Our summer vacation this year in Florida was a mild version of a personal hell because of the 86C heat paired with 87 degree humidity. Considering that I lived in the Philippines for most of my life, Florida in the summer is a different kind of beast. It was hot, sticky, and I was sweating in all my nooks and crannies. Although if you do love this kind of torture, then sure, Florida is the place to be. While our main intention was for me to meet Nick’s dad’s side of the family (which was actually lovely, Grandma Pat and her boyfriend Ray 4ever!), we definitely took it as an opportunity to enjoy ourselves away from work and a have a little break from being dog parents. Here are my personal picks of things to do around the Tampa Bay Area:
Note: There is no beach on my list, because believe it or not, Nick and I are just bad at being at the beach. I personally would rather swim in a pool (at night) and lay poolside. And Nick does not enjoy burning too quickly under the sun and doesn’t like to swim anyway. We’re very antsy vacationers and like to be on our feet a lot when we’re on vacay.
Breathe some fresh air and see some flamingos at Sunken Gardens. (St. Petersburg, FL)
Flamingos are Nick’s favorite (spirit) animals, so I was really excited for this one. It’s also my first time to see flamingos up close. They are cute, but weird animals. I mean for birds that are hot pink, they sure have the personalities to match. This place screamed Insta-worthy. Lots of beautiful plants and lush greens, flowers and koi fishies. There were also parrots who yelled “Hi baby” every ten seconds, which was fun at least for the first minute. We went on a Friday, so it wasn’t crowded at all. We also got a Groupon deal — $12 for the two of us compared to $30 so that was great.
Whenever we travel, we try to make it a point to visit at least one local bookstore and one local record store (Support local!!). Nick is an avid record collector, so I have been influenced to enjoy this activity with him as well. For this particular trip, we found a cute little artsy hipstery ‘punk’ village in Bradenton and discovered Jerk Dog Records. It’s a small living room garage area converted into a store with the owner behind the register. The owner was very nice and talked to us about their little town. I learned something about cowpunk (don’t ask me more about it), Nick got himself an LCD Soundsystem record and I found myself a The Modern Jazz Quartet record in the dollar bin. Lovely.
3. Walk and bike along the Tampa Riverwalk — start at Armature Works, end at Sparkman Wharf. (Tampa, FL)
I definitely underestimated the heat when I suggested to walk this 3-miler park at 2pm. We started walking from Armature Works, after I had some Empamamas and a ginger lime margarita. By the time we reached the end at Sparkman Wharf, our shirts were drenched in sweat. We were not gonna walk back, so we rented those city bikes to at least enjoy some breeze while pedaling back to the car. It was the first time Nick and I biked together in a city. Well, second time actually, because the first one was in Seattle, with me on a motorized bike freaking out going over a hill on the way back to our hotel. It doesn’t count because it didn’t even last for two minutes. I always feared biking in the city, after that traumatic experience I had biking in D.C. At least this time it was more chill because I wasn’t biking beside 6-wheeler trucks and it went on for about 30 minutes. I enjoyed it!
4. Have a romantic date night at a rooftop bar overseeing the water.(St. Petersburg, FL)
We went to a rooftop bar called Pier Teaki at the St. Pete Pier. Love the view! And I love that there’s a trolley that comes every 15 minutes to pick up anybody who doesn’t feel like walking the whole strip. Food was okay. Their cocktails, I have nothing to write about. But great vibes!!! I was also already tipsy by the time we were there, so Nick succeeded on that one. 😉
We went to see The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art on a Monday, so it was free. I love European art, so this one was a winner for me. We had a great time walking through Baroque and the Renaissance eras. The particular room that stood out to me was the one with still life art. Paintings of food as real life people – if only I can remember the artist!!
10 Life Lessons I’ve Learned in The Year that Passed
This day last year, I was in Berlin feasting on a happy Easter Sunday lunch with my foster family. It was the first day of my study tour in Europe and my first of the innumerable days of separation from my home country. That day was a cloud of dreams turned into reality, so I was feeling exuberant and just ecstatic.
Today, on the other hand, is a good-weathered Monday and you can find me at home, typing away and sitting pretty on the living room couch. In ten minutes, I have to sort another batch of dirty laundry and transfer the washed clothes to the dryer. After that, I will deal with everybody’s soiled dishes from breakfast. Later tonight, I will sit down to finish George Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. That is, after I do late night yoga and finish Jimmy Fallon’s late night show. You can say that my life right now is relaxed and steady.
It’s crazy how life panned out in such a short period of time. A year ago, I had this over-the-moon enthusiasm for adventure and today I am swimming in calm and finding routine. Today is another day of work in progress to achieve balance and stability. It amazes me how one year can change someone’s attitude towards life completely. I’d like to believe that a year older has also made me a year wiser. In that note, I’d like to share some of the lessons I’ve accumulated from the dark and dreary, sunny (more like icy) and shiny past twelve months of my life. I hope this encourages you to come up with your own list of life lessons and be surprised at how much you’ve grown in a year.
1. There is freedom and extra boost of confidence in turning twenty-one.
Does it make sense that after turning 21 two weeks ago I feel more powerful? It really feels good to break free from the limbo that is age twenty. I seem to be more energized to wander outside, like I gained a certain kind of confidence to try and experience new things. In the eyes of the law in every part of the world, I am now an adult accountable for my own self. I find that really exciting, because I like the idea of being responsible for my choices and decisions. I am utterly thrilled of the adventure that can spring from this freedom and responsibility. New goals, I’m ready for you!
2. Brace yourself for winter.
Having had lived most of my life in a tropical country, it was a serious undertaking to live and survive winter season. Believe the Starks, they weren’t crazy to warn everybody that “Winter is coming”. Yes, the first snowfall made me feel giddy, but fast forward to four months after and the weather still reaches freezing point? I’m pretty pissed. I had to commute everyday to my internship and the intensely cold weather was a major hassle. Train delays that would leave you 10-20 minutes out in negative Celsius is just one way to freeze your ass off. And it’s not just the heavy four layers of clothing or the wind chills that is taxing, but it’s this dark and depressing mood that winter creates. The cold never bothered you anyway, you say? That is complete bull*! Real cold will bother anybody.
3. Travel and yearn for cultural experiences.
I’m very fortunate to have had an opportunity to travel to different countries and see places I once only dreamed of at a young age. I wish this kind of luck occurs to everybody. My trip to European countries like Germany, Austria, Italy, the UK and different parts of America really opened my eyes to the beauty and challenges of the world and history. Being exposed to culture has really enriched my soul and gave me depth as a person. People should really save up and plan for travel. We should also encourage each other to allot time to visiting museums, art galleries, attending a variety of concerts or poetry readings. It’s my goal to get to know more strange places, hear more stories from interesting people, and enjoy diversity these coming years.
4. When you make a life-changing move, give yourself time to adjust and settle down.
Any radical change that disrupts the normal of your life is difficult (i.e moving to a new city, changing jobs, dealing with loss), so give yourself time to find your rhythm. It’s a process to accept change, get into a new routine, and see the pleasant in the unfamiliar. When your strategy doesn’t work, regroup and change perspectives. I remember when I moved to the US almost a year ago, I felt so out of place the first few months. I felt like I will never belong. I was so sure I won’t find new friends, moreso to love this strange land. But, look! I got myself new awesome friends and I have adjusted to a new lifestyle. I even pass as a local now. There have been a lot of times in DC when strangers approach me and ask where the closest CVS or Whole Foods is. I think it’s pretty awesome that I look like someone who frequent Whole Foods. haha! One year in, maybe I am a local!
5. Having a healthy body and soul pays.
Being healthy isn’t really about forcing to be a size 0 or size 2. It’s about hugging your figure, but also aiming to be strong and lean. A month ago, I started doing yoga (with Adriene of YouTube!) and strength training (thanks, Fitnessblender). I proved that late night yoga improves sleep by a tenfold because ever since I started doing yoga before bed, I sleep deeper and fuller. Waking up feels better than ever. I also thank my family for being conscious eaters, because they have encouraged me to eat more fruits and veggies and less processed food. We discovered the benefits of brown rice and coconut water and we were convinced.
Staying creative also helps me have a positive outlook in life. I have these little projects like the monthly newsletter I make for my friends and the style book I made out of fashion/travel magazine cut-outs. Find an activity that makes you feel good and do it when you can. Your happiness will radiate to the outside and looking good will come as an incentive. A healthy life is a happy life!
6. Find comfort in solitude.
A lot of people confuse solitude with loneliness when they are really two different things. Psychologists explain that loneliness is a negative state inflicted by others. Lonely people feel isolated because they sense something is missing in their lives. Solitude, on the other hand, means to be alone without being lonely. This is a condition you choose. I have appreciated solitude especially in times where I find the noise from the outside world affecting me in a harsh way. It’s my way of recharging from the exhaustion brought by life in this universe.
7. You will meet people who will make you realize that you deserve as much love, kindness, and generosity asanybody.
Believe it or not, you will meet people who will genuinely care for you and want the best for you. They will make you feel special, lend you an ear and a hand, help you believe in yourself and all of these not just because they are kind people but because they believe you deserve it. I am so grateful to have found friends and life mentors in both my best and darkest moments. To have people believe in you is such a great feeling. It only makes you realize that if they can, you can too. And you should.
8. Never neglect family.
Another thing that I am extremely thankful for is my family — my mom, dad, and two brothers who I also consider my best friends. I love that we always do fun things as a family (i.e. trying different kinds of food and learning how to cook, weekend movie nights, going on road trips, bickering over who’s in charge of the household chores, etc). It’s really important that I appreciate the good relationship I have with them and that we can talk about our interests, issues, and differences. We may have huge quarrels and sometimes hate seeing each other’s faces, but at the end of the day, tempers and tensions die down and we’d go back to what’s normal. I guess the beauty of family is that you’d always be pulling each other up and you’d be there for each other no matter what.
9. Rejection hurts… especially when you had great expectations.
There are some things in life you’d believe are meant for you, but would turn to be not. Opportunities will come and you would get your hopes up. You’d imagine winning… but you won’t and it will break your heart.
Last month, I got rejected for two jobs. I was qualified for both, aced the interviews, and faced just one opponent for the two. I really thought I would be chosen for either one given the circumstances. But then, I got chosen for none. Of course, I was absolutely devastated. Day and night, I wondered about the reasons why they didn’t want me more than the other person. I have waited for more than seven months for an opportunity like it and I can’t believe I wasn’t enough for any of it. It hurt so bad. But of course, nothing could be done. Unfortunate things happen and I just can’t let myself be pulled down by this kind of failure. I allowed myself to wallow in sadness for about a day or two when I got myself soothed by Soundgarden and Nirvana. Then I picked myself up and never wanted to look back.
10. Whatever the future holds, you will be okay.
In moments of despair and hopelessness, the strength of the human person prevails. Whether you trust in a God or a greater power or just yourself, find something to believe in and hold on to it. The key is to keep yourself together and be resilient. Despite all the rejection and insecurities, I’m still standing because I believe in myself and in God that gives me strength. Life will shoot you down, but you will stand up and move on. Do what you can to carry on with life and take more chances. Stand firm, stand tall, and let your failures build up your courage to win some other time.
I don’t know what the future holds, but I know I will be okay. : )
If I die right at this moment (knock on wood!), the person who will write my biography, after looking at my Facebook photos, would know that I have lived one of my wildest dreams: to have traveled to Europe and gone utterly free.
To be twenty and to learn a European language in Berlin, experience snow in spring, take beautiful photos in famous landmarks, travel via train and plane independently, party in the largest club in Central Europe (in Prague), get high for the first (and probably the last) time on the last Queen’s night in Amsterdam, enjoy London museums and red double decker buses, and to do so much more in two months are some of the greatest memories I will die with.
I will die happy just to have the author of my biography write that I was able to walk on a dream… and that it was fancy! ; )
Hallo! Guten Tag! This is the first chapter of Berlin Diaries. It’s a journal I specially devote to recollecting the wonderful time I spent in Berlin, Germany’s capital. I decided to do this because I still have several stories up my sleeve that are worth sharing. Allow me to do that to the best of my capabilities. Now, to start off with something cute and fancy.
Unbeknownst to many, the bear is the symbol of Berlin. That came as a surprise to me too, because there are certainly no bears running wild in Berlin (but there is a polar bear in the Berlin Zoo!). Still, it is quite puzzling for a bear to be in Berlin’s coat of arms. It seems that there is no clear explanation of this fact. One day, the Berliners just decided, “Hey, bears are mighty, we are mighty. They are cute. We are cute, too. Or at least we can be, so it should be our city’s symbol. It’s written in the heavens!” Whatever the reason behind it, it totally worked for me, especially when Klaus and Eva Herlitz propagated the idea of the Buddy Bears, the cute colorful bear sculptures that were scattered around the city. The proof is in the photos!
And that’s it, folks! What a fun big bear adventure!
This video is compiled and edited by my good friend, Tepi Dayanghirang, from study tour. What can I say, she has done a remarkable job capturing some of our best moments in Europe. This was undeniably the best fall/summer of my life and everytime I watch this video, my heart gets filled and brazen with nostalgia and love not only for the new places I have been to and soon to see again, but especially for the people who I’m lucky to have shared the experience with. This was the best graduation gift one can ever ask for! And I can’t exactly explain to my parents how happy they have made me. But I will sure take the memories of this present to my grave. I hope I can go back and live all these beautiful memories again. One can dream.
I plan to do my own video of my journey, but my video editing skills or the lack thereof tells me it would take time and patience. I will post it as soon as the product exists already. (cross fingers)
In the places that I’ve been to, I am grateful to have built new friendships and families. For someone who has been through a lot, I learned that home is all about these connections I’ve made with people from different walks of life, who have made me feel at home in a way of their own.
It’s home watching cable TV in my friend, Aiko’s, condo back in the Philippines. It’s home sharing Kaye’s food for dinner with my dormmates in Katipunan. It’s home in Caf Up hoarding one long lunch table for G1 and FOG1s in that beautiful place in Loyola Heights. It’s home doing laundry with my new sister, Meg, in our foster home in Berlin. It’s home in the student cafeteria with my study tour buddies making exaggerated noise over lunch just to piss off Germans. It’s home laughing with my foster parents, Steffi and Carl, over our interpretation of the words beobachtet and schoerle.
It’s home in Prague while walking up cobbled roads, marveling at the amazing architecture and absinthe chocolate in hand! It’s home eating that scrumptious hazelnut & strawberry-banana gelato in Innsbruck. It’s home in Bremen biking up and down trails at a park with my bestfriend. It’s home being free in Amsterdam. It’s home in Rome getting lost in the Colosseum.
It’s home up in the air seeing islands looking like paper cut-outs. It’s home in the plane watching Argo and discussing it with an interested seatmate. It’s home partying my ass off until 6 in the morning in Ministry of Sound with Erika and Sandy. It’s home in that red doubledecker bus with my cousin, eating M&S chips waiting for our stop. It’s home in Hyde Park watching swans and scary-looking ducks waddle about while feeding pigeons and running after them.
And it’s home here in Rockville watching my mom and brothers make fun of my dad sing to She Drives Me Crazy by Fine Young Cannibals. I can’t believe I’m saying this but home is really where the heart is. And when your heart lies in many different places in the world, home is everywhere.
The traveling I have done in the past month has been an amazing gift. It has given me so much ecstasy and joy. But as I move to the second month of my vacation, things are taking a turn. Seriously, I am so tired of moving. I just want to lay my luggages down, take all my clothes out and finally put it in a closet that I call mine. I just want to lie in a bed which is not suit for a guest, but a bed that is mine. I want to drink morning coffee from my own cup. I want to sit on the sofa, in front of the TV, and stay there the whole day without thinking about the time I’m wasting, time that could have been spent better outside sitting on London’s beautiful parks. Why am I having a difficult time liking it here? I try so hard to appreciate all the beautiful landscapes, buildings, streets that I feel bad because London is such a lovely city. Maybe the timing isn’t right. I’m just so tired from all the traveling. Seeing new places has bored me, that I just want to go home.
Eight cities in thirty-four days (Berlin, Munich, Prague, Salzburg, Innsbruck, Amsterdam, Bremen, Rome). Five countries in thirty-four days. Thirty-four days living on twenty kilos of luggage. Countless hours spent in transit — via train, tram, subway, bus, bike, and plane. With two more cities to visit in the next month, can I now officially call myself a traveler?
“Anything is possible.” I repeat that to myself very often these days. I used to dream about this, going to different countries and ticking off items in my bucket list, but I didn’t expect that my fantasies would materialize as soon as now. I am literally going places, man!! I am seeing places that I used to only talk about enthusiastically with friends. I am walking on floors on which significant people have walked on in the past. Seriously, the feeling is overwhelming that I still shake my head in astonishment on how much of the world I am seeing in a span of a month.
However, beside this walking-on-sunshine feeling of experiencing new culture, speaking new languages, tasting new food, and meeting new people, there are also significant downsides to traveling that people don’t usually think about when they dream of backpacking or jetsetting. Oh, let me count the ways.
I hate packing and unpacking my luggage when I’m moving from one city to another.
I hate worrying about how to bring my luggage up or down a four-storeyed apartment, dorm, or hostel with no elevators in the building
I hate that my cellphone’s battery is always on low or dead whenever I am at the airport or train station and need to contact someone.
I hate when my camera suddenly has low battery or no more memory space when I’m about to take a picture of a really breathtaking scenery or a video of a very happy moment.
I hate wrong weather forecast.
I hate 7 am flights.
I hate delayed flights.
I hate cancelled flights and only knowing about it minutes after because the announcement was made in a different language.
I hate having to go through airport security and having to let go of my favorite body mist just because I was rushing and I forgot to put it in my check-in luggage (damn I’m still frustrated about it).
I hate it when I fall asleep in the plane just in time when the flight attendant comes by for a snack and they never wake me up.
I hate the back and feet pains that I get from walking so much the whole day carrying a heavy body bag.
I hate realizing that dirty laundry has already piled up.
I hate having to lose my favorite socks in the laundromat.
And much more…
But then again there is nothing a good night shower, a good night sleep, and some chocolates at the end of the day couldn’t fix. I only used to dream about going to places and now that I am currently living in the dream, I don’t think there will ever be enough reasons for me to truly hate and complain. I should really learn how to travel smart. : )
It’s my second day here in Bremen and it couldn’t get any better.
Perfect weather! The sun was out and being friendly. A friend said that it was the ‘happy kind of sunshine’.
Attended Sunday mass today. The attendance was very multicultural, it’s refreshing. It was a small group of Catholics composed of Indians, Africans, Koreans, Americans, and Filipinos. It was also the first time that I heard mass from an African priest.
Witnessed a championship debate between some university in Belgium and Poland. It was interesting because their topic was something that I never heard before: What is better, atheists parents deciding to raise their children as atheists or with a religion? Personally though, it wasn’t debatable because if my parents are atheists, I’m pretty sure they don’t want me believing in something they do not believe in, so I think I’d be raised an atheist.
Biked around town! I was so glad because I wanted to ride a bike around the city since three weeks ago in Berlin. My friend Christine borrowed a bike for me and we went to the park earlier today to enjoy the beautiful weather. It was a thrill! At first I got nervous, because it was my first time to bike around town with cars and walkers around. But after a minute or so, I just enjoyed it.
Met someone in the tram who has been to the Philippines. He’s a German and he said he has been to Olongapo and enjoyed Anawangin Cove in San Antonio. What a small world it truly is.
Had a lovely dinner with Christine’s friends: Ahmed, Pranta, and Bapa. We went to a restaurant called ‘Kamayan’. From the name itself, one assumes that it would be serving Filipino dishes. Surprisingly though, the three main dishes they have are Sri Lankan, Thai, and Indian. The only Filipino thing in the menu was maja blanca, which wasn’t totally Filipino because it was served with raspberry on it. I loved the ambiance of the restaurant. There was sand all over the place and there were thick curtains that drape over the ceiling. Lights were dim and trance-like music played in the background. It was an interesting dinner with fun conversations with new awesome friends.