How Does One Actually ‘Create Dangerously’?

In this very moving speech that Albert Camus delivered at Uppsala University in Sweden, he emphasized that an “art for art’s sake” means nothing, and an artist has the responsibility to create art that will give voice to the voiceless, hence “create dangerously”.

While I understand the point of a meaningful art, how does one actually create it? What makes an art meaningful? While the word “dangerous” attached to my favorite word “create” sounds so cool and badass, how can I do so? Or, better ask, have I been doing it?

Does this current version of my creative studio inside my tiny condo already looks “dangerous” to you? Lol.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CQqksQTnywZ/

Having been chain-shopping for books lately in an effort to force myself to read more (because boy, I’ve been observing lately that in my lectures and writing that my vocabulary has been becoming more and more limited and therefore I have to read and write more), I bought a set of Penguin Mini Modern books, and book 17 is Albert Camus’s Create Dangerously. I mean, the title itself captured my vibe already, so I picked this as the first one to read.

Create Dangerously
MY FRIDAY NIGHT TRADITION: Coffee, a book, and a good music.

“To create today is to create dangerously.”

Albert Camus, Create Dangerously

Here are some of the quotations from the book that I find the most interesting:

  • “If they speak up, they are criticized and attacked. If they become modest and keep silent, they are vociferously blamed for their silence.”
  • “Art is threatened by the powers of the state.”
  • (A quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson) “So long as a man is faithful to himself, everything in his favor, government, society, the very sun, moon, and stars.” (Camus added) “Such amazing optimism seems dead today. In most cases, the artist is ashamed of himself and his privileges, if he has any. He must first of all answer the question he has to put to himself: is art a deceptive luxury?”

I mean, this! We’ve been living in a society where freedom has become part of every human being’s basic necessities, and yet there is also a huge repercussion with regards to taking advantage of our freedom. Also, since art as a form of expression is still bound by the sovereign powers of the State, to what extent can we express through the arts? These things actually hinder artists from fully unlocking the potential of their art. And another point of argument will be the purpose of the art itself. Is it a mere decoration, or does it serve a better, more meaningful purpose of communicating a powerful message?

Camus concluded the said speech by saying,

“Let us rejoice!”

Albert Camus, Create Dangerously
  • Let us rejoice as artists, torn from our sleep and our deafness, forced to keep our eyes on destitution, prisons, and bloodshed.
  • Danger makes men classical, and all greatness, after all, is rooted in risk.
  • The freedom of art is not worth much when its only purpose is to assure the artist’s comfort.
  • Let us not look for the door, and the way out, anywhere but in the wall against which we are living. Instead, let us seek the respite where it is — in the very thick of the battle.

Being an artist meant being part of the battle to fight for something, to give voice to the voiceless, and to allow the world to see and feel what is meant to be seen and felt.

Have I been living a “Dangerously Creative” life?

Yes, for sure. Every single day. My Instagram feed has been a living proof of this. There were days when I overthink every content I will post. I worry in terms of it being stolen by someone, I worry in terms of how acceptable it is, and I worry about whether I’m delivering the wrong message.

But that’s what “creating dangerously” is all about. It’s not art for art’s sake. All the street photos from all over Asia I’m posting shows the real action (or inaction) in the streets, no matter how unimpressive they may seem. All the short films and videos I create are all about expressing emotions that I possibly share with some people. All the profanities I include in my posts are needed to emphasize angst and other related emotions. This blog in itself (which appears whenever people would look at my academic profile/CV) is in itself a dangerous creation.

Camus has said a lot about how art can be used to revolutionize something, and I could go on and on. More interestingly, Camus has mentioned to what extent art can be related to socialistic realism and political realism, a topic I want to discuss more in another blog, since it’s related to my academic field of study (yay!).

I’ll expand this blog to talk more later, I promise! πŸ™‚

How do you measure success? how about happiness?

Is it with the number of friends? With your achievements in life? With how many lives you’ve changed? With how you achieve your inner peace? Or, does it really make sense to try to measure these things in the first place?

For some reason, shitty days will always be part of our lives and it will sometimes come in a timing when you just can’t accommodate it.

That happened to me today. I made a mistake of opening my email at 2 in the morning and receiving a sad news about something I’ve worked hard on. And it kept me wide awake until 7:30AM, just in time for my first class. I got through my first class with my camera off because I did not have time to prepare to dress up and put some makeup on. I was numb, overwhelmed, and I can’t explain what I was feeling. I had no one to reach out to and vent about it, except a few toxic people who knew about this whole journey I went through, which I did reach out to. And I got nothing but anxiety and unmet expectations.

Using best practices for Zoom meeting participants : Search Teaching Tools

I’ve been trying to sleep after my class but I just can’t. I don’t feel sleepy. I don’t feel tired. I thought that opportunity denied to me as per THE email will make me cry and destroy me at least for a few days or weeks. But no. I cleaned my condo, floor to ceiling. I’ve got an energy (not an angry energy) which I don’t know where it comes from. I feel normal, and I guess I just have to get through the day. And I did.

And another email came in today. This time it’s the faculty evaluations from last term.

how do you measure success

Faculty evaluations give me anxiety. While I believe and trust that students will not write very horrible comments on the way I performed in class, I did not have a good start with this thing. The very first set of evaluations I received were very bad. Bad in a sense that the Department Chair called my attention and asked me to to something to improve it. It put my contract renewal at risk. That was traumatic.

Well, if I’m being honest, I also started in a wrong foot. I was totally unprepared that time to go back teaching again. After almost 5 years of office work, I wasn’t ready to go back to the classroom again to teach, full-time this time. I forgot how to manage noisy students, lazy students, irresponsible students, and apathetic students. I focused on the diligent students, those students who actually cared.

Years passed, and online school happened, I became kinder to students of all backgrounds. I give them the benefit of the doubt for late submissions. I give them the benefit of the doubt for failing to attend classes. I follow up on them if they did not hand in their submissions. I never forced to call them out to open their cameras and recite. I was very, very patient. I always think about how I can possibly cause them anxiety and how I can prevent it from happening. I don’t want to give anyone anxiety because I know how it feels like, and it feels awful. I just want the best for them.

https://www.instagram.com/p/COEwsuxnnNR/

I will always remember facing the Admissions Committee in the Master’s Program I applied for that I was very certain about going the academia route after earning the degree, and therefore they should let me in. And here I am, yay! I dedicated years of blood, sweat, and tears to be able to have something to teach to my future students, and I am very happy it’s starting to pay off.

Earning my Master’s Degree and being given the chance to teach full-time is a dream come true for me. The world has been kind to me. Both my undergrad and grad alma maters have been kind to me. My students and colleagues have been kind to me. But was I ever kind to myself?

That being said, I think this time I want to measure success and happiness in terms of how much I can prioritize myself and be kinder to myself. Every word of appreciation I get from students from the evals are some things I can never say to myself. I’m not even aware that I’m being kind. I’m just doing what I think is right. I’m just doing whatever makes me sleep at night.

How about you? How do you measure success and happiness?

Trying to Romanticize Nature and Exercise (Daily Blog #6)

I was born and raised in a small town south of Manila with an abundance of mountains, a beautiful lake, and forest areas. I remember my adventurous spirit spans back as early as my primary school and high school days where I would go on a random excursion with friends and classmates where we climb hills, explore waterfalls, and go through some wilderness and not knowing what to see.

Gone are the days. When I moved to Manila at 16, I ‘ve been a city girl ever since, and there’s no going back.

Nah, you had a lot of attempts to move out.

The ‘Crazy’ Metro Manila and My Attempts to Move Out

Manila is the densest city on earth, and sharing a 600-ish square kilometer with almost 20 million people can be craaaaazy! The hustle and bustle is real, and it’s literally full of so many visual clutter and noise. If you can handle the craziness of Manila, it’s not really a terrible place to live.

But yes, I had several attempts to move out. I tried looking for a job in Cebu. I had plans to move to Brunei. I tried going back to Batangas after college. I’m recently contemplating about looking for a job in Baguio. Sometimes I just want to escape Manila.

We do not have so much green spaces in Manila. The closest thing I have to nature are my indoor plants and a beautiful view of the sunset at Manila Bay (which, btw, you had to kind of break your neck to see because it’s located in another direction from my unit’s window). Those parks and gardens in Makati are 4-ish kilometers from where I live, and the UP Diliman campus is way up north.

So yeah, this pandemic, I’m doomed.

Thankfully, I can comfortably go back and forth to Batangas to visit my family almost every weekend (it’s not advisable because I could possibly bring the virus from Manila to Batangas, but I swear, guys, I’m being extra careful) where I can have a taste of nature whenever I want.

My Planned ‘Habit’ for 2021: Romanticize Nature and Exercise

I suck at exercising. I have all the clothes and the equipment and the space, but I never had the proper motivation to do it. I’ve been intermittently exercising, but counting all the days I worked out vis-a-vis my zero workout days, all the efforts may not make sense at all.

I realized, I’m not really even into nature/outdoors-y activities whenever I travel. Sure, I was able to hike mountains, but those were super minimal. Next time, I vow to see more natural wonders.

Since posting my 2021 Reading List yesterday, I started reading the book The Finnish Way, and I was able to appreciate how tasting more of nature can not only contribute to your motivation to exercise, but it also calms your mind and eases you of some symptoms related to depression and anxiety. The book has motivated me enough to see more of nature, hike more, and exercise more outdoors.

That’s it. I will develop a habit of exercising and exploring more green spaces. Muchas gracias, Katja Pantzar! Oh, the book also made me more interested about the super ideal lifestyle of the Finnish people and the rest of Nordic countries. I also look up to them in terms of minimalism and functionalism. Yay!

Today’s Journey in Nature: The ‘Miranda Trail’ and Taal Lakeside

So, I was able to drag my sister with me to go hiking at what I call the ‘Miranda Trail’ (because it leads to Barangay Miranda) and then chilling at the Taal Lakeside to cool down. I am proudly presenting you our stats and some photos!

nature and exercise
Nature and Exercise: The Miranda Trail Hiking (Talisay, Batangas)
Nature and Exercise: Taal Lakeside at Sunrise (Talisay, Batangas)

NATURE AND EXERCISE: Snapshots from the ‘Miranda Trail’ Hike

Nature and Exercise: The Miranda Trail Hiking (Talisay, Batangas)
Nature and Exercise: The Miranda Trail Hiking (Talisay, Batangas)
Nature and Exercise: The Miranda Trail Hiking (Talisay, Batangas)
Nature and Exercise: The Miranda Trail Hiking (Talisay, Batangas)

NATURE AND EXERCISE: Snapshots from the Sunrise at Taal Lakeside

Nature and Exercise: Taal Lakeside at Sunrise (Talisay, Batangas)
Nature and Exercise: Taal Lakeside at Sunrise (Talisay, Batangas)
Nature and Exercise: Taal Lakeside at Sunrise (Talisay, Batangas)
Nature and Exercise: Taal Lakeside at Sunrise (Talisay, Batangas)
Nature and Exercise: Taal Lakeside at Sunrise (Talisay, Batangas)

This Pandemic actually ‘heals’ the world.

[THE BENEFITS OF GIVING TOURISM A BREAK] As you are reading this, most of our favorite travel destinations might be rehabilitating on its own in the absence of tourists.

U Bein Bridge Myanmar
U Bein Bridge Myanmar (credits: me!)

We all have been seeing it in the news and social media: bluer skies because less cars are on the road, clearer waters because less to no people are at the beach, and animals in their natural habitats peacefully living their lives with no visitors.

Myanmar opened up its borders to the world (tourism-wise) very recently, early 2010s to be exact. Prior to that, it was hard to enter the country (in fact, even Southeast Asians needed a visa then despite the Visa-Free Agreement among ASEAN members states). I’ve seen Myanmar a few years after it opened up, and it is very evident that the Burmese people are happy to see foreigners visiting their beautiful country. Logistically, it’s still a pain to enter Myanmar — there are hardly any direct flights available, but once you’re there, you will be surprised how cheeeeap almost everything is (and how abundant this country is with delicious rice!!!).

On the downside, travelers like me or the late @anthonybourdain started worrying about the downsides of Myanmar’s opening up to tourism, as he mentioned in one episode of his show (I broke down @partsunknowncnn‘s Myanmar episode into a travel guide, I’ll link it on my Stories). Well, great things will always have their byproducts, right? But I’ll give it to Myanmar: it’s very authentically beautiful, temples and tourist spots are very well taken care of, and the food, oh dear. Fiesta.

On the photo is U Bein Bridge at Amarapura town in Myanmar which is popular for a stunning view of the sunset. It was a happy place — it’s where locals, tourists, and even monks hang out. U Bein Bridge may look like just another rickety bridge over a lake, but it was believed to be the oldest and longest teakwood bridge in the world.

Tell me: What do you think about giving travel destinations a break? And what do you think of Myanmar?

Ugh, Can’t Wait to Start over in 2021.

TO ME, 2020 HASN’T ACTUALLY STARTED YET. But as they say, “The show must go on.” Are you spending quarantine in your hometowns? If so, tell me about these places, and convince me to see them. ☺

Taal Lake and Volcano (Talisay, Batangas)
Taal Lake and Volcano (Talisay, Batangas)

January was when Taal Volcano erupted and my hometown (which is by the Taal Lake) was directly affected. We had to relocate to the next province. The livelihood of the affected towns was zero and properties were destroyed. We had to slowly get things back to normal until February. March was when the Philippine government implemented the community quarantine. And just as when interesting things are about to unfold, career-wise, I spent the whole of April in a quarantine (like most of us) and getting emails about my future trips being postponed and cancelled one by one is just breaking my heart. πŸ’”

I could say I have the reasons to say this is too much, but hey, other people have their own battles, too. Maybe not in the version like I have, but everyone is practically fighting everyday to survive. We are always told what matters more is how we react to the situation. Hence, “the show must go on”. Like everybody else, I have to fight and survive. πŸ’ͺ🏻

In the photo is Taal Lake, and that landform above my head is the volcano, which is the smallest in the world. Our house is located 500m from this shore (which puts us in a permanent danger area, but don’t ask why people are allowed to live here, I don’t know the history). My hometown has turned from a very dangerous area to live to a safe area sheltering the residents against the pandemic. 🏑

Oh, btw, my hometown is Talisay, Batangas, which is a very small town south of Manila. Google it, but don’t get disappointed because you won’t see anything interesting. For me it’s a good thing. I want it to remain the peaceful hometown I would always go home to every weekend. πŸŒ…

My 2020 indeed hasn’t started yet. #NoRush, though! I want to take it slow day by day and watch myself grow until the world is ready again. πŸ’–

Two Worlds

I might be practicing an academic career in one of the most formal disciplines there is (read: Politics and Foreign Affairs) where being prim and proper, being diplomatic, and being at our most educated and cosmopolitan selves are the basic norms.

At the same time, I can be the quirkiest and most passionate (self-proclaimed and frustrated lol) artist outside the academe.

The thing is, it’s 2020. You can be everything you want to be. What’s holding you back?

two worlds

MANILA: MY UNEXPLORED BACKYARD

I’m trying so hard to combat my laziness and make brisk walking and photo walks a regular thing. Today I was able to pull myself out of bed to go outside and walk around. Boy, Manila is so back to its usual weekday craziness. πŸ₯΄

A jeepney at the Filipino-Chinese Friendship Arch in Binondo District (Chinatown), Manila
A jeepney at the Filipino-Chinese Friendship Arch in Binondo District (Chinatown), Manila. Taken with Samsung Note10+ and post-processed with VSCO.

I have a lot of passion projects in mind, and I’m tired of making excuses to myself over why I kept on delaying them. On the other hand, no pressure. Passion projects are supposed to be fun and pressure-free.

I stalled the photo essay series on my blog for a while because my external hard drives’ files are so disorganized af and I’m so close to hiring someone to clean them up because it’s taking so much of my time. I need to see things chronologically to find out how far I’ve come in this journey, how my preferences changed over time (because hearts change therefore people change, charot as usual), and which parts do I need to improve.

As clichΓ© as it may sound, practice makes perfect. I’ve been telling myself to try my best to create something every single motherfcking day (beautiful or horrible, doesn’t matter) as a way of practicing my craft (if I may), but there will really be days when you just have zero inspiration. But inspiration is not something that will just fall on your lap from the heavens (or wherever you believe it comes from). You also need to lift a finger for it.

I honestly don’t know what I’m saying. Ignore me. Sometimes I could be a woman of irony. All I’m saying is, I want to be better at photography so bad, so I need 30481048015847 ounces of motivation and 1800389190126 hours of practice. Can somebody tell me where I could get these?

P.S. I brought my mom’s vintage film camera with me and I loaded it with a black and white film (a @fujifilmph Neopan Acros 100II). It was kinda scandalous to take street shots with big white light suddenly flashing towards people’s faces lol. I’m guessing it’s part of the process?

What Sets Your Soul On Fire?

Ten years ago, I started embarking on a journey to go around the Philippines and Asia to take photographs of beautiful landscapes, museums and historical sites, architectural wonders, street art, and the candid daily affairs of people, all while keeping a full-time job. Ten years after, here I am. (Travel and street) photography still sets my soul on fire.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CMKGR0nnlHZ/

I love telling stories through photographs and the written word, I always have, and I always will. Each one of us has stories to tell, but in a world where everyone can do it in so many channels, I wanna make sure I tell stories that matter.

Ten years ago, it came to me. That’s it. I need some nuance.

Left to my own devices, I could be the laziest person on earth (ask my family if you’re skeptical). Also, I don’t have the most interesting everyday routine. So obviously, to be able to have stories to tell, I needed to get my ass off the couch, move, go outside, and see the world. Otherwise, I’ll be hollow and lame.

Storytelling is all about experiencing the good, the bad, and the ugly. Hence, being constantly on the road is not supposed to be beautiful 100% of the time. But trust me when I say, your outlook in life, how you value your health, your mindset, your faith in humanity, your food preferences, and the information you consume, among others, will never be the same once you started experiencing the (real) world.

I’m ready to spend another 10 years (or even more) to experience more things, take more photos, and bring home more stories to you. I’m currently cooking some passion projects (which I will launch soon). In the meantime, whatever it is you’re passionate about, I hope you will be able to find the strength and commitment to start them. It will be worth it, I’m telling you.

I’m falling in love with @ilfordphoto black and white films. The blinding flash of a film camera was not fun for my eyes at all, sure, but I could use taking photos of myself from time to time. #feltcutemightdeletelater#selfportrait#ilfordhp5

Lastly, I changed my Instagram username to my full name and changed my website domain to sherlynmaehernandez.com. Goodbye, ‘young dumb and broke #wheressherlyn‘. That’s it. I’m old.

Into The Streets (Well, Not!)

Okaaay, vacation is over! It’s time for me to go back to Manila (aka the real world) to resume working at the start of the week. It was a refreshing (but a little stressful and triggering) week in Batangas, but I find maximum convenience and comfort working in my space in Manila.

My siblings and I traversed to three cities: Caloocan (we dropped off our cousin), Pasay (went grocery shopping), and Manila (where they dropped me off).

I actually never thought of taking (street) photos inside the car using my Fujifilm camera, because, as I always mention, I have been very comfortable using my Samsung smartphone for years already.

So I gave it a try. Since I already learned the differences between AF-C, AF-S, and Manual, I was able to practice myself adjusting the shutter speed under a great deal of pressure since I’m taking photos inside a moving vehicle and with moving subjects. What a challenge!

Oh, I used the Fujifilm XA3 kit lens (XC 16-50mm zoom). Here are the results:

into the streets
A jeepney driver smoking inside his jeepney somewhere in Blumentritt, Manila.
into the streets
A boy leaning by a post in Manila.
into the streets
A man pointing to a vehicle while talking to someone in Manila.
into the streets
A garbage collector traversing Quezon Bridge in Manila.
into the streets
A social distancing police during the Sunday Mass at Quiapo Church, Manila.
into the streets
A woman sampaguita vendor at Quiapo Church, Manila.
into the streets
Staff of UP-PGH Manila building up their Christmas Tree.
into the streets
A man along Taft Avenue, Manila.
into the streets
A staff of a bus company waiting for passengers for a provincial bus trip to Laguna/Batangas.

These may not be my best photos, but hey! It was a challenging one. Also, I am slowly appreciating how to edit RAW files, so I have a strong feeling I’m so getting better at photography in general.

Meanwhile, here’s a snippet of our grocery shopping and my super quick workout before going to sleep (because I was feeling extra that night aka I ate a lot lol).

into the streets
into the streets

I would love to go photowalking again, but I am patiently waiting until it’s really safe to go out. Peace out!

This Year, I’m Home

Okay, let’s see how much detail I can remember… (But first, I can’t believe I was able to keep these photos!)

birthday
A selfie at home, but it’s my first birthday as a Professor! I remember walking into the Faculty Room with pink balloons on my area. I had the sweetest colleagues, ever. God, I miss them.
birthday
I celebrated my birthday in a fastfood restaurant in Lipa because I was then a broke Adjunct Professor in a provincial college lol.
birthday
I was in my hometown but I celebrated my birthday facilitating a training for our office. I had no single photo because I was busy af.
birthday
This was taken in Manila Zoo. I’m that spontaneous ever since. Don’t ask. I also don’t know how I ended up there for my birthday.
birthday
Temporarily unemployed because I was finishing my Masters Degree (hence broke af), and I remember my sister got me the cake.
birthday
I hopped on a bus on a random destination I haven’t been to so far. Touchdown, Daet, Camarines Norte!
birthday
Fresh from Indonesia and dying with abdominal pain, I braved the Makati Christmas traffic to celebrate with the most reliable colleagues, ever!

December was that time of the year I was always MIA. I will manage to finish all work tasks and strategically plan my classes so that I can go to as many places as I can. I don’t really celebrate my birth in this world per se, but this is the only time of the year where I could be with myself and try to get everything I think I deserve in this life.

Since I love to travel, vacations are my thing for my birthdays. Well, even if it’s not my birthday, I still travel as if it’s my birthday.

This year, I’m home. Thank you, COVID-19.

Sans the usual Friday administrative tasks for work, I spent the day overeating with takeaway DIY Korean barbecue with my family. God, I missed Korean barbecue! Now I have to work out af!!!

Afterwhich, we hung out over chips and ice cream. It felt weird celebrating my birthday with actual people with me.

I swear it felt so weird. But it was fun.

This year, I’m home. I could have spent more had I gone somewhere for my birthday this year. SInce my 2020 travel funds went untouched, I got them a new home. The Philippine stock market. *wink wink*

This year, I’m home. This year, I was with my family. This year, I have (finally) invested in the stock market.

birthday
birthday

Shall I say, “Thank you, COVID-19”? Kinda, but please go away. I have a big, big, big plan for my birthday next year.

I’m Rethinking Instagram

It’s been almost a year of love-hate relationship with Instagram, and I really feel like Instagram sucks nowadays. It’s already taking toll of my time and (mental) health, so I need a break. That’s it. I’m taking a hiatus from it.

I celebrated my birthday today with two work-related tasks. In the morning, I had a training session as a newbie faculty member of the University, and I had a talk for the Model United Nations club where my students invited me to talk about Foreign Policy. If we’re close, you would know that I loathe working on my birthday and I always go somewhere far away to celebrate it alone. But since it’s the pandemic, I chose to celebrate it with my family in the province.

I’m not sure if I made the right decision given the slow internet connection at home. I can’t bear the thought of showing up late to my tasks today. I was triggered. I wanted to blame someone. Here comes my mood swing again. Not good, not good.

instagram

But I was happy with how work turned out that day. That training session was so insightful and I got fairly good feedback from the speaking engagement. But I was so tired. And everytime I’m tired, I always rethink the academe.

But it’s my birthday. And I was tired. I had all the reasons to eat a lot. Which I did. Now I need to exercise. Ugh.

So yeah, I was rethinking Instagram.

Ever since the pandemic, I’ve been finding it hard to grow my account. More than all the vanity metrics, I’ve been capitalizing on Instagram to use it as part of my travel-related side hustles in the future. I feel like I did everything I could, but the time was just not right. Nobody will get inspired to travel. Nobody engages with my posts. Posting throwback content constantly just doesn’t feel right. The only Story I could post was whatever I was doing with my laptop. As much as I want to shoot some fresh content, it’s still so scary to go out.

I no longer feel the point of posting anything on Instagram. Most of the time I find myself aimlessly consuming content. It’s a waste of time. I should have been devoting my time to other more productive stuff. That’s it, I’m done.

Now, shall I set it to private mode or deactivate my account?

For now I’ll set it to private mode, uninstall the app on my phone and logout my account on my desktop. I’ve done this in the past, and I trust myself that I will be able to do it again this time.

instagram

I want to bring back my good ol’ productive, anxiety-free days. I want to pursue (travel and street) photography so bad. My website has been monetized for two years now, and how come I never focused on growing it? How come I focused on Instagram where no money comes in for every like and comment? Sometimes I really make questionable choices.

I changed my bio as well. For accountability’s sake. It’s official. Bye for now, Instagram. I’ll focus on this website this time.

7 Life Lessons I Learned From Traveling in my 20s

So, you’re still not convinced that traveling in my 20s were more than just a ‘waste of time and money’ and more than just a source of content for your Instagram feeds? Read on, I’ll convince you otherwise.

I became kinder to strangers.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BsKVWjaHVex/

Whenever you travel, chances are, 100% of the people around you are strangers (unless you bump into some friends, relatives or acquaintances in another region or foreign land, which surprisingly happened to me a few times). Going to a very unfamiliar place for the first time can trigger some anxiety and the feeling of being alone. What if I get sick? What if I run out of money? What if I got into some kind of trouble? What if I encountered some problems along the way? These are just some of the questions that may add to all your worries when you’re somewhere far away from home.

While I always keep in touch to as many people as possible back home in order to help me in case the need arises (from my parents to friends working in banks to friends from embassies/consulates and immigration office), somewhere along the way I learned to try my best to avoid any possible problems and prepare myself to deal with them on my own. Along with this, I learned to make friends with tour guides, hotel receptionists, restaurant staff, taxi drivers, housekeeping staff, and even random locals. These were the people who will take you off the tourist paths. Ask them “Where’s your favorite place to eat here?” instead of “Where do tourists usually eat here?”. Trust me, it’s worth it.

I complained less about petty things.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B_y5dUKnm4w/

Living in Manila could be very painful to some people who have experienced the real everyday stuff that happens here: traffic jams, pollution, crimes, and high cost of living, among others. As someone born and raised in a small town south of Manila, eventually moving to the capital city for college and work is just too much. I developed an attitude of complaining down to the smallest inconvenience I experience everyday. I feel like I always deserved better than this.

When I started traveling, I had the chance to visit some of the poorest towns in the Philippines and I was able to visit countries poorer than the Philippines. Being able to visit these places has made me a person appreciative and grateful over what I have. Yes, Manila could be crazy as hell, but it’s still comfortable enough for me to quit complaining. I have a decent place to stay, I have a job, I have access to clean water, I have food on the table, so I basically have everything I need.

I developed a different kind of discipline.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B4H8jRPH0D5/

Some travels, including mine, might look very ideal, joyous, happy, and vibrant on Instagram, but behind all these photos lie a totally underexposed anecdotes. For instance, while fancy hotels and restaurants and private tours sound good for a vacation, I can’t afford it from time to time. I posed a challenge to myself staying in (both beautiful and horrible) hostels, eating in street food stalls and upscale restaurants, and doing DIY tours to save money and experience the real side of traveling at the same time.

Experiencing the uncomfortable side of traveling has led me to share bathrooms and showers with a lot of people, wake up very early to be ahead with everyone else, walk more than 10,000 steps per day, trust my instincts better, have a better relationship with money, and communicate better with people from all walks of life. You can never learn all of these in school.

I was able to shift my mindset to see the beauty in everything.

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Like I said, living in a city like Manila could be a horrible pain, but meeting foreigners who adore Manila and had a great time visiting the city meant a lot to me (even though I have a fluctuating love-hate relationship with Manila). I once talked to a British friend who lived in the city for a while, and he said he liked living here, “Could be worse.”.

Having friends who liked visiting my homeland made me realize I’ve been underappreciating a lot of things about the Philippines and Manila. For one, the people are indeed very kind, hospitable, and accommodating. Also, Manila has got a lot of nice hotels and restaurants, things I always look forward to in another land. Lastly, Manila has a growing expat community and it’s good that the people here are becoming more open, culturally-inclusive and more cosmopolitan.

Yeah, my friend was right. Could be worse.

I became a better Professor.

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In case you missed it, I am currently an International Relations Professor in Manila. While some people mistake it as a filed highly related to travel/tourism, my field of study is highly social science/politics-oriented and we are actually never required to travel not have an interest in traveling to be able to teach effectively. However, traveling (specifically visiting museums) has allowed me to learn so many things about the different destinations I visited that I will never find on any textbook or lectures I attended in the past.

There is more to the world and all places beyond what we see in the internet, television, books, and other sources of information. A lot of things I taught in class are knowledge that I learned from traveling. To be able to teach something unique and closer to real life, I have to experience things. Traveling does not only satisfy my heart and soul, but also my career in the academe.

I realized that we are indeed just a small speck of dust in the universe.

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Sometimes we tend to get anxious about things that are not yet happening. We worry about our jobs, our grades, our future, what people would think of us, how people would judge our decisions in life, and why others seem to have a better and happier life than us. Trust me when I say I could resonate with you and every feeling is valid, but there are ways to manage and mitigate them.

You know those scratch maps which you can scratch off destinations you’ve already been to? Or a plain world map would do. When I scratched all the countries I have already been to on the map, I realized that I have actually stepped into bigger, faraway lands, and that the world is waaaaay bigger than we think. In a world map, try placing a pin or mark with a star your exact location. There is a possibility that the pin is too big or the star you drew is big enough to pinpoint your exact location. Inside a very dense city of more than 100 million people, I am just a small, insignificant portion of this metropolitan area.

As stoic as it sounds, we are all gonna die anyway. Having experienced traveling served as my way of realizing that people come and go, I will never run out of people to meet and connect with, I will never run out of experiences, restaurants to try, and jobs to apply for.

I was able to figure out the things I want in life.

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It was all natural to feel especially after we finish college that we are in some sort of “rat race” where we constantly compare our own progress to our peers. Trust me, I was once that kind of person, and I totally beat myself up for failing while others continue to progress and go on with their lives smoothly.

AS I traveled to my 20s both physically and existentially, I was able to realize that (1) even if we are of the same age with some people, we don’t take off at the same point, therefore all our lives are totally incomparable, (2) there were some people who found their passion and happiness in the very first thing (relationship, career, etc.), but it doesn’t mean it’s a failure otherwise, and (3) hearts change, passions change, and preferences change through time because of experiences and exposures.

Traveling made me get to know myself about the things I want, the things I don’t want, my passions, my limitations, and how much I value myself.

So that’s traveling in my 20s. How about you?

At the end of the day, all life lessons are anecdotal. Everything is based on my own experience, but it will never hurt if you also consider traveling to learn the lessons I learned so far.

PASSION AND PAD THAI: Trying to Mix Business Travel and Vacation

This was my attempt to assess if my current professional circumstances can mix business trips with vacation. (I wish I can just travel for work! But can I?)

Every chance I get to go out of the office, whether it’s for an out-of-office task, a training/workshop, or a visit to another office, believe it or not, I consider them excursions. Being stuck sitting the whole day for five days a week sometimes get to my nerves. I know some people who are very good and comfortable with routines, but I’m not that kind of person (but of course, it doesn’t necessarily mean that routines are bad). If you’re gonna see the personality tests I took in the past, you would realize why constantly yearn for changes in scenery, why I am bored all the time, and why things seldom work out for me.

The truth is, I’m the kind of person you should not expect to be in the same place for a long period of time. I have always been a wanderer. My mind loves constant change and the quest to find something new and exciting. I know, I know, a lot of people have told me it’s not a healthy state of mind, but where I am right now is a result of that kind of mindset, and it this kind of life? Something I will never trade with anyone else. I’m completely okay with it.

I have handled several responsibilities when I worked with the Philippine government not-so-long ago, but all of those responsibilities have occasional travels and fieldwork, that’s for sure. My out-of-office tasks could be as simple as going to another part of Manila for a meeting, attending or organizing activities wherein we would live in a hotel for a week, or performing project monitoring activities, data gathering, and fieldwork. Sometimes in faraway places you never knew existed, sometimes in high risk areas where you have to be escorted by military personnel.

“Hey, it’s been a long time since I visited this city still inside Metro Manila. Perhaps after the meeting I could visit this coffee shop or eat at this restaurant.”

“A week of workshop and working beyond 5PM? No problem! I’m staying in a nice hotel, anyway! And the breakfast buffet was great!”

“Traveling all the way here and leading this project is so exhausting! Perhaps after today’s activities, I could call a massage service, or do a quick city tour, or catch-up with long distance friends based on this area.”

“Going to a conflict area? Challenge accepted! I am not certain if I will get this kind of chance to visit that place and meet people there in another occasion. I’m in!”

You see, this is how I treat any kind of work or task outside the office. A lot of people call me “lucky” to having the kind of job that sends me to places, but I’m sure they’re aware that it’s absolutely not for a vacation, right? But my mantra has always been to treat them like mini-breaks or vacations, and to tell you the truth, it’s not all fun. Not at all.

I remember asking one of my friends who does field work maybe 80 percent of the time and only stays in the office with the remaining 20 percent, “Do you still go on vacations? Like a REAL vacation?”

“No, it’s pointless. First, no kind of work ever gets done. Second, if you went missing for a few days to relax and take a break, going back to the office with a pile of backlogs only offsets your whole vacation.”

That kinda made me think. I had my moments when I would file leaves for my birthday or for some long holiday, and my supportive bosses would approve them. They were guilt-free, worthy vacations. However, when I go back, I have to catch up with everything I missed out during the time I was away, and it was stressful every single time. The feeling sucks and I kinda don’t wanna do it again.

That’s when it hit me: If traveling will be of a high priority to me and it is something I really, really want to do, then I need to have the type of job where I could travel. Sure, this government job has pinned so many new places to my travel map, but this is not the kind of travel I am looking for. I want some real travel and I want money at the same time. I’m not gonna lie, money is the first thing that will make every traveling possible, so I aspire for it as much as I aspire to travel.

After finishing my Master’s Degree a few years ago, I created this travel blog because I have a lot of stories to tell from my previous travels (which, btw, I really need to write soon before they totally vanish from my memory huhu!). Moreover, the whole time I was doing my graduate studies, my whole life only revolved around work, waiting for paydays, paying my tuition, and attending my classes, with occasional business travels in between. Now that graduate studies is (temporarily) out of the picture (I say ‘temporarily’ because I have an upcoming PhD studies to prepare for), I needed to fill the huge hole that it will leave.

I had a fierce and bold attempt at full-time travel blogging when I had my “F*ck it, I’m leaving!” moment with my government job. After blogging for only a year while still with my government job at the same time, I learned a lot, and I realized it’s not that simple. (I could talk about ALL the things you need to learn as a travel blogger in another post. For sure, it’s waaaaay more than just posting photos and writing articles.) I quit my government job and tried learning as many things as I could.

I was a newbie nobody travel blogger, I was able to land big and small projects which made me survive financially for a couple of months. But seeing that I still have a lot to learn and it’s still a long way to go, I went back to having a full-time job, again: this time, I went back to teaching. Teaching was actually the post-Masters grand plan (and not the full-time travel blogging thing), and given that the job is more travel-friendly and has a more flexible schedule compared to my previous government job, I went in.

I discussed my typical day as a travel blogger and a Professor at the same time in another post and mostly mentioned the upsides of the flexible schedule I have with this kind of job. The first few months into teaching, I saw the value of another platform: Instagram. I have been earning with Instagram way more than I was earning with my website alone, so I started abandoning this website for one f*cking year (MY BIGGEST MISTAKE, EVER).

The “Pad Thai Incident”: My Business Travel to Bangkok

mix business trips with vacation
Can we mix business trips with vacation? For PAD THAI, YES!

One of the perks of being a research-oriented University Professor is being able to present your written works in academic activities all over the world, sometimes for free (because some organization might fund your trip or the university would do it). Being a research Professor is also like being a travel blogger — landing projects, negotiating with client organizations, and producing outputs in exchange for sponsored trips. Already excited with being a Professor now?

mix business trips with vacation
Can we mix business trips with vacation?

But let me tell you what you have to do before landing those kinds of precious perks.

This Bangkok conference I attended, for instance, started with a ‘Call for Papers’ which you have to submit a 300-word-ish research abstract (in other words, you are pitching something you will present before the international academic community of your discipline. In my case, I proposed a research paper exploring the factors fueling the terrorist activities in Southeast Asia (by the way, in case you’re new here, I am an International Relations Professor who intends to specialize in Southeast Asia and terrorism. Here’s my LinkedIn account to prove it). Hashtag: LEGIT.

Then. you have to produce a plagiarism-free, grammar-checked, academically-written paper of a minimum of 6000 words. In order to produce that, you need to go camping inside the library. No, I’m kidding haha, but before finishing this paper, I would be the last person to leave the office at 9 or 10-ish (PM!) or the library around the same time. Or sometimes you would find me in 24-hour coffee shops at wee hours in the morning. Those things, ON TOP OF MY 5 CLASSES PER WEEK.

I could say, it was all worth it. I was happy with my paper, and I am excited to present it to esteemed and popular Professors, which, if they criticize my paper, I will be happy instead of being sensitive about it, because it’s them guiding young Professors like me (this, guys, the mindset of winners!). Plus, my trip was fully-funded by an international NGO! I literally don’t have to spend a dime for this trip (I mean, work). Bangkok, here I come!

“Why don’t we make it x days? The conference is for x days, but you take the earliest flight to Bangkok the day before it and depart with the latest flight the day after it?” This was the reply of the Country Manager of the organization sponsoring my trip.

Anyone who will read this kind of email reply will instantly think about doing temple runs, rummaging around for the best pad thai or mango sticky rice, or looking for a massage service near my hotel. And naturally, since they have given me two free days (free, I mean time-wise, I was the one who paid for the expenses beyond the scope of the conference, like side trips), I thought exactly of planning side trips. No, I did more than that. I flew to Vientiane for a quick day tour, using my own money, where I cried on the plane going back to Bangkok.

Touchdown, Bangkok!

It’s not my first time in Bangkok, but I never had the chance to go around like how I did for this more recent trip (because my main destination then was Siem Reap). I did not have time to visit the temples then, so for my first day in Bangkok, I went temple-hopping. BUT, since I am there for work, I have to go back before dark because I have to prepare my corporate attire, finalize my slides, and rehearse my presentation for the actual purpose of my trip: the conference.

As I was going temple-hopping, I realized everyone was right about Bangkok (or Thailand in general) could be the most visited Southeast Asian destination, especially by Westerners. People are everywhere — your typical big group of Chinese tourists, families on a trip, couples on a trip, solo travelers, Western backpackers, Instagrammers, there’s just a lot of people everywhere. But to be fair, people in Bangkok are very calm and respectful. I met some locals who struggle to communicate in English, but you would really feel their desire to connect with you.

The Grand Palace is something I missed in my previous Bangkok travel because I failed to plan that trip properly. When I went to visit the Palace, it as closed around lunchtime but will reopen in 2 hours. There’s just an important event involving His Majesty. I was wearing my usual white button down shirt which I love wearing to work which I repurposed to match with my tan maxi skirt and white sneakers. I walked all the way from Wat Pho to the Palace entrance (which was far, btw, but my “always ready to have some exercise” body accepted the challenge). But I would stop for some fresh, overpriced coconut juice along the way.

As I was waiting for the reopening of the palace, it started to rain. I had to go to a nearby establishment to kill time. You know where I (always) went? Starbucks.

But there’s a fancy-looking Thai restaurant beside that Starbucks in the Bangkok Riverside I was in. But there’s no way my haggard ass will get in there. I have been spending the morning moving from one temple to another in a scorching heat and riding GrabBikes to move around. But no, I freshened up in a public washroom (which, btw, I observed that Thai people queue up in public places very orderly. Respect.) and went in.

My Pad Thai is legit and don’t you dare argue with me

I ordered some Thai food in the menu that I could consume, playing blind with the expensive prices at the side. At that point, I was tired, it’s gonna be my first legit Thai meal in Thailand, and I’m gonna splurge on it. I ordered pad thai, mango sticky rice, and Thai iced tea.

No, it’s not the legit Thai food you could eat in the floating market or the streets, but boy, I’m eating it in freaking Thailand so don’t argue with me when I say it’s legit. Plus, it was one of the most valuable expenses I spent on any trip.

It was one of the best meals I had. I’m not exaggerating. I could even recommend you the place.

When I billed out, the staff asked me if I have a Facebook account because he would request me to review the place. It took me him a few repeats for me to understand the word ‘Facebook’ because his accent was a little hard to understand. When I confirmed, he handed me a QR code and when scanned it, it directs you to their TripAdvisor page *scratches head* (Kuya (brother), I thought you’re asking for Facebook?)

Upon going back to my hotel, I had to accomplish all the real to-do list I brought. It also means that I have to wake up very early and forget about all my travel fantasies and focus on attending the event in the next couple of days. The mindset-switching involved in a business trip slash vacation is mentally exhausting. It has its downsides.

As much as I want to wake up as late as I can when I will have enough time to go to the University for the event, I have to wake up as early as 5AM to rehearse my presentation, again. Take note, I am a young, inexperienced Professor who will be presenting in a room full of experts and notable people in the field of International Relations worldwide, so I cannot screw this up. That presentation should attract other scholars with the same research interests for possible collaborations in the future. (But at the back of my mind, I am also obsessed about the content I want to produce for my blog and Instagram).

Mixing business trip with vacation (or maybe mixing two kinds of jobs in one trip), if not planned very, very carefully, will ruin your whole trip. I have a very active spontaneous side when it comes to traveling, but even if you’re spontaneous, an enormous amount of planning is still necessary, especially for complicated or multi-category trips like this.

Can we really mix business trips with vacation?

mix business trips with vacation
Can we mix business trips with vacation? SANA ALL!

YES. I’ve done it a long time, and it’s totally doable. However it depends on the kind of work you’re expected to perform in that business trip, and how much time you can allocate for non-work stuff. There’s just ONE BIG TAKEAWAY from this trip: PLANNING. You need to plan things out. I am a huge advocate for planning everything and every aspect of your life. In the meantime, we could talk about planning in a different post.

Can you mix business trips with vacation? Your thoughts are welcome! πŸ™‚

I see, you’ve reached this far. After all, what’s travel without some drama, anyway?