Seeing her friends living their own destinies – whether be it marriage, parenthood, or “climbing up the corporate ladder,” travel blogger extraordinaire Nina Fuentes of ‘Just Wandering’ decided to take matters into her own hands.
“Neither one of those was an option for me, so I decided to pursue what I’ve always said I want to do: travel. I decided to travel solo to Thailand in May 2006, and never stopped since,” she shared.
Yuppie on the Go
If you follow Nina’s blog, you will find out that she’s a yuppie or a ‘young professional,’ meaning she has a full-time, office-based job. Spending around 40 hours every week in the office, how does Nina manage to squeeze in her numerous travels?
“I wanted to travel and I did everything I can just so I can travel. If you really want something, wouldn’t you do everything to make sure you get it?
“As the saying goes, if there is a will, there is a way. I plan my trips on weekends, maximizing my time from when my shift ends early Saturday morning until my shift starts again on Monday night. I also note when the holidays are (I follow the US holidays, since my main client is based in the USA), and plan a trip when I can get a long weekend. For longer travels, I ask my client if I can take a couple of weeks or months off, for no pay.”
How would she encourage local tourists and foreigners to visit the country despite their 8-to-5 work schedule?
“I share photos of the places and quirky things I’ve seen around the country in my blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. That piques their interest, and I make sure that I have ready answers for the questions that would come: Where is that [place]? How do you go there? How much does it cost? I try to answer those questions in the blog as well, so that people searching for that destination would have the information ready.”
“When I started preparing for my first solo trip, I discovered travel blogs and found how useful they are for someone who’s planning a trip.”
With the advent of technology, Nina decided to give back and start a travel blog of her own.
“I wanted to share my personal travel experiences to help others who are also preparing their trips and to maybe inspire others to travel as well.”
Her travel blogging was a great outlet to share her travel experiences with a wide range of viewers. But Nina shares that her travel blog gave her more than just an avenue to document her travels.
“A couple of months into my foray into travel blogging, I found out that you can earn from blogging, and that became another purpose for my travel blog: to earn extra money on the side to fund my wanderlust. Aside from the additional funds, my travel blog gave me several travel opportunities in and out of the Philippines.”
When asked about her staples when traveling, Nina said, “My life is largely based online, so my phone and tablet are very important. My passport finishes the list, as I love to travel overseas.”
Speaking of overseas, Nina’s travel blog has given her numerous opportunities to travel within the Philippines and abroad – she even backpacked across Southeast Asia on her own! Out of all the countries she’s been blessed to visit, she has one runaway favorite.
“The clear favorite would be Bangkok, mainly for the cheap and good street food. It’s also a relatively cheap place to travel, and very easy to get around the city. I also loved Japan and would love to go back there someday.”
Nina also shared her favorite local destinations.
“I love beaches, so Boracay and El Nido, Palawan tops my list. Though it’s highly commercialized now, Boracay is simply something else, and a destination that I keep coming back to. El Nido is one of my dream destinations, and I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to visit it twice (and more, if schedule and budget allows). Batanes also holds a special place.”
Like what most travel bloggers profess, traveling doesn’t have to break the bank. Here are some tips on saving money while traveling according to Nina.
“Plan ahead. Know your destination and see when’s the best time to visit. Is there a particular festival or event you want to partake in? Note that traveling for an event means prices go up, so book well in advance so you are assured of a flight and room for the price you’re happy with.
“Travel with travel friends. Traveling solo is fun, but traveling with friends can be [just] as fun and save you some money as well. An expensive car rental for one is not as expensive when the cost is split four ways. Note the emphasis on travel friends. These are friends who you can stand to be with even when they’re taken out of their comfort zone. Also, friends who share the same travel philosophy as you do.
“The market is your best friend. Want to really eat like the locals do? Go where they buy their ingredients: at the market! That’s where you can get the freshest and cheapest ingredients for trying your hand at cooking the local cuisine (or when you’re starting to miss food from home). Chances are, there would also be stalls selling food that are hearty without the hefty price tags. Try the supermarkets too, for impromptu picnic meals that you can eat at the park or while on the go.”
Traveling at one’s own pace
Nina says she is not the type to go out and look for an adventure all the time, but she does enjoy exploring places and experiencing activities that are otherwise foreign to her.
“While I don’t go out every weekend to climb a mountain, I do get the urge to go somewhere completely different or do something new. I don’t go out of the way to do daring things all the time, just when I feel like it. I travel the way I want to, not how others dictate one should travel.”
Though she admits to enjoy traveling at her own pace, traveling as often as she does comes with its own share of perils.
“I jolted awake while inside the night bus from Kota Bahru in the Kelantan state of Malaysia for no apparent reason. I took this opportunity to try to get a glimpse of what was outside the window, though it was futile, as it was too dark and street lights are few and far in between. Suddenly, there were streaks of yellow light: the bus swerved to avoid hitting a car, so it spun around in the highway, ending up with its rear in a deep ditch. The lights immediately went out, and just as we were realizing what happened, another vehicle hit the front of the bus, driving it deeper into the ditch.
“I was the only foreigner in that bus, and nobody can speak English. It was in the dead of the night, in the middle of nowhere, and I’m almost out of prepaid credit in my mobile phone.
“I just followed the other passengers as they were assisted to get out of the bus. I’ve never felt more lost as I did that night. I stood by the side of the road with the other passengers, not knowing what’s going to happen next. As the road cleared, the driver and the conductor of the bus were able to board the passengers unto other buses headed to Kuala Lumpur.”
Nina obviously survived that incident, and boy, are we thankful! Today, despite the scary bus accident that would traumatize a regular tourist, she continues to hop on a plane (or boat or bus or any form of local transportation really) to her next escapade. She continues to document her travels through writing and photos, and share helpful reviews of various travel items.
When asked about her future plans, Nina said she doesn’t have any set plans for the future, except for one thing.
“I want to continue traveling. I have a long list of places I want to visit, and I’m slowly working my way to them.”
For more of Nina’s great escapes, check out her website www.justwandering.org or follow her on Twitter @ninawanders.
All photos and captions courtesy of Nina Fuentes.