Living the dream of travelling used to be just a dream. I'm a breadwinner, it's almost impossible. It's like aiming to reach the end of the horizon or finding the other side of the rainbow. The truth is, it sucks to be just like most of first - born children in the Philippines who in every payday, have to send money back to the province to help their family financially while their wealthy coworkers' ideal weekend is to spend all their salary on leisure. Every time I think of it, I feel a pang of envy and cringe in pain. Whenever my tears fall down my cheeks, I turn my emotions to words documented through the pages of my blog. Seven years ago, this thing I call online diary was just a repository of my muses and rants of anything under the sun including my occasional trips within Manila because I couldn’t afford to go to faraway places.
When the Internet started booming, so are the lives of those who travel and blog changed for good. I was one of those. I used to be a certified 'provenciana' when I left my hometown to move to Manila. My life was a routine: work, home, eat, and repeat. I wasn’t happy at all. Until I met a Spanish guy who moved to Manila for work. He was an expat living the dream of travelling. We shared lots of coffee, cheesy chats, and some nights together.
|Dumaguete and Ilocos|
Things did not worked out for us but moments of him talking about meditating with a view of gorgeous Lake Mulshi in India, marveling the Northern Lights in Sweden, and visiting the Hobbiton in New Zealand are enough for me to go see the world myself! My heart flutters so much whenever I would see his eyes twinkle while he talks about the locals he met along the road and how travel gives him happiness that a money can't buy. The mantra "work, save, travel" is definitely not for me so I used blogging as my portal for travelling free.
Here's how travel changed my life:
My biggest obstacle is money so I have to expand my network. I befriended fellow bloggers and built relationships. I scour online to find opportunities that could provide me discounts. I subscribed to airlines' newsletters then follow their social media accounts so that I am updated of their promos. The next thing I knew I was travelling to Bacolod to see The Ruins, praying at the Miag - ao Church in Iloilo, and spending my birthday in El Nido. All because of finding ‘piso’ fares that time and backpacking at the cheapest way possible.
My passion to travel became an obsession. I was reading tons of blogs from Westerns who are doing it all night and all day. And believe it or not, I found one - a mystery shopping job for a local airlines that pays me to travel for free (flight & hotel) in exchange of disguising as a passenger to provide feedback of the flight, airport staff, booking via the website, and over the hotline number.. Not only that, I was paid Php 1, 000 for every accomplished project with them. Because of this, I was able to see Dumaguete, Cotabato, Zamboanga, Ozamiz, Tuguegarao, and Pagadian.
Travel brands and press trips
When I've had enough ties with brands and fellow bloggers, that's when travel opportunities started to pour in. These trips are totally free and the best part is that I get the pampering and luxurious treatment I may never afford to myself. I have seen the best of Coron hosted by its tourism office. I've volunteered as a writer for a travel startup to document the hidden tourism spots of Pangasinan and Ilocos. Months ago, I went on a 6-day road trip reaching Palaui island courtesy of a land transportation company. Most of my travel accessories like backpack, flip flops, neck pillow are all from brands I worked with. I review them for for free in exchange of these products.
My biggest international break so far is with the Ministry of Tourism of Indonesia where I spent 15 days seeing Bandung, Labuan Bajo, Yogyakarta, Lombok, and Bali. We stayed in five-star hotels, ate the best Indonesian cuisine they can offer and most of all I learned so much with fellow blogger participants from Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and Cambodia.
Travel contests and doing travel hacks
Some may laugh at me but seriously, joining travel contests paved way to a number of my free trips. My roundtrip flight tickets to Hong Kong last year and Vietnam this May are from Instagram contests. Last month, I won 6-night biking tour to India including accommodation. When Shangrila hosted another giveaway, I won loyalty points that I used to convert as airline miles. I got a Boracay trip and one - way flight to Bangkok for free. Using some travel hacking techniques, I booked a flight back to Manila from Bangkok for Php 2,300 only via Traveloka app.
Who would have thought that I will reach 40 Philippine provinces and 8 countries with almost nothing but faith that all wishes are granted so long as you work hard for it?
Quitting my corporate job for a remote work is the best decision I have ever done. Now I can travel anywhere and do my tasks as long as I have WiFi connection. Travel made me realize that dreams do come true. I'm off to Thailand this June for a month to volunteer to teach kids by day while I work online at night. This is how I travel for free, I share my skills.
I still have two sisters who are in college so I can't just travel the world and never come back, as they say. Soon, when all these responsibilities are done, I will.
This is an entry to Traveloka's How Travel Changed My Life contest. You? What's your wanderlust story? #TravelokaPH, #WhyITravel & #TravelokaStories