5 things: the return.
After a crazy-long hiatus and cobweb clearing, I have returned. To an audience, I am sure, of not that many (hi anyway, if you clicked your way through).
But nonetheless. Today, I thought, “hey, I kinda miss writing.” And I found myself in this place, once again.
In honor of my prodigal return, here is a new 5 things list - of things that have happened since my last post.
1. I applied to graduate school!
There’s really a lot to say about this, but I’ll keep it short and sweet.
After years of strategizing, working my ass off, wishing and praying, I finally decided that it was time to just jump and do it. I have been waiting for the right time to go to graduate school since my days as an undergrad at USC, and I finally discerned the timing was right.
2. I went to Europe and kicked my bucket list’s ass!
Last October, I went on a two week trip to Europe for the very first time! After listing some bucket list destinations last year, I made it to some! So the principle could be true… if you blog it, it will come.
Some short highlights:
- Said the Angelus with Pope Benedict in St. Peter’s Square, Rome
- Had an Italian man take one look at me, read me, then make me a panini. I died and went to food heaven in Florence with this panini-teller
- Fulfilled my lifelong dream of being Liesl Von Trapp in Salzburg
- Saw the living postcard that is Prague
- So much currywust, culture and history in Berlin
- French prix fixe cuisine and running in the rain in Paris
3. After a two year whimsical dance with singledom, I found a fool who wouldn’t leave me alone!
Admittedly, after #1 on this list, I purposefully chose to do the entire focus-on-yourself thing. Not like in three years in Manila, I was changing my phone number constantly and whacking men off of me (hardly the case), but I just made the clear, conscious decision to focus on grad school, not get involved, finish up what was left of my co-terminus position then go on to the next chapter.
Life always has a funny way of getting in the way of one’s plans. After being single for quite some time (very happily, I might add), I suddenly found someone great who I couldn’t shake off. And now, I am readjusting to having somebody else there and without getting too personal, it’s been a really interesting time.
4. I got on a campaign trail!
I realized that after 3 years as a Chief of Staff in the Philippine congress, I was somewhat prepared to be on a local campaign. With my aunt up for re-election, an uncle running for vice mayor, another uncle running for mayor and now, due to #3, a manfriend running for city council, I’d say that the last few months of campaign mode have been challenging, stressful, but very, very interesting. I have learned A LOT during this election season and I do hope I get to write about this more in the future. But as for right now, being 5 days away from the vote, all I can really say is, I CAN’T WAIT FOR IT TO BE OVER.
5. I’m moving… again!
A few years ago, I made a big decision to move back to the Philippines. I think this blog was a good chronicle of that time, from the decision-making, the actual move and the aftermath that followed.
Since then, I have learned a lot about myself and have set a sort-of course for the rest of my life. Back when I wrote that post saying goodbye to LA, I had some kind of idea of what was in store. And I guess now that I have experienced both worlds, I know what I want next.
But before all of that, I knew that I had to do one last thing. And that was graduate school. When I was an undergraduate, I knew I wanted to go to graduate school. I knew that not only would I somehow need it, but that I truly wanted it. I got all my cards right and am proud to say (though I still don’t really believe it) that I got into my dream school and will be moving back to the U.S. (AGAIN!) in August.
The last time I wrote about moving, there was a lot of uncertainty. At that time, I was on part of my journey to get to this point. Now that I’ve made it here, I have a funny feeling that the next chapter is a lot more certain and definite.
For most of us in Manila, last week was simply a bad week. For those of us in the Metro Manila government (there are a lot of us), I might even go as far as saying that it was one of the worst weeks, ever. As a kid, I wouldn’t mind the rain. I would welcome the slight drop in temperature and leftover dewiness. But over the last few years, I have come to learn that the rain can cause a certain amount of destruction.
Last week was probably the most challenging exercise in my professional life. It seeped into everything — the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.
Last week was the first time I had ever seen rain like that. Rain that never took a break, not even for a second, rain that soaked through everything - my waterproof clothing, for few, long, tortuous minutes, rain that soaked through my phone and clogged my mouthpiece, rain that flooded my already terribly flood-prone city in a whole new way, rain that forced my team and I on boats and 6x6 trucks, rain that washed away possessions, people, pets and lives. The rain was cruel. And it wasn’t stopping.
Everything that I had ever learned about management and damage control came into play last week. So did every single contact or friend I had made in my job. I seriously fear my cellphone bill for all the calls that I put in for rescue efforts, relief operations and logistical coordination. So many people said so many things about my work, but I just kept saying: it’s part of the job. I signed up to serve.
I wasn’t in the Philippines during Typhoon Ondoy. So, last week was the first time I got to experience the strength of the Filipino spirit for myself. I saw it in our tireless team of over 400 rescuers and staff, some who worked with barely any sleep when they could have been home with their loved ones. I saw it in the social media world, where people really came together to pass on information or connect us with those who could offer help. I saw it in our friends in the media who braved serious dangers just to be able to tell our story. I saw it in the people of Malabon, who managed to never look like victims. I mean, come on, it’s not typical victim-behavior to be beaming at you and smiling, right? I saw it in the way our city government came together, in the all-hands-on-deck mentality. There was never so much as a grumble when someone asked for help, whether it was unloading 100 boxes of water, jotting down a rescue request, or being deployed into the field again after a small snack and a bathroom break. I saw it in my friends who supported in so many ways, from donations of relief goods, offering to come to Malabon to distribute goods, helping coordinate efforts with outside sources and who checked up on me relentlessly. I saw it in my staff, many victims themselves, who stepped to the plate and offered to help, clearly putting service above themselves. I saw it in passersby and bystanders who cheered us on, helped us when we were in trouble (almost saw a truck fall into a deep pothole on one of our main roads, but I feel like the entire street shouted a warning and saved it) and cooperated with us. I saw it in our city mayor, my friend Len Len Oreta and my tita, Cong. Jaye Lacson-Noel, who stripped down to regular people and conducted relief and rescue efforts tirelessly. We all lacked sleep, didn’t really eat well and were introduced to new levels of exhaustion last week. But here’s the thing - we got through it.
Last week was the first time I saw resilience like that. Even I surprised myself, with how much strength and energy I still had. My form of thanks was always the same line, “thank you for remembering us in Malabon.” Often, I feel like we are neglected. Only in the limelight for all things negative. But if there was anything last week proved, it was that we were not forgotten.
bucket list: [X] Siquihor.
Last month, as my 25th birthday present to myself, I arranged a trip to Dumaguete City to leap-frog to neighboring Siquihor.
I don’t really know why I’ve always wanted to go to Siquihor. It’s not a hugely popular tourist destination, unlike the other places in the super fun country that is the Philippines. What it is really known for is not something really tangible, but something mystical. Previously, the island of Siquihor was said to be crawling with witch doctors and black magic, making it the famed Island of Mystique. But, in reality, Siquihor is nothing but a simple, laidback island, another great addition to our sprwaling island nation. Sure, it would be fun to hang out with sorcerers and make potions under coconut trees, but believe me when I say, there is more to Siquihor than the talltales of old.
I always get a little sentimental when I finally make it to my bucket list destinations. Whenever one finally goes to a place you once thought was out of reach, I guess it’s only right. Last year when I went to Beijing and India, I remember pressing my nose against the airplane window and maybe quietly shedding a tear or two. I guess it’s the silly sentimental girl in me that just feels the excitement, climax and denouement of a life-long dream coming true.
Siquihor is not a grand destination that immediately sweeps you off your feet. Instead, there’s a sort of charm and believe it or not, an overwhelming sense of peace that comes with setting foot on the island that just kind of creeps up on you. There’s the old churches, the (thankfully) provincial, less-commercialized beach resorts, the sprawling island highway, the majestic mountains, the lush greenery and the simple townspeople. And then there I was, armed with my two of my best friends in the world, a green minivan with a rocking soundtrack (seriously, we were screaming lyrics to Don’t Stop Believin’ as we careened down the highway), a fully opened window, my hair blowing in the soft wind and the beauty of Siquihor speeding by.
It was perfect. Bucket list destinations always have that uncanny ability to be everything you’ve ever wished for.
Can’t wait to go back and see you again, dear mystical Siquihor.
caring for the homesick.
I remember the first time I ever heard about someone being stricken with “homesickness.” I was about 8 , on a girl scout field trip to Sea World, 2 hours away from home. It was my first time riding in an Amtrak train and relished in my troop’s end-of-year reward. One of my fellow scouts looked forlorn pretty much the whole day and when I finally asked why, an adult gently told me, “she’s just a little homesick.”
Back then, I was only starting to come to terms with the word “homesick.” Little did I know that this would be something I would eventually become all too familiar with.
Currently, I have family and friends that span across the globe. Whether they’re stationed somewhere for a few years trying to build up their resume with international experience, making a living far away from home, or starting a new life in another environment, homesickness is always a general theme.
Of course, I also have my own experiences. Growing up in two different continents, I am probably a mess of homesickness studies. I’m always dealing with a dual homesickness somehow (just made up that term), where I am missing a place that I used to live, then going there for a few weeks and missing my place of residence. The two places are always interchangeable. I know, I’m a mess.
In my life I’ve always either had to deal with homesick people or my own feelings of homesickness. And it is never a joke. It’s a total battle of emotions, of in-betweeness, in understanding your place (or your mis-place), in a sense of belonging. It’s tears, it’s deep-seated envy, jealousy, frustration, depression and ultimately, confusion. It’s going through a Facebook album of your friends on their summer break (which happens to NEVER coincide with yours, so you can never one-up with your own fun) and hating them and wishing so hard you were there. It’s feeling that sinking realization that as much as you’ve lived and changed in your new place, your old friends have changed as well and there is that overwhelming sense of awkwardness, like you have to reorient yourself with people you’ve known forever. It’s seeing your family growing old, with every emailed photo and Magic Jack call. You miss life-changing moments and special occasions. Somehow, you go through your own but you feel that there’s always something missing. Anyone who has ever been homesick has stared at their online bank account and wondered how to factor a trip home in. Any sliver, any small stupid reminder of home will trigger a wave of memories, happy, sad, maybe even the heart-shattering moment of leaving.
I’ve been known to stare at my frequent flyer miles, willing them to grow with each minute to be able to fly back to my two “homes.” In LA, my friends would always laugh at me for indulging in Pinoy showbiz gossip or even falling asleep to the Filipino Channel playing into the night. For a homesick Filipino-American, Mike Enriquez’s newscasting, Kris Aquino’s crazy, even Toni Gonzaga’s ambitious Beyonce remixes brought so much comfort. Here in the Philippines, maybe nobody really understands my perennial Seinfeld references or my expert knowledge in true American cuisine, but I try my best anyway. And of course, there’s also the family scattered between two countries. It was all much easier when we were younge. You could round us up really easy for Mass and Sunday dinner that always lasted a little longer than it should have. Lives have changed and so have zip codes.
In the past, I guess my friends were slowly maturing along with me. There wasn’t always a great understanding of how to deal with a homesick friend. My friends just loved me through everything and always tried their best. They did a great job of it, I assure you. There were only a few ignorant moments of “get over it” and “aren’t you used to it yet?” Those folks never really did understand the complexity. It’s okay, it really is kind of tough to understand.
But what I’ve always found is that a good grasp of homesickness is understanding. You have to be the person who says, “I’m here to listen” instead of “I’m here to lecture you.” Back when I was a freshman in college, readjusting to American life, it was a huge relief to hear a friend of mine just say “tell me more about it.” She didn’t give me any life-changing advice or nuggets of wisdom. It was enough that she just listened.
Homesickness, like most things, is a process. And it requires a lot of understanding, patience and growing. And to all my friends and stalkers out there who are feeling the pangs of homesickness for a place they have left behind or those who are moving on and getting ready to face a new path, all I really have to say is: I get it.
I’ve been all over lately, enjoying the “break” that Congress allows, as well as the birthday escapes I’ve been going on almost every year for the past 4 years.
Here are some photos from my recent travels:
Saw another pretty church ceiling…
and another Wonder of the World.
I met a bear-cat…
and tasted crocodile sisig.
Saw the most blinged-out ride, ever
and followed my own tips (#10)!
Finally, soaked in a lovely view…
and showed off my sunface with my pops!
Apps used and abused:
That’s all folks!
Well, stalkers, it’s my special time of year, so I figure I should let myself indulge in the senselessness and vanity of a birthday wish list. I don’t really expect any presents and am always surprised in my age when people go out of their way to give me something special. But if I had my way and friends who were willing to spend, then this is the tiered list I would provide.
1. Life Sponsor
I don’t think I’ve ever really discussed this on the internetz, but I am a major, MAJOR baghag. Somehow, over the years, I have amassed a collection of bags and can amazingly recognize brands, style, even down to clasps. I caught myself walking through a department store selling lots of B-level imitations and commented to my friend that this and that particular style originated from whatever fashion house.
I’ve been drooling over the following, thinking that if I stare long enough it will materialize before me:
Prada Saffiano Top Handle
Marc by Marc Jacobs Little Ukita
Cash is so impersonal, but I really wouldn’t mind receiving it this time. After my actual birthday, I am headed for Hong Kong! I love visiting this city simply for the beautiful marriage of my two favorite things: eating and shopping. At first, I thought, lame! Been to Hong Kong already, then I thought about these stores:
City Super and G.O.D. are meccas of useless items that you’ve always needed. I’m planning to go to Hong Kong with the clothes on my back and returning with a luggage full of goodies. Time to bring out the extra carry-on!
3. Major Sponsor
A few months ago, I was telling my friends that I have become so predictable since moving to Manila. I frequent the same establishments on a regular schedule, probably making it too easy for real stalkers to find me. Major sponsors could look into gift certificates to support my life style.
I patronize the following for regular upkeep:
Strip: Ministry of Waxing
Manos Nail Lounge (@ManosNailLounge)
Plana FORMA (@PlanaFORMA)
4. Budget Friend
Budget friends can look into these inexpensive options. It is no secret from this blog that I LOVE food in a serious way. Lately, I find that I have begun to snack a lot more since I’m always on the go. I am also always at the following places and am always open to gift certificates:
Bread Talk (@BreadTalkPH)
Bon Chon (@BonChon_PH)
Red Mango (@RedMangoPH)
In addition, I’m always in need of the following products (because I go through them so quickly!):
Messy Bessy Insect Repellant (@MessyBessychat): I would be a hot mess with tons of bites without this!
Scented Candles: My nightly ritual involves lighting up and I go through candles pretty quickly. However, I’m known to start gagging when buying candles so am particular about scent. Anything ocean-y, sweet pea, subtle vanilla, subtle chocolate or subtle dessert-smelling is perfect.
Also, been wanting to try out some Human Nature (@HumanNaturePhil) products:
iTunes Gift Cards
6. Gate Crasher
If you plan to show up at a celebration of mine and I barely know you, I enjoy white wine and pale ales.
And, if I don’t know you but you hang around here sometimes, read my tweets or happen to be lurking behind the bushes in my apartment (afraid), all I wish for is for your positive thoughts on my turning a quarter of a century.
20 travel tips for 20somethings (pt. 4).
16. Buy travel trinkets - they will make your trip memorable and your house more unique.
As this list progressed, it has become more and more obvious that I am a hoarder. I used to be one of “those” people who would never buy any souvenirs. I figured, that’s what photos are for. You take a picture of a place and it stays with you forever. But perhaps, ever since I moved into my own place, I’ve started to look to my travels to decorate my apartment. I don’t think I’m ready to expose my place just yet, but am willing to show off a little bit of my travel collection.
(and just in case you want to get a sense of what I want my living space to look like, follow me on Pinterest!)
Entryway: Mailpost, present from a friend; mini catch-alls from all over China; mini Buddha statues from Siem Reap, Cambodia; painted wooden catch-all from Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam; statue from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; and my favorite WORKING vintage phone (I collect) from New Delhi, India.
Painting by street artist in Downtown Los Angeles, CA (full blog on it here)
Bedroom display: Framed print of Shanghai, China; San Francisco souvenir baseball; baseball caught at Dodgers Stadium Los A
ngelesWESOME; framed photo of Dodger dugout in 2009; vase from Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam.
Most of the things I go for are haggled over endlessly. The most important characteristic of a trinket is that it should be affordable and of course, fun. I love that I find random trinkets all over my apartment and am immediately transported back to that vacation memory. In our 20’s, we start getting serious about our living spaces. Instead of just putting up with a mattress and a working door lock, we grow up and become particular. Take advantage and have fun decorating your living space, and keeping your travel memories alive.
17. Do not travel with people who annoy the shit out of you.
I think this is the tip that people don’t want to acknowledge out loud. But I’ll do it. Traveling with people who annoy the shit out of you is enough to ruin your vacation and your experience in a new country. I know that in our 20’s, we often rely on connections for travel buddies, for free couches and for tour guides. I get it. But believe me, staying at your ex-roommate’s boyfriend from college’s place in Paris may make your trip awkward and unpleasant, especially if you used to not be able to stand the sight of this person. For some people, being able to bear the possibility of annoyance is okay if it saves a few bucks, but I would rather eliminate that possibility entirely. If you truly used to meticulously plan this person’s accidental poisoning, you probably shouldn’t travel with them, stay with them while you’re traveling, ask them to take you around or have interaction outside the occasional polite Facebook hi’s and hello’s (or annual birthday greeting).
Travel is supposed to be about having fun, relaxing, exploring and experiencing. If you are with a whiner, a bitchass, a slow walker, a chicken, a paranoid, a dumbass, a person with no sense of humor, a person with no sense of adventure, a person who is perpetually homesick, a person who has to report his/her every breath or bowel movement to their insecure significant other or a person who would rather stay in the hotel room playing computer games all day then DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT consider having anything to do with them when it comes to travel.
They say that when you travel with a person, you really get to see what kind of people they are. Maybe you can have dinner and a decent conversation with one friend, but that doesn’t mean that they will make the ultimate travel buddy. For all you know this person can carry a decent conversation in a familiar territory, but takes 3.5 hours in the bathroom and is perpetually whiny when traveling.
Implement your own screening process for traveling with people. In my experience, it’s best to travel with people you’ve never imagined balding with your bare hands. Also, it helps to really know yourself and your friends. If someone needs to cool off or take a breather from the group, it helps to be understanding and helpful. Traveling can mean being stuck in an enclosed space with people for hours on end. Make sure you can stand it without committing any crimes.
18. If you wouldn’t do that in your own country, maybe you shouldn’t do it another one.
This is another one of those basic pieces that advice that are ingrained somewhere, but it wouldn’t hurt repeating for emphasis. Traveling involves a degree of respect. You should respect the rules and regulations that are in place in a country where you are a visitor, lest you end up going home in handcuffs. Everybody has crazy travel experiences, where you could let loose a little and go crazy, but remember your basic manners and international law.
Remember the unfortunate circumstance fellow 20something Amanda Knox was caught in?
Yeah. No need to add to that.
19. Travel shouldn’t be completely selfish.
Outside the folks mentioned in #17 (well, not always the case), make sure you share your travel and share yourself. Here are some ways I make sure that though, sometimes, I have selfish reasons for traveling (my leisure and pleasure), I try to make it unselfish as much as possible:
- Remembering my loved ones while I’m abroad: I send text messages despite the international costs, remember that my tita loves spicy tamarind, not sweet, remember to get my mom a magnet or a mug to add to her collection or find something interesting that my siblings will appreciate. I’d like to think that though I travel without them sometimes, they are always with me.
- Paying it forward: I love passing on recommendations to my family and friends when they travel. Although, I admit, it would be funner to just experience things together, it doesn’t always pan out that way. My family and colleagues have told me that my food recommendations have always been great and straight to the point (ex. “Tasty and cheap, you can pay for everyone here”). I know that by paying it forward, I also share my own knowledge and become part of their own experiences as well. And the thank you gifts are always a lovely addition.
- Playing tour guide: if needed, abroad or at home, I enjoy being a tour guide of sorts. Whether it’s navigating my family through the New York subway or preparing a Filipino feast for relatives from abroad, being a tour guide is also about being unselfish and gracious. I always make sure to share my love of my own country and of travel in general with those closest to me. In recent months, my previous travel has become very useful, and has helped my family out big-time.
Although travel can be selfish in many ways, there’s always ways to share it. I consider compiling this list sort of unselfish as well and as I close it out, I hope you enjoyed as much as I did.
20. Travel as much as possible in your 20’s.
And for the final point in my list, TRAVEL AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE IN YOUR 20’s. This is it, folks. This is the time of our lives where we get to play around with disposable income, kiss a few frogs, mess up and get it back together again, and experience. Now is the time to go out there and soak up as much as you can. The wedding can wait. So can the kids. This time is about you. Before putting too much away to start saving up for a new car, spend it on experience. Go out there and see the world. You’ll learn a few things about it and about yourself. Travel as much as you can. Take advantage of the work trips and the vacation time. Get out there and see the real world, the one that isn’t just reflected before you in a computer screen.
And that, ladies and gents, was my 20 Travel Tips for 20somethings. Hope you enjoyed the list and stay tuned for the other stuff that’s in store! Thanks for reading.
20 travel tips for 20somethings (pt. 3).
11. Have one fancy meal within budget.
Whenever I travel, I like to look for spare change to make sure I have at least 1 fancy meal. In my mind, if your meal involves any of the following words, you are in for a “fancy meal”:
- front door of restaurant adorned with words: Zagat Rated, Michelin, name of celebrity chef
- menu has the words: steak, prime rib, foie gras, white truffles, black truffles, truffle oil, pancetta, osso bucco, shank, burrata, mussels, scallops (exception if preceded by “fried”), sherbet, market price, seasonal
- drink options involve: a wine list arranged by country, aperitifs, “still or sparkling water?,” Perrier
- ambiance involves: cloth napkins, waiters in uniforms which include ties or bowties, server that pulls out a seat for you and fills your water glass after every sip
Signs you are in for a not-so fancy meal? Look out for any of the following:
- front door of restaurant has: neon OPEN sign, free local newspapers, claw machine with ancient stuffed toys
- menu has the words: “side of potato salad, french fries, cottage cheese or fresh fruit,” all-fillet options of fish, chicken tenders, buffalo wings, kids’ menu, ice cream flavors limited to vanilla, chocolate and strawberry
- drink options involve: fountain drinks, two wine options: house red or house white
- ambiance involves: crayons distributed with menus
Life is long. Vacations tend to be short. It’s okay to splurge on one fancy meal in a foreign country and eat good.
12. If on a shopping trip, an emergency extra carry-on bag always helps.
This tip lends a little more to the females out there who tend to use their disposable income and life savings on shopping. I can’t tell you how many times I had to use creative techniques to avoid overweight baggage fees. I’ve stuffed things into my purse, had to have things shipped instead and used my cousins as mules. A few months ago, I had to start accepting the real truth about myself. When it comes to shopping abroad, I am a hoarder. All my friends abroad know this. I have hoarded beef jerky snacks from China, jewelry from India, useless but cute items I’ve found on random sidewalks and don’t get me started on my annual hoarding trips to the U.S. where anything from hair products to Nike tops are fair game. Since finally coming to terms with my hoarding, I purchased extra carry-on bags that hardly take up any space when on the way to my destination, but pack a punch when you’re on your knees in the airport rearranging all your hoarded items. It’s best to pack a flat bag that opens up to something that can fit about 2.5 children inside.
My pick? An extra large Longchamp duffel. One of the most dependable travel items, ever!
13. Follow the locals: eating, shopping, bars and hidden sites.
If I can help it, I avoid tourist traps as much as possible. Sure, you have to take in the sights, but by following the locals, chances are, you’d be in for a real adventure.
Places that cater to tourists are okay for folks who are in a more advanced age and don’t want to fuss as much. But if you’re in your 20’s, you shouldn’t want to be seen eating a cheeseburger in a foreign country, would you? Wouldn’t you much rather go for the local street food, the urban legend dishes, the real deal of the place you’re visiting? From restaurants, shopping, bars and hidden sites in a new place, following the locals spells adventure.
Believe me, many times I’ve been given the chance to stay within the safe confines of an international hotel with an all-English speaking staff. But that’s not what adventure is made of. Adventure means using charades to order food, negotiating prices on a souvenir with a calculator and a raised voice, going to a bar or club and not seeing any foreigners and soaking in a sight that you know can’t be found in the travel books. Locals know best. Use your people skills and engage them in a conversation about what they love about their country and what their idea of the best time for a stranger would be.
14. Equip yourself with anti-boredom tools.
At times, travel involves an amount of waiting. Whether it be for your flight to take off, to get your hotel room key, on the train, on a bus or for your food to arrive, half an hour could be bearable or unbearable to some. I am one of those unfortunate ones that hasn’t learned the elementary skill of how to sit still. Even in the quiet, my brain can go into overdrive with too many thoughts. This is why I’m one of those poster children for the 21st century.
Before I leave for a trip, I already anticipate my moments of quiet and how to fill those in to keep myself pre-occupied. My iPad 2 is the ultimate anti-boredom tool for me. Since the App Store’s the limit, I have filled my device with everything from movies and TV shows, senseless games, blogging tools and music. It is the best thing to keep on hand for a long flight, most especially. I plan to write a separate entry all about my favorite travel apps.
If you are like me and can’t really stand the downtime, consider investing in anti-boredom tools. Or, go the old-fashioned route and carry a notebook and a pen around with you. There is no limit to one’s imagination with a piece of paper and a pen. I make sure to carry one as well and jot down notes, stories, blog ideas and the like when I’m abroad.
15. Watch the Travel Channel.
I don’t have to do any serious scientific research to conclude that 20somethings spend a significant amount of time watching TV.
Just one look at my Twitter feed, and some of my idiot followers release a spoiler for tonight’s new episode of Mad Men (and I’m so serious about TV that even a tweet like “Mad Men :( #sad #madmen” is considered a spoiler to me). My addiction to TV probably deserves another post on its own due to the nearly-toxic levels of television I consume. Besides my regular shows, I sometimes indulge in what I like to call “train wreck TV” where things are so bad that you cannot look away. I too indulge in guilty pleasures like Hoarders, Jersey Shore and any other show that involves people acting crazy.
BUT when my wanderlust hits and the train wrecks get too familiar, I immediately look for something interesting on the Travel Channel. I know that “watch TV” is such a weird tip, but seriously, whether you like it or not these shows are informative, expertly edited and interesting. A lot of the places I visit and eat at start with a bored evening and channel surfing.
One of my favorite programs is Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. I love the guy in print, on the internet and most especially on TV. He has consistently delivered compelling portraits of other countries and has eaten a lot of damn good food (many of which I’ve tasted too!). If you’re new to the Travel Channel, I would recommend his show to get you started.
Since most of us 20somethings are on the TV sometimes already, might as well watch something interesting and related to travel to gear you up for another adventure.
Final part coming up! Thanks for keeping up with this series.
20 travel tips for 20somethings (pt. 2).
Building on Part 1, here is Part 2! Thanks for checking out these posts.
6. Don’t be stupid with money. Figure out your plan and backup plan beforehand.
Going back to #1 on this list, the internet is the best guide to understanding foreign currency. It is best to understand exchange rates (so money changers can’t cheat you), estimate your budget (so you don’t go under or overboard) and call your credit card companies before your trip. Doing these things will ensure that you will not get stranded in an unfamiliar place with no money and no options.
I mean, come on, did you see Vegas Vacation? Do not leave your returning home safely up to fate!
7. Play it safe!
The first thing I do when entering a hotel in a foreign country is make sure the door lock works and the bed looks clean. I then make sure I can stand the bathroom. Finally, I check for a safe. An in-room safe is, well, the safest place to keep one’s valuables while on a trip. I have shoved everything from extra currency, driver’s licenses, an iPad and camera accessories into an in-room safe. If you do not need it on your person, then leave it in the safe. Hopefully, your parents taught you to always keep your passport on you when you’re in a foreign country.
8. If your room has no safe (it happens), then use your luggage.
If you followed my advice on #3, then hopefully your luggage has a lock. Unless some really evil, conniving hotel chambermaid hacks at your lock or wheels the entire luggage away in hopes that you brought solid gold with you, then you can trust that your stuff is safe in your luggage. Don’t forget to lock it before leaving your room! Being stupid with one’s valuables in a foreign country is just that - stupid.
9. Accumulate airline miles.
Staying loyal to an airline may not always be the case in one’s 20’s. It’s understandable - what with budget airlines popping up like mushrooms. Budget is great and I do travel on budget airlines, but I try as much as possible to stick to my main airlines for longer distances. Accumulating airline miles used to not really mean anything to me, I just handed in my Frequent Flyer cards whenever I would board a plane and wouldn’t even get a pat on the back. But after YEARS (like, since birth, I think), I was finally elevated to Elite status in Philippine Airlines.
It was such a big day for me, I felt compelled to take a photo of my mail.
My new Elite status in PAL has been such a blessing. Though I have several things to say about the airline in general, I got to give it to them when it comes to achieving frequent flyer status - life is pretty damn sweet. It’s true what they say: good things come to those who wait. Not only do I get free lounge access whenever I fly, I also get priority check-in, sports equipment allocation and best of all, free arroz caldo. I know PAL flyers can say that the lounge arroz caldo is pretty comforting.
20somethings also looking into getting new credit cards should look into partnerships with airlines that could mean more mile accumulation. Besides my PAL loyalty, I also have a credit card that helps build my Delta mileage.
Last year, when I visited India for a work trip, one of my colleagues (who travels infinitely more than me) showed me a little laminated card she kept in her travel wallet. The laminated card had all her frequent flyer information neatly printed. It beats carrying around all the cards!
10. Taste the local beer and ice cream.
I think the best way to get into the soul of a country is through its palate. One of my main motivations for travel is tasting local cuisine and opening myself up to an array of new dishes. It’s my most favorite part. A few years ago, I was told by a seasoned traveler to always taste the local ice cream.
I figure that this is a good tip because almost everybody likes ice cream and exotic flavors are endless. You can get a nice good peek into a culture through ice cream: sweet, weird-tasting, interesting, disgustingly too sweet or similar to what you’re used to. It is a great chance to taste something new and different, and it usually doesn’t burn a hole in your pocket. While shopping in New Delhi, I downed three local orange creamsicles (the bike vendor loved this, naturally) when nobody was looking, I’ve asked for seconds of cinnamon ice cream in Vietnam and I am ALL about Rita’s Italian ice gelati (the bastard cousin of gelato) from New Jersey.
When I lived in New Jersey for a few months back in college, I survived on poor-woman’s diet of Rita’s. Meaning, I often walked out of my way or had my buddy park far from the door to make space for frozen custard over Italian ice. Always worth it.
The beer is my personal “thing.” I am a proud to say that beer is always my drink of choice (wine is second, I have given up on mixers and the like). And with each country in this world proudly brewing their own, beer is a fantastic way explore a culture.
I honestly wasn’t serious about my beer until I traveled to Cambodia two years ago and was pleasantly surprised with my ice-cold bottle of Angkor. I thought to myself, “hey, if a tiny country like this brews their own, it must be a nationalistic thing.” Since that bottle, I’ve made it a point to try beers in every new country I set foot into.
I also picked up this coffee table book a few years ago, which chronicles brews from all over the world:
It’s a great, comprehensive visual guide and I highly recommend it to beer snobs everywhere.
Needless to say, beer and memories mix swimmingly together. Nothing like a local brew, excellent travel buddies and an exotic locale to make one want to hug the entire world.
If you are lactose intolerant or a recovering alcoholic, then this item wouldn’t be your best bet. Street food might be you best alternative. But if otherwise, leave room in your tummy to immerse yourself in the local beer and ice cream. I guarantee you will have fond memories afterwards.
Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for Part 3 and 4. In the meanwhile, here is the first part of this list.