Another year is ending and I don’t know if it is just me but I can’t believe how fast 2014 passed. I have been back home in Germany for a little over a year now and it feels like time just flew by. It’s that time of the year to reflect on the past 365 days, the good times and the bad, all the things that have happened and to dare an outlook into the upcoming new year.
I can say it’s been a mixed year but taken the fact that I really didn’t expect too much in the first place, it actually turned out ok. It was a time of transition, re-adapting and settling back in, things that not only took a lot of time but also commitment and perseverance. And it was a time of new opportunities with the blog taking off, getting writing opportunities and officially being endowed with the Filipino nickname of Pipoy. Exciting and eventful times. Here is a little run down of what happened after my return from Southeast Asia and an outlook of what will be up in 2015.
Time to re-adapt
Coming home after a vacation is already hard but coming home after a year-long trip? I have to admit I was a bit worried about would happen and the things waiting for me. But during my last days abroad, I tried to visualize what I would do once back home and also tried to make precise plans for the first few days after my return. In the end I would have lots of paperwork to deal with, get my car back on the road and of course see old friends and family. I wanted to keep myself occupied which hopefully would help settling back in. And that actually worked pretty well. It was still hard sometimes. I had an exciting year, total freedom with another adventure happening every other day and constantly meeting new and interesting people. Those days were over and realizing that was a tough reality check at times. I came home after a year with so many more experiences and stories under my belt but things here didn’t seem to have changed at all. I came to the conclusion that, no matter how hard the next months would be, it was the absolute right thing to do. If I wouldn’t have left, nothing overly exciting would have happened in my life either. No one will be able to take these experiences and life lessons away from me and they are worth far more than silver and gold. With these thoughts in my mind, I was ready to tackle the upcoming challenges.
As many of you guys know, I had quit my job in marketing communications in order to go traveling Southeast Asia for a year. So without my job waiting for me and in desperate need of funds, it was clear that I had to line up a new job quickly. However, I still wanted to try to not rush things and go about it with a plan. I gave myself six months for the job search which I figured should be plenty of time. I knew I needed some time to adapt to life back home after having enjoyed that total freedom of traveling for a whole year. And I also didn’t want to take the first offer just in order to earn. This daunting task called for a strategic approach so the first thing I did was to attend a two-day career coaching to become aware of my goals, my skills and identify the path I wanted to take. After that and a ten day vacation in Canada which I was able to squeeze in, I started my job search. Researching, applying and attending interviews can be grueling and some days I was pretty frustrated and fed up. But I figured it would be a numbers game and so I kept on sending out these applications. The patience and perseverance finally paid off and I was able to land a good job not too far from my home. I started in July, just a bit over my 6-months deadline, and so far it’s looking good.
I think the job issue is what keeps most people from quitting to go traveling. My experience was that it is actually not too difficult to find something new. And the feedback I got from employers in terms of my trip was all positive. None of them questioned it and most of them were really interested in hearing about it. I think if you sell it right, it can actually be a big differentiator. So don’t let these doubts get in the way of you and your long lived dream. Just do it.
Exploring in Canada
At the beginning of the year I was invited to Vancouver, Canada by Angel whom I had traveled Vietnam with. Whereas I have been to Canada before, I have never visited Vancouver, the place which has recently been voted the third most livable city in the world. I heard a lot of good stories about the city – stories about an utterly relaxed lifestyle, mild climate, a beautiful setting by the Pacific and the great outdoors right at its doorsteps. It was time to discover and see for myself. It was the end of winter, blue skies, clear and cold air and the winter sun sending out its bright and warming rays. It made exploring the city a very special experience. Vancouver is a great place which is so diverse that it offers something for every kind of taste. Whether it is a lively nightlife, beaches, outdoor activities or good food – Vancouver will probably have it. Another great thing is that the city has some of Canada’s real highlights right at its doorstep. I wanted to get a taste of that so we went up to Whistler, the location of the 2010 Winter Olympics, for two days of snowboarding. The slopes of Whistler and Blackcomb are legendary and it was always a dream of mine to test them. I can say it was the most expensive lift ticket I ever bought but being there was definitely worth it.
Exploring beautiful Vancouver Island and Tofino was another highlight of that trip. I instantly fell in love with the rugged coastline of Canada’s wild west. The island’s enchanted coast, its wilderness and untamed beauty are captivating and the partly stormy weather we had just emphasized the region’s unique character. Walking this wild coast instantly gives you a sense of freedom that is hard to find nowadays. The ancient and ever green rainforest, the everlasting battle of the elements at its shores and a generally relaxed and welcoming vibe make this place a must see for Canada travelers.
It was a great and worthwhile adventure and just the right thing before starting the daunting quest for a new job.
ESCapology going viral
Just before starting my new job, my roundup post about my three months in the Philippines went absolutely viral. With the help of some big Facebook pages who shared my article, I received hundreds of thousands of visits in one day, generated thousands of likes, shares and comments and sparked a big discussion among Filipinos at home and abroad. The feedback I received was amazing and a bit overwhelmed by the massive incoming of messages and comments, I tried to reply to every single one personally. This policy I am still pursuing up this date. Sometimes it may take some time, but if you drop me a line, you can be sure that I will get back to you eventually.
In the wake of this online success I got interviewed by online editors of the biggest Filipino TV stations GMA and ABS-CBN, Yahoo News and others. My article was shared by the German embassy in the Philippines and even the Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines. I guess those were my “five minutes of (online) fame”. But way more important than that is the fact that I got to know amazing people in the course of these events. People who I now exchange messages and thoughts with regularly, people who I even met personally and people who have officially baptized me with the Filipino nickname Pipoy.
Meeting the readers
As I said, the success of the blog allowed me to get to know great people. Even though it was just online, it became clear that there are a lot like minded people out there who identified with I was doing. Since I don’t like to spend too much of my time in the virtual world, I tried to meet some of these folks personally which actually led to real friendships. I was invited to a Filipino birthday party in Holland, I met up with a German reader who passed by my town before heading off on a big trip herself, I met a Dutch guy who is running a tour company in the Philippines and I met up with a reader from London who happened to visit the Cologne christmas market the same day I did. Some of these meetings happened spontaneously, some of them were planned but all of them were worth the time and I am grateful to have met these people. So whenever you are close to my place or whenever I will pass by yours, give me a shout – I would love to meet up and share a couple of drinks, stories and laughter.
Getting published in travel magazines
As I am really into photography, one of my big dreams was to see my pictures printed in a proper travel magazine. The success ESCapology had, allowed me to take a shot at it and approach magazines with content proposals based on my recent journey. After sending out my proposals and following up quite a bit, I finally was successful. I was granted the opportunity to write articles for the two big Filipino travel magazines View Travel and Lifestyle and TravelNow Magazine. Seeing my writing and my pictures in a magazine was awesome and something I wouldn’t even have dared to think about a year ago. It all wouldn’t have been possible without the people who supported me on this quest, the people who helped getting in touch with editors and the people proofreading my articles. You know who you are – Thanks so much.
Plans for 2015
I am actually not a big planner as I go about it the same way as I do with all of my travels. That means I usually won’t make any big resolutions or anything like that. However, I have a few things on my mind which I want to tackle next year. The rest will evolve naturally as I tend to say.
New photography gear
If you followed the blog, you might have read about my incident in Vietnam where all of my camera gear got stolen. Since then I only occasionally borrowed cameras from friends to shoot. The reason for that is that I wanted to save up for a proper setup. One year of shooting almost every day has taught me a lot and showed me the limitation of the gear I had. I came to the conclusion that I want to update to a full frame camera which will also need some high quality glass to go with it. Probably by the beginning of the new year I will go and look for a new baby but I am still not sure what it’s going to be. I have a few ideas but once I am all set, I will write a post about it and elaborate on why I bought that specific setup and why I think it will fit my personal demands best. So stay tuned.
I am actually really bad when it comes to planning trips. I usually hold off until the last moment and then decide and book. I know I probably waste money on the more expensive flights but that’s just the way I am. There will be new adventures coming but I can’t disclose any details yet. I will be back in the Philippines in 2015, that is for sure. Anything else will once again have to evolve naturally. My Facebook Page is probably the best place to stay up to date here.
Generally, I will even more focus on independent and off the beaten track travel. Reminiscing about my recent journey, I realized that this is really where my heart is at. I want to venture really far off and explore places, which haven’t seen many tourists yet and document it. I am not sure if this can be realized next year already, but that is the path I will take. At the same time my passion for Asia remains strong and I can say I am not done with the region yet. Before heading to new ground, I want to see more of the Philippines, I want to explore the remoter parts of India and China, I want to see Bhutan and Tibet and also Mongolia. But as I said, that is a rather mid to long term perspective.
The blog is my personal project which gives me the opportunity to produce myself in pictures and writing, to reflect on the things that occupy my mind and to exchange thoughts with like-minded people. And although it takes quite a bit of time and effort, I will sure keep going in 2015. I want to try to implement a little optical makeover and move it to another platform which should bring more possibilities. Together with these tweaks, which will hopefully work out, I will finally update my About me page and include some more info.
Content wise, I will keep sharing my adventures and my personal thoughts about all things travel and also use it as platform to showcase my photography. I want to continue on portraying other travelers and photographers and I actually have an interview with one of the world’s best travel photographers right in the pipeline. If you guys have input or want to see certain topics covered, please let me know. I will be happy to write about it. Any input will be much appreciated.
The blog let me discover my passion for the written word. I wanted to turn that passion into a craft and decided to sign up for a part time degree in journalism earlier this year. As theory and practice are two different things, I recently secured my first regular freelance writing gig for a German portal network focusing on work and travel and traveling abroad. I have been with the company for a bit over a month now and it started out good. The team is great, the topics are interesting and the flexibility and freedom they allow for is great. I am excited to really get this project on the road next year.
From online to the real world
As I mentioned above, I love leaving the online world and meeting readers in the real world. In the end, real relationships are the ones that count, that last and that are inspiring. The few times this worked out this year were just awesome and I would love to do it more next year. Let’s all try to make it happen, either at your place, at mine or somewhere in between. Just get in touch and we will figure it out.
Last thoughts …
I don’t have too much to say here as this has been too long already. All there is left and that’s also the most important, is to say thank you! Thank you everybody for taking the time to read my posts, send comments and messages and provide the encouraging feedback that kept me going throughout the year. All of the good things that happened this year wouldn’t have been possible without you. I really appreciate it and hope that you will stick around for another year and I am looking forward to hearing from you. Have a great 2015, stay healthy, lots of success, many adventures and all the best… happy New Year!