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How I Travel with a Full-Time Job

*As featured on Rappler on July 12, 2017 🙂

From January 2015- January 2017, R and I have travelled to 35 countries across four continents. We had the chance to walk around the Acropolis, marvel at the wonders of Cordoba, do long drives around the UK, and do our weekly groceries at souqs in Casablanca. The travel bug struck R and I big time and since then, we’ve visited four more countries and have already booked our trip to two more countries for later this year.

You might wonder– and this made us wonder as well– how can we travel so much while working full time, able to save for our future life together (more on that on a later post), while earning just enough?

We receive a lot of questions from family and friends on how we get to travel the way we do. Here are some of our “secrets” that help us live a traveler’s life that we’ve always dreamed of:

1. We work remotely

Working remotely is the biggest gift that we’ve received in achieving this dream, and is the main reason as to why we can sustain our travels.

Let me give an overview of how we work:

As for me:

I work remotely 8 hours a day, 5 times a week. I am lucky because my schedule is quite flexible that I can spread out my 8 hours as long as I cover at least three hours of New York business time.

Aside from my day job, I also work as the auditor of two co-owned small enterprises, both based in the Philippines. I do daily and weekly audits, and dedicate at least one hour a day to communicate with the manager on-site. I’m just thankful for all the technology available today that I’m able to do this task even when out of the country.

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How we usually work, with a standing desk in tow so we can take a break from sitting for too long (Kirkby Malzeard, Northern Yorkshire)

For R, his work schedule is more demanding. Since he works as a Support Engineer for an irrigation company, he has to work long hours and should be available for calls any time. He works 10- 12 hours a day for 5 days a week, then 5 hours for Saturdays. Sometimes, he also has to work for at least 2 hours on Sundays. The hours are really long. What’s great with his job, though, is he can work from his phone for some tasks so what he does is he purchases a local sim card and signs up for data. He does this for every country that we go to.

So, when we travel, we manage our day based around our work. Our work is top priority since without it, we cannot live this kind of life that we want. Usually, we only travel around on weekends; and we only go out on weekdays for dinner after all work is done.

2. Through research projects

As an anthropology practitioner (for I can’t really call myself an “anthropologist” just yet), I get to receive research contracts in and out of the Philippines. But these do not come to me as manna from heaven. I need to work for and apply for them. I’ve received more turned-down applications than accepted ones, so when I get them I make sure I give my best so I get referred to other projects, or I get to continue with the project when it gets extended.

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Who would have thought we will find ourselves staying in a container van in the middle of a moor for three months? (Kirkby Malzeard, Northern Yorkshire)

I would say the biggest factor as to why I got into research contracting is because of this UNDP research project that I luckily got accepted to back in 2013. More projects came pouring in after that, and I’m really thankful for the opportunity. There is a lot of room for improvement though since I only have a bachelor’s degree, and some projects are reserved for those with masters and PhD degrees.

It is through this job that R and I get to travel to off-the-beaten tracks including Itogon (Benguet), Kirkby Malzeard (Great Britain), Casablanca (Morocco), and Jaipur (India).

3. Through business trips

This opportunity is thanks to R’s company who is kind and generous enough to shoulder both of our travel expenses when R has a workshop, seminar, meeting, or conference to attend. He travels once a year in the US, once around Southeast Asia, and once in Europe. So in a year, we both get three trips cared of by R’s company!

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Staying in a country club: one of the many perks of R’s business trips! (Singapore)

And since R and I both travel smart aka within our means, it’s a great chance for us to travel beyond what we can afford. We get to travel on business class, stay at 5-star hotels, and eat in nice restaurants. Oh, why oh why do these kinds of trips have to end!

4. Through company trips

Once a year, in summer, our family receives a free trip thanks to a Philippine-based company that my parents are co-owners of. All the co-owners’ families receive this free trip, and so we all make sure we are available for this trip. It is definitely one of the rare opportunities for all our families to bond.

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Traveling inter-country by private bus. Again, something I can’t afford without this annual travel opportunity 😛 (Cologne, Germany)

Again, for this one, I make sure I get to join because I am able to enjoy a kind of travel that I cannot afford. Traveling around in a private hired bus, staying in 4 to 5-star hotels, and having private guides– It is the kind of travel that I wouldn’t want to miss!

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These are the many ways by which R and I can travel so much for the past few years. When we set our sights three years ago into exploring the world together until we grow old, we did our best to achieve location independence with our work. It took us some years to get to where we are today, but it is not impossible to achieve.

We may not be able to afford many of the physical luxuries in life, but we definitely appreciate and are always thankful of the life we have today. We are now where we want to be, and we are forever grateful 🙂

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Publishing My First Book (Dream Come True!)

I’ve been on and off with updating my blog for the past eight months because I’ve been working on… my first book!

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A sneak peek of my first book 🙂

The fun part was, R didn’t have the slightest idea I was working on it although we’ve been working side-by-side since June of last year.

The book was officially published on March 19, with a rather short email I’ve received in the wee hours of the morning saying the book was finally released! I had to read the email thrice to make sure I was understanding everything correctly.

HOWEVER, I used a pen name and have no intention of divulging it at this point. Save for eight people who have signed an invisible contract of secrecy 😛 The reason being I’m not that confident just yet with my work and I’d like to receive reviews and comments objectively.

Why am I sharing this? 

First off, I’d like to say it IS possible to publish a book, especially when the subject is something you are passionate about. The key is to write every day. Even one sentence a day if you get the so-called writer’s block can help out in producing the content that you want. Since English is not my native language, I also wrote my first manuscript in Filipino, then I translated it to English. I felt more confident in doing so.

Secondly, this is not about length. This first book is rather short and something you can read in two days. I wanted to focus on quality and I wasn’t too confident just yet with weaving together a complicated story with 20 chapters.

Thirdly, it is so liberating to write under a pen name! I am not sure if I can try to publish again had I published this first book under my real name. With a pen name though, I am able to roam free and to put off the pressure of making it ‘big’ just because I have put myself out there rather prematurely.

What now? 

On the first 48 hours since the book was published, I got 40 purchases. It’s amazing to think that people would be willing to buy ‘that’ book. It may not be much but it meant so much to me. I wonder how J.K. Rowling would have felt selling out millions and millions of copies on her first HP book!

Still a long, long (read: long) way to go for me. But for now, I’m happy to be walking, talking and breathing behind the mask 🙂

Resources

There are so many free writing guidelines online, and sifting through them can get a bit overwhelming. My favorite, and one which helped me out tremendously, was Annie Neugebauer‘s Plotting Worksheet with Prompts. She has generously made the content available for free, but users are given the opportunity to donate on her page.

As for manuscript format, I used Microsoft Word’s Manuscript Template, downloadable for free.

Biggest thanks to the Internet for leveling out the field for everyone in pursuing their dreams 🙂

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One.com: The Best for Your Buck Website Package

I’ve received some questions on the best website hosting package for those on the budget. This is particularly important for new bloggers and entrepreneurs who are keen to showcase their services and products, but are limited by budgetary constraints.

I’ve tried several hosting sites (I dare not name them here, but shoot me a message and I’ll share them with you) but one hosting site that I really liked is… well, I just named it.

One.com 

Here is a sample of the site’s packages:

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Image Credit: One.com

And the ultimate reason why I went with One.com?

Aside from the packages’ affordability and the easy-to-reach support team, you get an unlimited (!!!) number of professional emails for every domain and hosting purchase. This means, you can steer away from @gmail or @yahoo email accounts– and a separate email for you and each of your staff.

Sign up now and use this link to get an additional 5 USD discount. I got this discount when I signed up with them, and now I’m able to pass on that discount to an unlimited number of users as long as One.com stays in business which is like, as long as the Danish economy stays put and we are far from an economic, industrial, ecological and climatic meltdown 😛

The site will not disappoint! Sign up now 🙂

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Why It’s Been Difficult to Write Lately

First off, I love reading. And, I think, it’s but natural for anyone who loves reading to also love writing.

I love writing for myself. When I wake up, I usually scribble some words and reflect on life in general. I can’t really say exactly what I write about, but it always gravitates towards making sure I keep my ground intact. It can be difficult to keep grounded in this day and age with an overabundance and exposure on sights, smells, hears, even feels, so I do my best to make things work out at least internally.

I started this blog back in 2011 with a “Wow now I can write online!” feeling being first exposed to Multiply, then moving on to Blogger. My posts back then were very far in between as I only published anecdotes I felt were not too personal, but not too encyclopedic as well. I didn’t know about stat check until I stumbled upon it on my portal. It was a big shock a few people would even take the time to read disconnected and inconsistent posts. It was an awesome feeling for sure, but it also scared me. From journalling, my random work, upon hitting “Publish,” would now be critiqued and judged by people I know and don’t know about.

In 2015 I upgraded my blog from a free to a paid account. Put simply, I chose to steer away from the .blogspot.com/.wordpress.com eyesore. The biggest reason for this was I wanted a more professionally sounding online portfolio. And as with anyone in the research industry would know, lowly researchers like me hugely thrive on referrals. I don’t get my biggest breaks from regular employment; but, on those one or two publication offers that get my name out there. And for academic researchers like me, who the he** reads my work these days? Instead of reading a 30-page academic journal, it’s so easy to just enroll on Coursera for free. It’s fun, interactive, and straight to the point. So room for cool-to-awesome employment proves to be increasingly slim for researchers, more so for academic researchers.

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Took me two years to publish this. But, who would want to read this when it’s so easy to check on Coursera or YouTube?

Life.

From a cutesy sort-of personal blog, by upgrading to a professional account, I also steered away from the fun in my writing. Instead of submitting a zipped file with all my previous work, I now just give out my blog domain for when I need to send a portfolio. Doing so sure saves me up from having to personalize each portfolio set. However, it also moves me into keeping the blog for portfolio’s sake, making sure I only write on trending topics that would be interesting to anyone except me.

It was okay at first as it proved easier for people to navigate through what I’ve already worked on. But as I’ve realized, having a blog indeed is a double-edged sword:

  1. Since with an online portfolio I can also choose to republish my own work originally published on another site, people have increasingly made it straight that I can never claim my work with them as my own, even if that means using an alias upon publication;
  2. With original work now in the open, it’s been an uphill battle for me to protect my own work. When I check on Copyscape, the “plagiarism checker,” I see bits and pieces of my work reworded, or copy-and-pasted under another person’s byline. It’s really difficult to track this down with more sophisticated tools available to block off plagiarism detection, so to get in the game I also have to up my premium and install expensive plug-ins;
  3. Writing has been greatly commodified with stats and SEO rankings also asked for with an online portfolio. When my portfolio was offline, I never had to think of having to compete with others because all the stats that I knew of was mine.

So for the past three weeks or so, I was just zapped of motivation to publish original work on this blog. Not that it stopped me from writing, I still do that both for fun and for a living, but I’ve decided to just keep my work offline. I send my work via email if there’s a request for it, and this, phenomenally, has made me focus on doing the only things that I have to put my energy into. No more downloading of stat data. No more stressing out on people copy-and-pasting my work. No more wrong judgments of what I do. Moving out of having to constantly provide original snippets for all the world to see definitely freed me from a lot of unnecessary things.

So I’m now seriously considering going back to basics, from where I started in the first place: offline portfolio, and eyesore yet free .wordpress.com domain. There is no need for me to be going with this paid domain when all it brings me is the commodification and mainstreaming of my work, and worse, slashing of my copyrights. With a blog, it seems like publishers want not just a slice of the cake, but also the whole cake, the icing, and the cherry on top, too.

All along I thought finally getting the chance to have an online portfolio would be the best way to manage and market my work. For writers and researchers, based on experience, I think it’s best to opt out of it especially when you thrive on original, creative work. No one in this whole world should be taking our– anyone’s– work for granted.

However, blogging is not that bad if used for the right reasons. Blogging would work if you fall in any of the two categories:

  1. You want to be an affiliate blogger: meaning, you want to earn based on partner company clicks and referrals. Notice the many hyperlinks you see in blogs? Most travel blogs are built this way.
  2. You already have a product and/or service: and you want to use the blog to further promote your brand and make it more personal. So the blog in essence is just a supplement to your brand, not a way for you to directly earn money. One of my favorite sites, Quicksprout, operates this way.

If you’re anywhere outside these two, with how the world wide web operates today, you will just be wasting your money, time and energy unless you’re rich and would just want to build a blog out of passion. Wish I had that liberty.

Anyway, the reality sets for itself and I have to make sure my priorities are in check. I’d like to write without the pressure of having to get by trending topics for an editor’s sake, and without the hassle of having to check through this vast web for any reposts without my permission. This blog was spurned back in 2011 to “make sense of the why behind the what.” And I’d like to keep that mission in check.

If only this world was a kinder place. But well, I just have to accept that people have their unique way of surviving. Hustling and bustling are not mine. And I’m glad for that.

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How Generation Y Works

How do these “work” environments work for you?

Image credits: fdlworks.com, nomadicalsabbatical.com, johnnyvagabond.com

There is no doubt that work ethics across generations are changing, and it would be interesting to understand the differences so we don’t end up misappropriating a person just because of his/her lifestyle and choices. To understand why this generation works the way it does is important for parents, current and potential employers who obviously come from a different generation.

We, as human beings, would want to promote peace and harmony first and foremost!

For an insight on how Generation Y works, please check out this article by Michael Franco from How Stuff Works. Tactful, insightful and perfectly written! 🙂

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If you want a more in-depth discussion on this, you can check out Reviving Ophelia, one of my favorite non-fiction books to date. It threw in points that made me realize what I feel I’m doing wrong is not wrong at all when taken into context. The book was revolutionary for me, having read it as an adolescent girl. This book focuses on girls, though, but still a good insight for everyone!

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Why Fax is Not Dead!

Recently, a colleague from Hungary asked me to fax in an important document for her. I was surprised for sure– hello, fax?— and readily asked if I could email it instead. She said in Hungary, fax is more recognized and preferred over an email because it’s sent in real time, and without all the hustle and bustle of clicking, downloading, and printing.

I can’t even remember how to use fax anymore so instead of trying to figure out how my now-defunct machine works, I tried looking online for options. I didn’t even bother sending the documents at a business center because back in late 2014, I was charged PHP 2,800 (61 USD) to send 2 pages at a UK number! Never again.

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The new face of fax “machines”. Image Credit: pcmag.com

Having tried different options online basing from this Life Hacker post, what worked best for me was Fax Zero for two reasons:

  • Absolutely free: Free to send for a maximum of 3 pages to 5 unique numbers in the US and Canada (per day).
  • Almost free: Only 1.99 USD for a maximum of 25 pages per fax. You can send anywhere in the world and there is no limit to the number of faxes you can send in a day.

I was delighted to know my colleague in Hungary received my fax message in less than five minutes since I sent it.

I’m now a big fan of online fax “machines”! Thank you to Tim Berners-Lee and to all who’ve put in the work to make this possible. Now I don’t have to bludgeon myself at the thought of paying 61 USD for 2 pages’ worth of a fax message!

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How to File a Complaint Against Dodgy Businesses (Surprise: It Works!)

It IS possible to file for complaints against businesses with dodgy practices of any form, that can range from transactions to labor practices. My biggest thanks to Ms. Cheng, a “real customer with valid complaints” as she says, who informed me of the mediation process any consumer can resort to, with the assistance of the Department of Trade and Industry’s Fair Trade Enforcement Bureau (FTEB).

It’s enlightening to know there still exists government agencies passionate about their work, who do all they can to give a voice to consumers who do not have the money to bring the case to courts.

Remember, DTI can’t do anything until people file for complaints.

Here is how you can bring your complaint to the Fair Trade Enforcement Bureau (FTEB): 

A. Email the bureau [ ftebmediation@dti.gov.ph ] along with the following requirements:

  • Complete name, address and contact number of complainant
  • Complete name, address and contact number of respondent
  • Narration of facts
  • Demand
  • Scanned proof of transaction/s
  • Scanned government-issued ID of the complainant

B. You will receive an acknowledgement email that your complaint has been received.

C. You will receive an email that your complaint is now in the process of mediation, and you will be informed of the schedules for you to meet with the respondent at DTI FTEB.

D. Follow-up on your case at +63 (02) 975-7965, or visit FTEB’s office at Ground Floor, UPRC Building, 315 Sen. Gil Puyat Avenue, Makati City.

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Know, too, that this is the Philippines where consumer rights are almost non-existent. Why? Philippine society being largely built on the padrino (patronage) system, long cited as the major drag on the country’s development. However, I think it’s still worth anyone’s while to step up for themselves. Who knows?