A Philippines Travel Guide for First-Timers

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As a Filipino-American, it took me some time to warm up to my ancestral homeland of the Philippines. But once I experienced it for the first time myself, I fell in love and haven’t looked back since. As one of the most scenic locations in all of Asia, the Philippines has become a vacation hotspot in recent decades, drawing in a whole new wave of tourists from all over the world. It’s not hard to see why-pristine, remote island beaches accompanied with friendly locals and stunning wildlife make for a once in a lifetime trip. For those who have never been, the following are just a few key aspects of this country that may sway you in visiting sooner than later.

Hospitality

As mentioned, Filipinos have a reputation as being very kind and generous, being warm and welcoming to tourists and encouraging them to explore their native country. Many Filipino’s take pride in their country, showcasing the best parts of the Philippines for visiting tourists. Singing and dancing is an enormous part of the culture here, so don’t be surprised if you’re pulled into one of the many celebratory events going on throughout the summer.

Rarely is a tourist’s naivety or unfamiliarity taken advantage of in the Philippines. The locals are happy to lend a helping hand and ensure that your time spent in their country is enjoyable, memorable, and leaving you wanting to come back again.

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Having said that, it’s also highly important to remember that as a visitor in their country, you should be respectful and humble at any place you find yourself. There are many things you might find odd or strange in their culture that might conflict with your own, but it’s always a good idea to respect the differences and focus on just enjoying your time.

Beaches

Being one of the largest collections of islands with 7,107 total, the Philippines has some of the most flawless beaches in the world. White sand, crystal blue waters, and incredible rock formations make up hundreds of these somewhat private locations, which are not always flooded with tourists so long as you know where to look.

Perhaps one of the most iconic beaches and best one for your Instagram feed is White Beach in Boracay. This beach consistently finds a spot on the list of top 10 beaches in the world, and is one of the most famous. That being said, the crowds here may be a little larger than what you’re looking for, but the aesthetic is absolutely worth the trip.

Nature

If part of your vacation plans involves seeing exotic wildlife, the Philippines then becomes that much more appealing. Home to some of the most diverse animals and plant life on Earth, this country includes nearly 200 species of mammals, over 600 species of birds, hundreds of reptiles, amphibious creatures, and coral species. One of the most popular attractions here is swimming with the native whale sharks.

In terms of geography, there are a total of 37 volcanoes found throughout the Philippines, all of which are accessible via hiking tours in addition to the country’s many caves, lakes, and waterfalls. To add to its beauty, temperatures here rarely ever reach levels of extreme heat or cold, making a trip here ideal in nearly any month of the year. However, experienced visitors typically recommend anytime between the months of November and May.

Food

As the late Anthony Bourdain once famously said, “Filipino’s love feeding people”. While Filipino cuisine may not be as well known around the world as their Asian counterparts, you might be more than impressed with some of the food you may encounter here. A traditional Filipino meal will have tourists experiencing a mix of Chinese, Spanish, Japanese, and even American-style cuisine, with foods like pancit, sinigang, barbecued chicken intestines, halo-halo, and much, much more.

The fruits found growing around the Philippines are among the freshest you will most likely ever try. From fresh mangos, pineapples, to coconuts, to papayas, Filipino fruit grows within an incredibly nurturing environment that adds to its flavor.

And good news for the avid seafood enthusiasts, the plethora of sea creatures found around the Philippines’ many coasts including lobster, crab, tiger prawns, and octopus among many others. Chefs around the country are highly skilled in preparing some of the most delicious seafood meals in Asia. However, if you are less inclined to try something adventurous, there are still plenty of options for those that are more accustomed to the Western ideals of flavor.

And did I mention how inexpensive eating out in the Philippines can be? More often than not, you’ll pay a fraction of what you might pay for a similar meal in North America or Europe.

Relaxation

While all of the aforementioned aspects certainly fall under this category, the Philippines is also a perfect getaway for travelers who would prefer to do nothing other than relax, unwind, and fully embrace a week of well deserved laziness. For starters, prices for alcoholic beverages, just like the food, are significantly cheaper than most other countries. Rum is actually cheaper than most of the juices served throughout the restaurant scene seeing as these juices come from the highly sought after fruits around the islands. Their Red Horse beer cost just 20 pesos, and is a little stronger than the average beer with 6.8% alcohol; a cheap, delicious way to take the edge off.

Once you’ve settled in and grabbed a drink, add even more to your spiritual pampering with a massage on the beach, or at one of the many spas around the country. From Swedish, to Shiatsu, to manicures and pedicures, Filipino spas and masseuses offer several different types of massages and are usually more dedicated and experienced than the types of massages you’d find elsewhere. Additionally, over 75% of the country speaks English, so language barriers are hardly ever a problem.

For more info on the Philippines and how to book your first trip, check out this site here and do some research of your own. The experiences mentioned above are just scratching the surface of what you can do in this beautiful country, and if you’re still thinking about it, take my word that you won’t ever regret making the trip.

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Travel Books That Will Inspire You to See the World

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During one’s downtime in which they are not traveling, what better way to keep their exploratory passion alive than to read some of the most intriguing books on the subject? The following are just some of many travel books to read that will keep your travel bug alive and have you yearning to visit every possible corner of the world.

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

In the years following World War II, Jack Kerouac and his friends traveled across the United States in search of all that life has to offer. Narrated by “Sal Paradise,” who serves as Kerouac himself, readers follow these men from New York to Denver, San Francisco, and Los Angeles where they encounter various forms of art and some of life’s troubles. You begin to notice the characters, particularly Sal, grow and gain more confidence. This piece of literature is sure to inspire even the most introverted individual to travel cross-country.

Love With a Chance of Drowning by Torre DeRoche

Don’t let the fact that this is somewhat of a romance novel deter you from reading. As a well known travel blogger, DeRoche details her fear of the ocean and and the incredible feat of overcoming that fear to sail across the Pacific with her boyfriend. Her vivid writing paints a picture in readers’ minds and evokes a moving feeling; something that, again, is sure to get even the laziest person up off the couch and out in the world.

The Island at the Center of the World by Russell Shorto

For individuals especially keen on New York City, Russell Shorto’s book details the history of its foundation through Dutch settlers and their conflicts with the British and eventual losing of the city. These settlers have left such an impact that most of the city’s culture still emanates that today, in addition to many street and neighborhood names. After reading this story, it will be difficult not to have a newfound appreciation for New York City culture.

Vagabonding by Rolf Potts

A book on vagabonding by none other than the king of vagabonding himself, Rolf Potts has spent over 10 years hitchhiking and exploring areas all over the world. His book contains some of the best insight imaginable, crucial travel tips and information, and several inspiring encounters; a work that should be considered an absolute must-read for those new to the world of traveling. Potts delves deeper into the philosophy of traveling as well, explaining why traveling for extended periods of time is an enriching experience.

Why Writers Should Ditch Their Smartphones (Occasionally)

Originally posted on LeonardRaymundo.com

Smartphone addiction is a real and prevalent issue among many people today, myself included. In fact, of the 56% of Americans who own smartphones, many report feeling panicked and anxious when misplacing their mobile devices. This desperation to be connected at all times can be especially troubling for writers despite the vastness of the internet, and the overwhelming amount of information available at our fingertips.

It’s easy to get lost in your phone or tablet when browsing the web, reading online articles, and indulging in the endless world of social media. For many people, “taking a break” means surfing the internet and reading funny or interesting articles rather than checking their emails. However, you are still on your smartphone (or tablet) while doing this. Occupying your mind via technology at all times can be detrimental to your creative process, and thus your creative writing.

Today, it’s much easier to pick up your phone and go through the many applications you’ve downloaded when you become bored. By doing this, you are effectively preventing your mind from wandering, which is an essential activity for creative writers. A majority of writers credit their stories and ideas simply from their imaginations; something that can only be done when the mind is able to wander and reflect on the day, and the interactions that occurred throughout.

Have you noticed unique or eclectic ideas coming to mind more often while you are driving or in the shower? While you may not exactly be bored in these situations, your brain is receiving little stimulation, and thus begins to wander and reflect. Shoving your face into a smartphone when you are overcome with boredom does stimulate your brain, but in a way that prevents creative thought. A great way to conquer this is by forcing yourself to simply be bored. This may seem, well, boring, but make your smartphone technology unaccessible for a certain period of time, and get back to your roots of boredom. This can force you to think of a more creative outcome rather than simply grabbing the nearest mobile device or tablet.

What did you do as a child when you were bored before smart technology existed? Many people might answer playing outside, or just letting their mind wander in relaxing locations. Little did we know it, but these actions sparked our imaginations and creativity, and, depending on how long you’ve been writing, we may have written these experiences down in journals.

If you’re truly motivated to get some writing done, but know that your addiction is bad, there is software that can help you. Here are some apps that do this best, allowing you to free your mind and expand your creativity. Boredom is a small price to pay for productivity.
Pay attention to times in which you become bored while writing. If you aren’t inspired during a certain scene or piece of dialogue, there’s a good possibility your writers will feel that lack of inspiration. It’s times like this where most people will immediately feel compelled to grab their phones and spend hours on social media. Instead, study that specific scene and find out what it is that is lacking. It may be just one sentence throwing off the entire conversation. The more you analyze and think about your writing, the happier you’ll be with it through editing; something texting and checking emails cannot do.

Overcoming Self-Doubt When Writing

Many writers and artists of all types would agree that they are their own worst critics. It is a completely normal (though unhealthy) habit to doubt anything that you put a great amount of effort into, as you often strive for perfection. Though ‘perfect’ is fairly hard to come by, creating a piece of work that you take pride in and are excited to share with the world is not. The trick is to silence that voice in the back of your mind telling you that it’s not good enough.

Writing especially can drum up a cluster of emotions that may deter you from continuing. With how much people rely on social media for validation today, that introduces an entirely new facet of acceptance that many come to crave in order to merit their work as worthy. Constantly checking to see if your blog that you just published is receiving ‘likes’ or being commented on can create an unhealthy dependence that will only hurt your chances of improving as a writer.

A great way of finding a trustworthy source of reviewers is by taking part in a writing group, whether in person or a verified online community. Sharing your work with other writers that may have more experience than you can provide you with not only valuable feedback, but lessons learned and tips you can apply to future projects. Working alongside fellow writers is a great way to build confidence and offer helpful insight into your current writing strategies and techniques, but keep in mind that being open to critique is of utmost importance for yourself as a writer.

Another highly efficient way to silence that doubtful voice in your mind is to turn off notifications on platforms that you may be posting to (as pointed out by Terri Kue on Medium). Waiting for and expecting a certain number of ‘likes’ or comments on your post is a great way to set yourself up for disappointment, whether you’ve posted on Facebook, WordPress, or Instagram. Perhaps your audience hasn’t had a chance to read it yet, but the fact that your work hasn’t immediately gone viral can eat away at you and become nothing more than a source of stress.

Start working on your next piece immediately after posting your latest work. Get your mind off the fact that it is out there waiting to be read. The anxiousness that follows is never worth your time. Focus your attention elsewhere, particularly on another blog, story, or poem. Keep pushing forward with and explore different techniques or strategies. Paying attention to how well received your last work was will only prevent you from growing as a writer.

Becoming a great writer takes time. Impatience can hinder improvement, and doubting yourself throughout will belittle your confidence. Understand that there’s only one path to becoming a better writer, and that is simply by writing more. Seeking validation via social media is not an effective way to measure your talents. Silence that doubtful voice and know that as long as you are passionate about your craft, improvement will come.

Originally posted on LeonardRaymundo.com