Travel Diaries

How do you know when it’s time for you to travel?

How do you know when it’s time for you to start booking flights and finding new destinations? Do you feel a particular itch, a particular sense of longing — of wanderlust, and that sense of getting lost?

the de facto battle cry for all wanderers (image credit to owner)

the de facto battle cry for all wanderers
(image credit to owner)

Does the time come when you see a seat sale and you start having panic attacks, uncertain if the credit card has been paid and thus, eligible for online purchase. Do you save all year, bits and pieces…bits and pieces…until you go away and spend everything in one glorious blaze of travel lust?

I wonder what makes people like us itch for the next adventure. New places yet unseen? Longing for a place you once been?

In my case, it’s the familiar strain of feeling like I was stranded on dry land. Nothing seemed to catch my fancy and I’d rather keep my money in a travel fund jar than spend on much-needed new shoes for the office. It’s when Sky Scanner is front and center on my iPhone app — as I furtively take a peek if there’s something worth going crazy for via Manila to Osaka.

And because we are on the subject: Return plane fares from Osaka to Manila is currently at PHP11,617 per person via JetStar (Direct flights); it’s PHP19K via Cathay Pacific (with a quick stop via HK) and PHP20K via ANA with a quick stop at Haneda. Just saying.

It’s when I started staying away from Facebook because all my friends are going somewhere and I am stuck on my desk; furtively playing for a lotto windfall so that I can travel everyday of my life and not regret anything. It’s when I start driving myself mad from working long hours just to save enough to fund another travel. It’s when I start visiting travel sites and threads repeatedly–reading tips, taking notes and being mad envious at the same time.

Someone once told me how I manage to always go somewhere — when traveling can be so expensive. I tell them that the secret really for my budget travels is research. Tons and tons of research — the kind of thing that rivals thesis dissertations due to the amount of time I spend online. It’s time to travel when you feel the need to refresh, to pause — to momentarily get off life’s mad roller coaster.

Matador Network has a more fun list to know just when it’s time for you to travel:

19 Signs it’s been WAY too long since your Last Vacation
By HAL AMEN

1. You view it as a badge of honor.
“I haven’t taken a day off from work in five years.” There are correct and incorrect inflections for this sentence. If you’re using the same tone of voice you would bragging to your friends about how much you lifted at the gym yesterday, your priorities may need readjusting.

2. Your sunscreen has actually expired.
Does sunscreen even go bad? You aren’t sure, but you’re definitely not going to trust whatever squeezes out of those gnarly-looking bottles at the back of your medicine cabinet. Thanks to a series of bitter-cold winters, paired with summers when you were “just too busy” to emerge from the cocoons of home and office, your skin these days is several shades lighter than it was when you were a kid.

3. You’ve come to think of squirrels, raccoons, and pigeons as “wildlife.”
There’s more to fauna than trash scavengers and mangy birds. You can interact with Earth’s creatures in ways other than desperately trying to trap that squirrel in your attic. Think swinging through the rainforest canopy with howler monkeys, diving with dolphins…

Read more at the Matador Network. Click here.

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Japan, Preps and Research

Japan-Envy

In just two days, it’ll be a full year after I have finally visited Tokyo, the land of my dreams and a regular fixture of “winning the lotto jackpot” fantasies.

There is not a day that I always look back on the day when I first saw Tokyo with my own eyes — how I cried when I saw the Sky Tree looming over the horizon as the airport limousine bus crossed the skyway leading to the city.

Call it crazy, but my dream of seeing Japan (or at least, Tokyo) took me at least 20 years. That was worth a liter of tears, right?

This View.

This View.

The moment I boarded the plane going back to Manila, I already wanted to go back.

This year, my Facebook feed is filled with photos of people celebrating holidays in Japan — Christmas, New Year, Valentine’s, Holy Week, birthdays and just everything in between in Tokyo, Osaka or Kyoto. The flurry of pictures, of cherry blossoms and Osaka Castle and the big Gundam automatically induces “Japan-Envy” in me. Or: the unmistakable deep envy felt towards anyone currently in Japan at the moment. A bit crazy, I know but I actually know of people that feels the exact way like I do.

The good news is that I am currently planning a second honeymoon for the hubs and myself in Osaka. We are planning to catch the end part of winter in February 2016 but this early, I am again stricken with the unmistakable dread of wanting to plan everything. I managed to convinced the Hubs to renew his passport (we are going to DFA this week) and next on my Gaant Chart is the purchase of cheap tickets going to Osaka. I am still trying to decide if we should fly in to Osaka, then fly out of Tokyo after – it’s a possibility that I can’t wait to try.

Since I might not be traveling out of the country as much this year (in lieu of the Osaka-Kyoto-Tokyo trip being planned for 2016, I promise to feature more local destinations and tourist spots in Manila.

So, please cross your fingers for me and the Hubs. If ever, this will be his first time in Japan and I would like to make it as magical as possible for him, as it was for me.

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Japan, Preps and Research

Tokyo Dream Updates

this is my current laptop screen saver. keeps me motivated and reminds me why i work hard

this is my current laptop screen saver. keeps me motivated and reminds me why i work hard

Yes, I did realize that I named my birthday trip with a JPop concert sounding name — quite corny but it gives me the push to make things possible by sheer will and by the Universe conspiring to make this dream a trip of lifetime.

After my last update wherein I detailed how I managed to get return tickets to Tokyo for only PHP6,000 (USD133) all in by sheer will-power, countless prayers to the Almighty and the Universe probably tiring of my usual prayers at night (“Dear Lord and Universe…I really want to go to Tokyo, please help me find cheap tickets…”) I know it sounds a bit funny and probably a bit crazy but it worked for me. It also helped me make the goal clearer.

With the ticket over and done with — it’s now time to look for a place to stay. While I would have loved to stay somewhere central like Ginza, Shibuya or in Shinjuku, my planned budget will not just cut it. Besides, in my head, I wanted to stay somewhere not too modernized. Early on, the idea was to stay in any of the hostels and guest houses dotting Asakusa. At first, I was torn between two strong potential candidates: Khao San Road Kabuki which is located a street from the Kaminarimon Gate and near three types of transpo (Metro Ginza Line, Toei Asakusa Line and Tobu Izesaki Line) and K’s House Tokyo Oasis which is a bit farther than Khao San Kabuki to the Kaminarimon Gate and transpo lines but enjoyed better ranking in Trip Advisor. K’s House is also more expansive than Khao San Kabuki by a few hundred yen but accepted reservations even without down payment.

In the end, I opted to book at K’s House Tokyo Oasis. However, I am still open to suggestions. What do you think? Or are there dirt cheap accommodations in Ginza and Shinjuku areas?

The next (and more excruciating) step for me is preparing for the application of my Japanese tourist visa and building my nest egg for said application. This is the most crucial and nerve-wracking part of the whole thing.

I guess I have told you before how difficult and hard it is for Filipinos to get visa to Japan. Unfortunately, we had a lot of kababayans in the 80s and early 90s who went to Japan in guise of tourism but ended up banishing into thin air. These exploits reflected badly to us, the future keen travelers who wanted nothing but just see Tokyo Tower and Fuji-san in the flesh. While the embassy had “relaxed” a bit these past few years (they now offer multiple tourist visit visas to Filipinos), still going through the whole “visa getting process” is draining my energy. I was actually torn between trying to keep my trip hush-hush or just be positive and avoid any negative thoughts that enter my mind. Right now, all I wanted was to build my nest egg for the trip and I am already wracking my brains trying to think of ways to earn extra cash.

Anyway, I am confident that in the end–it will all work out for me. I just have to be positive, keep praying and prepare as much as I can in order for this dream to become a reality.

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Japan

So where to next?

Barely been back — about less than a month — from the quick Singapore getaway with the family and I am feeling a bit antsy about being back to my usual boring every day routine.

Last week, I was working the rest of the All Saints Day holiday weekend and came in close proximity to the airport. I swear, I felt my heart racing and my eyes light up seeing the row of trains waiting in the tarmac. I just can’t wait to leave again.

Lonely girl with suitcase at country road dreaming about travel.
* pic not my property

What’s next for me is Tokyo — maybe by Summer of 2014. I just can’t wait for the year to be over and another to start again 🙂 This means a lot of travel plans are already in the offing.

How about you? Where are you headed next?

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Taiwan

(Still) Finding my way around Taipei

It’s a month and two weeks before the Taipei Adventure with my Unnie — and for the first time, my travel research skills is being put to the test.

photo not mine

photo not mine

the incredible, simply amazing view (pic not mine)

the incredible, simply amazing view (pic not mine)

I find it hard to believe but I noticed that there’s not a lot of information source about traveling on a budget in Taiwan. Yes, there were blogs here and there but not as much when I was researching about other countries. And honestly, I find it really odd. Based from initial research, Taiwan and yes, Taipei City seemed like a very beautiful and exciting place. This early, I was already overwhelmed just thinking where we will spend the limited 4 days while there. Shall we visit first the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall, or the National Palace Museum where the biggest collection of Chinese artifacts are stored? What about a trip up Taipei 101? The Beitou Hot Springs? A visit to Elephant Mountain Trail for a magnificent view of Taipei? Of course, how can I pass up the chance to see the palm-lined boulevard of National Taiwan University — the same boulevard where a bullied Shancai rode her humble scooter while F4’s sleek cars were passing by? Shall I haunt for Jay Chou’s restaurant first or should I instead look for the restaurant where Dao Ming Sui brought Shanchai for their first date? (You know, the one where they have car cases as booths).

In one of the travel blogs I read, they said that not a lot of people go to Taiwan – maybe for varied reasons. For my kababayans, it might be the hassle of getting a visa. For others, it might be because Taiwan is more subdued and quiet compared to the marketing initiatives of countries like Singapore, Hong Kong and Thailand. The article states that NOT going to Taipei and NOT discovering its many beautiful places, the amazing culture and the awesome cuisine is something that all serious travelers should NOT do. Taiwan has so much to offer and so much beauty to share — maybe it’s time that we go beyond our usual comfort zones (multiple trips to HK Disneyland and Resorts World Sentosa, erm, hello?)

So, while I find it doubly hard to piece together a simple itinerary, I can’t help but feel excited. It’s another new experience, another adventure. This early, I already know where to go to mass (St. Christopher Church, a few MRT rides from Taipei Main Station. The church is called “Little Philippines” every Sunday due to the number of migrant Filipino workers attending services there.) I am also starting to get the hang of researching street names and the corresponding MRT stations near it.

I just need to tick off hotel reservations on my list, start preparing for the visa application and I am good to go.


* NOTE: We plan to stay at Keyman’s Hotel in front of Taipei Main Station. Feel free to drop me a note if you have recommendations on where to go!

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Inspirations

Where do you want to go and what are you doing about it?

Maybe it’s that place where you vowed to tick off a great deal on your bucket list, or maybe it’s the place that only makes sense to you. Whatever might be your reason, there is one place that you’ve been raring to see, that just thinking about it and how to get to it consumes your every waking hour.

This though came to light after reading an entry in CNN Travel where some of their best correspondents were asked their “dream destinations.” It was an inspiring piece, considering that most of these people probably have been everywhere with the jobs they have. Yet, in spite that, it is inspiring to read their plans in order to see their dream destinations, like saving for it or maintaining a separate bank account specifically for the purpose

Their reasons are varied — from the expected: like love of travel or being in the midst of a foreign culture and language, to the deep: like knowing that a piece of you will always be part of that country and you know that you just have to go. For some, it can be a lifetime obsession leading you to learn the language and study the culture, which is both foreign and oddly familiar to you.

Obviously, the cross I bear is the Land of the Rising Sun. This so-called obsession to go to Japan has reached a new low following my sister’s trip to Tokyo last September. I was given the chance to go, but knowing that I don’t have enough in my bank account to truly enjoy Tokyo, I put my foot down and said no. It’s a decision that continues to bring me heart ache till now. However, I knew then that it wasn’t the time for me to go — I have limited budget and there’s just so much of Tokyo that I wanted to see.

After missing Tokyo last year, I vowed that this won’t happen again. Hence, the obsession to fatten the bank account and build up my financial portfolio. Tickets going to Japan can be had for cheap, since there’s a plethora of budget airlines available. It’s the hassle of getting a visa and assuring the consulate that I will return to the Philippines after the trip that’s killing me. I wish I could convince them with a 1,000-word essay of how much I’m in love with their country and their culture, but something tells me that a strongly-worded essay will not actually give me a tourist visa.

In preparation for my Dream Destination, I’ve started a bank account where 30% of my current salary will be deducted and sent directly to the fund. I also vowed that all extra cash I’ll be getting this year (bonuses, leave payments) will automatically go to the travel fund. Save for the upcoming home rental and insurance payment, I lost interest in many of my inane hobbies including the need to buy shoes and bags every month.

The funny thing is while my sister was there, I was the one arranging for the whole trip, while here. I would point out every street, every building, every tourist hot spot a thousand of miles away from the city I love most. It was both pathetic and funny at the same time.

This year, where are you going?

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