To Travel Like It's The End Of The World: YOLO 2012!

I once said that my 2011 felt like one long, extended beach trip, but that I hoped 2012 would be a little bit crazier, more adventurous. After all, the world was supposedly going to end in 2012. Now that we've survived December 21, 2012 (and celebrated it with an End of the World Party and Mayan-inspired accessories), it seems mankind has been given a new lease on life. But the fact still remains - You Only Live Once. And 2012 was the year of the YOLO state of mind - all the surf trips, the road trips, the concerts and parties, even the staycations and my chillax Laos trip, and of course, our epic Seoul adventure were all witness to that. We only have one life to live, and I want to spend mine on the move, exploring strange places, meeting strange people, eating the strangest food, then coming home, only to do it all over again. So here are my favorite photos of 2012 - have a happy new year everyone! And as always, to my epic travel buddies of the year - the Samsung YOLOs, Carms, Eds, Jen and the Korea Girl Group members, what a year it's been! Here's to more legendary trips in 2013! 

About the Filipina in Flip Flops

It all began with a short solitary swim to an empty stretch of beach in a lonely island, many years ago. Since then, I've come to realize that traveling for me is a creative experience - an opportunity to tell stories about strangers, strange places and strange moments through words and pictures.

While I spend most of my days putting my Integrated Marketing Communications degree to good use at a corporate job in Manila, I spend many weekends, national holidays and much-needed vacation leaves traveling, or writing about traveling. For a few years, my double life of nomad and corporate sellout yuppie left me feeling a little torn, confused, and slightly distraught, but lately I've started to discover the beauty and magic that make transient travel both fleeting and unending at the same time. Things may change in the future, but for now I'm quite happy with the truce I've found between my two realities: cube-dweller and nomad.

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Christmas in Manila, Philippines

I was inspired by the photos the couple behind Everywhere We Shoot! took for their project with the Samsung Galaxy Camera, so I decided to take a walk around my neighborhood in Ortigas Center one night to take a few photos, and do the same thing before I went shopping at Power Plant one Sunday morning.

The Christmas season is a splendid time to visit the Philippines - the weather isn't too hot (though the past few days have been scorching while the nights aren't as bad, thankfully) and you are reminded of the holidays everywhere you go. It's impossible not to get into the Christmas spirit in the Philippines.

Travel Tip: Fly to the Philippines at affordable prices! Find the cheapest airfare flights online with sites like FlightHub.

If spending Christmas by the beach is more your thing - well, with our 7,000+ islands, we have that in the Philippines too! I haven't got any pictures of "Christmas in the Sand" though (my parents require me to be home during the holidays and the only traveling I do around Christmas is from Manila to my hometown in Batangas), but here's a song to get you in a sun, surf, sand, and Santa mood. Merry Christmas everyone!

(Also, more pictures under the cut!)

Colbie Caillat - Christmas in the Sand

5 Travel-Inspired Gift Ideas

Among friends, I'm known as the one who likes to travel. A lot. When meeting with friends I haven't seen in a long time, I'm asked "So where is your next trip?" as much as I'm asked "How have you been?". So I figured that this Christmas, it was about time I gave my loved ones something that could help me pass on to them my love for travel, and something that they would remember me by. It also got me thinking about some wonderful travel-inspired presents I've received from friends in the past. So here are some travel-inspired gift ideas for travelers and soon-to-be-travelers alike.

1. A Custom-made Tour

Last year I got a really cool Christmas present from Mark, who planned and prepared what he called "a cultural and culinary day tour" of Chinatown in Binondo. Needless to say, I was extremely touched by his thoughtful gift and all the effort it took him to prepare it. You can do the same for your friends, but if you don't have enough time to plan your own trip, you can avail of the entertaining and insightful tours of Walk This Way by Carlos Celdran and Old Manila Walks by Ivan Man Dy.

The Sights and Sounds of Hongdae, Part 1: An Afternoon Stroll

I'm sending good vibes your way with this post!

I had my first encounter with Hongdae in 2010 and immediately fell in love with the place then. Hongdae is vibrant, creative, unpolished and a little bit rebellious - in other words, it is everything that is crazy/beautiful about youth. I guess it helps that there is a large student population in the area because of Hongik University.

When I get really busy and ultimately very stressed about one thing or another, or if I want to feel inspired, there is nothing more I would want than some quiet time in a quaint coffee shop, enjoying a plate of waffles with ice cream, maybe some hot chocolate on the side while I write, just to take a break from everything. If that's not feasible, I daydream about places like Hongdae and look through my old photos of the place to help me remember.

If you ever find yourself in Seoul and are looking to be inspired, take the train to Hongik University station and spend an afternoon taking a leisurely stroll around the area, camera at the ready. You'll chance upon one-of-a-kind boutiques, quirky cafes and some pretty cool street art. It's exactly what my friends and I did - on the last day of our trip, we took one last walk around the neighborhood we called home for our five days in Seoul. You'll find some of the pictures I took below, plus a lovely little song to get you in a pleasant mood. (Incidentally, the band Busker Busker is an indie group from Hongdae who recently gained mainstream success.)

Qqoogo the Quirky Artist, Hongdae

Posing with charisma!

I met her at the Hongdae Free Market. Her work caught my attention, and she seemed so nice and pleasant, talking warmly and animatedly to the people looking through her items. She was even game to pose for a picture with her quirky glasses!

The Korean Mystery Lunch: Gamjatang at Onedang (a.k.a. how to order in a Korean restaurant without an English menu)

Smile, keep an open mind, trust the friendly ajumma, hope for the best, prepare to laugh at the worst, and you might just be rewarded with a surprisingly good meal.

Disclaimer: results may vary per situation, but that's just part of the fun.

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