Alternative places to stay when traveling

Alternative places to stay when traveling

I used to think traveling to different places is expensive because you have to stay in posh places like hotels.

Well, some people really do travel and stay in hotels all day. I was lucky to stay at 5 star hotels on various occasions. This was at Shangri La Hotel in Edsa.


shangri la hotel
 

Read this if you want to stay in posh places for free.

Well, now that more and more people are traveling, it has now become apparent that there are other alternative places to stay when you want to take a break from your daily life to meet people and see other places.

Alternative places to stay can be hostels which is cheaper than a hotel and suitable for young people because of the vibe and the connections.. For those who have a large network, or family, you can stay in your relative’s homes which can be free as long as you wash the dishes or help around the house… in my case, I try to cook or buy people food instead.


cebu with chuchay
 

You can sleep in family homes, but you can also sleep at other people’s homes too.. it will be more interesting if the house has a character. So far, I have stayed in our old traditional Filipino house in Antique, a farm house in Laos, an art house owned by a movie director in Palawan, I’ve stayed at nipa huts of friends, and I’ve stayed in a Tribe community in South Cotabato..

 



If you don’t have a large family clan, but belong to an organization or community, you can try to sleep in the org’s headquarters in the area where you are in. I was able to stay in Tagaytay for a few months because of an international community called Focolare. In Nepal, I stayed in a school that has a children’s home run by the Ananda Marga organization.. in return, I took care of the kids, became a temporary computer teacher, treat them food that they don’t get to eat always, like spaghetti.

Now, those houses are still normal resting places. Let’s explore a bit more of the unconventional places to check out when looking for places to stay while traveling.

You might want to consider these places to add more interesting travel experiences.

Have you tried sleeping in a convent? I did. During retreats, we get to stay in religious places.. I am also curious about temples and other religious places though.. might try to stay in one out of curiousity.

How about sleeping in a tent? I’ve tried that when we were in Omkoi, Thailand last 2011 while doing volunteer work in the far flung area.


tent


Ok, if there’s no tent, sleeping under the stars is an option too.. yep, tried it one time with a french friend in Bohol in Alona beach, Panglao… we just put our towels in the sand and slept outside ignoring the posh establishments.


I also tried sleeping in moving vehicles, a bus, or train.. this saves time and money because you are moving while sleeping.


sleep

Another temporary refuge is the airport or bus terminal.. Get a bench, make your backpack your pillow, and catch a few hours of sleep. I tried that in Malaysia, then I overslept and my plane went ahead of me.

Hammocks are nice too. I haven’t tried this yet but who knows what the future holds.

But after all these traveling, you know what I realized? A 5 star hotel can still feel like an any star hotel.. And a home can feel like the poshest hotel that gives you all the positive feelings..

It really doesn’t matter where you stay or where you rest your head at night.. what matters is the positive vibe that the place is giving.. Here’s a list of my favorite places to stay whenever I travel.

Were you able to travel and stay in alternative places other than the usual hotel/hostel/home? I’d like to hear your thoughts and recommendations.

What to do next? My dream travel itinerary

What to do next? My dream travel itinerary

Do you know the feeling of wanting to have a holiday but due to grown up responsibilities, it is not yet possible at the moment? I know most people are in that stage.. coz that includes me too.

But that does not hinder us from planning on that great escape right? While I hustle on accumulating that so called freedom fund, I also daydream on that perfect holiday to finally experience the unique landscape of Cappodocia, Turkey; that captivating feeling when you see the Northern lights; that excitement to see the New York City attractions; or the bliss when you finally see the Corrs live in Ireland; or that moment when you finally step into the hills that are alive in Austria, and much more.

Let’s look forward to the day where we’ll finally be able to cast our worries away on that far away land just because we deserve it. I’ll be writing my dream travel itineraries because.. well, this is my blog. :P

You may want to follow this itinerary too if you are fond of long term and slow travels.

Coffee or Tea shop hopping. My friends who went to travel with me previously know this is so true. And while they trek that mountain, I’ll be on that coffee or tea shop hanging out to wait for them to get back. Maybe I’m not that sporty type but yeah I’m happy reading a book in coffee or tea shops while my friends sweat it out outside.

 


coffee shop


Reading books during transit. I love to read books more than watching tv or movies. Sometimes I even read favorite books twice. ^_^ My favorites are The Little Prince, Alchemist, Like a Flowing River, and a Thousand Splendid Suns. Looking forward to read books recommended by the book club of Mark Zuckerberg this time.

Landscape and history tour. Sometimes, every city that you visit are always the same – malls, parks, buildings.. same gray architecture with busy people. That is why it is nice to visit heritage cities and geographical landscapes that are out of the ordinary. It is what makes a country unique and travel more interesting.


 


Explore towns with a Bicycle. Aside from train travels, I do love to ride bikes when traveling. That is because bicycle rides produces low carbon footprint, so it’s an environment friendly way to explore surroundings.


bike


 

Cooking school. Not really a good cook, but I’m learning. It’s fun to do this whenever I go to different homes during my travels because every country have their own dish specialty.

Culture and Language exchange. Going to a new country means also meeting local people and get to know their way of life. I was fortunate enough to learn a bit of Bangla when I was in Kolkata, India and learned Passa Thai when I was in Thailand. I learned a bit of Italian when I stayed in Tagaytay because I was with Italian speaking people and I learned bits of dialects in every Visayan province that I go to. Here’s to learning more!


christmas


 

Road trip and Train travels. This is a definite bucketlist. I once read about that trans siberian train travel where you can get from Asia to Europe and vice versa by land travel. Road trips during winter on vehicles with winter tyres are on the bucketlist too.

I just hope to tick this off while traveling with special people in my life so we can see if we can still stick with each other despite uncomfortable long travels :D..

So those are what I regularly do and what I still plan to do once I start to travel out of my country again. I’m getting that feeling that the universe can’t wait for me to explore again.. and yes dear Universe, I am so grateful.

As much as possible, I intend to not just travel but live in a new country for at least a few months to a year. Visiting for a short time only scratches the surface culture of a country, it’s still nice to immerse in the country and learn it’s way of living too.. that way, we become a global citizen and learn more about the world.

Recommended reads:
http://grasya.com/2016/09/where-to-go-next-my-dream-travel-itinerary/
http://grasya.com/2014/10/long-preparation-for-a-long-term-travel/
http://grasya.com/2015/03/things-you-need-to-bring-for-long-term-travels/

How to travel alone – a guide for solo female travelers

How to travel alone – a guide for solo female travelers

My earliest solo travel memories was traveling from Laguna to Manila every school day at 11 years old. I woke up at 4am, then walk (yes, walk) 2 kilometers to the bus station, and hope to not be late for the flag ceremony at 6:30am.

Eventually, the bus conductor knew me already as a regular passenger, then he gave me ticket passes so I don’t have to pay the bus fare. He also told me to scold my mom. I’m sure my mom wants what is best for me coz I still did piano and ballet lessons during weekends. My mom taught me how to mingle with different kinds of caste err I mean classes of society in this country early.

So my early years mould me to be independent while on the road. It paved way to me traveling solo to almost all countries I’ve been. And you know what? It was real adventure.

For those who wants to travel alone for various reasons, you may want to start with traveling to nearby places. If you live in a city, try to travel to nearby provinces, eat local delicacies, go to local tourists spots. Embrace solitude like a new found freedom.


rp_P80412611-1024x768.jpg
 

Then start venturing further, go to places with different dialects, different cultures and tradition. You shouldn’t be paranoid if you can’t speak the local language, usually local people are kind and adjust to you if you are kind enough to them too. But to be honest, sometimes local people can intimidate too. Example, if you speak tagalog in Cebu, locals usually will talk back in English. If you get intimidated, speak to another person instead.

If you’re from the province and want to explore the city, it may take a while to get used to traveling in the busy places.. I suggest go there with a companion first, then try to return on your own. With lots of activities that can get you busy in the city, I’m sure you won’t really mind being alone.

Once you’re at ease, then traveling out of the country will be a breeze already.

My first international solo travel was in Singapore where I left my friends in the hotel to travel and visit an organization, then I traveled around the lion city afterwards. Then I went to solo traveling in most countries that I lived or visited.

Traveling solo has its perks alright. You don’t have to wait for someone if you want to go somewhere else. You don’t have to share decisions. You can go to any tourist spot without asking for someone to go with you. You can go on a shopping spree all day and no one will be impatiently waiting at the hotel’s lobby. You can do food trips without having to share your food.

eggs benedict

As long as you have the budget, you can do what you want. That alone makes me highly recommend traveling solo to anyone.

For most culture, a single asian female traveling deviates from the tradition. Since I understand a bit of Thai language and since Laos language is similar to Passa Thai, I often hear this – Khun Diaw.
This means – only you or you’re alone.


bombs display in the coffee shop
 

It helps that you have a support system online. Someone you can go to just in case you are in trouble. When I was traveling solo, I make sure my family know where I am.

Also, it helps if you travel light and simple so you don’t attract unnecessary negativities. It’s great that I haven’t experienced being kidnapped, or having my wallet stolen while on the road. Maybe because scammers never thought of me as a potential victim… Dear (legal and illegal) scammers in all forms, i have nothing to declare.

But just in case this happens to you, please make sure you know self defense or carry a self defense tool like a pepper spray.

I was not a victim to such scams but our house back home got robbed while I was traveling though, so that’s the reason I’m careful when posting online. It’s better to be humble than to motivate someone to do bad things to you.

Aside from being a potential victim to scammers since you’re traveling alone, there’s also a possibility that you get sick while traveling, and you’re alone. Make sure the food you eat is clean, go to restaurants where there are lots of locals coz usually travelers get sick of diarrhea. And just in case you still get sick, make sure you have an insurance.

I’d still highly recommend solo travel. You will never experience another level of freedom unless you go trek this lifestyle path.

Where to travel solo? That’s another story.

Move to Paradise – a must read for city dwellers

Move to Paradise – a must read for city dwellers

I have lived in different far flung rural areas in the Palawan, Bohol, Antique, Laguna in the Philippines. Aside from that I also lived 5 months in rural Kolkata in India, and a few weeks in Bhakatapur and Heutuda in Nepal, and a few days in far flung rural Laos.

I don’t just travel and take pictures.. I try to partake in the way of life and hopefully get a lesson or two to share to people. Some of you, especially those who lived in the city, would want to make the move to rural life because of – Clean air, fresh food, peaceful life, low cost of living.

Paradise right?

These are carabaos staring at me when I visited a small island in Laos:

rp_cows2-1024x768.jpg


Stop the music playing in your head. Can I burst your bubble this early?

Here’s the harsh truth – You might be in the honeymoon stage of travel where people usually see the brighter side of things. Try to live in rural areas for a few months to confirm if it’s indeed paradise coz I don’t want you to start cursing me silently by promoting rural living yet when you tried it yourself, you just can’t fit in.

If you ask me personally, it is indeed great. Benefits far outweigh the disadvantages.

Usually, people paint dreamy descriptions of rural living, like what I said:

Clean air, fresh food, peaceful life, low cost of living. Paradise right?

This was in a lesser touristy area in Palawan.

palawan
 


But those in marketing with properties to sell, vacation spots to promote, will never tell you the negative side of things. But I’m not biased, take that to your advantage. Now, if you’re really keen on living the rural life, here’s a few things that you need to take note.


Sometimes, rural means, far from everything.
Like malls, schools, stores, and hospitals.. So when there is an emergency and hospital is like 2 hours away and you don’t have your own vehicle, well, good luck. On the brighter side, when the air is clean and you eat veggies regularly, there’s less probability you’ll get an emergency concerning your health. And what is there to spend when you don’t see anything to spend on? And that’s how you accumulate wealth dears :D.. don’t forget to share it with the less fortunate ok?


There’s abundant greens which means less pollution.
It also means less transportation to and from your area. So if you don’t own a private vehicle, your mobility is compromise. Example, I have to make sure I take the 5pm jeep going home from the town because it’s the last trip. If you can’t make it, you’ll have to wait for the trip next morning. Or hire a tricycle (because there’s no taxi) but you’ll have to pay more than the jeepney fare.
Aside from that, because all rice fields looks the same, you need to make sure you go down on the right rice field.. coz once you go down and you realize it’s not the way to your home.. then you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere.. pray that there is no mumu.

 

antique road less traveled

 


If you want to live in rural areas, you will need to empathize with traditions. Your old folk’s tradition believes there exists such monsters, aswang, kulam, etc. Ask them if they saw an aswang and they will say not yet.. If you talk back, you’ll be considered an ingrate so shut up ka na lang. I was actually joking with a friend from the city whom I told, we don’t usually go to trial courts in the far flung province, but people there use kulam or witchcraft on their enemies.

Limited internet signal, and sometimes limited electricity too. The irony of living with abundant natural resources is limited technology. Bad move for digital nomads who needs internet like they need coffee to live here, unless they are writers or other creative who needs offline moments to produce work output. Oh I have to correct myself on abundant natural resources – because you know, sometimes I need to burst your bubble that even in Paradise called Bohol and Palawan, there’s limited water too. Are you pouting already? Oh yeah locals only experience that so no need to worry if you’re a tourist.

This was in the border of Thailand and Myanmar when we did some ICT training:

stoop low. aim high. grasya in Burma
 


There’s a possibility of cultural clashes and misunderstanding. Many people think that only foreigners and locals have clashes in ways of living. But actually city dwellers and rural folks, even if they are both of the same nationality, still have misunderstandings. The difference in dialect from each province and ways of living is a point of confusion from each side. If you’re not speaking the dialect of the local folks, it is understandable to get a bit paranoid that they are talking about you even if you are in front of them.
Another example of misunderstanding – city dwellers think these rural people are lazy for always chitchatting and spending time doing nothing.

They don’t actually see the behind the scenes of how the muscles of these people are developed by tilling the land all day so we can have unlimited rice. Unless of course if you are a haciendera/haciendero where you can sleep all day and still get unlimited rice and veggies, if you are, ask me how to make your life productive. :D

On the other hand, rural people think city dwellers are also lazy for always traveling and staring at the computer.. that’s my personal experience btw. They can’t comprehend that I work with different clients in different countries while I’m just in my bedroom “staring at the computer”… Struggle is real.

On the plus side, there’s a sense of community when you live in rural areas. It’s difficult to have that in the city where you don’t even know your neighbor. People in far flung areas know almost everyone living in the area and almost everyone is related to each other. So fiestas and reunions are interesting activities. Imagine being introduced to your third cousin’s uncle’s mother from another grandfather.

Also when there’s trouble, there’s a big probability you will get a helping hand.. sometimes for free too.. just don’t be a bitch to always ask for help. This also goes when the community sense that you have money, be careful not to let them look at you with $$ in your eyes or you’ll encourage dependency. I remember one time, a big healthy person from a rural area asking me, a frail small skinny lady for donation. See the difference?

Be careful though coz since it’s a community, when you get into an argument with a member of the community, you have the whole community against you.

This picture was taken while we were traveling in Myanmar:

grasya in motorcycle
 


Feel my frustration? Thank you ^_^… I just want you to know both sides of the coin dear, I’m sure you’ll thank me somehow. You’re welcome.

Rural living is bliss to those who are adjusted to the slow yet healthy lifestyle. You can’t have everything but if you’re tired and stressed from the hustle and bustle of the city, then you deserve to escape to the province and let the clean air, fresh veggies, beach, forest heal you.. Be warned that you might want to stay forever..


How Forests Heal People from Nitin Das on Vimeo.

 


Either that or get bored and want to go back to the city again ^_^…

 

Recommended Reads:
http://grasya.com/2014/06/how-to-take-a-bath-using-4-to-5-dippers-of-water/
http://grasya.com/2016/08/8393-living-the-local-life-a-personal-insight/
http://grasya.com/2012/09/fiesta-and-street-dance-parade-in-panglao-bohol/

welcome

 

Living the local life – a personal insight

Living the local life – a personal insight

Because it has been a long time since I traveled out of my country, local living has become my daily routine. I still travel around the country and have experienced the lifestyle of different classes of society.
Somehow I do see the benefits of each side of the story. If you’re gonna ask me which lifestyle suits me best, I’d say it depends on the situation.

When you’re traveling as an elitist, or part of the upper class, you will be served with comfort and class. However, people will look at you with $$ in your eyes and expect money in every move you make. I was traveling in style when a cousin from London and a Chinese friend came over last month. And you have no idea how worried I am about being kidnapped… not because I’m rich, but because kidnappers might notice my companions are rich.. so dear elite friends, please dress down when you are with me.. I had enough mishaps in my life already, thank you. Sorry posh pictures are private property unless I’m given permission to boast about them :P

Here’s one of our tour spots, Waterfalls of Tibiao, Antique:


water falls in Tibiao Antique

And even if I travel solo, I just don’t blend. One time while eating breakfast solo in a hotel, a police woman went in the hotel to observe me.. Does this thin looking frail lady look harmful? Maybe the owner think I look like I will eat all the food in the buffet. :D

On the other hand, when traveling on a budget, you’ll get glares from the elitists who will look at you from head to toe. I do notice that when I was in Tagaytay in a gathering. Amongst families with cars, I was one of the people who arrived in a tricycle. Well at least I will not be taken advantage of.. wait, the tricycle driver overcharged me I think. Great.

This scenario makes me not want to travel around the country.

Not traveling has its advantage actually.. you’re safe eating home made fresh foods in a house that you call home. You can be your true self and no matter what you wear, your pet dog will adore you.


dog
 

In my case, not traveling makes my friends from afar visit instead.. So far, friends from Vietnam, Switzerland, Hong Kong, France, Taiwan, China, US and UK has visited my hidden paradise.. My aunt who hasn’t traveled out of the Philippines yet felt like she has traveled already thru the stories of my friends..

But not traveling will also make a person not see the beauty of the world.. I hope people continue to travel despite what harshness media is telling them.. or despite harshness I have personally experienced :)).. coz yours might be a different story who knows..

Travel peels off all your labels and brings out the best in you.. Authentic travel brings out true friends too.. It is thru understanding cultures and learning their way of life that true peace is achieved. Isn’t it great that you be friends with everyone in any part of the world?

I do look forward to the time where I can become myself with no labels. I can stay in whatever posh hotels or serviced apartments.. or sleep on bus stops or hitchhike in Europe.. and no one will measure my ability just by looking at me from head to toe.

I look forward to the day I can travel freely, where I can encounter no hatred, only welcoming people wanting me to stay in their warm homes.. But for now, I can just dream.. until I set foot on that long journey again.

 

beautiful life