I Traveled to 23 Countries… and Not Counting (For Now)

The fact that you’re reading this means you also have the desire to TRAVEL! Haha! If that’s correct, then GOOD!

I had the same desire right after I graduated from college and started working in the real world — with entry-level salary and meager savings. Even though I’ve been traveling since I was five (you know, the usual family trips), it was only after a decade (in 2006), when I was already in college, when the travel bug “bit” me for real. It started with visiting my sister in Sydney, Australia as she finished her fellowship/sub-specialty training to become a Pediatrician slash Human Geneticist. When I came back, I yearned to visit more places outside the Philippines and Asia. But I had to start small first, so my travel journey began by crossing off Southeast Asian countries off my travel bucket list — mostly because there’s no visa required (thanks to the ASEAN agreement!), and of course, since local budget airlines frequent these routes (yay for promo fares!). Little did I know, now that I’m nearing the end of my twenties and about to go on being “thirty, flirty, and thriving” (of course flirty only to my S.O. and bonus points for you if you get the movie reference!), I’ve already traveled to a total of 23 countries (the Philippines — my home country, and Europe — my dream continent, included), and to be honest, I’m not quite sure how I did it! 😛

But if there’s one thing I’m sure of, everything was, is, and will always be God’s grace. Call me religious or spiritual, but I believe that the main reason why I was able to do it — to travel even when I’m not rich — is because of His unlimited provisions in my life. He planted the dream to travel in my heart (especially the dream to travel to Europe) all the way back in 2006, and He has been faithful in that promise. He always is.

So yes, I owe it all to God’s grace. That, and my unceasing faith in Him, my never-ending hope that my travel dreams can come true, and my unconditional love for this life that God has blessed me with! Sure, God works on His own timeline, and it’s our job — it was my job — to be patient and trust Him fully. Take my dream destination for example. I wanted to travel the world in 2006, but my dream to travel to Europe specifically was planted in my heart in 2010. In 2016, I finally got to travel to my ultimate dream destination: the UK! 🙂

2016 travels

And I thought that was it. But you know what they say, when God blesses, it’ll be “siksik, liglig, at umaapaw.” We can never outrun God’s generosity. Lo and behold, I didn’t expect that I’ll be able to travel again to different parts of my dream continent in the next two years after my first travel dream fulfillment. He even allowed me to travel to other local and Asian destinations in between — and lose 30 lbs. to boot! (But that’s for another blog entry altogether! Haha!)

2017 travels

2018 travels

The Philippines. Hong Kong (China). Singapore. Australia. Malaysia. Vietnam. Cambodia. Thailand. Brunei. Guam (USA). The UK. Ireland. Taiwan. Japan. Germany. The Czech Republic. Slovakia. Hungary. Austria. Greece. Turkey. Italy. The Vatican.

I’ve been to those aforementioned countries (separate posts for each can be found here)… but I’m not counting anymore. For some, that may be a lot. But still for some, that’s not even half way through all the countries they’ve been to. For me, that’s more than enough. All my travels are personal, none of which is work-related (though I wish some are!), that’s why I’m not complaining. 😀

Sooo. Why is this post entitled like that?

Well, after reaching my travel dreams in my twenties, I believe God is calling me to a different season as I enter the next chapter of my life in my thirties. In short, my priorities are changing, I don’t see myself splurging on travel again the same way I did before, and this is my “swan song” to my “Wander Mika” self — at least the traveling part.

I say the “traveling part” because I don’t just limit the word “wander” to “traveling.” The dictionary defines “wander” as “to walk slowly across or around an area, usually without a clear direction or purpose.” When I came up with my “Wander Mika” concept for my social media accounts (including this blog), I defined “wandering” as living a “pointless” life without God in it (referring to the last line of the dictionary’s definition: without a clear direction or purpose). And that is where FAITH comes in. Because thankfully, I have the best “travel” buddy: JESUS. And through this blog and my other travel-related posts, I pray that you find Him in your own journey, too, and live a life full of LOVE (as defined in my life verse — 1 Corinthians 13:2) ❤

misc. travels from 2006-2015

So no, you won’t see me traveling as much in the coming year (and probably in the years after that). Yes, I’ll still travel from time to time, but my next “splurge” trip will probably be in the next five years or more (I still want to see the Northern Lights! *hint, hint*). But rest assured, I’ll always be Wander Mika regardless of the season I’m in, and I’ll always have the “best travel buddy” in this journey called life: GOD!!!

2012 travels

If God has been faithful to me even in just my simple travel dreams,
I trust that He will be even more faithful when it comes to my bigger life dreams! 😉

I pray the same abundance and provisions for YOU.

TO GOD BE THE GLORY ALWAYS AND FOREVER!


Got travel questions?
Don’t hesitate to send me a message or two!

That Rainbow in Prague (A Short Memoir)

Prague, Czech Republic (July 2017)

Prague. Sounds fancy, doesn’t it? After all, I know of some people who dream of visiting it. Praha, some of them even say. The Czech Republic. But not me. I didn’t dream of going to Prague. It just so happened that it’s included in the tour package me and my sisters booked for this trip. This Euro trip — now that, I’ve always dreamed of. And for some reason, I’m now living it. Maybe it’s God’s way of telling me that it’ll be alright? Because this is just good timing. I’m currently moving on and healing my broken heart, I’m embarking on a trip of a lifetime, and I’m emo as emo one can be — ain’t that the stuff of movies? But hey, I’m not complaining! I know that my life is a story and if the main author of it, God Himself, is orchestrating something to help me make something good, even great, out of this heartbreak, then why not? God did it to me before, and I know He can do it again. He always will.

So no, I didn’t really plan on going to Prague. But as I step on this wet floor after some rain, overlooking the city’s skyline, I was reaffirmed. There it is on the clouds above, perfectly positioned for all to see, for me to see, in all its seven vibrant colors: a rainbow. There’s a freakin’ rainbow in the city of Prague, and I love it! I always love seeing rainbows! It’s always like a dream come true after each rain.

And now that I’m standing here, seeing this rainbow in front of me, while I’m still going through my own “life storm,” it’s like God is telling me, “Mika, it’ll be alright. Just like this rainbow, life will be colorful for you again. Just trust Me, I got you.”

Looking back, it has been alright. Prague has been more than a year already, and I’m glad to say that life, indeed, has never been more colorful for me. And I’ve nothing left to say but, “thank you, God!” 🙂

And that, my friends, is actually a product of the most recent writing workshop I just attended: Scribblory‘s Your Past at the Tip of Your Pen: A Memoir Writing Workshop by Elaine Marie Factor (author of Kerygma Books’ Finding You: A Memoir on Dreams, Detours, and Destiny). We were given a few minutes to choose something to write about, and me, out of panic (haha!), the first thing that came to mind was my phone = photos — including my travel photos. And this rainbow shot taken during my Euro Trip last year is actually one of my favorites despite not considering Prague as one of my favorite destinations. Hence the post above that you just read. That’s the unedited version straight from my notebook, so apologies if there were some grammar/writing style issues. Wahahahaha! I wanted to keep it that way to help me in my progress as I start venturing into this whole “memoir writing” stuff. I’m loving it, by the way! 😉

I know I need more practice because one of my dreams is to actually write my own non-fiction book! There, I said it. Writing has always been a passion of mine (hello blog!), but I believe it’s high time to take this whole passion project into a whole new level. Sure, I’ll still blog — blogging is another form of writing I’ve loved doing since my college days (this blog alone is turning nine years old this December! yaaay!), but I’ve to get more serious with my God-given craft. And the best way I can think of to do that is to finally finish my book! Of course, all for His glory! 🙂

So yes, I’m on the road to writing my memoir in book form! Pray for me, yes?

TO GOD BE THE GLORY ALWAYS AND FOREVER!

Euro Trip 2018 Highlights: Italy and The Vatican

Here’s the next stop on my Euro Trip/Greco-Roman Adventure 2018 photo blog series: Italy and the Vatican! 😀
(Click here to see the first! haha)

So why did I decide to visit the aforementioned countries? Simple: I’m a devout and practicing Roman Catholic Christian and visiting the heart of my church/faith (a.k.a. The Vatican) has always been a dream of mine! Add to that that I’m a history buff, and Italy has always been on top of my “dream destinations” all the way back when I was still in high school!

To be honest, when my sisters were planning this trip, the original plan was really just to go to Greece. But since I’m the only one among us who hasn’t been to Italy/The Vatican, I sort of begged them to add the two countries to our itinerary — hence achieving our so-called Greco-Roman adventure! So, thank you, sistahs!!! 😛

By the way, one of the reasons why my ates agreed to go to Italy again is because they wanted to finally visit San Giovanni Rotondo — the place where St. Padre Pio spent most of his life and where his body/ultimate relic rests today! As I’m writing this, talking about the Saint is really timely because his heart relic is currently being toured in my country, The Philippines. 🙂 I think I’ll have a separate blog entry on how to go to San Giovanni Rotondo because it’s four hours away from Rome, so we literally had to spend an entire day (out of our total of five days in Italy) just for that visit alone.

For now, I’ll just give you a rundown of the places you can go to in Rome and Vatican City, when like me, it’s your first time, you have limited time, but you still want to make the most out of your trip!

So, where did the “Roman” part of this adventure take me? 😉

ITALY

Rome

-where we stayed at one of the amazing suites of Domus Spagna (highly recommended!) located in Via Frattina — and just a stone’s throw away from other must-see tourist spots in Romaaa…

…such as:

Piazza di Spagna / Spanish Steps

Trevi Fountain

Pantheon

The Pantheon used to be a Roman temple but is now a Roman Catholic church

Piazza Navona

Colosseum

Arch of Constantine

P.S: Of course, a visit to Italy won’t be complete without some authentic gelato! YUM!!!

San Giovanni Rotondo

And then, off we went to St. Padre Pio‘s place — which is, like I mentioned, four hours away from Rome — but totally worth it!!!

Inside you can also find relics of St. John Paul the Great and St. Teresa of Calcutta

As I mentioned in my social media post when this shot was taken:

Today’s one for the books. I saw the body of one of the saints I always ask for prayers: St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina. Yes, that’s right — I don’t pray TO them, I ask them to pray FOR me just like asking a friend to intercede or pray for me. As a devout and practicing Roman Catholic Christian, my devotion to saints has been one of the things questioned by other faiths. But I’m not posting this to argue or debate. In fact, there are many things about my own faith that I’ve still yet to discover; it’s a lifetime process, and I’m falling in love more with the Roman Catholic Church each and every time. When it comes to saints alone, the Roman Catholic Church isn’t the only church that has them. The Eastern Orthodox has ’em (I just came from Greece and have been a witness to the Greek Orthodox Church), the Anglican Church does too. But I don’t have all the answers; nobody does because only God has ’em. That’s why it’s more important to show love and respect. As another saint, St. Teresa of Calcutta, once said, “…for you see, in the end it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.” ❤️

Personally, what I like about St. Padre Pio is his story on how he died to himself every day when he bore Christ‘s wounds (stigmata) when he was still alive. He helped and inspired A LOT of people, too, along the way (he still does). And the best thing about this is, he was just like you and me: a person. And if he did it, so could I. So could YOU. We are all saints in the making — we just have to accept that first and foremost.

And that’s why I love asking saints (canonized or not) to pray for me. They remind me that this world is temporary and the ultimate goal is eternal life with God in heaven. 😇

So, how’s your journey to sainthood so far? Me, I still have a looong waaay to gooo, but I thank God that His mercies are new each and every day 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼

THE VATICAN

And of course, there’s Vaticano! Someday, I pray that I’ll be able to return here with my future husband and attend the Pope’s sposi novelli wherein newlyweds are allowed “to appear for the papal blessing within the first two months of marriage…” Heehee. But until then, here are the places that sufficed:

The Vatican Museums

…yes, plural! Haha!

Warning, though: The museums are jam-packed with tourists! But you’ll definitely be in awe at all their collectionsss 🙂

I was finally able to see “The School of Athens” by the renowned Renaissance artist, Raphael, up close!!!

St. Peter’s Basilica

The Pieta

Aside from where St. Peter is buried, the Basilica also serves as the burial place of most popes, just like this: the tomb of Pope John Paul II (now St. John Paul the Great)

You can confess inside, too! I DID!!! 😀

St. Peter’s Square

There was no papal audience when we visited (it was summertime, and we were informed that the audience is canceled during that season), but hey, at least I got these decent jump shots! Wahahahaha!

And that’s it! Haha! I know, bitin. Five days may sound long, but that wasn’t enough to tour Rome alone! Heck, you might need a month or more to tour entire Italy — which I plan to do in the future!!!

I’ve said before that my priorities are changing and it might take a long while before I step on European shores again, that’s why I’ll forever be grateful to God for giving me this opportunity to achieve my travel dreams in my twenties. ❤

TO GOD BE THE GLORY ALWAYS AND FOREVER!