|Mount Mayon in Albay|
It's been a while since I did an Inspiring Traveler Series where I feature ordinary backpackers who travels not for the sake of blogging it but one who simply loves to do it. I have recently learned of this girl whom I was planning to feature in my DIY travel posts but when I received the answers of the questions I gave to her, it was lengthy and that there's too much passion and story in her. There's something in her words that tells me this girl deserves a separate feature so here it is.
We have a few things in common: she uses Couchsurfing to stay with hosts in exchange for free. I have done this twice: in Cebu and Cagayan de Oro. Right now, I am not active in this group but my gratitude to Couchsurfing is endless. This is the very first community of travelers where I got exposed to the wanderlust. She has a complimentary flight voucher too from the same airlines because of a mishap we encountered.
Her travel photos are so stunning. The photo of Mayon Volcano above is the one I am very envious, I have to admit. I lived in Legazpi City for 5 years before I moved to Manila but I never ever had a decent picture of Mount Mayon. I see it everyday and thinking I always have another day to take another shot until I had none. It is ironic how we take ordinary things for granted, that we only realize its real worth when we lose it.
Her name is Camille Anne Morales. Get to know her more by reading our Q & A.
where have you been?
I grew up and live in the town of Subic, Zambales.I’m a fresh graduate of the University of Santo Tomas in Manila and I have just passed the Pharmacist Licensure Exam last July. I’m currently unemployed because I'm waiting for my parents’ petition for me to follow them to the US to be granted. I hope it would be approved soon, but for the meantime, I want to cherish every moment I have with my beloved Philippines.
I got bitten by the travel bug in May 2014, when I went to Palawan with my friend and her boyfriend. I have always dreamed of going there but I didn't know how or when since the farthest I've ever gone to until that point was San Juan, Batangas. And then one day in April I just had this urge to read travel blogs and articles about Palawan. I called my friend up to ask her if she's interested to plan a trip with me and she told me her boyfriend had relatives there. We wanted to go to El Nido and the Underground River. In no time, we found ourselves booking three round-trip tickets to Puerto Princesa and the rest is history. It was the timeI fell in love with travelling. I was suddenly hit by the realization that if something so beautiful such as Palawan already exists in a small country like ours, how many more wonders are out there? The world is such a big place. There are so many things to see, to do, to explore, to experience, but we only have so little time. I'm glad I found my passion now while I'm still young becauseI still have the rest of my life to pursue it. Ever since that trip, I've been constantly ticking places off my bucket list.
I've always had someone to travel with, most of the time my friend who came with me to Palawan. I've only recently started travelling solo. Actually so far I've only tried it thrice, with my first time during my Batanes trip last September 2015. It was a spur-of-the-moment kind of thing because I got excited when I saw a post that there was a seat sale and cheap flights to Batanes were up for grabs. I was able to book a round-trip ticket to Basco for only 564php. It was during the wee hours of the morning and it was hard to contact my friends so I just decided to try going solo for once. I was anxious at first but in the end, I overcame my fears and it was all worth it. There was something about travelling solo that fascinated me. It somehow changed me in a good way.
In less than 2 years, I've managed to visit almost 37Philippine provinces in 15 regions and 2 Southeast Asian countries, which are Malaysia and Indonesia (though these 2 international trips weren't really for pleasure because I just accompanied my aunt and spent most of the time in hotels. Still.). Right now, I'm aiming to be able to visit all 81 provinces of our country before venturing out into the rest of the world. I think every Filipino should travel the Philippines first, too because in the end, we are the ones who should appreciate it the most.
|Dinagat Island, Leyte|
Tell us more about how you backpacked solo for 10 days, itinerary
contacts and photos.
To be honest, I wasn't sure if I could pull this off because I was fresh from my second solo trip to Dumaguete and Siquijor and I only had 5 days to rest and do some last minute research before I hit the road again. What I was planning to do in Mindanao was not an easy feat to make. Time-wise, I know I could fit everything I wanted to visit and do within 10 days, and I would still have a lot of free time on my hands. Budget-wise, I wasn't so sure. I repeatedly kept telling myself to only spend 10k (excluding airfare) for this or less. I could've achieved this goal, however, some circumstances just made me spend without contemplating. I went over my budget but only for a few hundreds. But one way or another, I was able to visit everything I wanted to visit and more, so all was well.
I was able to visit 10 provinces in 3 regions, namely Northern Mindanao, CARAGA and Davao Region.I did everything I can to spend less because I believe that the less money you spend, the more places you can visit. I utilizedlocal public transportation to get to my destinations. Sometimes I had to rent a habal-habal or motorcycle, and the price was prettty steep for a solo traveller like me, but I had no choice. Then there was a time during my trip when I missed the last ferry from Surigao City to San Jose in Dinagat Islands so my host asked her son-in-law (the boatman who also toured me in Dinagat) to come fetch me. Imagine I had to endure a crazy two-hour ride on a small boat while night was falling. But riding the waves and getting wet was so fun. I also got to witness the sun setting and the stars coming out as soon as it did! It was one of my most memorable travel experiences ever.
Anyway, to save on accommodations, I couch surfed. In fact, I only checked in twice. I know staying with strangers in unfamiliar territories probably isn't what most sensible people would do, but since I wasn't exactly a sensible person, I dared to do this. Though it's pretty ironic to say, I even felt more secure staying with them. Of course I exercised a lot of caution here, but in general, it was such a fulfilling experience. Interacting with locals helped me understand the place and their culture better, and I earned new friends. After all, I read somewhere that there are no strangers, only friends you haven't met yet. I couldn't agree more. Though I did encounter a few creeps, in this world, there are good people and bad people. There are good and bad strangers, as well as good friends and bad friends. You just have to be vigilant enough to tell them apart.
I was also able to spend less money on food because most of the time, my hosts insisted on treating me and also I'm the type of person who can go on a day eating only once. But don't be like me okay? Eat, eat, and eat. Travelling definitely is an energy-draining activity and you need as much energy as you can get.As for my clothes, I actually brought a sachet of laundry powder with me and just washed them when I had the chance.
In conclusion, all I can say is I was able to backpack in Mindanao for 10 days because I guess I was just always at the right place at the right time meeting the right people. I never felt I was alone because there was always someone willing to help me. From as small as answering my questions, giving me directions or taking my pictures to as big as letting me stay in their home without anything in return, I realized that kindness would never ever go out of style.
How did you prepared, how long did it took you to decide to go there
Deciding to book my flight was one thing. Deciding to go was another. Probably a lot of travellers can relate, every time there's a seat sale and I know I have some money, I just book domestic flights no matter when since I'm always free, no matter what the destination is as long as I haven't been there yet. So when Cebu Pacific had a seat sale last December, I immediately booked two round-trip flights. The first in Dumaguete because I've always wanted to go to Siquijor, and the second in Cagayan de Oro because my friend just came back from her own trip to Mindanao and I got inspired. I've only been to Mindanao once, in Davao last year and I wanted to see more of this part of the country. However, when I realized I booked two consecutive trips on the same week I wanted to slap myself because I haven't thought it through. When I was still in Dumaguete I was already thinking if I should continue my Mindanao trip the following weekend. But I realized it would be such a waste if I will not go. After all, when will I have another opportunity to go to these places again? So when I got home to Subic, I checked my bank account. When I saw that I still had enough money, I made up my mind to push through with my trip. I only packed the day before my scheduled departure.
Every time I travel, of course I research. I guess that's the only real preparation I do. I read travel blogs. I read reviews. I look for places to go to, things to do, cheap accommodations and what and where to eat. I find out how to get to a particular place. I try to estimate possible expenses. But one thing I don't do that most travellers do is to make itineraries. I never ever make a detailed schedule of my trips. For my Mindanao trip though, I made an exception. However, I still can't say I was thoroughly prepared for this trip. I don't think I've ever been really prepared for a trip anyway. I'm really more comfortable with spontaneity.
While doing my research, I've already decided to couchsurf so I made a Couchsurfing account, searched for female hosts and contacted them to ask if they could accommodate me. They responded to me so my hosts in Iligan and Cagayan de Oro were already expecting me. I met my host in Dinagat Islands in a Facebook backpacker group. I wasn't able to find hosts in Camiguin and Surigao so I decided I would just check in at cheap homestays or hostels. I also contacted my friend in Davao City and asked her if I could stay with her in case I run out of money haha and also since Davao was where my flight back to Manila was.
|Mount Pinatubo, Tarlac|
Where is your next backpacking trip?
I haven't decided yet, but back in December I was planning to visit Bolinao and Alaminos in Pangasinan. I'm also thinking of going back to the Cordilleras in April, probably in Kalinga. Or visit the provinces in Panay. I haven't been to Boracay yet and I have a free one-way domestic flight from Cebu Pacific because of the 7-hour delay of my DVO-MNL flight. I really don't have solid plans yet now, but I'm pretty sure it won't be long before I travel again. Let's just see where my feet would lead me next.
Any tips to solo female travelers?
For those of you who want to travel by yourselves, but are afraid of taking that leap, here is the push you need. A few months ago, I was in your shoes. I know it's terrifying. You're probably thinking of everything that could go wrong. But please, also think of everything that could go right. Yes, there are going to be bad times. You'll feel lonely. You'll be paranoid. You'll be scared. But when you reach that summit, or when you finally see that breathtaking view, or when you just make it through one night alone in an unfamiliar place far away from home, far away from everyone you know, it will be one of the most gratifying feelings you will ever feel in your life. Travelling solo will push you to go beyond your limits. It will make you do things you never thought you could and would do. It will not necessarily change who and what you are, but it will make you see things in a greater perspective. It will make you love yourself and love life better. It will not make you fearless, but it will make you fear less. It's okay to feel afraid now. Just don't let it paralyze you. Trust me, it will be all worth it.
For those of you who are already travelling solo now, I know you perfectly understand what I feel. One tip I can give you isthat you can't and shouldn't trust everybody else. Be careful in interacting with strangers because even though many are kind and helpful, there will always be a few bad seeds along the way. Just trust yourself, your heart and your instincts before deciding to put your faith in them, but not completely though. Always inform your loved ones where you are. Most importantly, always pray to God! And live like there's no tomorrow. :)
To get to know her on social media, please click here to add her on Facebook. For Instagram, please click here.
I will be posting a separate post about her 10 - day DIY itinerary to Camiguin, CDO, Davao & Surigao. Do you know of ordinary Filipino backpackers who have amazing story and stunning travel photos? Let me know so I can feature it here.