James’ Journey

By , on August 7, 2013

James at Taraw Ridge, El Nido, Palawan.
James at Taraw Ridge, El Nido, Palawan.

Mula Aparri hanggang Jolo and more.

James Betia has certainly made a name for himself for traveling the entire Philippine archipelago in just 100 days. Not only did he go backpacking around the country, but he did it the cheapest way possible.

For James, traveling doesn’t have to break the bank. It only has to do with your wanderlust—an innate desire to travel and explore that can only be satisfied when you put your most adventurous foot forward.

Surfing in La Union

An Awakening

James started traveling a little when he was in college, but really took it by heart after quitting his job as a school administrator. A routinary work-behind-a-desk, nine-to-five job just didn’t cut it for him.

“I ask myself if I want to teach [for the rest of my] life and [my] answer was a resounding NO!”

Now, he spends his time wherever his wanderlust takes him. Surfing in Baler one weekend, then helping out less fortunate kids in Jomalig the next.

Other than helping out and giving back to the country that blessed him with so many things to explore, James’ motivation in documenting his escapades is his future family.

“I wanted to chronicle my life’s journey here on earth [because] I want to give my future kids and grandkids an inspiration, [something that] they can be proud of. Me as [their] dad and granddad, telling their peers stories of my adventures, the crazy things I did for the love of traveling.”

Accommodations in Batad? Hammock!
Accommodations in Batad? Hammock!
Traveling Essentials

James professed that he cannot travel without his hammock, a water bottle, and his Macbook Air. Avid readers of his travel blog knows that he’s spent many-a-nights swinging in his hammock between trees, enjoying the rush of the ocean waves and the dazzling nightsky above.

Although he enjoys lavish accommodations every once in a while, James is an advocate of traveling on a shoestring.

“When Filipinos think of traveling, they always think of a grand vacation and end up staying at home [because they couldn’t afford that grand getaway]. I always tell them that traveling can be cheap and you don’t need a [huge] stash of cash to enjoy a certain place.”

To save money while traveling, James has a few tips. “Bring a water bottle. You [don’t just] save on water expenses, you also help reduce plastic waste.” He also adds to keep a stash of instant coffee to save on caffeinated beverage expenses. Second, “do as the locals do—take public transportation, eat local delicacies, visit the public market, and stay at homestays. Try to enjoy the destination from a local’s perspective.” Lastly, he said you should plan ahead. “Book your flights early, contact friends around the place, read blogs/sites that can give you the latest update [about your destination].”

He has also encountered his share of foreign travelers, often enjoying simpler amenities when compared to local tourists—something that he is also very fond of.

“I always encourage foreigners to go and ask the locals, stay away from tourist traps because off-the-beaten-path destinations is [where you’ll find] the real Philippines.”

Turtle laying egg in Davao Oriental


“It’s more fun in the Philippines”

When asked about his favorite destination in the country, James answered without missing a beat.

“I love Kalinga province. Going there, you will be greeted with centuries-old Narra trees and acres and acres of rice terraces. You wouldn’t believe that it was engineered [and built] by bare hands and feet. Plus the culture is almost the same [as] 50 years ago—they still tattoo their bodies, and the more the tattoos [you have], the higher your social significance. And it’s really far from the hustle and bustle of the metropolis.”

Among his too-many-to-mention travels and adventures, James shared that two of his most unforgettable experiences while backpacking around the Philippines were “swimming with the whalesharks in Donsol, Sorsogon and seeing a 100-kilo green sea turtle lay eggs under my hammock in Davao Oriental.”

Of course, traveling has its share of misadventures. James isn’t spared from unwanted events. “I can’t think of any [unwanted experience here] because the Philippines is so warm toward travelers and strangers. The most danger I’ve ever been into while traveling was when I got held up in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. They took my passport, travel money, and camera.”

Sand bar in Jomalig, Quezon Province.
Sand bar in Jomalig, Quezon Province.
What’s next for James Betia?

James is now starting a new chapter in his life – figuratively and literally. He is currently writing his book about his 100-day escapade around the Pearl of the Orient, and he plans to have it published soon.

One can truly say that he is living The Life. And for James, he really is living the life he only dreamed of in the past.

When asked about his tips for aspiring travelers, he only has three words of advice: “Buy a map, start exploring your own locality, and have a travel destinations bucket list.”