Featured Traveler: Rica’s Third World Travels

This is a long overdue post (almost a year, sorry!), but here it is anyway. 😛

My “travelers” are back this year, starting with one of my graduate school friends (and travel book author!) Ma. Patricia Yulo or simply Rica.

Rica in Singapore during her

Rica in Singapore during her “no bag” travel challenge

I met Rica when I was still taking up my Master’s Degree at this university along Taft Avenue (ahem, #animo!), and we were classmates in one of my electives called Creative Nonfiction. We kept in touch with the help of social media (I also found out that she’s a relative of one of my friends from college — who was also one of my featured travelers before! What a small world!), and I’m so glad she agreed to do this despite her busy travel schedule. Hehe!

So let’s get down to business. How did all the “travel” start for her? Rica said, “I started traveling when I was a kid but my life changed when I backpacked the Banana Pancake route covering Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam in 2009. For the first time in my life, I felt free — free in a sense that I was able to unchain myself from oppressive worldviews because I was exposed to different cultures and met so many beautiful and friendly people from all over the world.”

Rica's first visit in Bangkok, Thailand

Rica’s first visit in Bangkok, Thailand

with the Hmong Tribe in Vietnam

with the Hmong Tribe in Vietnam

Rica has been around Asia (she loves Southeast Asian countries), Australia, and North America. But what makes her standout in a world full of “travelers” (aside from the fact that she has written a travel book, but more on that later!) is she actually dared to travel to a foreign country without any luggage! She shared, “Most Filipinos I know bring big suitcases with them whenever they travel even for just a short period. I wanted to challenge that and prove that you don’t have to bring your entire closet with you if you’re traveling short term. So in May 2012, I traveled to Singapore for three days without bringing a single bag (not even a cellphone case!). I used a vest with many pockets to carry my passport, a few pieces of clothing, toiletries, and the most important gadget of all — mobile phone (to call loved ones in case of an emergency).

“I went around Singapore alone without carrying anything which made my walks easy. I didn’t even have a hard time entering or leaving the airport because I had no luggage. Plus, I saved a lot of money because checked-in luggage can be a bit costly. The biggest lesson is this: for a short vacation, you only need one backpack. Laptops and other gadgets are unnecessary. Do away with things you spend a lot of time with at home while you travel.”

After sharing that, Rica also mentioned what traveling is for her and how it affects her. “Traveling for me is a form of spiritual nourishment. Traveling gives me a reason to live because it challenges me and makes me see or experience new things. My travels have also helped me become more conscious of dealing with other people from different backgrounds. I’m not saying that I’m perfect but because of traveling, I’ve become more sane… and sober.”

chillin' at a hostel in Malaysia

chillin’ at a hostel in Malaysia

made a friend in Burma (Myanmar)

made a friend in Burma (Myanmar)

elephant ride in Laos

elephant ride in Laos

Her next dream destination? “I always say Norway due to its contribution to metal music (which I love), but right now, my dream is to backpack Northern Pakistan, the Kashmir region, Israel, and Iraq. Some of the places mentioned are quite dangerous but give me a black belt travel companion, a translator, and a bulletproof vest and I’ll go there in a snap to eat, explore, and ask questions. I’m not the type of tourist who simply wants to take a photo of a monument. I want to talk to the locals, share a meal with them, meet their families, hang out where they hang out, and I would love to do these things in the places mentioned.”

lunch with locals in Indonesia

lunch with locals in Indonesia

More about the photo above: “After exploring a Javanese village in Jogja by bicycle for four hours, a local invited my tired legs and my two lovely tour guides to have lunch with her and her ‘org mates.’  She served authentic Indonesian food, which was too spicy, but I enjoyed the entire experience.”

with tea pickers in Sri Lanka

with tea pickers in Sri Lanka

with friends at the summit of Mount Pinatubo, Philippines

with friends at the summit of Mount Pinatubo, Philippines

Her travel tips (aside from the things you can read in her book):

Know your priorities if you want to travel. Yes, you need money but you don’t have to be a millionaire. For example, if you’re a smoker and a drinker but love to travel, don’t buy cigarettes and alcohol for two months — that’ll definitely save you a lot of money! [And you’re health, too! See next tip. Haha! -Ed.]
Stay healthy.
Be curious, but don’t be stupid.
Travel SLOWLY — spend five days in one city if you can.

The 3rd World Traveler

As mentioned earlier, Rica has written a book about her travels (particularly in third world countries). Here, she shares what inspired her to do it and all that comes with it.

She said, “I spent a year saving for a one month trip, and I made it happen! Then I came home and wanted to share my story — focusing more on how I was able to save money. I didn’t just want to write about what I saw in Myanmar or what I ate in Laos. I mean, seriously, who gives a shit? I have my blog for that, and interested readers can always access it. I wanted to create ‘a manual’ that teaches people how to save money so they, too, can travel. I thought, if I could do it despite all the obstacles I had to face, anyone with a dream would be able to do it as long as they’re disciplined enough to know their priorities.

“I wrote the manuscript two days after my month long journey — with a little push from the book entitled, Who Moved My Cheese which I read while I was in Bangkok. After a month of writing and polishing, I sent the first complete draft to my college professor Dra. Lilia Sevillano for a review. It was somehow her ‘approval’ that gave me the motivation to take the entire thing seriously. And because I had to make it readable/comprehensive, I sought the assistance of a published writer named Roel Cruz who did a fine job editing the entire manuscript.

“Around April of 2013, I was looking for a publisher when Ces Cabangon of Art Initiative approached me. That was the turning point. She offered to publish my work without asking me to change anything. She simply wanted to make the manuscript reader-friendly and more marketable so we got Louella Tumaneng of National Bookstore who guided us in our decision-making and added graphic designers Myish Endonila (IxM Collective and Design Brewery) and Jack Policarpio to the team for layout and illustration.

“It took us months to finish everything but we’re happy that the manuscript finally saw the light of day last January 2014. The book, The 3rd World Traveler, is now out in National Bookstore and Powerbooks branches throughout the metro.”

Know more about Rica‘s book by visiting
the official Facebook page.

Disclaimer: I do not own this photo.


You can also check out my other featured travelers HERE.

Featured Traveler: (An) Angel in Sweden

Northern Europe. Scandinavia. The Nordic countries. These are just some of the terms people use to refer to one of the best governed regions in the European continent. Well, did you know that Sweden tops that list? 😉

Also one of the largest states in Europe, Sweden is such an interesting vacation destination because of the wonderful things one can do there despite the sagad sa buto coldness experienced all year round. There’s even an ice hotel in the place — which my featured traveler Angel has been to already! Lucky her!

Well lucky for us, she was willing to share with us her Swedish sojourn. But before all that, let’s get to know her first… travel-wise!

Angel in one of her travels. Can you guess where this is?

As someone who’s been to at least 16 countries SO FAR, it’s nice to know that Angel “earned” her travels — be it because of her hard work in school or her discipline in saving some of her allowance for an experience of a lifetime. She remembered, “Ever since we were little, my parents would always make an effort to take us out during school breaks just so our family can bond and spend quality time together. Since then, it has already been a habit for us to save up for these occasions.

“Actually, my mom’s the one who really loves to travel. Nothing in the world would make her happier than the mere idea of traveling. So you can already guess that I got it from her. Yep, we’ve got wanderlust! Even the sight of a travel magazine or a brochure could already get us giddy and excited! It’s funny because we easily get overwhelmed by the idea that we envision so many plans in mind in just a short span of time. But then again, there are so many factors to consider like school, finances, etc.

“At present, I’ve also learned to save up on my own so that I could pay for my trips abroad. Last year, I contributed for my airfare and pocket money to Thailand!”

As someone preparing for medical school, Angel sure knows how to make the most of her “free time” before her chosen field finally makes her one very busy bee. Of course, this includes TRAVELING. “I was around six years old during my first trip abroad. My family and I went to China to see the place and visit some relatives and family friends. I usually go with my family during these trips — the most remarkable ones being the trips to Bali, Beijing, Alaska, and California,” she shared. “However, there were also a couple of times wherein I’d go on my own or on a program with different people from the country,” Angel continued. “My first trip alone was to Paris, France. It was very memorable for me since I was able to prove to myself that I could do things on my own. I lived with a foster mom and stayed there for a week. I attended French classes in the morning and went around the city in the afternoon and evening. My trips to Japan, Canada, and Spain were all cultural exchange programs which I also enjoyed very much. It was because of those that I was able to create exceptional bonds with some of the most special people I know. The most recent one was my trip to Turkey and Greece.”

Angel’s first ever SOLO TRIP was in France! 🙂

Ice, Ice, Baby!

But despite all the countries Angel has been to, why does Sweden stand out (at least for me)? Well, you’ll know. 😛 Angel shared, “I went to Sweden in April 2012 with some family friends. We went to Stockholm and Kiruna. In Stockholm, we visited the famous Vasa Museum, Gamla Stan, Royal Palace, Skansen Open Air Museum, among others.

“In Kiruna, we visited the Ice Hotel and also went dog sledding, snow fishing, and snow shoe trekking. It was such a great experience for us all since it was our first time performing all those activities and visiting all those tourist spots. The highlight of the trip was of course in Kiruna. Our favorites were staying at the Ice Hotel and dog sledding.

Sweden

“In the Ice Hotel, we got the chance to choose one of the few art suites — each one is unique and has its own designer. The room my Tita Nora and I chose was the ‘Kraken’s Lair.’ My other tita and her husband got ‘Coffee Mudra.’ The architecture of the place was very fascinating. It had an ice bar, ice chapel, and ice hallrooms! At daytime, the place is like a museum and is open to people who pay the entrance fee. At around 5PM or so, it’s closed in preparation for guests who are staying overnight. There’s an orientation on how to sleep at -5°C! It wasn’t that bad because the outside was much colder (a negative something degree!). We all had a peaceful sleep after enjoying the place and were awaken by the hospitable staff with some hot jogiberry juice (which I really loved!).

Kraken’s Lair, anyone?

COLD drinks on the house =))

inside an Ice Hotel bedroom

Ice Hotel

The orientation on how to sleep at -5°C

Sweden

“For the dog sledding experience, I had the chance to drive my own sleigh with a team of four Siberian huskies! We’d take turns, so we also had the chance to simply ride on a sleigh being pulled by a dozen of huskies. It was such a magnificent ride through the mountains. The dogs were all so obedient and smart. I’d sometimes hear their master say something in Swedish and they’d just all magically fall in one line or stop all at once to wait for the others behind us.

Dog Sledding

Dog Sledding

“For the food, we were able to try eating deer and moose meat for the first time in our lives! I’d have to say that it was one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever tried.”

Sweden

♥♥♥

See? That’s why Sweden stood out! 😉 On another note, when I asked Angel what’s next in her travel list, she couldn’t answer instantly. “That question has always been a dilemma for me and my mom,” she said. “I actually have a lot of places in mind but perhaps, the one that’s on top of my list right now would be Maldives. I’m in dire need of a serene paradise to get away from all the school stress! Haha, kidding! Next on my list would be Africa, Russia, Nepal, and South America.”

Of course, in order to be able to achieve this, one has to be knowledgeable about traveling. Angel‘s advice? “Save, save, save! You’ll never know where it’ll get you. And don’t forget to research well, so that you make the most out of every trip you take.”

So what exactly is TRAVELING for her? She answered, “Traveling for me is an eye opener and an avenue for new experiences, insights, and learning. Traveling has broadened my perspective in so many ways. As I go to new places, I realize that there’s always something new, something different that I have to see and experience. It makes me a wiser, more well-rounded and experienced person, which is why I know that my love for traveling will never die. Indeed, it’s true that traveling is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.”

"...it's true that traveling is the only thing you buy that makes you richer," Angel said.

“…it’s true that traveling is the only thing you buy that makes you richer,” Angel said.

That definition of traveling? Heaven sent, indeed! 😀


You can also check out my other featured travelers HERE.

Featured Traveler: Sophie’s Ro-MANIA

Other than thinking about Transylvania and Bram Stoker‘s Dracula, I honestly really had no idea what else is there in Romania. AT FIRST.

But just like any other part of Europe, there’s more to Romania than the stereotypical reference to pop culture and tourist sites — which my featured traveler Sophie made me realize. 😛

As an Atenean with a degree in European Studies, there’s no doubt that Europe has always been special for Sophie. But as someone who’s been privileged to explore the world’s continents (she has been to at least 13 countries!), her love for Europe actually started with a family trip in 2005. “My mom, dad, older sister, and I went on a family adventure to Europe and we got lost together. This was the time I fell in love with the continent because everywhere we went — even if it was just really in France — was filled with stories from history. We went to the Netherlands, too, and toured it. Then we went to Monaco and met up with a family friend who lived there,” Sophie said.

Europe

Since then, she has been to and fro Europe several times, but of course even before all that, Sophie was already used to traveling. Her first destinations included local places like Baguio and Palawan, and then the US. Remembering when the travel bug bit her, she cited, “I think I was born with it! My family makes it a point to have at least one travel or summer outing together so that we’re able to spend quality time together without school or work having to bother us. But really, I think I have the biggest travel bug with me because I’m adventurous and I love traveling — even alone — to wherever I can go.”

And that thirst for adventure just got stronger when she joined AIESEC in Ateneo. Sophie admitted, “When I first joined in 2009, my motive really was to travel because the heart of an AIESEC experience is an exchange; not as a student, but for work. So what’s better than going on exchange, traveling, working, and experiencing everything that a traveler does — maybe learn a new language — all in one package? It’s surreal, really.” It was in 2011, though, when she joined Ateneo’s Study Tour to France. She added, “I was taking up European Studies and French was my required language, so it was logical that I went on the trip because it covered 6/18 units of my language course too. We had French classes in the international language school in the morning, then tours around the city in the afternoon as part of the cultural half of the program. Moreover, we had the chance to live with a French family, so we were immersed in pure French culture: eat, drink, talk, live, everything!”

The Travel “Mania”

And then from interacting with the French, she was given the chance to spend one summer with Romanians. Sophie‘s two-month trip to Romania was very interesting and one that she’ll definitely not forget, simply because she went there with a purpose. She remembered, “My main destination when I went to Romania was Arad — which is a small town about 560km away from Bucharest, the capital of Romania. I went there for an AIESEC exchange as an assistant kindergarten teacher. I went alone as I was the only exchange participant going to Arad that time. I was, in fact, the only Filipino in that part of Romania. It was scary at first because I didn’t understand anything but as the days and weeks went by, I was able to learn a few Romanian words and phrases.”

at the city center of Arad

at the city center of Arad

Romania

Teacher Sophie :)

Teacher Sophie 🙂

But aside from learning the language, Sophie also made it a point to learn the culture and truly immerse herself in it. She continued, “Because I went a week before their Easter (Orthodox), I was fortunate enough to have been brought to several places around Romania. I went with my boss who owned the kindergarten I was working in because her husband was working in another town and her mother was living in another, so there were so many reasons for us to leave during the Easter holiday/break of the children. I had one week off from work and that’s when I was able to go to Sibiu, Brașov, and Bran.

Easter in Romania

Easter in Romania

“Sibiu was where the husband of my boss worked so we visited and of course, just like any other European city, it was breathtaking. The museums that had things dating back from the 2nd and 3rd centuries were beyond amazing to see.

Sibiu

“Then we went to Brașov, the city surrounded by the Carpathian Mountains and where my boss’ family lives. This was the city that gave me the opportunity to visit and enter my first Jewish temple, which is usually not allowed if you’re not really a Jew. Their temple can’t be visited just for tourism purposes, but the person staying and watching over the temple was too kind and therefore gave in to our request of letting me in because I come from 6,000 miles away. We also went on a Panoramic Tâmpa, which brought us up to the highest point of the town — exactly 900m above sea level — where we had the panoramic view of Brașov.

“Then we took a bus to Bran, where the famous Castle of Dracula is located. But in contrast to what many people think of him as someone who’s a vampire, drinks blood, and whatnot, he was actually a real person in the history of Romania: as the most terror ruler and dictator they’ve ever had. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to enter the castle because we didn’t make the cut-off for visitors. So what did we do? We went cheese shopping, instead! I was able to find fresh cheese and cheese that was encased in pig intestines — really strong taste.

“We celebrated the second birthday of my boss’ son in her mom’s home in a provincial town in Făgăraș. I lived the traditional Romanian life by having fresh vegetables coming out of the backyard plantation of the house, the meat coming from the neighbor’s fresh produce, and the milk coming from the cows that produced it — boiled to creamy goodness! My blanket was made out of sheep wool, which my boss’ mother made herself and the coffee in the morning was freshly ground and cooked on the stove. It was an amazing experience and I got a sheep’s wool sweater to bring home!”

Romania

Romania

And that was just Sophie‘s Easter weekend! After that, she continued to live the Romanian life she was already getting used to, including living with a “host” family. Sophie said, “I had plenty of other weekends to spend, so I spent most of them with my co-teacher Lavinia and her family — who, by the way, adopted me for Sunday lunch and took me out on road trips. We went to the mountains to get fresh water that was being sold by Izvorul Minunilor. We were able to see the spring where their fresh water comes from and the place where they pack and bottle their water to sell in the supermarkets. But what was amazing was we were able to fill 20 gallons of fresh, cold water from their springs for free. The spring is an attraction and is a usual sight seeing place for tourists and ski enthusiasts, especially in the winter months.”

Romania

Of course, no travel experience would be complete without gastronomic adventures! So what Romanian cuisine does Sophie recommend? “For the food, there were a lot that opened my mind more to the world. There was mititei, which is ground beef and ground pork and ground lamb altogether and grilled in something like a longganisa in the Philippine context. There was also caşcaval pane, which is traditional Romanian cheese deep-fried and coated in bread crumbs. Another was mămăligă, porridge made out of maize flour; sarmale, ground beef wrapped around steamed cabbage leaves; bryndza, cheese out of sheep’s milk; cozonac, traditional Romanian sweet bread usually prepared for Easter; lángos, deep-fried flat bread filled with either something savory or something sweet. Romanian cuisine was amazing and mouthwatering. And if your host offers you to try something from their culture, always say ‘YES!’ and let your curiosity and taste buds be satisfied.”

Romania

Romania

♥♥♥

More thoughts on traveling, according to Sophie: “It’s an opportunity to expand our horizons and recognize and appreciate our motherland and uniqueness because in all the places I’ve been to, no two people are alike and no country is exactly the same with the other.

“It affects me in a way that it makes me a person who is more open — to experiences, changes, differences, people, ways of thinking and living, etc. Traveling pries open a person in some way that can never be done any other way because once you get to your destination, one will never be able to squeeze out the juiciest part of the place without having to immerse himself.

“It can also be a humbling experience because we think we know a lot about people, places, experiences, or life in general when we’re home. But when we travel, we come to know that the world is much bigger than how we think it really is and that there are so many stories we learn and experiences we encounter.

“Aside from these, because of the Study Tour and the Romanian trip, traveling has now made me cherish and love and appreciate the motherland more because being away from everyone else, not being able to eat native food when you want, doing things on your own (this includes cooking and washing), are difficult and the thought of going and being home at a certain date gives some sense of comfort. I did get homesick and thinking of home always gave me comfort and joy to know that I’d be home soon. When other people also talk about the beauty/grandeur of the Philippines, there’s a sense of pride and appreciation because you can definitely say you’re part of it.”

She said it herself, the travel bug has indeed “bit” her BIG TIME. And with that in mind, what are Sophie‘s other travel plans? Well, she wants to go back to places she’s been to already such as Australia, the US, and yes, Europe! “The whole [European] continent, please. Then I’d want to visit South America. Then after, a tour around Asia and the whole Philippines.”

On that note, here are her tried-and-tested TRAVEL TIPS:

Pack well. “Bring the essentials only because I assure you, you’ll be taking snippets of your destination home and leaving some weight allowance allows you to not pay for overweight luggage.”

Let your feet take you. “No, really, just let it because it’s what’s traveling is all about. Make plans, yes, but when you get lost, relish the experience and savor what’s happening.”

Be open. “To everything. Don’t ever close your mind to anything that’s offered to you because each new experience (food, drink, place, person, shop, etc.) is once in a lifetime. Always think of it that way because it’s the only way to experience the core of your travels.”

Enjoy and relish. “Every moment, every person, every food, every place, every experience, every difficulty, and every journey is a moment that can never be re-created. Events can be relived but never duplicated because where you are at the present is exactly where you need to be, so relish and experience the goodness and joy and wonder and awe of traveling.”

Dream bigger and go farther. “Mulțumesc! Călători mai mult și să fie mai curios [or in English] (Thank you! Travel more and be more curious).”


You can also check out my other featured travelers HERE.