliss by the beach. From September until December, I made 3 trips to Malaysia and as of posting time, I still have nothing to publish about Penang and Malacca. Never mind that Penang has been in my To-Go List for a couple of years now.
Clockwise from top left: Kuta Beach in Bali, Indonesia; by the river in Malacca, Malaysia; the lovely buildings in Penang, Malaysia; Uluwatu Temple in Bali; Christ Church in Malacca
I might sound bitter in 2013 when it comes to writing but that Bali post proved one thing: I now find it harder to write about subjects that really does not interest me or things that I find disenchanting. This space has turned from being helpful and informative to a deeply personal, almost reflective, travel blog. I even wrote a piece about homesickness and another one about surviving out there. At that time, I probably thought I was an expert.
Another thing is that my personal life has traversed a different road too. This year I have started cooking and I am on my way to eating healthy. Exercise has finally found its way back into my life through muay thai (which I love BTW). Priorities have changed and clarity seems within grasp.
2013 is the year when storytelling took a backseat, but looking back, it is possible that creativity just took on a new route. 2013 mellowed me out and tamed my ways a little but I am not complaining. In order to progress, one must evolve.  The new year can only mean new possibilities and the thought of the unknown excites me. 
I am ready, as always.
Wishing everyone a happy and sparkling new year filled with love and travels!