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Why I Left My Online English Teaching Gig

I got accepted at Rarejob in November 2014, at a time where I realized I needed to spread out my risks in the midst of the recession. I had friends and relatives who got laid off from their jobs around this time, and so I wanted to have a “back up” in case I lose my job, too.

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Teaching English while cross-legged on the bed

I’ve enjoyed the flexibility of this online English teaching gig. I could punch in the hours depending on my availability, and I can have enough time to review lesson materials before the class. I had the chance to meet a range of students across different backgrounds, from teenagers who want to study abroad, to the elderly who enjoy working as volunteer tour guides, to professionals who are working in international environments. I am thankful for the opportunity to meet these people, albeit virtually.

Low pay, but…

The pay was low (during my time, it was at $2.50 per hour), but since it is an additional source of income, I find no reason to complain. I am not obligated in any way to follow a certain schedule, or to report to a supervisor at the end of every day. So, on weekends, instead of oversleeping or watching TV, I would log in to the Rarejob portal and teach through Skype. It was a nice way to spend some hours of my weekend, and I learn something about Japanese culture along the way, too.

Why I left

I left this online English teaching gig not because of the pay, but because of lack of trust within me. I am not a native English teacher, and I am not even close to being someone who can translate Filipino documents to English, so why am I here, teaching English?

I realized this when I was looking for a French teacher online. I found it funny to find non-French, Canadian, and African teachers who were offering their services, too. I even saw a Filipino who marketed herself as a Filipino, English, and French teacher, when her English wasn’t even that good (mine is not good, too, but hers had serious grammatical errors).

I thought, I will never want to be taught my target language by a non-native speaker. Although many non-native speakers can speak, write, and understand the language on an advanced level, I still find inconsistencies with how non-natives understand their second language. Just like me, I still have to check for my prepositions every so often, and I’m not that confident just yet in speaking English.

So, why would I bother getting a non-native teacher when I can get one who grew up using the language?

Reality in the age of political correctness

In this day, my stance may be deemed racist.

Everyone should have equal opportunities! If others can do it, we, in developing countries, can do it, too! Why should our race dictate what we can do?

And the discussion goes on and on and on.

But I’m just being real here. Why would I choose a non-native speaker for a language teacher, when I can get a native teacher even if I have to pay a bit more? And can I really trust the knowledge of someone who only knew how to use the language for the last two decades? Of course, I want to put where my money has its worth, so I will not think twice about learning French with someone who grew up speaking, writing, listening to, and understanding the language.

This one, though, is absurd: Students don’t trust lecturers who aren’t native speakers. I can only speak for language classes, and not for anything else.

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Why Work Gives Me a Sense of Purpose– And I Think It’s Kinda Wrong

Imagine a world without work.

Can you take it?

Can you see yourself being in one?

What do you do (for a living)?

On any party that I go to, the first thing that people ask after asking my name is, “What do you do?” It is not like a question of “What do you do?” but, in fact, of “What do you do for a living?” So, imagine people’s surprise when I told them I was unemployed a month after graduating from university.

Of course, there is this “saving face” sort of attitude ingrained in Filipino (and Asian) cultures; so, instead of asking me the question of “Why,” people would go to my parents instead. These inquisitive souls would then bugger my parents, and my mom and dad, unfortunately, had the sore role of wanting to be in my defense. “She is still job hunting,” was their usual answer. And I was being blatant with saying, “Yeah, I’m unemployed.” I did not want to explain myself because, really, what was there to explain about? I just got out of university, and it is unfortunate that I did not think of applying for jobs before I graduated.

Thankfully, after that one month of unemployment, I got a job– as a freelance writer. So, here we go again, people asking me the same question of “What do you do?” When I tell them I am a “freelance writer,” the reaction I get is even worse than telling them I am unemployed. Going freelance always has its share of misconceptions, and one of them is this being another way of saying that, indeed, you are unemployed.

Anyway, after five months of doing writing gigs on Upwork, from writing theses, online articles, and e-books, I got my first legit office-based job at IRRI. IRRI, with all its standards and good name, pulled me into its fame, too. All of a sudden, people stopped probing me and bugging my parents on the question of “What do you do?”

(Side note: But to be honest, I had the least stressful life during my time at IRRI. I had a lot of free time to go to the library, with permission and encouragement from my boss since there was not much work to do. In fact, I was more agitated during my freelance days.)

Impostors galore

I used to be so agitated when I have free days on a weekday, or when I have short work days. I used to feel useless to be sitting and reading when I know I should be working. Even though I usually finish my work before 5 pm, I will not go out, afraid that people will think of me as “unemployed.” I used to bother because I cared so much about others’ opinion. I didn’t want to be probed any longer, so I would rather wait until 5 pm when all working people are out so I can join in the pack. I thought I will not stand out so much.

Utterly stupid as I look at it in retrospect.

Work? What Work?

After all the hustle and bustle in finding flexible work, I am now happy to say that I got what I’ve always wanted: work that will not control my time, and the opportunity to choose what I want to do with my time. I only achieved this recently (to be exact, this January 22), when I got a better post in my current jobs. All my work is now deliverables-based, so I am not constrained by time to accomplish what I have to do.

Surprisingly, I now work even harder. I don’t want anything like this to pass my way, so the more I treasure and enjoy it while it lasts.

This schedule is still taking me a bit of getting used to since I never before had the chance to be in full control of my day. I would occasionally rummage through my list of tasks and do my work in advance. To be honest, I felt a bit iffy at the start to be having this much time in my hands. But the more I live my every day based on my own terms, the more I choose to let go of my fears and to just embrace everything in my way.

And what has this new schedule brought me? Weekday hikes, weekday birdwatching sessions, weekday running sessions, time to clean the house every day, and time to learn new skills. I haven’t felt this time-strapped than I’ve ever been, but now, it’s the sort of “busy” that I choose to be in. I put “busy” in open and close parentheses because I’ve always hated the word; but now, I want to use it because, well, I want people to leave me alone 😛

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Enjoying the sight of the super blue blood moon with a glass of wine. Thanks to R for the photo.

… So this is what it feels like when you feel like a kid again enjoying this new-found freedom!

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Why I Started Unfollowing My Favorite Travel Bloggers

I used to look up to travel bloggers. How can they amass such a large following, given that all that they do is travel, eat, drink coffee, and take photos of their adventures? I would scour page after page of travel blogs, drooling over the places that these lucky few get to visit. How I wish I were like them, I thought to myself. Who wouldn’t want to travel the world for work, right?

Where it went downhill

But as time went by, I noticed the trend of brand hashtagging, wherein as the blogger is soaking under the sun (with sandy toes in tow!), he/she will thank the sponsor with the brand’s hashtag at the end of the post. I noticed this trend on almost all social media influencers, and then I realized how mainstream this strategy is.

Turns out, as I read this article, partnership with influencers is now a new marketing tactic that many companies have started exploring. It works in many ways, although how to determine its reach is still being fine-tuned, so companies do not end up losing their investment.

Travel bloggers, therefore, had to upsell themselves to companies for an exchange in the form of products, services, or a fee. It can work both ways: (1) If you have already established your brand online and you’ve gained lots of followers, companies will approach you; or, (2) You will approach companies and market your brand.

Going into this partnership takes a lot of responsibility from the blogger. Can you really stand up for the brand? And do you agree with how the company operates? Some influencers may take ambassadorship lightly, but there’s a whole lot of responsibility that goes with this role.

I used to look up to these travel bloggers, and how I envied the lifestyle that they had. However, many bloggers these days do not offer anything of value any longer. Many simply talk about the things that they did for the weekend, thanks to XYZ company; or how they celebrated their birthday, thanks to their hundreds of sponsors.

I used to love reading these bloggers work, but advertising has increasingly taken over. Not only do brands overpopulate their blogs, but more so their social media platforms.

I don’t mean to judge bloggers for being at the mercy of brands. We all have to make money somehow, right? I respect the fact that it takes a lot of courage for these bloggers to do the things that they do. I can never in a million years flaunt my body and pose in front of a camera. So, the level of confidence that they exude is just incredible.

However, I still believe in the value of a blog, which is, simply, a journal. Anyone can put up a blog these days and share whatever they feel like. If the blog gets too staged, though, I unfollow immediately because I’m so overfed with advertisements online, on TV, on the radio, and along Philippine highways. I see a blog as an extension of the blogger’s self, so to get even more ads on blogs I follow is something like irony when all I want is to detoxify my online life.

Why I choose to keep my blog the way it is

I have been keeping a blog since 2011, but it is mostly for personal use. I don’t do for-profit brand ambassadorships and marketing. I simply write, edit, and hit publish. Thanks to WordPress’ auto-post feature, I also get to automatically publish my posts on my social media pages. I don’t have a wide readership, and it’s in my wildest dreams for companies to even consider approaching me.

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The perk of blogging for myself: I don’t have to pose for a brand. I can simply choose to be me. (Taken while traveling around Badoc, Ilocos Norte)

I admit I’m also guilty of this brand partnership trend when I accepted affiliations from Booking.com, Languages 101, Onlinejobs.ph, and Zalora and started blogging about them. At that point, I wanted to get brownie points from these brands so I can reach the point of where I can get invited to their events, or I can start receiving more other than from commission links. But it didn’t feel right, and I stopped doing this immediately.

I see this blog as an extension of myself. I only wish to share what I see, smell, hear, taste, and feel. Even though I don’t receive as much compared to other bloggers, I don’t get the pressure of doing this and that post for a company that I am not sure I would want to speak for.

I foresee this blog staying as a personal one for a long time. And in the end, my only readers may only be my family, friends, and their friends. But that’s fine. In this online world full of BS and false advertising, at least I know I can still speak from the heart.

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Why I’ve Said My Goodbyes to Office Work

There are some things better left in the past.

Office-based work is one thing that I could never picture myself going back to, and something that I will continue to strive not to go back to.

A brief background

Since 2011, I found myself succumbing to office work whenever recession hits. Who can blame me, office jobs comprise almost all jobs available in the market! I never really liked the idea of being stuck in one place for the rest of my life, so the life of a researcher where I had the challenge of getting new and renewing my current contracts has always suited me. Sure, there were bouts of insecurity where I felt like I could lose my job anytime. However, looking back, I will never trade the freedom of time and space for the short-sighted idea of economic stability.

Having a permanent 9-5 job sounds stable; but, will it give me the time to explore the world, to book a flight on a whim, to enroll for language classes whenever I feel like it, to visit my grandma in the province on a weekday, or to strum my guitar in the middle of the day? The freedom that remote and contract-based jobs can give me is incomparable to any hierarchical title available out there.

Trying out jobs? Why not!

I’ve held a hodgepodge of jobs since I graduated in 2011 as an office-based researcher, editor, field-based researcher, thesis writer, events gifts supplier, travel agent, security camera dealer, truck investor, and stock trader, among others. To others, it may seem like I’ve been running around in circles; but to me, the process makes perfect sense. For every single job, I’ve learned a lesson that I otherwise would have known being stuck in one post. Experience is always the best teacher, and no amount of schooling or advice can cover for that.

I don’t think it is healthy for anyone to feel like they must be stuck with one job for the rest of their lives. I think the only thing stopping people from exploring their options is the fact that others can be so judging when we start becoming kids again wanting to explore the world. Changing grounds is now correlated with fickle-mindedness and lack of focus, instead of this being seen as a sign of growth.

I’ve always had my doubts with myself, thinking whether my decision not to hold an office-based job, in contrast with the status quo, is the right choice. People never really understood what I was doing, thinking that I was an unemployed and unfocused kid for some reason. But then eventually I thought, should the lack of understanding really be an excuse for judgments?

How I felt at peace with my decision

Instead of hiding away, I’ve learned to stand up for my career decisions, not through words, but through actions. Since then, people started seeing through how happy and satisfied I truly am with my work. When people realize how flexible my work is, they always mention that they want to switch places with me. The first time I heard this comment, my heart almost melted. Never in a million years would I think that a hippie-like lifestyle would be a career goal for others, just like how it was for me.

How I am doing today

Right now, I hold two remote jobs (one as a Research Editor, and another as an SEO Writer), and one field contract is coming. I manage a small dealership company with my partner, and I also get the time to help out my parents with their business. Despite the many misconceptions about my career choice, my partner and I got to purchase a condo unit, too, as we get ready for the next step of our relationship.

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My career choice allows me to travel with my dog (and eat ice cream while at it, too!)

During the week, I get the time to groom and feed my dogs, play the guitar, drop by the grocery, clean the house, read books, learn to code (something that my partner and I look forward to taking an exam in this year), and curate content for my blog.

And what I love the most about my choice

The best part? I get to watch the sunrise and sunset, listen to the birds, gaze at the clouds, stand by flowers as they get ready for the season, and feel the wind on my face. I get to bask in nature’s gifts not because I live in the province, but because I made this choice. I chose my freedom over the status quo, and I could never be happier with my decision. The road to get here was winding with lots of “ifs” and self-doubt, but I can only look forward now. I’ll never go back to an office job because I choose life—the breathing, growing, shimmering kind.

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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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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 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!