Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Reasons Why You Shouldn't Quit Your Job To Travel

Let's face it, most of the inspiring blogs out there tell you to go, quit your job and travel the world! Of course, reading all the inspiring tales and adventures that these people have been in would be enough for you to stand up and want to take the leap too. But in certain cases, you just can't, or it's not that you can't, it's just that you don't want to.

Bath, England

I am one of those people who don't want to quit my job to travel. Sure, there are other times where I entertained the thought - days when I'm having a really bad day at work, or I'm feeling really sick, or just want to stay at home and do nothing. But the truth is - I like having the stability. I like having a steady paycheck month on month and I don't really like the thought of toting everything that I own in two backpacks. Truth is, I love to travel, but I love going back home to a place that didn't change, one that gives me a certain normalcy, a place where I can just chill out and do nothing without thinking of paying for the cost of a hostel or a hotel room or trying to couchsurf with a random stranger. A place where I know the stores that I can buy normal stuff in and actually know a price to pay. A place where I can have you know, stuff. 

Sure, travel gives you a heightened sense of adventure - where you immerse yourself in a culture and hang out with all kinds of people that you haven't been before. But the thing is, everyone settles down every now and again. Maybe I am at a point in my life where I'm happy, but I don't know. At the back of my mind I know that I will stay in America or Europe, but it doesn't meant that I'll completely quit my full time job to traipse around the world, going from country to country. In fact, I love that being employed full time offered me a chance to become an expat on three separate occasions.  How's that for free travel for you?


In my case, my company paid for my relocation expenses - flying me business class to first world countries, taking care of the resident visas that I will need and any other things that I would need.
That experience opened me up to other countries that I would need visas for. I am a Filipino passport holder, and much as I hate to say it, I don't like the fact that I'll need a visa to travel for most of the countries that I would want to go.

Sure, I'd been to the South East Asia loop - Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, Brunei, Indonesia, and even went as far to get a South Korean and Chinese visa without any issues at all. But the fact is, if I want to go to Europe without all the hassles, it was handed down to me by said employer, and I'm grateful for that. Sure, that visa has already expired but I can still use it to my advantage in the future.

Puerto Rico

I like the fact that I am now a US non-resident alien, which enables me to travel visa free to Mexico and some Caribbean countries and also provides me with a base to explore North, Central, South America, the Caribbean, and even Europe and Africa! I like the fact that being an alien resident gives me a chance to interact with colleagues from different walks of life, much like traveling or backpacking. I like the fact that I can travel hack freely in America - I've already gotten 4 free flights:  back home (US to Manila), to Europe, Mexico & Turks & Caicos (see this blog for more information). I love the fact that I can stay in high end hotels for a fraction of their costs, and not paying full price for anything except for food, rent & utilities.

Granted, I do hate the fact sometimes that I pay a lot for these luxuries, and the fact that I only have a few days of vacation each year, but it's something you can overcome with the following tips:

1) Make the most of weekends & holidays - I cannot reiterate this enough! The weekend is not for sleeping, people - it's about exploring. Two full days where no one bothers you with work emails or calls, isn't that heaven enough for you? Explore local places, book a flight for a fraction of the cost that's leaving Friday night and coming back Monday morning then go straight to work. You can sleep off your tiredness the rest of your weekday evenings. Rinse and repeat. It takes time to get used to this lifestyle but a habit can be formed after doing something long enough. I never thought I could do it, but I did, and got used to it. Some holidays actually fall on a Monday or a Friday so score! Three full days of exploring for you!

2) Plan your holidays accordingly - I could be both a last minute traveler and an anal one that has everything planned out years in advance. If you are travel hacking, yes, it is best that everything is booked months in advance because that's where the greatest deals are (ie award availability or insane fares from budget airline carriers). However, the same could not be said of hotels - where the closer to the date you are, the better you find a deal. It helps your boss that they know the dates you're going to be out for contingency planning. It has worked in my favour, hope it works for yours!

3) Planning is part of the fun -  I love checking various websites almost everyday and checking for availability and making sure there are a lot of checks on my checklist. I try to travel the cheapest way possible for the shortest amount of time without compromising my boyfriend's demands (ie to stay at a decent hotel or eat in expensive restaurants). Once you have scheduled your flights, it is easier for you to plot out where to stay, where to go, and what to do instead of just daydreaming at a map and wondering where to go and how to get there.

4) You won't have to worry much about the budget- This is one reason why I love being employed full time. I have a rough idea of how much is going in my bank account every month and I know what percentage of it I'll keep in savings, how much I'll invest, and how much additional money will be trickling in. This way, I won't be stopped if I want to go to higher ticket items, one that can't be easily travel hacked (ie Antarctica, Galapagos, Easter Island). I know I have some money to burn and that money is for spending! You can't take your money with you to the grave but experiences can.

5) I'll have time to recover after a big trip- I can sleep for hours on end during the weekday to help charge me up but my weekends can still be very busy, even when I'm not on the go. Thing is, people who are location independent work too, albeit on the road. The reason why they can afford it is they choose lower cost countries that allow them to pay less in rent. I for one want to stay in America - even though the costs are more expensive, the opportunity is there to get a LOT of free stuff if you know how. I don't really want to travel then stay for a long time in a lower cost place. I'll just do that in the Philippines where I have a home to come home to (but bah internet sucks in the Philippines)

Okay, enough of the long post, I hope you get my drift of why I chose a life of the cubicle prison, and just shows the other side of travel that's rarely portrayed by your favorite travelers.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

[Book Review] The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson

The book starts a few months after 13 Little Blue Envelopes so you have to read that book first before you move on to this one. The story still revolves around Aunt Peg's quest for Ginny - leaving them before she passed on from cancer.

It's so hard trying to think of a summary for this book without spoiling 13 Little Blue Envelopes sooo SPOILER ALERT.

Book starts when Ginny gets an unexpected message from London - her missing backpack & letters have been found!
She flies to London and it just so happens that the 13th Letter was another quest in itself. Back to London, Paris, and Amsterdam - but there's another destination - Ireland! Oh, and there's two new characters in the book!


I like books like these - books that revolve around quests and travelling to find yourself. It's like one of the best things! While it was not as adventurous as the first one (I feel like this book was rushed and some of the quests were just reused from the first book again), it still had its fair share of new places to see and explore, and realizations about life and all it's mysteries.

If I was a teenager and was still not traveling the world, I would be very interested to travel after reading this. After all, Ginny managed to do it, why can't I? (Of course she had her inheritance, but you can do it too - just need to work and save the money to make your dreams come true)

Sad that the series has come to an end - what will I read now? (Uhm seriously, I know there's plenty more books to read out there. It never ends)

If you want to see my review of 13 Little Blue Envelopes, click here

Overall, I'll give this book a 4/5 
Book was borrowed from the Jacksonville Public Library

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The 24 Hour Readathon - October 2014. Updates, and Everything Else

It's that time of the year again! A readathon. Woot Woot! 
Normally, I spend my weekends traveling, but this weekend is an exception. I am staying in on Saturday (well, most of Saturday, anyway) and partaking in Dewey's 24 hour readathon. 

The concept is simple: read as much as you can for 24 hours and partake in the community events. 
I have been active a few years back, but actually stopped. And I'm back again! :) 

This weekend, I'm going to be reading a lot of travel related books - mostly guidebooks for upcoming trips - which reminds me, I need to go to the library tomorrow morning to borrow more of them! I'm nearly done with one! And this year, well, looks like I'll just keep updating this post should I partake in the hourly updates. 

Sooo..... welcome! And thank you for visiting my website!  

Pages Read - Nearly the whole book of the Last Little Blue Envelope. 
Think there's like less than 80 pages left. 

Fell asleep and woke up after the challenge is over. Oh well. It was fun though, can't wait for the next one :) 

Hour 16 Challenge: The Pet Parade

Thought it'll be good to share a photo of the baby bear (my dog). His real name is actually Goofy, but I call him Goofybear :) 

Hour 12 Challenge: 

Mid-Event Survey:
1. What are you reading right now?
I'm reading "The Last Little Blue Envelope" by Maureen Johnson

2. How many books have you read so far?
0! LOL I'm a really, really slow reader. 

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?
Finishing the last 100 pages of "The Last Little Blue Envelope", oh and watching the last Harry Potter movie on abc family!

4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?
Yes! A lot! Well, I don't deal with them - I just get distracted very easily lol. 

5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?
A lot of people all coming together to read, read, and read. This feels like such a big event now :) 

Hour 5: An hour already????

Now that I am fully awake and the boyfriend is cooking lunch while I am trying to read and update & do challenges at once, I present my Hour 5 Challenge photo! 
Book Staging

As you know, I am more of a traveler than a reader now and mostly read travel books for my leisure time. 
Here's my entry - New Orleans. The beads, the jester, what more can you ask for? 

Underneath that is the Lost Girls World - a travel memoir.. and beside it is Maureen Johnson's The Last Little Blue Envelope, two books which I'm reading alternately during the readathon.

Hour 4: Updates and Challenges

So I fell asleep between hour 3 and 4 and just woke up. I was happily reading my Cancun book when zzzzzz...... 
But now my boyfriend is back with the library books and I'm trying to catch up, reading The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson.

Hour 1: Meme Time. 

So, a bit of an introduction - my name is Ruby and I'm reading from Jacksonville, Florida. I don't have a particular book in my stack to look forward to yet - as the library is still closed so I'm still reading guidebooks and Sophie Kinsella's Twenties Girl. I don't like snacking like reading!

A little bit about myself - I like to travel - as the blog shows. Once upon a time, when I was living in Manila, I had nothing much to do but read books so that's where my love of books comes from. Since moving to the UK and the US eventually, I find that I read a little less and explore a bit more so reading took a back seat. 

I participated in a few other readathons - way back in Manila. One thing I'll do differently from this readathon is read more travel books or books that interest me more. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

[Travel] Savannah, Georgia Itinerary & Photos

My mom wanted me to post more photos of my travels... so, in this blog, I'm gonna post Savannah!
We had a long weekend in April (Good Friday - Easter Sunday) and since we didn't get to book tickets to fly out, it's a staycation of sorts and decided we'll explore Savannah & Tybee Island in Georgia. 

It's only two hours away from Jacksonville, FL (we drove) but seems completely far away from the world. We could have done separate day trips but I don't know what compelled us to stay longer. 

Outside Fort Pulaski
Hotel: Stayed at La Quinta in Pooler (around 10-15 minute drive from Savannah downtown). 
Cost? Less than $100 per day with free breakfast. They have cozy rooms too.

April 18th (Day 1) - We left Jacksonville late. Arrived in Pooler, checked in the hotel then ate lunch (at Wendy's in front of the hotel). Drove downtown. Went to the Railroad Museum. The museum had a bunch of historic carts & a steam engine train!

Walked around River Street but got drenched. Ate at Huey's for dinner. Not so expensive, and it was good, comfort food. Found the Savannah Bee Company and did a bit of window shopping. Decided to go back to the hotel and dry off. Early night for us.
At Fort Pulaski with a volunteer

April 19th (Day 2)- Drove to Tybee Island. It is a separate island from Savannah, around a 30-45 minute drive. Also went to Fort Pulatski (the boyfriend loves his forts and would always make sure we stop at these historic site). It was free when we went (National Park Week's Opening weekend), but normally it's $5 per person.

In Tybee, we explored the Tybee Island Lighhouse & Museum. Paid a small amount to get to the top.
Ate at North Beach Bar & Grill and walked around the beach for a bit (it was a wee bit cold and balmy, after all) before heading trying to go to the pier. It was so traffic (there was an event on the other end of the island) that we decided to go back to Savannah.

Finally bought something from Savannah Bee Company in West Broughton Street as a souvenir. Then walked around the historic district and managed to go to the City Market and explored 10 squares. It was quite easy to get to the squares as the next one is always within two blocks of the other one. Even checked out the Colonial Park Cemetery.

After the 10th square, it was getting late so we called it a night and drove back to the hotel. How apt that they were showing Forrest Gump! It was my first time to watch that movie (albeit long)

On top of Tybee Island Lighthouse
April 20th (Day 3): Morning breakfast then checked out of the hotel. Headed to Bonaventure Cemetery.  So eerily beautiful - it was near a big body of water too. Got a map from the visitor center for a donation ($1) and walked around. It was so peaceful, plus with all the sculptures, it doesn't really feel like you're walking in a cemetery itself.

Went back to the historic district - to the Georgia Railroad Museum to ride the steam train and yay! We got a slot. That steam train was cool as hell. Note: if you pay the entrance fee to the museum, it's valid for a few days after your first purchase so you can keep coming back!

Also walked around some more squares and back to Broughton Street. Soon enough, it was time to go home! :(

Bonaventure Cemetery
That was our Savannah trip - it was a lot of fun and I recommend anyone to go there. Here's some more photos of me & some other interesting places we've seen in Savannah.

From one of Savannah's squares

At the battle of Savannah battlefield
The Nachez
The waving girl statue

Sunday, September 28, 2014

[Travel] Puerto Rico Itinerary

Puerto Rico is technically part of the United States, but is completely different from the continental US. It is technically part of the Caribbean but was controlled by the Spanish before the US took over.
Here's a brief itinerary of what we did. This can be a guide for you guys that are traveling to the island too!

Getting there: Easy, there are multiple flights that go to Puerto Rico from the Continental US. If you have a Philippine Passport, you'll need a valid multiple entry US visa to get to Puerto Rico. For the sake of transparency, I did not show my passport at the TSA, rather, I showed my US drivers license (I am a resident of the US).

Flights: The legacy carriers (AA, United & Delta) all fly to Puerto Rico (as far as I know). The budget airlines (ie JetBlue & Southwest) also fly to this island in the Carribean. We flew Jetblue from MCO (Orlando, FL) to SJU (San Juan), a flight that's almost 2 1/2 hours.

Hotels: We stayed at the San Juan Marriott Resort in Condado. It costs $220 a night (which includes taxes & the resort fee). Be aware that most resorts charge an 11% tax and a resort fee. It varies from place to place. The upside of staying at the San Juan Marriott? It was beachside and the pool was nice. Although the beach was not what I expected (I have a HIGH standard for beaches as I come from the Philippines), it's still a nice place to stroll around - all 10 minutes of walking around, that is. The beach is not that big and the waves are quite big so exercise extreme caution when swimming in the beach!

The pool was actually nice, but is quite shallow (less than 4 feet of water). Still a good way to cool down after a long day of sightseeing or doing outdoorsy stuff!

What we did:

So, for the most part, our itinerary was a 5 day, 4 night stay.

Day 1: Arrival 
Arrived around 1PM in SJU. Grabbed luggage and went straight to the marriot.
Taxi fare from airport to Marriot - $20 + $5 tip (our taxi driver was cool so we didn't mind giving him a 25% tip). America has a big tipping culture so be aware of that!

Upon checking in, took an hour to rest from the flight and walked around the Condado area.

Condado is quite small, but it's where you can find the more expensive stores (Louis Vuitton, anyone?). The place gets quite happening in the evenings, apparently, with the bars/clubs.

There is a small park with a fountain that's also beachfront near our hotel. For the life of me, I cannot remember the name!

Ate dinner at Pinky's (yumyum breakfast sandwiches all day long) and had a small snack at Starbucks (mmm salted caramel frappuccino anyone?)

Day 2: El Yunque Rainforest & Bio Bay Kayaking

Booked a tour from Kayak Puerto Rico for the all day tour (started at 11AM when they picked us up from the hotel and ended around 10:15pm when they dropped us off). It's $115+ tax (7% tax in Puerto Rico) per person, including all-day water and transportation from your hotel to the rainforest & to Fajardo. This is being handled by two companies: Fine Line Excursions (for the rainforest) and Kayaking Puerto Rico (for the bio bay kayak).

We met up with Andrea, our guide to the rainforest. Saw three waterfalls overall and hiked our way to one (it's a paved road so it's good). Now, coming from the Philippines I saw my fair share of waterfalls and rain forests but it was the boyfriend's first time.

One thing I loved? The Coquis! OMG they make such amazing sounds. They are literally small brown frogs that make a distinctive sound, and are found in certain areas of the Carribean (and even Hawaii!)

We ate dinner at 4pm at a local restaurant (mmm yummy food, and for $12 for dinner, drinks & dessert, it was a steal!)

Went to Bio Bay in the evening. The bay we went to was in Fajardo. Was quite good. I wouldn't recommend it to people who absolutely have no idea how to kayak! First off, you're gonna kayak in the dark, and secondly, you might become a hazard for the other kayakers (oh believe me, I had our fair share of running into people). If you have 0 experience at all, you can ask one of the guides to just tow you around.

What's interesting about the Bio bay was the bioluminescent creatures that glow when they are disturbed (either with your hand or with your paddle). I have never seen anything like it before!

In the evening, I had a late night Starbucks nightcap (OK, the bf and I don't normally indulge in Starbucks every single day but this was an exception. I was soooo tired and I needed something to warm me up - plus Starbucks is just across the street from the hotel).

Day 3: Old San Juan

After the very tiring day before, was surprised to wake up at 9:40AM. Yep, we overslept.
Finally managed to get breakfast at around 10:30AM at Pinky's (yumyum) then left for old San Juan at noon.

First stop of the day?
El Morro. It was a fortress/castle and is one of the most visited tourist spots in PR!
Off to Calle Cristo after, then Fortaleza St. They're full of souvenir shops so a good place to buy something to bring home!

Go down to the Old San Juan gate and try to walk down the old city walls surrounding El Morro.
You'll see so many things when you walk, it's just crazy. I can't write down all the streets we went to but man, we saw a lot.

Do: there is a crafts/artisan/local market every weekend near the cruise terminal. I managed to buy a wooden horse toy which I lovingly took back home :) It was $12 and the horse's legs were driven by wheels.

Day 4: Old San Juan

I was actually thinking of doing another tour but none of them piqued our interests (well, we wanted to go to Ponce and the Camuy Caves but the hotel did not offer these tours on the day that we wanted them). The boyfriend is also a BIG fortress fan so we had to go back to Old San Juan to go to Castillo de San Cristobal.

Castillo de San Cristobal was bigger than El Morro and the views were to die for. It's just beside the Senate, which was designed to look like the one from Madrid. Also, there were sooo many iguanas around the grounds it was nice to just take photos of them! Note: iguanas are actually an infestation to Puerto Rico so they do sell iguana meat outside of their country.

Went back to Old San Juan and walked around. Managed to get inside the Governor's Mansion (3:25pm English guided tour) and meandered around until we reached a square where we were supposed to take our taxi back.

Hotel then used the early evening hours to chill in the pool and beachside.

Dinner was at a Puerto Rican restaurant where I had a churrasco and the boyfriend had a mofongo. Yumyum.

Day 5:  Last day :(

Our flight is at 4pm and we didn't really want to risk going to Old San Juan again.
Stayed in the hotel until around 11AM then back to our old walking haunts in Condado. Still gutted I wasn't able to get a Coqui frog stuffed toy but oh well! I actually realized I wanted that frog AFTER I got back from Old San Juan.

Went to the airport around 2pm. Customs will scan your bags before you go to the US so you'll need to have ample time for that. Also, we checked in a bag so we had to allow a lot more time than we normally would in the airport.

And it was the end of a really wonderful trip

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