On New Year’s Eve, before fireworks lit the sky, he declared his best thoughts of a new life. It was hard to sort out his mind, and plan 12 months of his ever-changing, complicated self. Finally, as the clock struck 12, he came up with a list. “New Year’s Resolutions”, he scribbled on a page of his Starbucks planner, on that page which took eternity to fill. Perhaps that planner won’t feel the touch of a pen again, but who cares.
2016, PLEASE BE GOOD TO ME.
He wrote the same last year. And, the other year.
♣ ♣ ♣
Sounds familiar? If this is your story, where a part of you desires to go places yet another part doesn’t make that happen, you’ve got a big-time trouble. Seriously. You’re denying yourself of the things that will make you happy, you’re fooling around with your goals (scared of commitment?), and you’re missing life-changing experiences that you can only get beyond your home-work-home routine.
These tips, I hope, will help you make way to more travels this year and truly say that “It’s more fun in the Philippines”. Sit down and start with you.
1. Find meaning.
Like anything else, traveling is enjoyable when you see meaning in going places. Don’t spend on airfare just to sleep in a resort, because years from now, when you look back on your life, you won’t remember how much time you’ve spent sleeping anyway.
What will flash back are moments—that day when you tried surfing in San Juan, when you picked grapes in Urayong, when you snorkeled in Puerto Galera and freaked out because you, a helpless non-swimmer, got stuck in the ocean and couldn’t kick yourself to the boat.
You will thank yourself for climbing the rocks of Matukad, for saying hi to a whaleshark in Oslob, for meeting a stranger, learning to speak another language, or helping a community build a school. I can’t think of other powerful reasons for traveling than enriching ourselves with great memories that last a lifetime.
2. Be inspired.
Once you’re sold on the value of traveling, find ways to keep the enthusiasm. Draw inspiration from local travel blogs and Instagram accounts. Share the moments with friends, your loved one, and at least once a year, travel with your family. When I take my siblings to my trips, I’m overjoyed seeing them discover the world, too. When my mom agrees to go someplace, I’m also thrilled that once in her life, she’s getting the chance to do something she’s never done before.
3. Commit to traveling.
Two years ago, I realized I haven’t traveled much in the Visayas and Mindanao. So, when I found the chance to relocate, I pushed my managers to kick me out of Manila. I moved to Cebu in 2014, and that’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Also, you’ve probably heard of foreigners selling their fortunes just to live here in the Philippines. Whoa! Don’t sell your gadgets and appliances just yet. How often do you want to travel? Once a month perhaps? Then, stop making excuses. Keep a bucketlist of the places you want to see and make that a priority. Save a portion of your salary for two or three major trips and cut down on unnecessary purchases.
4. Plan your schedule.
Spontaneous trips are real thrillers, but for trips that need you to book a flight and be away for several days, I suggest spending enough time for planning. Check your day off from work, the holidays, and the long weekends. File your leave in advance and book flights ASAP.If you follow Philippine holidays, many of which fall on Sat-Suns in 2016, these are the long weekends you can set your travels and leaves.
If you work in the BPO industry and you observe US holidays, however, your long weekends may be limited. Consider the weeks of July 2-4 (Independence Day), Sep 3-5 (Labor Day), and Nov 24-27 (Thanksgiving Day).If you live in Cebu, consider the long weekend from Feb 24 to 28. February 24 is Charter Day and February 25 is EDSA Anniversary. Also check Sep 9-11 which covers Sergio Osmena Day.
5. Do it yourself.
Planning your travel makes you accountable. It’s all up to you–you fail yourself, fool yourself, or make yourself win. It’s flexible compared to group travel packages, and the reward for a successfully executed travel plan is a good pat on the back. A downside of DIY trips, however, is that you do research on your own—the usual stuff of what to do, where to go, where to eat, where to stay, how much, how long, etc. Word of advise: Don’t overkill your research and spoil the fun.
Instagrammer @whereisg shares: “If you want a vacation, go for a tour package. If you want adventure, go DIY. It helps you get to know the place more as you do the planning and research . Contact the tourism office of your destination. They can provide significant help, e.g. paluto. Also read blogs and reviews.”
6. Do it alone.
Sometimes, plans don’t materialize when the excited ones who made you jump on booking a hotel suddenly back out. Something came up, that’s the text message you get. Or, you pick a wrong buddy who has a totally insane idea of fun. Or, in case of breakups, your travel plan also gets as screwed up as your love affair. By all means, go solo.
7. Tap your network of BFFs.
My first all-expense paid trip was in Camiguin and Ilocos, thanks to a Taiwanese friend I met on Skype and asked me to tour him and his wife in the Philippines. When I went to Cagayan, I met a friend who has a car. Lucky me, she willingly drove me to Callao Cave and then at the bar later that night, she made me sing in front of a crowd, my first open-bar experience. When I went to Bohol, my trainees bought me a ticket as a present, and another friend volunteered to let me stay in their house. TIP: Make a lot of friends.
8. Try your luck in travel promos.
Win a trip for two to Caramoan by sharing a Facebook post? I think that’s effortless. If you really want to travel, you’ll grab every opportunity there is. In fact, that’s how Melody Co survived some of her trips—by joining contests. Now, she keeps a website Girl Kuripot dedicated to travel promos. Huawei is also running its contest on Facebook, and a few more brands are certainly doing the same!
9. Get a bike.
If you have a car, the more you can go on a roadtrip. If you don’t, get a bicycle or a motorcycle. A friend who lives in Cebu goes places on his motorcycle almost every week. Another travel freak I know has toured Puerto Princesa on a bike and went went up the mountains in Bataan to marvel at the blue waters of the cove. It’s eco-friendly, he said.
10. Travel on weekends.
Traveling doesn’t always mean a long trip by plane, okay? In your two days off from work, you can explore the nooks of the city, or go to a museum, or take a jeepney and spend the weekend discovering the countryside. Before I left Manila, I devoted two weekends to photowalk just to document the things I would miss. I was surprised by the things I saw and I wish I had done that early.
11. Maximize your airline’s perks.
If you’re a frequent flyer, make sure you take advantage of the free miles from your airline. Philippine Airlines (PAL) has its Mabuhay Miles Travel Card that allows you to earn miles not only through flying but also through shopping and services from its partner merchants. Cebu Pacific also has its Get Go Rewards Program that makes flying for free possible.
With these 11 tips, I hope you will be able to see more of the Philippines this year. When you wrote “surfing” in your NY’s resolution, I hope you were serious about surfing in Siargao and not just surfing the net.
(Published January 2016; Updated August 2016)