Work from Home (or Hostel)

11 March 2017 — 
If you’d happened to peek through the second floor window of a hostel in Via Cavour (Florence) one Saturday evening last February, you’d have seen a girl hunched over a laptop on her lower bunk bed, sifting through Pubmed abstracts and typing furiously, hoping her boss wouldn’t decide that, actually, come to think of it, they didn’t really need her.

That girl was me, as you might have guessed, and I was then on Day 7 of my short mid-February break from ordinary life. For that reason, I was also on Day 7 of not having done even a minute’s worth of work — no, make that Day 10 because I’d spent the few days immediately before my trip doing last minute printing, packing, repacking, the works. It would have been fine if I’d told my bosses that I was going on vacation but I hadn’t. I’d figured I could always work on the road — at the airport, on the plane, on the train, evenings — and, well, you know what they say about good intentions.

The thing that not too many people realize about having the kind of work you can take with you on vacation is that you actually do take the work with you on vacation.

Once, in Tokyo, I was chatting with a friend on Facebook and he asked, “Why are you still in your room? Why aren’t you out there enjoying the city?”

“I have work I need to finish today 🙁 ,” I said.

On the day tour I took to Bath, Stonehenge, and the Cotswolds the other year, I spent a lot of my time on the tour bus tapping away on my laptop, finishing an article, which I then emailed to my boss at the Edinburgh stop of our sleeper train from London to Inverness. I’ve been asked, “Where are we going today?” and answered, “The British Library” because I thought it was win-win: my companions could check out their collection and I could get some work in. Friends, on another day, went inside the Natural History Museum while I stayed outside on a bench with my computer because there was something I really, really needed to hand in that day.

And yes: this year, I spent Saturday evening in Florence alone in my hostel room, working.

I’m not complaining at all and it usually works out great. I love my work and I love my bosses. It’s just something to keep in mind: a reminder, for people wishing for work they can do anywhere, that it’s work they will have to do anywhere.

Thank you, 2016.

When a blogger friend asked me about a year ago if 10 years hence I could still see myself doing this — traveling, writing, and writing about traveling — my answer was an unequivocal yes. Travel is the food of my soul, I’ve said; writing is part of who I am. This blog was the perfect convergence of both and not in a million years (or ten) could I imagine giving it up.

Which answer perhaps does not explain why I’ve only published three posts in the last three months and traveled not even once.

Sometimes I suspect I’ve simply lost the will to write; at other times I think I’m just too busy. Neither is completely true, though both have a grain of truth in them. Even the most dedicated writers have times where they just don’t feel like writing, and I’ve definitely been feeling a lot of that lately. I’ve also found it difficult to dedicate sufficient time to the discipline of wordsmithing, now that I’ve taken upon myself a bit of additional responsibility at home.

But also…I like to think that 2016 has simply been a hiatus of sorts.

A break, that’s all.

I like to think I’ve simply given myself permission to, well, simplify my life: to let go of things that don’t add joy, to take it easy on things that aren’t urgent, and to focus on those that are necessary and important.

To take care of myself and those who rely on me.

And if the blog falls by the wayside a bit, so be it. I can always pick it up again.

2016 has been a year of regrouping, of learning, of being still and taking stock, of healing, of building strength. It’s been an opportunity to pause and absorb and break and recalibrate and ask oneself the really tough questions. But for me, it’s also been a chance to partake of the smallest, purest joys of life, and to bask in the joy of life itself.

It was a good year. It was. Many people don’t think so but I do. Oh, 2017 will be something, for sure — I’ve lots of plans already, can’t wait — but 2016 was something else. And for that, and for all that I have…

Especially this lot.

…I’m thankful.

Happy new year everyone!



No, I’m Not Always Traveling

And other common misconceptions about people who love to travel

Northloom_Passport Holder_Backpack

I’ve just finished preparing a rough budget for a trip I plan to take next year with my family, and against every fiber of yearning in my body, I’ve come to accept the inevitable conclusion: I can’t afford it.

I started saving for the trip last January. It wouldn’t have been till April next year, so I still have nearly 10 months to save some more. I found a really good price for the plane tickets (and it doesn’t even involve Sheremetyevo). And I actually earn an okay income for someone who works part time.

But despite all that, I still can’t afford the trip.

Just…can’t. Not next year anyway.

And so because I’m feeling really frustrated about it at the moment, I thought it would be a good time to talk about some of the most common misconceptions that people have about people who like to travel.

No. 1
No, we don’t have a lot of extra cash lying around.

Some people are born into money and go globe-trotting even before they are potty trained.

Most of us aren’t those people.

Most of us are able to travel because we save for it.

Sometimes we really, really, really want to go somewhere and we can’t because we don’t have the budget for it. Sometimes it takes us years to save for one trip. Sometimes we save for years and it still isn’t enough. And that’s okay — not asking for sympathy, but not gonna apologize either for those times we are able to save enough.

Travel, really, is just one of those things that you decide to do and then you try to find a way to do it. It’s like when you decide to buy, say, an iPhone or a car or a house — none of which I have, by the way — and you find a way to fit the monthly payments into your budget. It’s not something you just have, it’s something you work for.

It’s funny because sometimes, when you’re traveling, people will say, “oh, wow, you must have lots of money,” and they just don’t realize that at that exact moment, you’re actually feeling like you’re practically bleeding money because you’ve spent so much already and you know it will take you a long, long time to earn that money back.

There are exceptions, obviously, but most of us — we don’t travel because we’re worth a lot, we travel because travel is worth a lot. The experience is worth the money we lose doing it.
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Blue and Good

At this time last week I was with my family on a beach in Davao. 

My niece Syd, because I didn't do anything quite as picture-worthy as summoning the waves (or seeming to, anyway)

My niece Syd, because I didn’t do anything quite as picture-worthy as summoning the waves (or seeming to, anyway)

This week, right now, past midnight, my sunburned little nose is still stuck in front of the computer because I have to catch up on all the work I wasn’t able to do while on vacation.

It’s all good.

I don’t have much but I have a life that lets me do a little bit of everything I want and need to do, and, most importantly, lets me be with the people I love most almost all the time. It’s a good life. I am thankful.

The irony of freedom

Reflections on the EDSA revolution and the ramifications of victory, thirty years later

Photo courtesy of Philippine Daily Inquirer / BOY CABRIDO

Photo courtesy of Philippine Daily Inquirer / BOY CABRIDO

It’s the sad irony of freedom that those who enjoy it have the full right to spit on it.

If it was within my power, I would happily resurrect Marcos, give him an entire country, and place there anyone and everyone who wants to be ruled by him — on the condition that they can’t leave.

Not even when they realize they should have been more careful of what they wished for.

Because that’s what dictatorship is.

You don’t get to say, “I’ve had enough now; I’d like to opt out.”

You don’t get to say, “I’d like the laws to be enforced but not THAT way.”

You don’t get to say, “You can’t punish that person — he’s innocent!”

You don’t get to say, “Wait a minute, this is getting out of hand.”

You don’t even get to say, “What are you talking about? I have the RIGHT to decide what I get to say.”

No, you DON’T have the right. In a dictatorship, you shut your mouth, keep your head down, and pray to the high heavens that the persons you entrusted with absolute power are not abusing it. And if you notice they are? You still have to shut your mouth and keep your head down — unless you want to join the steadily growing number of people who are taken in the dead of night and not talked about in the light of day.

I am honestly SICK of all the people who talk about the Marcos days like they were some kind of Golden Age of Philippine history.

The fact that you and your family did not personally suffer the atrocities of Macoy and his ass-kissers does not give you the right to deny, belittle, or whitewash the kidnapping, torture, rape, and murder of so many of your own countrymen.

The fact that the Philippines has many problems at present does not give you the right to say to Filipinos who suffered in the past: “I do not believe you.”

The fact that you don’t like the current president does not give you the right to question the heroism of his parents, of Lorenzo Tañada, of Joker Arroyo, of the elderly men who linked arms against the government’s water cannons and tear gas, of the COMELEC tabulators who walked out to protest the cheating in the snap elections, of the young nuns who stood in the front lines of the revolution armed only with flowers and rosaries, of the thousands who decided — those fateful few days in 1986 — that they have had enough of the repression and human rights abuses and were going to do something about it.

You know what DOES give you that right? Freedom. The freedom fought for by the very people whose legacy you are pissing on.

For better or worse, you have that right, and if I could, I would give you what you wish for — a Marcos-style dictatorship — if only to get you out of your YouTube-propaganda-paid-website-induced stupor.

But I can’t. I can only grit my teeth and declare, in the vein of Voltaire: “I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Even if you damn well don’t deserve it.