How the country of blue domes, cats and ancient sites exceeded our #GreekExpectations

"You come from the Philippines? A paradise? And then you travel far to this...madness?" asked our Uber driver, gesturing with his free hand as we entered downtown Athens.  Traffic was building up, tourists milled around while harried locals went about their day, and practically every inch of the buildings we passed by were covered in graffiti.

It was kinda chaotic up to some point and I knew our driver was not only referring to the hustle and bustle of the city but also to the economic crisis that the Greeks have had to suffer through for years now.

But for me, this combination of grit and beauty is what won the mister and I over.

My first vision of Greece was white-walled verandas overlooking the expanse of the Aegean Sea.  But three weeks after we set foot in the place considered as the cradle of Western civilization, the birthplace of the Olympic games, mathematical principles and mythology, I realized it's much much more than that.

I've yet to finish sorting our 4,000++ photos from the trip but let me give you a glimpse of how this country of olives, archeological sites, wine, lamb meat and warm smiles exceeded our #GreekExpectations.

Welcoming the new year in the land of night markets and stinky tofu

It was a battle between #TaiwantItThatWay or #TaiwantySeventeen.

In this day and age of real time uploads, having a hashtag for every trip has become mandatory.  My sister insisted hers was better (#TaiwantySeventeen).  I insisted it was too corny.  We just laughed through it the whole time and, as of posting date, we still haven't been able to agree on which hashtag actually worked best lol.

2016: The year the Universe finally winked at me

This 2016, I start my annual closing of the year post with a quote from one of my all-time favorite movies:

"Life is not merely a series of meaningless accidents or coincidences. Uh-uh. But rather, its a tapestry of events that culminate in an exquisite, sublime plan."
-Dean Kansky, Serendipity

2014 was all about taking risks.  2015 was about making sacrifices.  And 2016?  Well 2016 has been about reaping the fruits of those risks and sacrifices.

It wasn't all peachy at first.  The journey to your personal legend can be confusing, rough, and altogether frustrating.  It comes to a point where you actually wonder if the Universe is making fun of you.

This year made me realize once again that there is always, ALWAYS a bigger picture.  And the moment we stop being short-sighted, step back, and look at how everything that's been happening in our lives is leading us towards to where we're meant to be, we will also see that the Universe is actually winking at us.

I always say "Things happen for a reason".  Now let me ammend that to:  "Things happen for a reason at the right time."

2016 has seen me smile, frown, laugh, cry.  2017?  I bet it will see me do those again... And more.  But no matter what, I am ready to embrace everything the Universe throws at me knowing that eventually, she will reveal her sublime plan :)


Bring it on, 2017.  Taken during our trip to Singapore last June where the then-boyfriend proposed :)  
On that note, this is my last blog entry as a single woman ;) 

Project Pilipinas: Calauit Safari Park, a piece of Africa in the Philippines

A couple of years ago, I launched a passion project called Project Pilipinas.  The goal was simple:  help spread information about the beautiful places in the Philippines by posting about my past travels within the country along with some useful information (how to get there, how to go around, places to stay, tips, etc.).  So hopefully, when researching about the Philippines, some random Googler (be it foreigner or local) will come across my blog and be encouraged to visit all those places.  Read more about that project here.

"OMG there it is!" 

I was like a starstruck fan seeing my favorite celebrity when I caught a glimpse of the long orange neck emerging from the clump of trees from afar.

I know, I know.  You can easily see a giraffe in the zoo.  But seeing them in the wild was a different kind of experience--like you've been transported to South Africa or one of those Jurassic Park movies.

Well, we might as well have been in South Africa at that time.  We were in Calauit Island, a 3,700 hectare island of the coast of Palawan that has been home to wild animals from Africa since the 1970's.

Project Pilipinas: Pinatubo Virgins

A couple of years ago, I launched a passion project called Project Pilipinas.  The goal was simple:  help spread information about the beautiful places in the Philippines by posting about my past travels within the country along with some useful information (how to get there, how to go around, places to stay, tips, etc.).  So hopefully, when researching about the Philippines, some random Googler (be it foreigner or local) will come across my blog and be encouraged to visit all those places.  Read more about that project here.

This article was originally posted here.  Some of the information have been updated for accuracy.

"Manong, malayo pa ho ba? (Are we there yet?)”

I shouted through the rumbling of the engine while trying not to inhale the dust swirling around us as our all-terrain vehicle (ATV) sped through the ash-covered road.

We were in Capas, Tarlac -- on our way to the now-famous crater of Mt. Pinatubo.

Calaguas Island: The Boracay of the 80's

The moment our boat docked by the shore of Mahabang Buhangin in Calaguas Island, it took all of our willpower not to jump into the water headfirst. 

I mean how can you resist these waters that give the hashtag #nofilter an entirely new meaning?

Calaguas is located in the Philippine province of Camarines Norte. It includes the major islands of Tinaga Island and Guintinua Island, the minor Maculabo Island, as well as several other minor islands.

Most of the islands are under the administrative jurisdiction of Vinzons, while the minor island of Maculabo is under the jurisdiction of the municipality of Paracale. (Read more here.)

With its crystal clear waters and powdery white sand, we all agreed: It's the Boracay of the 1980's.  And a plus (for me anyway) is the lack of signal on the island.  It made for a full weekend of being totally unplugged--enjoying the island without the distraction of social media and unnecessary calls or messages.

Entering the magical world of Harry Potter

Never mind that the voice-overs on all the rides were in Japanese or that the hallways were too crowded, there wasn't room to swing a Kneazle.  We were in Hogwarts!  HOGWARTS!!!

Okay, Koryn, hold your hippogriffs.

Discovering the City of Himeji

To say that it is Japan's most spectacular castle seemed like a sweeping declaration.  But with almost every article describing it as such, I thought the Himeji Castle was worth a visit during our trip.

And it was.  Because more than the castle, it was the whole city that charmed us and made us wish we could stay longer.  But since we had limited time, we just made do of that one day we had to explore the second largest city in the Hyogo Prefecture.

Neon Lights 2015: Two days and six stages of music, arts, and a night with Damien Rice

The inaugural Neon Lights Music and Arts Festival in Singapore.

Several months back, the boyfriend and I created a list of musicians whom we would save up and spend for should they visit Asia.  Being the legit music geek, his list was waaaaaaay longer than mine which included Damien Rice.

Coincidentally, a few weeks after the talk, he found out that the Irish singer-songwriter was scheduled to perform at the first ever Neon Lights Music and Arts Festival in Singapore.  Boy, you should've seen his excitement!  He practically spent the whole night researching on festival tickets and searching for flights. As if he wasn't giddy with anticipation already, Rachael Yamagata was later on added to the festival lineup.

Needless to say, last November 2015, we found ourselves at the Fort Canning Park in Singapore, cozying up on the grounds along with 10,000 other enthusiasts, enjoying the massive celebration of music and arts at the weekend festival. 

The power of bread crumbs

A few months ago, a friend and a former colleague of mine sent a message asking for tips because she was scheduled to go to Japan last December.  What started out as conversation about traveling eventually turned into a discussion on adulthood.  She said she was having some kind of quarter life crisis and, being several years younger than I am, asked how I got through mine.

The safe answer would have been to tell her some self-help tips and that it will eventually pass.

Instead, I told her this:

"Honestly, I've been through many of those crises and am, in fact, still going through one that I think those 'quarter' and 'mid' life crisis terms are just full of crap.  It's a WHOLE LIFE crisis hahaha. 
But I realized, it only feels like a 'crisis' because we don't know what we're going through.  When in fact, the only reason why we're feeling all those confusion is because our needs, goals, and priorities are continuously changing.  And it can be pretty unnerving to have set your goals one year and then realize the next that you already want something else entirely. 
Then again, that's good. Because it means we're continuously evolving.  The next thing for us to do now is to embrace those new needs/goals/priorities and move forward." 

Seems like I've got everything handled in my own life, right?  NOT.

You see, last year, I left the only career I've known for 11 years and entered an entirely new world where I had to learn the ropes from scratch and prove to myself, more than anyone else, that I am capable of doing other things.  Several months and validations later, I learned--and surprised myself--that I am.

But the process of learning and adapting to this new world is not without confusion, frustrations, and failed expectations. 

That's when I would launch into one of those I'm-so-frustrated-I-don't know-what-to-do-with-my-life rants. Then my sister would tell me, "Just be patient and follow your bread crumbs."
"Think of what you are going through right now as your bread crumbs.  The bread crumbs may not always be good experiences but they are definitely leading you where you are supposed to go."

Losing a job, breaking up with your partner, going through a financial crisis, or any other life-altering experiences--those are breadcrumbs.

Coincidentally, while I was going through my Paulo Coelho Alchemy Day Planner which I transformed into a travel notebook, I came across this quote:

"Some things occur in our lives in order to lead us back 
to the true path of our Personal Legend.
Others appear so that we can apply everything we have learned.
And still others arrive in order to teach us."
-The Fifth Mountain

I still believe that in the grander scheme of things, the Universe has plans for me--for all of us, for that matter.  She just likes to tease and toy with us every now and then so we can fully appreciate the journey and, in effect, become more resilient people.  In the meantime, let's continue to follow those bread crumbs and pick up everything we can learn along the way.  For when the day comes and we finally find our place in the Universe and we see the bigger picture, that's when we'll realize the power of those bread crumbs.


Trusting the power of the bread crumbs to lead us to our Personal Legends.  (Taken during our trip to Batanes last April 2015)

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