/**/ January 2017 - Travel + Decor + DIY

What I Learned from Leaving The Corporate World (to travel—sort of)

I am sure that I am not the only one who ever thought of leaving the corporate world to pursue passion.

Last 2016, I made a leap from being a senior designer in a reputable firm in Dubai to someone who travels for a living (well that’s what I thought I will be doing long term).

I read almost every blog that encourages us to take that leap. "Pack your backpacks and book a one way ticket". Those blogs and Instagram pages looked very dreamy at the time, I bet they still are. There is a constant lure to travel for a living. Especially for the millennials. No BOSS! Yeah! The most ideal scenario in the world.

I have been in a constant tag-of-war with this thought (definitely a lot of discouragements and big-eyed faces ). In fact, it took me almost 2 years to finally decide to be on board the FUNEMPLOYMENT TRAIN.

A year has passed and YES, I am still on that train. But it wasn’t really what I thought it would be. I guess, with a bit of common sense, one can easily figure out that this life ain’t that dreamy as what you can see in those Instagram photos.

[caption id="attachment_4750" align="alignnone" width="800"]Gold Coast, Australia, travel blog, leaving the corporate world The View of Surfer's Paradise in Gold Coast. The 2nd city I visited after I left Dubai[/caption]

So before we welcome you in the FUNEMPLOYMENT NATION, here are some of the things I learned after a year of leaving the corporate world.
You Need Money (even if you try to deny it)

This is a no brainer, actually just common sense. Of course we need money to function. I told you that I took almost 2 years to finally decide to jump, the main reason for this was money. I had to make sure that I can sustain this lifestyle financially.

[caption id="attachment_4751" align="alignnone" width="800"]Ring Road, Iceland, Travel blog, Leaving the Corporate World Planning a trip around Iceland (yheap one of the most expensive countries in the world).[/caption]

Flights, accommodation and food ain’t cheap especially when you are visiting European cities. The best way is really save up at least a good amount to kick start your traveling around the world dream.
Not Everyday is a Vacation

Sure today you will be scuba diving in The Marianas Island or cliff dive at Isla de Gigantes (in the Philippines) but not everyday will be like this. There will be a big chunk of your time where you:

  • Just want to sleep and do nothing (not even to take a shower haha)

  • Focus your day/week/month on your chosen income generating activities. For me, I get some travel/food money through this blog, making and selling my handmade journals -Surat Journals/ suratjournals.com and also doing some Interior Styling on the side (please follow @flat209 on Instagram). Some people volunteer to work in farms and hostel in exchange for board and lodging.


I remember in Melbourne, I met a British lady (we were on the same dorm room) and she said that long term travel was not what she was expecting, she spent most of her days in a farm rather than the typical ‘adventure’ activities. --- my answer to this is just setting your priority. What do you want to achieve today, what is your current need?

Sleep? Money? Activities?
Not Everything is about Travel and Exploration

Of course, not everyone who dreamed of leaving the corporate world will leave to travel (though 80% of the time this is the reason), but there are people who left to pursue other life dreams.

I think after a year of moving, I came to a point now to look further in the future, what I want to see myself 10, 20 years from now and build something from there.

I guess the Travel and Exploration part is just part of it. As cheesy as it may sound but I discovered a lot about myself because of traveling and now I am using those to see what I can do in the future.
If you have less sleep before, you’ll get lesser now


If you are looking for more sleep, hmmmmm I guess leaving the corporate isn’t the solution. My previous job dealt with events design and management and sleep was very limited whenever we have events, but on a regular basis, I worked the usual 9-5 shift and getting a salary at the end of the month was a sure thing.

November 2015, I officially became unemployed and worked for myself, people were envious that I don’t have to be in the grind and sleep till 10am. What they didn’t know, I woke up at 10 am but slept at 4am to produce hand made journals to sell in a weekend market (yheap I work as well on a weekend). Also, right now, I am writing this article at 1am hahah. Sleep what is that?
You will miss the daily grind routine

Reykjavik! I was sitting in the pantry (in Bus Hostel) talking to some of my backpacker friends and telling them, I miss doing the daily routine (SHOCK!!). Yes this came from my mouth. The guy who dread waking up early in the morning and ride the metro to the office, now missing this? Hahaha. Well I was thinking that it might be part of the adjustment, the withdrawal phase haha.

[caption id="attachment_4752" align="alignnone" width="800"]travel blog, dubai, leaving the corporate world Sometimes I do have thoughts of "what if I never left" - photo taken by @charleslibanjra[/caption]

Though when I had a meeting during a rush hour, and saw people going to work, I remember the feeling why I chose to leave the corporate world hahaha ---- so it is safe to say, the “I MISS IT” part was short lived.
You will learn to set aside independence even for a while

I have been independent for almost 11 years now. I never asked anything from my family especially in finances. Also, in most of my travels, I travel solo and hardly relied on anyone. Since I left the corporate, a lot of my friends and family have been helping me, well, to survive.

A lot of people asked how I managed to survive the year, I think the main answer to this is the support of the people around me. Learned a lot from my travel bloggers friends who are in the same boat as I am. Also, I got trips where sponsors offered free food, lodging, tours and sometimes even flights. I also got some friends who offered their houses for me to stay for days even weeks (Australia, Iceland, Germany and France to name some of these cities with generous people)!

Of course my family played a big role. You see every time I park my bags, I am at the comfort of our home in the Philippines, enjoying the shelter of Family Love.
You will learn to tap talents you ignored when you were getting a monthly salary

Pretty much the next two points are both related to point #1. Money! As someone who tried “working for himself” I got a chance to work in several fields that I thought I could excel.

Good thing, my original line of work is in the creative and I got to tap some skills that I hardly used before (or let’s say ignored).

[caption id="attachment_4753" align="alignnone" width="800"]Interior design, travel blogger, dubai One of my recent interior styling stint (final output). Follow @Flat209 in Instragram ^^[/caption]

I designed logos for companies, got to work with travel agencies for social media, accepted paid guest posts in the blog, wrote articles for magazines, designed fashion boutiques, restaurants and even a laundromat. I even sang (busked) in parks for some cash.

I call these as part of the story. Don’t get me wrong, I love it and happy that I got to see that I have several options on how not to go broke.
You will also learn to tap your budgeting skills

Ooooh, I don’t know about you, but one of the hardest things to do when you are traveling, is to travel on a budget. I must say that I have mastered this skill pretty much! My new mantra now, EVERY PENNY COUNTS!

Read my blog about being a Traveling Budgetarian

[caption id="attachment_4175" align="alignnone" width="800"]Traveling Budgetarian travel budget wanderlust travel blog Instead of eating outside everyday, I chose to buy food from the local supermarket[/caption]

Last year, I got to travel to 13 countries and an enormous amount of cities explored, every single one of those, I kept my mind in budgeting. The more you save, the longer you stay. Pretty much commonsense. So I trade buying expensive souvenirs to eating local delicacies. I seldom (most of the time never) shop for clothes unless I really really….really need it. And you will find me at a local market buying food instead of going to restaurants. Yes, I did settle for INSTANT COFFEE. This was how I stretched my budget to travel. Something I hope I will still carry even when money starts rolling.
 There are no rules, nothing can really prepare you

I read numerous blogs about nomadic travelers to get tips on how it is like to live with only your backpack. I also listened /watched a lot of TED talks for added inspirations. My friends were worried, though my family are supportive, I myself was scared of the unknown. With the corporate-life-money as my only known support for the past 10 years, being away from my office cubicle will surely bring some challenges.

After a year, I can say that I changed a lot of set plans, things I thought I will do pre leaving the corporate life and come to think of it, I am still changing plans even at this moment.

I think the beauty of this life is, it will always surprise you (don’t worry, there are a lot of good surprises than the bad ones). You will see yourself grow along the way. Even preferences will change.
You didn’t leave the corporate world after all

Yes yes yes, I always say that I left the corporate world, but in fact, I am still surrounded by it.

After my 5 month trip (which is the longest continuous trip I did—see, I told you plans do change), a day after I landed in the Philippines (jet lagged and all), I did an interior styling work for one of the big retail brands in the Philippines. Also, as I continue traveling, I got to meet and work with several big travel agencies, retail brands and publications around the world and also became a brand ambassador of Deuter Adventure Bags.


Until now, I work as an interior stylist if I have a chance (mostly when I am not traveling) and create beautiful leather crafts through Surat Journals. I guess, you can’t really leave the corporate, it only transformed into a different form.
Will not trade this to anything in the world

I believe that when passion calls you need to answer. I had several discussions about this from people my age. Often we are itching with the idea to leave our (current) jobs and start something we love. It doesn’t necessarily be about traveling, it can be arts, music or even volunteering to help those who are in need.

I wouldn’t trade anything in the world to do something I love. Whenever challenges came, I have this mindset that any problem will be considered as good problem. Because, I still prefer to solve this problem wile doing something I love.

It wasn’t a walk in the part, I do assure you, but as I said in one of my magazine interviews (naks plural), sometimes I don’t know where to get the money to finance my food for the next day, of my train/plane ride to move or even to go back home, but the beauty of it is that, I am thinking about it while staring at a beautiful horizon by the beach or having enough time to bond with my family.


We used to live in a world where success is equated with how high you are in the corporate ladder, although I think there are still a big chunk of the population who feel the same thing, the millennial age introduced the idea of THRIVING WITH YOUR PASSION. It is easier for us now to realize our dreams and there are several tools that are available to help us.

What are you passionate about? Are you living your dream? Share it to us at the comment box below.

Watch my 365 adventure sum up below: 


travel blogger, dubai, uae, vlogger


Where to Eat the Best Street Food Around The World

When you’re travelling, street food isn’t something to fear. It’s a great way of trying different foods on a budget. In many places around the world, trying some street food is on par with booking a table in one of the best restaurants. It’s just another way of treating yourself to the amazing culinary delights a place has to offer. So start making the most of it, and try some in these four countries, known for their great street food.

One top chef says street food, or hawker food as it’s known in Singapore, is “a national treasure, but an endangered one.” Instead of having several portions of the ever-popular chilli crab, he highlights Hainanese curry rice, chai tow kueh and prawn noodle soup amongst the most authentic local dishes to savour. Check out where he recommends getting them on The Guardian, and support traditional cooking on your visit.

[caption id="attachment_4731" align="alignnone" width="800"]singapore street food hawker dubai travel blog Laksa (a famous noodle dish in Singapore's hawker scene)[/caption]

If you’re someone who avoids street food for fear of being unwell, the Secret Traveller hopes to convince you to try some Balinese street food. It’s some of the best rare around, they say, even with the threat of Bali belly. To stay healthy, go to the vendors with the longest queues of locals and prepare yourself for something delicious.

[caption id="attachment_4734" align="alignnone" width="800"]es campur bali indonesia street food Es Campur being prepared along the street ( colorful sweetened fruits topped with shaved ice and milk)[/caption]
The UK

Across the UK, small villages and larger towns alike hold farmers’ markets every week, full of fresh food produce for you to take home and try. If you’re lucky, there’ll also be a couple of stalls selling breakfast rolls – with a choice of bacon, sausages and eggs.

[caption id="attachment_4730" align="alignnone" width="800"]london street food dubai travel blog London's West End area[/caption]

But it’s in the UK’s capital, London, where street food has really taken off. Across the city, you can try the best of cuisines from around the world. Falafels, burgers, mac and cheese – you name it, somewhere in London will have it on offer. If you’re not sure where to go first, check out this list of amazing street food markets from Hand Luggage Only.

India is famous for its street food options. In all of its great cities, you can easily get your hands on delicious delights for little cost. Indian food also has loads of great options for vegetarians. Vada Pao, for example, is the Indian version of a burger, consisting of a fried potato dumplings called vada served in a bun and topped with red or green chutneys and fried green chillies. For the best options, try it somewhere in Mumbai.

What street food have you tried? Share your recommendations with us.

4 Places to See Sheikh Zayed Road from Above (Legally)

On my previous visit in Dubai I was just in time when the first gush of fog swept the city by a surprise. Residents woke up to a magical morning and surely took their phones and told the world about it.

I still remember when I was still living in the UAE, every time fog season came (I don't know if there is such thing)  my Facebook feeds will be filled with images of skyscrapers half-covers with fog.

So, I tried to plan out how I can get that magical shot. I saw some photos of Instagrammer friends who have habits of going up to roof tops of buildings around Sheikh Zayed Road, but most of them are doing it without any permission (though the results are really amazing -- and the adrenaline rush would have been very rewarding). We tried sneaking around but got caught, so I told myself that the next time I will go fog chasing and roof topping, it should be with a proper consent (and with the cleanest intention--hehe).

So the search is on! I sent emails and also did some walk-ins to look for places where you can see Sheikh Zayed Road skyline LEGALLY!

Though I was searching these locations because of my eagerness to have at least one fog shot in my Instagram feed, these places have majestic views of Dubai Skyscrapers at any season and anytime of the day.

So here are the list of places I can recommend.



[caption id="attachment_4646" align="alignnone" width="800"]Shangrila Dubai level 41 travel blogger blog Locals even go fog hunting[/caption]


Probably the best place to go fog viewing (and car watching?). The terrace at the 42nd floor of Shangri-La Hotel Dubai has one of the clearest view of Downtown Dubai. Yes, Burj Khalifa.

We were able to access the terrace at the 42nd floor by walking in at the reception and asked for a permission. They were very accommodating and only asked us to credit the photo and use #MeAndTheViewAt42 tag in all our photos (you can check this tag in IG and be amazed at the pool of photos from local and international Instagrammers).

[caption id="attachment_4643" align="alignnone" width="800"]Shangrila Dubai level 41 travel blogger blog In awe of this breathtaking view[/caption]


Our fog crew (that day---watch out for the vlog soon). @iamdocgelo @edzphotography and @charleslibanjr

[caption id="attachment_4647" align="alignnone" width="800"]Shangrila Dubai level 41 travel blogger blog when the fog cleared up you will see the busy Sheikh Zayed Road. ---yheap it is still an amazing site[/caption]

Level 42 has a pool bar where you can chill and sip cocktails with a view (access for Horizon Club guests only though). Also what I gathered from Shangri-La's official website, you can book this place for a fancy dinner date. They call it as Just You and The View At Level 42.

TIP: I do recommend to reach out to ask permission a day before you plan to visit (either by email or walking in) to at least not be hassled if some how they can't accommodate a same-day-walk-in visitor.

For more info check out: Shangri La Dubai Official Website


Sky Lounge




Unfortunately one of the rooftop bars that I regret not visiting during my month long stay in the sandpit. Although I wasn't able to set foot in this bar with a view, I was pretty much aware of the Sky Lounge at #LEVEL43. I've been seeing photos from most of my friends even before my visit and even got an invitation to visit.

Located at Four Points by Sheraton, it was awarded as the BEST HOTEL BAR IN THE MIDDLE EAST for 2016.

A pool bar by day and a fancy (happening) bar lounge at night. So I guess, visiting his place, you'll have to choose between a fog shot in the morning or just simply enjoy the night lights.

Being a pool bar and a lounge, access to LEVEL 43  is as easy as showing up at the lift and pressing 43rd floor. Make sure though that you are dressed to impress (dress code: smart casual).


For more info check out: Sky Lounge Level 43 Official Website



Level 61

[caption id="attachment_4649" align="alignnone" width="800"]Sheikh Zayed Road Millennium hotel dubai travel blog blogger The view from the Club Lounge Window[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_4648" align="alignnone" width="800"]Sheikh Zayed Road Millennium hotel dubai travel blog blogger A full view of the Emirates Tower Dubai[/caption]

I discovered this place accidentally. Along with another blogger friend (@iamdocgelo), we really didn't plan to check out Millennium Plaza Hotel, but if you look at Sheikh Zayed Road, you can easily see it towering over the busy hi-way. At the same time, it is located just in front of the Emirates Tower Metro Station. So, we thought, there is nothing to lose by asking (we were there anyway at that time).

We first asked if we can access their rooftop, and easily we got a decline (they said for security purpose), but the amazing thing was, they directed us to the CLUB LOUNGE. A cafe and lounge located at the 61st floor of the hotel. It can be accessed by anyone and they are open from 6:30am.

No dress code and you don't need to be a hotel guest to enjoy a cup of coffee with a view. Only thing to note, it is not a terrace, so you'll be peeking through a glass window.

[caption id="attachment_4640" align="alignnone" width="1000"]Sheikh Zayed Road Millennium hotel dubai travel blog blogger Told you, it is just accross the Dubai Metro Station[/caption]

For more info check out: Millennium Plaza Hotel Official Website


At The Top

[caption id="attachment_4650" align="alignnone" width="800"]at the top burj khalifa dubai blogger blog The view from level 125[/caption]

Probably a no brainer entry in the list. Anyone who visit Dubai should at least climb the Burj Khalifa even once. I have been here twice already and I am still enjoying the 360 view.

Though I haven't been here on a fog-day-out, I can bet my money that this probably is one of the best location to watch the whole Sheikh Zayed Road to be engulfed by fog.

My friend Debbie (@debbiefortes) even got recognized internationally for her snaps from the tower's level 148 viewing deck.



If you know someone living in the tower, you are one of the few people who can get this view for free (oh lucky you), but don't fret, you can still get a glimpse of the 360 view by booking an access to 'At The Top's' viewing decks. You can either go sunrise watching (only for Fridays and Saturdays), sunset, evening or to be honest, any time of the day. Note: Prices vary depending on the time of visit.  

[caption id="attachment_4653" align="alignnone" width="800"]at the top burj khalifa dubai blogger blog Downtown Dubai from level 125[/caption]

For more info check out: At The Top Official Website

Do you have any other places to recommend? Or have you been to any of these places?  Shout out in the comments below!


travel blogger vlogger dubai

My 2016 Adventures as Told on Instagram

2016 marked my first journey outside the corporate world. I left Dubai exactly the 17th of January 2016 and started this long affair to be a full-time traveler.

READ ALSO: Journal Entry, Du-Bye For Now

To be honest, it didn't quite turn out to be as I thought it would have been. But I can't be thankful enough of how things unfolded.

With 1000++ photos posted on my Instagram it is pretty easy so say that this social media platform definitely chronicled this awesome journey. So I thought of summarizing 2016 through my Instagram posts.

Here it goes (warning, this is very lengthy).


Left my second home, Dubai and traveled to Australia



BRISBANE welcomed me with its very chill and laid-back lifestyle



Spent some time with family in the GOLD COAST



Got super artsy in MELBOURNE



Looked for the 12 APOSTLES along the GREAT OCEAN ROAD with AAT Kings



Spent Chinese New Year in SYDNEY



......spontaneously traveled and showered at the BLUE MOUNTAINS....



....and attended church at HILLSONG



Went to the PHILIPPINES for a few days and explored MANILA's Art Deco History...



....and surfed in LA UNION



OSLO welcomed me in the chillest possible way (literally)



Caught up with friends in BERGEN, NORWAY



Ate fermented shark in REYKJAVIK in ICELAND



Jaw-dropped after exploring around SNAEFELLSNES PENINSULA with Guide to Iceland



Felt really small touring around the GOLDEN CIRCLE



Conquered driving around ICELAND'S RING ROAD



....and finally saw the NORTHERN LIGHT dancing in HOFN



Lived in a university in WIESBADEN, GERMANY



Gained a lot of weight in FRANKFURT (hello doner and sausages)



Fell in love with PRAGUE



...this city deserves 2-posts hahaha






Welcomed spring in a very festive way in BUDAPEST, HUNGARY



Got a bit scared in BRATISLAVA (for a very silly reason)



Getting a cultural bargain in VIENNA



Back in Germany and had a dose of Octoberfest action (well its spring counterpart) in MUNICH



Staying true with my promise to come back over and over again in PARIS



...and be reunited with 2 of my very first travel buddies in ASNIERES-SUR-SEINE, FRANCE



.....missing PARIS again and promised to comeback again



Back in DUBAI for week of catching up



...and made @SURATJOURNALS



Back in the PHILIPPINES and got a bit of beach action at CALAGUAS ISLAND



...and practiced a bit of my architectural skills....



...for 2 projects



Explored the world under in ANILAO



Reached the summit at TARAK RIDGE, BATAAN



Flying off again, this time in South East Asia....






Explored 4 cities with other South East Asian bloggers, MAKASSAR, LOMBOK, BANYUWANGI and BANDUNG



Back solo traveling and had a little reflection in BALI



...and promised that I will be a good surfer when I come back at FRII BALI ECHO BEACH in CANGGU



Island hopped in EL NIDO with SEALAND VENTURE


Tasted the best Halo-Halo in PUERTO PRINCESA



..and enjoyed the superb hospitality of MICROTEL PUERTO PRINCESA



Ticked a bucket list in SAIPAN, NORTHERN MARIANAS



...and became a human drone in MANAGAHA ISLAND, SAIPAN with #MyMarianasPH



Food tripp'n in BINONDO, MANILA



Became a stew in ANTIQUE



Walked around ROXAS CITY, CAPIZ...


...and got awestruck at the GIGANTES GROUP OF ISLAND, ILOILO with Las Islas Travel and Tours



Got super pampered in BOHOL at Henann Resort



Attended TBEX (Travel Bloggers Exchange) in Manila



Got white washed in CAGAYAN DE ORO



Celebrated with BELMONT HOTEL as it turned one



Saw the other side of MANILA



Back working as an INTERIOR DESIGNER to help a friend



Flew 8 hours to visit my 2nd HOME,  DUBAI (again!!)



...where I got to explore a new DESERT attraction (MLEIHA)



...watched the dramatic SUNSET



...the magical fog engulfing its SKYSCRAPERS



...and its beautiful PEOPLE


Became on of the 100 Most Influential Filipinos in the Gulf


Got introduced to HONG KONG busy city lifestyle...



...and its calm countryside


Whew! Going through all of what I did for the past year got me tired already haha. Can't believe I was able to squeeze all of these in just 1 year.

2 months = 13 countries/territories and almost 35 major cities around the world and 12 destinations in the Philippines. Crazy!!!

To the people I met along the way!! You made 2016 the best year so far! Thought of tagging everyone but you guys are too many hahaha. you know who you are! LOVE YOU ALL!

Oh 2016. I will surely miss you. I learned and experienced a lot that will prepare me for the new year. A lot of things to be thankful for which deserve a separate blog haha.

So cheers for another wonderful year full of adventures and love! Watch out for my 2016 recap vlog also (I am editing currently in video-edit mode).