0

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.

Raizel in Ilocos

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.

Advertisements
0

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.

Bourbon and ice cream

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.

0

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.

Standing desk 1.JPG

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.

0-02-01-b71f626ff0b7587e1250912a65ca274c6620c955291cfd08d775b8d7198baeef_full

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!

orchidcountryclub

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.

bustour

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!

***

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 🙂

0

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:

one-com

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 🙂

0

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.

Fax.jpg

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!

0

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.

***

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?

0

Why I’m Nearly Giving Up Dealing with Businesspeople in the Philippines

As featured on Rappler on May 19, 2016 🙂

As a new entrepreneur, I’ve always looked up to long-time financially successful businesspeople in the Philippines who have managed to come in tide with the highs and lows of the Philippine economy. I’ve always wondered how they got to where they are today, and what it really takes to become a successful businessperson.

As I was starting, I took an idealistic stance and became 1,000% vigilant of every single cent coming in and out of the enterprise. Although I was bold in my moves, I’ve always sided with risks that didn’t involve much money. It depends on the type of business for sure, but I never really believed in the idea that so much money is needed to successfully fuel an enterprise.

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 23.19.39

RSA Business Solutions: thankful to keep it going in this small business-unfriendly Philippines

Six months on with running a small business, I met these two long-time entrepreneurs who would talk me into doing investments with them. With people who have been running a logistics company for 10+ years, I thought I was in the right hands. After meetings that have spanned for a couple of months, I decided to go for it. Although it was a lot of money for me to spend for, the idea of partnering with people I look up to stung a feel-good vibe on me. I felt I did the right move.

A month on from the formal signing of papers, I’ve waited for the promise of investment returns. We’ve been calling, SMSing and emailing back and forth. I was told to wait, that the running of investments should start soon. I was ironically invited to their new showroom opening. I was showered with gifts for my birthday and Christmas.

However with all these, not a single peso arrived. I tried to move on and focus on what I had to do. Things I’ve greatly worked hard for came to nothing.

That’s Scenario 1.

Now back to two years ago. I was a regular employee and didn’t have much salary-wise. However, I spent nearly every waking time doing ghostwriting so it ended up paying well.

With my bit of savings, I used this to buy a full package ticket to Russia for my family in time for my Dad’s birthday. Although it was a big blow on my savings, it felt right as I knew it was the perfect “Thank You” present for my Dad.

I was issued receipts and travel vouchers. I gave our preferred travel dates, sent our scanned passports, and filled up the visa application forms. We were supposed to have our visas processed. We were supposed to pack our bags. We were supposed to leave.

Two years on, we are still given so many excuses.

That’s Scenario 2.

I’ve recently accepted a long-term contract with a real estate developer in the set-up and management of their network systems. In the business since 1980, I’ve had high hopes of our positive partnership together. Everyone was congratulating our team and everyone was just so ecstatic to start.

Sure, it was a good leverage for our small enterprise. It was super good for our portfolio. When it came to owning payment responsibilities though, they have no problem at all with missing their payments and not even giving some notice. They made breaching of contracts and late payments so commonplace and normal that my email reminders and our legal counsel’s debt recovery letter never seemed to faze them in any way.

This, with a 36-year strong real estate company.

That’s Scenario 3.

What’s so common with these three scenarios?

First off, it makes me question the business practices of these “market leaders” who are supposed to inspire budding entrepreneurs in their journeys. When market leaders make it so common to miss payments, breach contracts, undercut workers and deceive customers, how are we supposed to trust every other business out there?

Secondly, I am just so surprised that these businesspeople can stomach deceiving startup entrepreneurs who do not have the same network, capital and privileges that they enjoy. Instead of helping out, they take advantage of the idealism and vigour of these small-time entrepreneurs. How can they even sleep so soundly and look at themselves in the mirror?

***

The key to surviving in this ridiculously childish gossip-filled, structure-and-process-hazy, heavily hierarchical business environment, is quite simple when I think about it: Don’t give a sh**! Whatever these “big leaders”,  your competitors, or your friendly neighbors say, don’t waste your time with them.

If anything, you should only listen to those few people who truly know and understand your journey as an entrepreneur. Even if it’s just yourself, it doesn’t matter. Remember, quality over quantity: what’s important is to be unfazed by the goal at hand and that is, to be successful on your own terms.

Also, I do not believe in the saying, “The customer is always right.” Like what I’ve mentioned, quality over quantity: you should only listen to customers who would want to see you grow. Block off anyone who choose to stomp on you just to see where their silly behavior can get them. You are worth so much more than this. You worked hard for this business no matter how small it is, so stand up for your integrity and dignity.

***

With everything just said and done, I still choose to continue with my small entrepreneurship journey in the Philippines no matter how much the system gets to my nerves because I want to someday, somehow, be one of the driving forces in changing the system.

For now, well, I just won’t give a sh**!