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Dear April, Dreams Know No Age. So Do It.

the small building on the top of monte san salvatore: one day itinerary in Lugano Switzerland

Hello Jona, I’ve been following you for a while now. I love reading your posts because I see in you the ME I could have been had I the courage and the opportunity to get out of my comfort zone many many years ago. 

I am older by close to 20 years. A Filipina. 😊 I would not have been honest with myself if I say I have no regrets. I have some. May be many. 😅 But I love my life, too, and am happy with where I am now.

But now in my early 50s,  I feel this strong urge to go to faraway places. Really strong. On my own. I have kids in college but I think if I am careful with our budget I probably can squeeze in a once a year or at least every other year trip abroad on a budget. 😅

But I am not so sure with my age. It may be kind of late now. I may not be as flexible, say, as regards to accommodation. I may not have the openness, especially to adventures, the youth naturally possesses. I would love your thoughts on this.

I hope more and more young people, especially young Pinays find your blog. I had a hard time truly connecting with people when I was younger. Actually, even now. This is as regards to my unconventional point of view on many things. Like you, reading is a very integral part of me and it has changed me in so many ways. As a result I’m kind of different. Most of the time a lone voice, a lost soul 😅 in a group of people which tends to have  very specific perspectives… I’m sure you get what I mean. 😊

Good luck to your pregnancy!

Dear April, 

I’m writing this reply from the camping grounds close to Bodensee, the biggest lake that serves as a border for three countries: Germany, Switzerland, and Austria.

Yesterday, after setting up our home for the coming two nights, we took a dip in the lake. My partner giggled when I had a hard time getting in and out of the water. It was slippery and the rocks hurt my sole, plus I’m still navigating my way around this new body, which is constantly growing every day. I could not last in the lake for more than a minute. Despite being summer, the water remains on the cold side–if you ask a Bisaya.

He joked that it seems like I never developed this skill: wading into the water with rocks underneath my feet. I barked back and said, “Yeah, where I am from I’m used to fine white sand, very comfortable water temperature, and sunny weather.”

My husband teased, “Oh, my very privileged Asian wife.”

That night, a huge thunderstorm hit us, and the typhoon-traumatized me panicked and hid inside the car while my partner picked up the table, the chairs, everything the wind flew away and stored them in the tent vestibule and under the car. And in between these seemingly mundane tasks in the middle of heavy wind and thunderstorm (that led to an evacuation of 90 people in the nearby city), he drank his beer. That little moment made me giggle. And it reminded me how much I love this man, the only man I moved countries for. He is the calm, I’m the storm.

I traded my sunny comfortable life, my career, my dream of a tiny house with five cats and a library near the beach for love, for him, for us, for his effing cold country, for a language that made me feel like a newborn once again. I hauled my Hanoi life and my two cats, spent most of my savings just to establish a new life in a new country. For love. Until now, I found my decision so out of character.

This may sound like a trivial analogy, but what I’m trying to say is that we always trade something for whatever life decisions we make for ourselves. There will always be a part of us wondering what could have happened if we had chosen something else. Such is life. Such is the human mind always wandering, wondering of the different forking paths that we could have taken. In the end, we make a stand and choose something, hoping it is for the better. If not, such is life and we make do of what we have.

Now, in your trouble.

The simple answer is DO IT.

Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of your concern.

Talk with your family 

But now in my early 50s,  I feel this strong urge to go to faraway places. Really strong. On my own. I have kids in college but I think if I am careful with our budget I probably can squeeze in a once a year or at least every other year trip abroad on a budget. 😅

I don’t know your family dynamics if your kids and partner are supportive of the idea of you traveling alone in a foreign country. But just let them try to understand this urge—-which sadly many do not understand—-this desire to be in an unfamiliar place just being a total stranger and being, or trying to be, comfortable with that. 

I hope your kids are the typical open-minded GenZ who can see their mother from a different light. Honestly, it took me a while to realize that my mother had a life that I didn’t know. That before she became my mother she was a young girl, a young woman who had dreams of her own, which were burrowed deep inside her when she got married and had kids after kids. It is sad to think that my mother’s dream – away from the typical motherly dreams – would never be realized.

Dreams Know No Age

But I am not so sure with my age. It may be kind of late now. I may not be as flexible, say, as regards to accommodation. I may not have the openness, especially to adventures, the youth naturally possesses. I would love your thoughts on this.

The 40-year-old Jona, as the Bisayas joked about it, is waving at me. I still see myself traveling solo once in a while til my knees give in. 

During my first solo trip in Europe, I was in Split, Croatia, staying for a week in a dorm full of 20-something testosterones and estrogens. I was, most likely, the oldest in the group, at 36, and the only one who was (and is) in a committed relationship, while the rest entertained who to hang out and hook up with at the end of the night. But there I was, getting along with the gang and actually made friends with the 20-something women who, like me, love traveling alone. One is actually a 21-year-old Filipino-American who became my travel buddy around the gorgeous Dalmatian coast. 

When my partner and I entertained parenthood, I told my partner there are days I don’t want to be a mother, I don’t want to mother, and I simply want to be me, the old Jona traveling alone in an unfamiliar place. From a conservative Filipino perspective, this is rather selfish. But personally, I’m staying within my lane of truth; no one is hurt except some backward cultural expectations of us women. 

So yes, even though I’m now married and pregnant, I still travel solo. So far, I’d been to six countries on my own this year, four of which, my partner and I were aware that we have a little human growing inside me. Thankfully my partner fully supports (he wouldn’t be a partner if he doesn’t) this longing to be alone once in a while.

So, if you have this strong desire, you owe it to yourself to do it. Don’t let age and misguided cultural norms stop you from doing what you truly desire. In the end, it is your life, and you should live it the way you truly want.

If I listened to what others had said on how I should conduct my life, I would have been stuck in my little hometown, most likely with three kids or more, married to the first man who showed a slight interest in me, whining about everything, from the unwashed dishes in the sink down to the unfolded laundry waiting for me. And most likely financially, mentally, and emotionally bankrupt.

So do it, April. As you said, as long as you can budget the family money you can squeeze a trip to a neighboring country once a year. So do it.

Here are some practical tips from someone who spent some years traveling around Southeast Asia

Choose a budget travel destination 

I don’t know your budget, but based on my experience, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam are the best countries to start as a budget traveler. They have the culture, the food, the affordability, and the comfort that you need. Plus, major cities have direct flights from Manila. I’m from Cebu, so my route back then was always Cebu-Kuala Lumpur-the rest of Southeast Asia.

You don’t have to experience what the young are into. To be honest, the young ones, especially the ones I’ve encountered in my earlier years of traveling around Southeast Asia were mainly into partying and getting drunk. 

Just do what you feel like doing. There is no pressure to do what others are doing. When I learned how to drive a scooter in Vietnam, I would simply disappear in some random places I fancy exploring, walking, taking random routes, and eating alone in restaurants, and often lounging on an empty beach with a book. 

And that’s one of the many joys of traveling alone: you do you. There is noone, noone to wait, noone to compromise with. Peace. Quietude. Freedom. 

Of course, I’m not asking you to do what I do. 

It is actually possible to travel alone and still meet other travelers, especially when it is your first foray of traveling solo. Thankfully, thanks to the Internet, even though you are traveling alone, you can join group tours, on top of everything, to save and at the same time, to connect with other travelers. 

There is Klook where you can book a slot on tours. 

A private room or a dorm?

Funny fact: I actually stayed in dorms more in Europe than in Southeast Asia. Private rooms in popular European cities are just too expensive for a budget solo female traveler. 

But in Southeast Asia, it is easy to find a decent private room $25-30 (1000php-1500) a night, often with a private shower and toilet. The room can be spare, but it serves what you need: a comfortable private space you can rest in after a day of exploring. If not, then a female dorm is not a terrible choice either. Female dorms are a bit cheaper than private rooms. They are clean (especially the ones that come with good reviews) and safe. They provide you with your own locker so you can lock your valuables. 

Do your research 

For example, research the transportation apps popular in your destination of choice and download all of them. Bangkok, for example, is really infamous for tuktuk scammers. And a simple way of combating it is to use booking apps for all your transportation needs, from cabs to motorbikes.

Indonesia: Gojek

Thailand: Uber and Grab

Vietnam: Uber, Grab, and Bee 

Buy a local sim 

The only non-negotiable for me when I travel solo around Southeast Asia is to have a local sim with a good Internet service. I don’t rely on my Philippine roaming sim, that’s often way costlier and has unpredictable service. For someone who loves traveling solo, I have a terrible sense of direction and often I get lost. But that doesn’t deter me from doing what I love: walking alone in random streets as long as I have a fully charged phone and reliable Internet. 

Have a reliable power bank 

The worst that could happen is that your phone dies. So wherever you go, always bring a fully charged power bank with you. 

Google-drive important docs

All pages of your passport. IDs. Bank statements. All important travel documents that you have, have online versions of them. 

Bring your own lock 

In case you’re staying in a female dorm, it is always handy to have your own lock with you. Oftentimes, dorms either provide or sell them. But bringing a good one is the best. 

And there you go, hope this helps you in any way. 

Looking forward to seeing photos in my inbox someday,


Jona of Backpacking with a Book

Hi there, I’m Jona, originally from Cebu, Philippines, had live in Hanoi, Vietnam, and now currently based in Munich, Germany. This blog used to house thoughts on life and books, but eventually it morphed into a travel blog. For collaborations, projects, and other things, please email me at For essays, creative nonfiction, and others, find me elsewhere.

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