EDIT: This was written in 2016. A lot has changed in my life. You can follow me on Instagram: @jonajournals
First, let me tell you a little story. My older sister, a single mom who is raising her two sons alone, bought a piece of land some months ago. She works at home by teaching English to Koreans and the Japanese. The construction of her own house in her own land is undergoing right now.
Now, why did I bring it up? If I recalibrate my priorities, my travel fund is actually enough to buy a small lot in a small town in Cebu where I can build my own little dream house. Yet, I choose to follow my own fernweh [the ache for distant places]. My sister chooses stability. And I admire her for that. While in my case, I’m thirty and own nothing but books and some pans and cups.
I am not here to spark envy and jealousy among those who dream in setting off on their adventure. Traveling, as I said, is not the ultimate goal; it is a medium, a bridge that links you to your passion or purpose. In my case, it is my creative process that ferries me to the many worlds of the written word. [My first poetry book got published last August!]
For an ordinary Filipino, Php180K is not a small amount. It is the biggest money I have ever had. And certainly it did not happen overnight and certainly, it will not cover the whole trip. Based on my personal experience, I approximately spend Php45000-Php55000 ($1000-$1200) a month on my trips abroad. So this Php180K, if I stay lazy and unproductive, is due to deplete after three months of traveling.
I started the Money Talk series on BWAB with an honest detailing of my finances—hoping that by doing so I can inspire my fellow Filipinos, especially the young ones, to have a closer look on their finances and their lifestyle. I do not come from a middle-class family. My father used to be a farmer and fisherman rolled into one. Mama owns a little sari-sari store.
As I said, for us to talk about traveling, we must talk about money.
Let’s me focus on the following questions I am often asked.
Because I am a popular travel blogger? [Insert a haughty tone here]. You know, I am practically paid to travel! Haha! I wish!
So how could I? Does my afam [a local gay word for foreigner] pay for my trips? I wish! Kidding!
To put it mildly, I work my ass off. Living a multiple version of myself [I called it the multitab personality—you know, like having many different tabs on your browser], I juggle different lives and roles.
I have been teaching literature to awesome humans for the past two and half years. I have been writing for TV5’s Interaksyon, Rappler, and anywhere else who would have me in their team. I shoot weddings and prenuptials for an affordable price. Together with established literati in Cebu [I’m not worthy], I sometimes panel writing workshops in Cebu. I handle one-on-one writing tutorials after work. I used to teach basic English online as well.
I’m a certified raketera. I have no shame when it comes to making decent money.
If there is one advice I could give to my younger self who did not know anything about the Internet, it would be this: Learn to diversify your skills. Be the modern Jill or Jack of all trade. Learn HTML. Practice Adobe Indesign.
In a way, yes. Little they may be, these paid opportunities allow me to continue traveling around the Philippines while saving for my year-long trip abroad and while maintaining [or trying to] a day job.
I made a pact with myself that I would never go out the country without exploring our own beautiful yet flawed country first. Despite not reaching as far as Batanes and Tawi-tawi [two polar destinations], I think I did a good job.
I did not get my passport until June 2015. [READ: A letter to my developing country passport]. In a year, I have been to ten countries. Six [Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia, India, and Sri Lanka] were spent with Tobi; while I traveled solo in Malaysia, Myanmar, Japan, and Singapore.
I consider myself lucky; some freelance writers in the Philippines are paid Php1000.00 or less for a 1000-word article. For a 500-word article, my usual rate is Php3000.-Php4000.00. I have been writing pseudo-travel guides and hotel information for a foreign client.
For the past two years, I got stable writing assignments from them. I earn about $500-$600 a month. My client has its own payroll system and bureaucracies that it takes them up to three months to wire the money via Paypal.
Serious about my intention of traveling long-term, I created a separate travel fund account and connected it to my Paypal. I never touch it. I treat it like it does not exist. [IMPORTANT READ: Do you end up broke after a trip? Check the breakdown of my finances]
So reaching Php180K does not happen overnight. It took me two years to save up. It took four jobs and paid opportunities here and there. It took a lot of sleepless nights, coffee, and unlimited rice to reach this amount.
I’m transitioning to becoming a full-time digital nomad. What does it mean? It means I am going to work online and stalk freelancing sites. Haha! I am not doing that cliche “I Quit My Boring Job to Travel the World.” I am bringing work with me.
Honestly, I’m scared. This would be the craziest thing I would ever do in my life. For the first six months, we have Australia [Got my visa within 24 hours!], Papua New Guinea, Indonesia (Sulawesi area), the Philippines (of course!), Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Myanmar, Nepal, and Mongolia.
But this is subject to change, depending on our finances and resources.
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