— travel inspiration for small budgets and big dreams —

travel inspiration for small budgets and big dreams

Paris_Gaya_SGMTWhen I get negative reactions to something I write, I try not to respond in kind. For one, it’s likely to be a waste of time — people believe what they want to believe — but also, I don’t want people to know that they can get to me. When your work depends, at least in part, on public sentiment, it’s a risk to react in the normal human way, to show that insensitive and poorly thought out comments can hurt you, that you’re anything other than a good sport, that you care.

To be a writer you need to develop thick skin. Here in the WordPress community, it isn’t always necessary — people here are generally smart and open-minded and kind (or at least polite). It’s different in the outside world. You could write something totally innocuous and get a ton of negativity for it.

One time, I wrote an article about how to go on a trip to Paris for only ₱50,000. You see, I used to not even dream about European trips because I thought only the filthy rich would be able to afford them, so when I found my non-filthy-rich self there and learned ways to keep down travel expenses, I was eager to share everything I had learned. When Rappler published my article I was beyond elated…and then I saw the comments.

Only for the hotel

Why go if you don't have the budget

Filipinos are struggling

I was just flabbergasted. So many indignant responses elbowed each other on the way to my brain that I ended up completely speechless for a while. I was so miffed, I rushed off a supposedly “inspirational” article containing lines like “Must our aspirations be limited to our least common denominators?” and “Our feet may still be ankle-deep in mud, but we have the right to look at the stars.” My editor patted my head (insofar as one’s head can be patted by kind words in an email), told me she liked it and she would publish it (she didn’t), and then addressed my real problem. “Don’t mind the comments,” she said, even though I hadn’t mentioned them. “The naysayers will always be there. Your pieces are doing very well.”

Fast forward a few articles later and I still haven’t totally developed thick skin. However, I have come to recognize certain facts of life:

  1. You can’t open a mind determined to be closed;
  2. You can’t help people who don’t want to be helped; and quite frankly
  3. You can’t expect people to read an article first before commenting. (You would think, but no.)

Indignation has given way to a sort of resigned fascination at how self-defeating some people’s attitudes are. Fascination because it’s really a head-scratcher how people think sometimes; resigned because…what can do you do? Sometimes you can only shake your head and say, bless their hearts.

It’s important to note that most readers don’t bother to comment on the articles — they very sensibly take what they can get out of it and leave it at that. And a lot of the comments that are made are either positive or neutral. I do believe that if I can inspire even just a few people or at least get them thinking about doing something they never thought they could do, that’s my mission accomplished. But of course the negative comments stand out, if for no other reason than that they’re negative. Here’s a sample.

“That’s impossible.”

On an article that has all the facts, links, screenshots, and numbers to show that it is, in fact, possible.

This one rankles because dammit I just showed you how to do it! I spend a lot of time researching and crafting an article so being met with plain disbelief is just frustrating. It also feels like being called a liar, which I hate.

Just because you can’t do it doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

But whatever. Despite my pique, I do see it’s not my loss if they can’t open their minds.

“₱50,000? That will only pay for the hotel.”

On an article on how to go on a 7-day trip to Paris for only ₱50,000.

Look. ₱50,000 can pay for the entire trip, or it can pay only for the hotel. And honestly, it may pay for only one night in a hotel, if you want to be all snooty about it. It’s just a matter of making choices that fit your particular budget. Umarte nang naaayon sa bulsa.

If you can’t bring yourself to stay in a hostel, then don’t. But just because you don’t want to do it doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

“Why go on a vacation if you can’t afford decent food?”

Or “…if you can’t afford it?” On budget travel articles in general.

If I had to choose between sticking to a £10/day food budget so I can go to London, or not going to London at all, I would go with the first choice in a heartbeat. I understand Tesco meals aren’t for everyone but…to each his own. If your love for “decent” food trumps your love for travel, then stay home, I don’t care.

But again: just because you don’t want to do it doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Or that other people are as hard to please.

“Mas maganda ang Batanes”

(“Batanes is more beautiful.”) On an article about Bali.

Bakit, may nagsabi bang hindi?
(Did anyone say otherwise?)

Kung ayaw mong pumunta ng Bali, may pumipilit ba sa ‘yo? (Is anyone forcing you to go to Bali?)

This kind of comment isn’t so much negative as it is just kind of useless. If you want to go to Batanes, go to Batanes. If you want to go to Bali, go to Bali. If you want to go to Batanes and Bali, why not? Tsk, para lang talaga may masabi.

“And in the real world most Filipinos are struggling to keep their families going and escape poverty. To them, this is a smug, impossible article that means nothing.”

Or variations thereof. On travel articles in general, but especially on budget travel to expensive cities.

This one really pisses me off.

My grandmother was a match factory worker. My grandfather was a family driver. My parents had to work really, really hard to get us to where we are now. At a very young age, we were taught to distinguish between needs and wants. My parents made sure we had everything we needed but my sister and I also did our part. We worked hard in school and won scholarships for both high school and university.

You know what we didn’t do?

We didn’t cry foul over every little article about every little thing we can’t afford.

Even now, there are a lot of things that are way beyond my budget but I don’t tell people to tailor their topics to the fluctuations of my bank balance. I rarely read Condé Nast but when I do, I don’t really care if I can’t afford what they’re featuring. I read because I’m interested. I have an absolute zero chance of being able to fly in the Etihad 3-bedroom suite but I don’t begrudge people who can afford it — or articles that talk about it.

If a person doesn’t know where his next meal is coming from, chances are he won’t even be reading my article about how to go on a 7-day trip to Paris or London for ₱50,000. But if he wants to read about it, why shouldn’t he? And if it makes him go, “Huh…maybe someday” — and if it makes him work a little harder — perfect. If the granddaughter of a match factory worker can do it, so can he. And even if he can’t, at the very least he can work hard, and teach his children to work hard, so that someday his granddaughter can find herself in Paris too.

smalltowngirls rome


Why do I even write? It doesn’t make much sense from a financial standpoint; I have a more profitable day job. Sometimes it’s almost a compulsion: to spend days shuffling through facts and grappling with words, all for little reward. I’m sure there are non-altruistic components to it — recognition, perhaps, a sense of identity, a sense of doing something — but a lot of it is also just me wanting to help by sharing what I know. That’s why I do a lot of how-to articles instead of click-bait feel-good stuff. And that’s why it gets my goat when my painstaking efforts are rebuffed with sheer ignorance. I never reply to silly comments because I don’t want to dignify them but…ugh. Never mind.

Bless their hearts.

Bless Their Hearts© Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. All rights reserved.
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[Mean travel article comments]



37 Responses

  1. hay nako… we cant do anything with these kind of people. Can I be bitchy? (of course, I will) So here it goes:

    People can say what they want and post it online, but at the end of the day, you still experienced these places and they didn’t. You experiences the world, and they didn’t because they are just glued to their computers or mobile devices leaving rude comments. That must be the reason why you are not rude, unlike them. Kasi you have seen the world and experienced cultures.

    I mean, if you don’t like the article, don’t read the darn article. But no, they read it because it caught their attention; Travelling is a choice and travellers are not the same. Nakakaloka sila! Just don’t mind them, though I know that these can really be a bugger but I’m sure you will get used to it. 😉 hugs from SG!

    1. Aww thank you! Sometimes nga gusto ko rin mag-bitch mode and mag-reply sa kanila but I know useless rin, may mga tao talagang ganyan. Hugs!

  2. Ohh I can’t love this post enough – GOOD ON YOU!!!! Isn’t it just the most frustrating thing in the world?! I think “tall poppy syndrome” is getting a lot worse each generation. It’s really disgusting to see how many people would rather pick on, tear down and find negatives to people who’ve worked hard for successful lives (whatever success means to them) than congratulate them on their hard work and sacrifices to get where they are. I’ve experiences the same thing with similar comments on “if you’re doing it on a budget and staying in crappy accommodation, what’s the point?” Because, like you, I want to see the world and if that means staying in a crappy hotel, I’m more than ok with that!

    But unfortunately, as you say, some people are too stubborn and set in their ways to dream big and see there could be another way. I think the other thing is people who are maybe too scared to try and fail, or who have tried and failed, so when they see people like you doing so well, bullying them with negativity maybe makes them feel better about their failures/giving up…? I don’t know, I can’t understand why we can’t just celebrate each others’ achievements! Keep doing what you’re doing – I think you’re pretty amazing 🙂

    1. Awww thank you! I think part of it is the anonymity of being behind a keyboard — people say things online that they normally wouldn’t say to you face-to-face. But then that also just indicates that they really mean what they say. And I don’t get it, I don’t understand why they’re so close-minded when opening their minds would only benefit themselves. Oh well. Let’s not let them get to us. 🙂

      Anyway, it’s the first time I’ve heard the term “tall poppy syndrome” — I learned something new today, thank you! The term we use more often in the Philippines is “crab mentality.” xx

  3. The fact nga naa na kay bashers means “you’ve arrived”! Haha. I don’t get why people nowadays feel the urge to comment just for the sake of commenting. Lami tubagon ug “Sa ma-S lang”.

    1. Haha! Samoka bitaw. I know I should ignore them pero kalagot kay gi-hago-an baya na nako akong gisuwat! Hehehe.

  4. Bam! Love what you wrote here girlie. I would probably be affected too and think about a hundred and one ways to reply with bitch mode on in full blast. hehe. But you know that we will never ever be able to please everybody so let them comment to their heart’s desires. Sa ma S lang, kevs. 😛

    1. Haha! Sometimes I’m tempted to reply on bitch mode but if I reply to all the insensitive comments, and they all reply back, and then mu-reply na pod ko nila, mahurot akong oras! 😀 That’s so true, isn’t it, you’ll never be able to please everybody. I remember this article I read recently, about a restaurant owner who posted a sign on the back door of his restaurant, that if anybody was hungry but did not have enough money to buy food, they can just tell the servers at the restaurant and they would be given food. And a lot of the comments were positive, but there was this one commenter pa jud who said, “Why did he put the sign on the back door? Why not the front door?” I mean, there was this really unselfish person doing something so beautiful, and somebody could find something ugly to say about it. People are just strange sometimes.

  5. Whenever I read your articles, i always think “I can DO this!” They are written in such a way that they make a Paris dream (for example) well within reach. And you write very well! Thank you for your advice, it makes us think we can do this too, like you did.

    Don’t mind the bashers, sometimes they just want a little attention, or they are having a bad day and want some attention to fuel their aggression. Like I always say, “They have their ownnissues, it’s never about me.” Have a great day…and more articles please! It’s the fuel of dreams!

    1. Thank you tep! That means a lot coming from you. In the back of my mind, I know their comments are less about the actual article and more about their lives and their experiences — like you can tell the “smug and impossible” comment was “may hugot” — but it still rankles. I guess writing about it is my way of processing it. 🙂

    1. Gisultian na gani sila, di jud gihapon motuo. Nah hala. Bahala sila. 😀

  6. I love that you shared this!!! I totally get it, too. People sometimes don’t get that something might not be for them. If they don’t want to try Tesco or a hostel then they don’t have to-like you said. But they might realize that their dream of traveling is actually possible because you’ve shown them a way to do it and you’ve done it yourself. If someone isn’t into budget travel or just overall tips for getting a better value on their trip they don’t need to react with harsh criticism that only reveals that they’re stubborn and they think they’re the center of the universe.

    These people are just insecure about something else or grumpy or envious and so they’ve got to lash out at you and you don’t deserve it because you’re just trying to be your helpful & sunny self.

    This is sort of related and you might find it interesting:
    It’s an article called “The End of Empathy”.

    PS: It may not have been appropriate for me to sometimes babble on forever about things like politics in your comment section but I do so because I feel like your site is a safe place to do that and I’ve learned that because you’re easy to “talk” to, open minded, smart and kind. I’d never even get into a discussion about certain topics on other blogs, even with a blogger who often seems to be on the same page as me like you appear to be sometimes, because people go so batshit bananas online and check their manners at the door. It’s hard to have a real and intelligent conversation without hurling insults for some reason. I appreciate that it is NEVER like that on your website.

    1. I’ve just finished reading the article you linked to and it’s just amazing (in an awful way) how mean people can be on the Internet. It’s interesting how the Internet opens up vast avenues of knowledge and insight to us and yet somehow people seem to be getting more entrenched in their own worldviews. Like that comment about Obama…WTH? How do you get from disagreeing with a guy’s politics to thinking he is, like, the devil? (Plus I think I can guess who that commenter would be supporting in your upcoming election, and how does he work that out in his mind?)

      Anyway, I kind of understand that the comments people make are really less about the topic on hand and more about what’s currently going on in their lives or how they feel about themselves. It reminds of me that saying “hurt people hurt people.” But, you know, where does it end?

      I am getting philosophical now so I’ll stop here. 😀 😀 😀

      1. I couldn’t believe that article either! The brother she wrote about that passed away from the heroin overdose is Harris Wittles. I can’t remember if it specifically used his name. In case you’re not familiar he was a loved and respected comedy writer for TV shows like Parks and Recreation and other comedians (like Aziz Ansari-my fav) use to praise him all the time for not only his talent but being a wonderful person so I had that in mind as I read and it just made everything else so much harsher.
        You’re right though! People hurt people. We can be SO mean to each other, and for what? A false sense of superiority or control or something?

    1. True! It’s also like a disaster that you can’t look away from. 😀

  7. I really like this post. Nakakainis nga talaga but I’m glad that you can still keep your cool and ignore these type of people. Imbes na thankful pa sila that you’re showing them how it’s done, hindi pa sila masaya. You really can’t please everyone.

    1. Sometimes a person’s greatest enemy is his/her attitude. Anyway… Thanks Boots! 🙂

  8. hayz, hayaan mo na yang mga inggitero! Travelling on such a budget requires a lot of discipline and planning, so props to you 😀

    1. Hehe salamat! Di naman natin kawalan kung ayaw nilang maniwala noh? Di ko alam kung naiinggit lang sila, pero ako sobrang inggit sa mga byahe mo!

    2. Hehe salamat! Di naman natin kawalan kung ayaw nilang maniwala noh? Di ko alam kung naiinggit lang sila, pero ako talagang sobrang inggit sa mga byahe mo. 😀

  9. Hello Gaya,

    Nice post! Actually I was able to visit Paris last March 2016, with P21,000 roundtrip Manila-CDG via Oman Air. I also visited Brussels, Bruges, Amsterdam and Cologne. And with that, I can attest that Eurotrip is really possible with P50,000 budget. And your blog is one of the websites that helped me do it, Thank you!

    Just keeping on writing and share your travel tips! Don’t mind those negative people! Wish you more adventures and travels to come! 🙂

    1. Hi Carlo! Thank you so much for your kind words! And I know this will sound cheesy but it really inspires me when people tell me that this blog has helped them in one way or another with their own travels, so thank you for saying that. Your trip sounds awesome. Any plans of going back?

  10. Hi. I’ve been reading your posts for quite a while and it’s just now that I have to react. Ang masulti lang nako, yes you might get haters and doubters but you gain far more fans & hopeful wanderers’ respect. You have no idea how much you inspire people and isa na ko nila. Being a corporate slave that I am, your blogs are a breath of fresh air. Imbis na maibog ko, I get so motivated to finally take that dream trip. I’m working on it na, my target is 2018 lol kadugay pa but getting there. Basta, keep doing what u do. Keber na lang sa mga nega ug close minded. God bless and keep safe

    1. Hi Aessa! Thank you kaayo for taking the time to leave this comment. It really makes me happy when people say that they get inspired or motivated or they learn something from this blog. I’m excited for you sa 2018! Nindot kay at least taas2 pa ka time mag-save and mag-research and mag-plan sa imong trip. Personally, I really like planning a trip so kung mas taas ang time mag-plan, mas malingaw ko hehe! Thanks again for your kind words, and I hope your coming trip will be everything you want it to be. 🙂

  11. you are such a sweetheart 🙂
    when I get negative comments I don’t respond immediately, I give myself time to think over my reply… cuz if I reply immediately, I’d snap at the commenter and I’d then be sorry lol (been there, done that blush)… it’s always better to stay positive and polite… then haters would just zip it up and you get more fans and, last but not least, you feel good about yourself being so classy 🙂 and you are classy and I am a big fan of yours 🙂

    1. Awww thank you Alex. You’re so right. Better to wait it out a bit and take the high road if you can. Is it already summer in Sofia? I hope you and your boys have wonderful sunny days ahead. xoxo

      1. it is full-blown summer here, I was hoping one can tell that from the photos I post lol 🙂 too hot maybe… hope you are enjoying a wonderful summer as well 🙂 xoxo

      2. Ohhhh! I’d been wondering why you haven’t posted in a while, so now I check your blog and there are definitely more than a few posts that haven’t shown up on my Reader. Huh. Imma try unfollowing then following again. I hope your son’s recovered from his tonsillectomy and you guys will get to eat ice cream soon. xx

      3. he’s feeling better already and I’m looking up home-made ice cream recipes from watermelon now lol 🙂
        thank you, Gaya, I had some technical issues three months ago maybe, which resulted in most people not seeing me in their reader… you must be one of them 🙁 thanks for re-subscribing… 🙂 have a fabulous week with your family xoxo

  12. Please continue writing. I learn so much from your posts and I love your writing style. May you have more travels!!

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