#TravelThursday Inspiration: No Reservations

>> Thursday, August 28, 2014

I'm back home for a few days now and despite the comfort of upcoming trips, I am still feeling hungover from my trip. The travel director from my trip says that the best way to cure a travel hangover is to plan the next one. So here I am, at 2:05 AM, eyes wide open for where to go again.

As a background, my favorite travel TV show is playing on the background, Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations. Doesn't he have the best job ever? Paid to travel to eat, explore, get drunk even, party? Amazeballs.

This episode is one of my favorites, Colombia. Why, you ask? Because Colombia is one of those intriguing countries you just wanna go to!

This one is of Paris :D

And this one is of Rio. You can tell how in love with the place Bourdain is :D

Ah, to travel! It truly is the best way to educate oneself!
Happy Thursday!



>> Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Lately, I've taken a break from Tim Ferriss, Seth Godin, Peter Drucker, HBR and other marketing and management books. It's what I'd like to call my 'light, frothy, non fiction' phase.

Not sure when it quite started, but I guess that this book I just finished reading, Pamela Druckerman's Bringing Up Bèbè, has a lot to do with it. Friends have initially raised eyebrows as to why I've been reading a French psychology {in disguise} book on parenting. "Are you about to make an announcement?" one curious Jill asks.

I bought it on the basis that it was French, is all, I thumbed back.

A few chapters into the book, Pamela Druckerman had me in stitches and I was very well led into the wonderful world of French èducation {upbringing}. Whereas Americans {and pseudo Americans such as Filipinos}, are accustomed to showering babies with attention enough to throw them into has been phases as soon as they get old enough. In the Philippines alone, kids are known to run around, screaming frantically wherever they go. They do not eat everything that's served in front of them and they are known to throw tantrums every now and then.

As I had found out in Druckerman's book, the French start their babies early -- and subject them babies to a few minutes of waiting, after crying, so they would learn to manage themselves. They teach the kids to eat an array of nutritional food, to be sagè, that is to be quietly sufficient for oneself. Wouldn't you know it, there's a lot to be learned from a French parenting book?

So I'd guess this is where I owe most of my wisdom these days -- teaching myself to be sagè -- calming my heart and finding joy everywhere, too. Thank you, Pamela Druckerman.



Inspiring You to Travel: An AirBNB Review

>> Tuesday, August 26, 2014

I'm incredibly lucky to have been able to come to some of the items in my list this year. Every morning during my trip, I would always wake up to the thought of "Where am I?" in the dark. After several seconds, I'd get my bearing and realize I'm in Europe with my family.

I'm a lucky girl.

When our plans for Germany was all solid three months ago, I realized that my return to the Philippines coincided with not one but two holidays. I had a wild thought: Amsterdam. I was taking a KLM flight so naturally, I was passing through. What perfect time but to stop over to what most adults call "The Disneyland of Adults."

After I was done with my flight arrangements, I went on to research about where I was going to stay. At this point in time, I was on an adventure high and I was giving myself the opportunity to try out real traveler experiences such as staying at hostels {I am scared still, to this day, and yet to try}. Every single hostel I checked out was at €60 {PHP 3,483} per night, which I deemed too much for a hostel. And then I had a brilliant idea: airBNB. 

Surely, it was a fairly new concept: A local rents out his/her house/room and you get to stay for a much cheaper price. The catch is that it doesn't operate like a hotel so most likely no elevators, cleaning entails more fees and breakfast is optional.

The photo above is the actual room I stayed in. Prior to arriving to Amsterdam, I had asked several people who have done airbnb {thank you Patty and Angela!} and both have given satisfactory feedback. If not, I could always charge it up to experience.

AirBNB: Airbnb has got one of the best user interfaces I've ever tried in my life. The typeface choices, motions, photo selections is just perfect. I'd think my credit card information is safe and my payment is fairly quick to go through. I love that one can hide personal information until both host and guests agree about the booking. Each host and each guest gets a review so your host can also choose whether or not to accept you.

As for my airbnb host, Sophie's BNB, her listing had very accurate directions so I reached the place without hassles. To arrive to a conclusion though, I enlisted the help of my cousin who lived in Amsterdam to know whether this was central enough to Amsterdam. As it turns out, it was the perfect residential neighborhood where kids biked and all that.

As a bed and breakfast, these are my comments:

  1. Sophie was very responsive to all my questions. When booking a bnb, it helps to have a responsive host because a hotel would be just like that. Thanks to Whatsapp, Sophie answered all my questions.
  2. The price is fair enough at PHP 2,250/night. I added breakfast so that was an additional €7 per morning and no regrets. I loved Sophie's breakfast of fruits, yogurt, fresh orange juice, eggs, bread. YUM!
  3. As a local, Sophie was very helpful in recommending where to go and how. The bnb comes with a bike for free since Amsterdam is a city that has more bikes than people. 
  4. The bed was soft and firm, the towels smell fresh and clean, the linens are washed well. 
  5. The bathroom is spacious, had shampoo, conditioner and body wash as well as a blowdryer. 
  6. There's wifi, which is a necessity when you're traveling, especially if you're traveling alone and need to update several people like your family.
  7. The only thing to expect would be the steep stairs, which is normal in Europe :)
Overall: I am definitely doing airBNB again, in fact I'm all set to do this in both London and Paris in a few weeks. Of course, getting involved in an unregulated business is always something needing of constant caution {ie. sleep with your passport if you need to}, conduct your research, ask around and pray. I asked around before booking my first airBNB but now I am more comfortable with it. Always check it out on Google Maps and search outside airBNB, which I did for Sophie's BNB. As for the prices and safety, it will always be a different case for each and everyone and I recommend to always err on the side of caution whenever booking, whether it's a hotel, a hostel or an airbnb :)

Am I coming back? You bet I will :)


The Beautiful and the Dam

>> Monday, August 25, 2014

The thing about being on your own in a foreign city is that you miss out on the historic facts, trivia and nice to know things about a city.

I'd have to admit that the initial reasons why I decided to come to Amsterdam was that I was heavily intrigued by its adult Disneyland reputation {legal use of marijuana and prostitution} and its most number of museums per capita. Here I am, a girl living in the city made up if majority of Catholics but had a burgeoning HIV-rate, high crime rate, if not highest in Asia, increasing teenage and single parenthood. Are those such bad things to be? No {except for being a criminal}. But my stand is that we all do need to talk about sex, the fringes of it and how it affects one and the society. I wasn't going to interview people in Amsterdam but I was raring to be exposed to a society that normalized the use of marijuana and prostitution. Was everything right in their world?

I'd say yes. At least majority of it. Amsterdam remains to have one of the highest GDP in all of Europe, ranks high in quality of life. I was just thinking that maybe, being open to things does make a difference. I find it inevitable to compare home whenever we go abroad. I find that it makes me sound like an ingrateful person, but what hurts is often true. A spade is a spade, after all.

My travel director from the Germany trip did say there's more to Amsterdam than what people know it for, and I agree. The city is lovely. It rained a bit, then the sun shone and then the rain fell again. Its transportation system is amazing, and art is everywhere. In the city central stands a gigantic bibliotheque where you can find any title you can think of, in any language you can think of. People speak English, are helpful and tourist-friendly.

Amsterdam is a lady, that much I can tell, unlike Berlin, which was a man city. It's an art major who curates paintings for a gallery in an anorak sweater, bakes bread every morning, and bikes her way to night school. She's a hipster at heart though she will never admit it, fiercely fun for taking a drag every now and then. She has a wild side and you know it but she will never tell.

My curiosity for Amsterdam intensified as I came to see how this city {maybe even country} was so attached to education. In the city where the Amsterdam Centraal Station is, a huge building stands and towers over the rest. A friend's friend offered to show me around the city and she introduced me to Amsterdam's National Public Library, where one can find all the titles you can think of in any language possible. When I came in, I met a humongous display of a dollhouse, a playground for the kids and all the titles one can think of, literally. I had gotten a kick of most of Amsterdam's libraries and bookstores that when I think about it now, I did spend a lot of time there and at the American Book Centre in Spui. It was my first time to meet Wes Anderson's hardcovers {which I could've bought if I bought the luggages I was eyeing hehe}, Banksy's, Alexa Chung's and all the design books I have been dreaming of lately. There was something in the way they curated the books --- such that there was no book that was ugly in that shop. Everything stood out in its own way.

Desire for knowledge have begun in the 12th century, or maybe even earlier, as evidenced by this library from the 1100s

More importantly, the city loved art. This is evidenced by how everything is tastefully done in art, such as their airport {where there's a Rijksmuseum and a small library, too}, their tram ways, the buildings, their maps, the people, the shops, the city in itself is just a work of art.


I guess it would've been inevitable since Vincent Van Gogh lived in the Netherlands before moving to Paris. 

My guess is that as a city, this was what Amsterdam followed for advice. 

So nice to meet you, Amsterdam. See you soon :)


Never Forget

>> Friday, August 22, 2014

If there's one thing I learned from this whole trip is that while the past will always be the past, but it's important to never forget.

I guess that would be the most important reason why museums exist, to commemorate something of the past and of great importance, to introduce a city to a foreigner and to make sure no one ever forgets.

Most of the people I know would rather forego the Dachau Memorial Site. From the name itself, it's already not a tourist place. This place was one of the concentration camps in Germany, where hundreds of thousands of Germans, and other nationalities died during the National Socialist Regime, aka Hitler's time, where about 11 million people of various nationalities were murdered.

Evidently, if you talk to anyone German, you would know that pretty much everything that they did and came to since, was a byproduct of the hardship they experienced back then. This is why the expression of art is ubiquitous especially in Berlin where the division was still felt up to 1989. This is why the Germans have the best performing economy in Europe and why they're such sticklers for safety and function.

All throughout, however, I felt ashamed that I knew more of German progression than that of my own. I could think of so many revolutions and wars in the Philippine history but somehow, I can't think of anything that we have not forgotten. As a nation, we forgot about the Marcos Dictatorship which was progressive but crippled the country. A former president plundered the country and he is back in power as mayor of the capital. Another former president is guilty of multiple charges and is in congress. We forgot what a former senator's murder was for, his killers never found. We forgot about how our heroes fought for democracy, freedom and quality of life.

We always forget. What this country remembers are the soap opera plots and the celebrity love teams, the pop culture of their time and the movies that sold high at the blockbusters. We choose to linger on what was good, fun and aspirational, conveniently forgetting we have a role in society to move towards higher quality of living, towards the common good.

Isn't it about time to remember and to never forget the lesson the experience has taught you? Isn't it about time to let go of the frilly thoughts and do something about the train wreck that is Manila, and most of the whole country living under the poverty level? Isn't it time to do something?

I still don't know what I will do but I will do something. I ain't forgetting this time.



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All I Want to Do

1. Go to NYC. 2.Create and not touch an emergency fund. 3. Tell someone I love him. 4.Cook a five-course meal and serve it to someone I love. 5. Love my imperfections but improve them, too. Read the rest here.
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