If there were 2 things that I chased after most in life it would be: Freedom + Passion. Or simply, the freedom to live my passions. 

It had taken me years to achieve my idea of freedom or something pretty close. Some of you are already familiar with my story: I quit my job in Manila in 2006 to live in the US. After a year, I lived for a few months in Europe. After running out of money and job options, I came back to the Philippines and went back to my old job for a year. Before I started to get comfortable, I quit again to travel for 6 months all over India and Southeast Asia. 

That was in 2011. Upon coming back, I thought I would have to join the workforce again. But in the last 4 years, I've used all my skills, experience and smarts to avoid just that. I started blogging, got into social media, dabbled in motivational speaking and organised workshops and retreats. All in the name of Freedom and Passion. 

If you could live life on your own terms, would you ever want to quit?

That's the same question I asked a handful of people who believe in what I believe. These people have searched for their own version of freedom and were able to craft a life based on it and have surrounded themselves with the things and people they love. I've asked them questions in order to learn from them and we're starting a new series called "My Freedom Story" to share that with all of you.

Let's begin with Sacha whom I met in a lovely town of Pai, Thailand. She's been traveling along with her husband Jmayel and their dog Eden and creating cinematic videos wherever they go.

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What's your idea of freedom?

To me, freedom looks like a full tank of gas, an open road and nowhere to be at a specific time. To wake up in the morning faced with a blank day ahead of you - a day free for you to make out of it what you want, to have no time constraints or anyone to answer to, a day full of your own choices.

Share your back story.

It was after a round the world trip 10 years ago at age 20, that my love for travel was ignited. On returning home, I had this feeling that there should be something 'more' and I just couldn't shake it. I couldn't settle into anything as nothing felt right for me anymore. I went through a few different jobs in a variety of occupations and locations, before deciding enough was enough and I had to make a big change.

My husband and I were married in a sunset ceremony in Morocco in 2011 and it was after that we decided to create our own unique life together. We began making plans to leave England for a move to Asia with our dog Eden and less than a year later we found ourselves standing at London Heathrow airport, not knowing in the slightest what lay ahead of us.

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What steps did you take to achieve your freedom?

Ultimately the first step I took to freedom was leaving my corporate city job 5 years ago. I started a wedding photography business which then kept me busy for 2.5 years. At the same time I began contributing images to stock photo libraries with the intention of accumulating an online income. When the stock photography began to generate an almost passive income, I realized that I was earning enough money to start a new life in Thailand.

When my husband and I stepped off the plane in Chiang Mai we started to explore video production by creating a mini web series of our new life in Thailand called "8 Miles From Home". The name came from a book about my life that I was intending to write and not long after it began, it gained popularity among the expat and Thai communities in Chiang Mai. Over time, the videos became my husband's focus and I started to document our journey in a blog under the same name: 8milesfromhome.com.

Those were the steps towards carving out my own freedom with my partner and creating a location independent income that we can nurture together.

How long did it take for you to live freely?

The short term answer for this would be 10 months. That's how long it took from making the decision to leave England and move to Thailand, with my husband and I heading off to the airport with our bags packed. I guess for a long term answer, you could say it took 25 years before I realised there were other ways to live and had the courage to break away from my former life and left my city job.

Though it is these last 2 years living in Thailand that I have really felt I am able to live free and am able to design and discover a life truly of my own choosing. I am still bound by some limitations that I set on myself and so I honestly don't yet feel totally free, but I know I am well on the way.

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What was the biggest challenge you've faced?

Initially the biggest challenge would be leaving behind everything I knew and stepping out of my comfort zone. However, I think the biggest challenge for me now is an ongoing one, which is the fear of the unknown. Ironically, freedom can bring with it its own fears, the fear of solely earning my own money, my entire future being based on decisions I make and not knowing if what I am doing at any given time is the 'right thing'.

Because you are on your own path its sometimes difficult to find people to fall back on or even understand your choices. Since we have left England our responsibilities have grown, they are just different responsibilities from what we used to have. The things that make freedom so great, for me, are also what make it a bit scary too! But it is these feelings that make you feel alive and make you realise you are living your own life!

What advice can you give others who want to have the freedom to live life in their own terms?

Everyone can live a life of their own choosing. It's having the courage to break away from what you are used to and trying something. Everything is scary until you actually start making steps towards the goal, then you will realise it probably isn't as scary as you first thought it would be. Looking at the big picture in the beginning will be enough to turn most people off as it will seem too difficult and people will naturally always want to go for the easy and safest option. Breaking it down into smaller challenges and tasks to set yourself on the right path to freedom, rather than trying to do everything at once and overwhelm yourself, will make everything suddenly seem do-able.

Nothing is impossible, but it can often seem that way until you begin to try.

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Can you tell us of other people who are on the same path?

Angela Scott from TielandtoThailand, a friend and fellow blogger in Chiang Mai. She left the USA to start a new life in Thailand with her husband Chris and their gorgeous cat Mooshu.

Lourika Reinders, owner of Lourika Reinders Photography. She spent 2 years living and travelling in Thailand before returning home to her native Namibia to listen to her passions and set up and create her own thriving photography company. Along with her 2 stunning puppies she adopted and brought back from Thailand.

Sacha is the female part of the 'Man, Woman and Dog' trio traveling Thailand in a classic Ford Escort Mk 1. Sacha, along with her husband and dog, left the UK to digitally capture the world in their own unique style 2.5 years ago. They are now based in Thailand and Create Cinematic Travel Videos about their experiences. They have no plans to return to England as yet. Follow their journey on 8 Miles From Home.

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London has long been a multicultural city with a vast amount to offer, even to the seasoned traveler. It has also been an admirer of Asian culture for years. You only have to look at Chinatown just off Leicester Square to witness the hoards of ravenous professionals that descend upon West London each night to see how fond of Asian food the British are. And the buck doesn’t stop there – the British embrace many Asian traditions but a Japanese-themed hotel situated in Heathrow Airport caused quite a stir among the British media when it opened. 

YOTEL was launched in London’s Heathrow back in 2007 and introduced the British public to Asian ingenuity at its finest. Many had read about the Tokyo hotels that were built under the design dynamics to cater for short stay visitors via a series of pods or compact cabins. It was something that was completely foreign to the British consumer. British hotels are renowned for being characterless boxes that exhibit nothing but loneliness and are the polar opposite of homely retreats. Now, we aren’t saying YOTEL’s Japanese-influenced luxurious cabins are by any means homely BUT they are inventive, contemporary and extremely intriguing. 

YOTEL’s business model is built on order, reform and the upmost of cleanliness – all traits Asia is renowned for and something British hotels are scarcely missing. So, from a British consumer standpoint, YOTEL was an extremely interesting prospect. No other type of hotel in Britain gave guests the option of an hour sleep at a reasonable rate, if needed. 

When YO! founder Simon Woodroofe OBE, drew up the plans to launch YOTEL in London, he knew drawing influence from Asian ingenuity especially, regarding making the most of limited amounts of space, would be not only an intriguing prospect to the consumer but a very profitable financial action plan. 

Their motto: “First class experience at an affordable price,” also resonates with the consumer. The contemporary design, flexible efficient spaces were ideal for businessmen and women to unwind after arduous journeys and what could be more practical that building it adjoined with Britain’s flagship airport. All their cabins are fitted with the flat screen TVs, free Wi-Fi and shower areas. It’s also only a shuttle ride away from the main terminal and the airport’s parking facilities as per Parking4Less

However, not even Woodroofe could have imagined how much, what was essentially an Asian idea, enthused with contemporary Asian aesthetics, could have been so successful in Britain. 

British hotels have a lot to learn but if they take heed of how design, efficiency, spatial utilization and affordability play on the consumers mind, they could still be in with a fighting chance. 

The YO! brand have also launched a similar hotel in New York, watch this video to have a peak at its premium cabins.

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There's something about this place.

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There's something about Echo Beach and the black sand that stretches out through the foggy haze of afternoons. I've tried to avoid Kuta like a plague but at very tip of it is a town called Canggu. I found it more quiet and not as jaded as Kuta. A lovely scenery of rice terraces, cute little restaurants and a thriving surf culture. It has a special kind of serenity that resonated with me.

On some mornings I'd have breakfast at the same restaurant by the shore and watch surfers glide and carve through the waves. I would take a walk, past the temple, and on to the next beach and just lay out on the black sand. I'd draw patterns on the black universe under my feet and step into the tidal pools and just sit there. Doing nothing and everything at the same time.

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I stayed at Kima Surfari Surf Camp for a few days first. After spending an amazing few weeks in Bingin Beach in the Bukit Peninsula, the shuttle picked me up and we were on our way to Canggu. My driver was a funny local with dreadlocks name Petu, he taught me more Indonesian words and I taught him English on the road to the north.

I arrived in Kima and was instantly welcomed by the staff, they showed me around the surf camp, provided me with my surfboard and a bicycle to get around. The next few days were spent surfing (or attempting to surf!), having delicious free breakfast at the camp, drinking coconuts with new friends as we watch the sun turn gold and dip into the horizon, biking around Echo Beach, and chilling inside the Surfer's Lodge which was fully equipped with a pool, communal kitchen, and a cozy living room for all of the bunkers.

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Sunsets with the boys

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On my last few days in Canggu, I stayed at FRii hotel. I was welcomed by sweet Yani, one of the managers. We shared our life stories, dreams, and passions, laughing together as we had a delicious lunch at the rooftop overlooking all of Canggu. The staff showed me to my beautiful room with sliding doors that open into the pool, just a few steps away.

At night I would sink into the water, swimming back and forth until I stuck my head underwater just listening to the stillness. Watching the clouds unravel the blanket of stars above me. It's in these moments where I close my eyes with my ears below the surface and I forget I am human, even for just a few moments.

Swimming in pure bliss, swimming in pure solitude.

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As much as I have completely loved spending the past seven weeks in Indonesia, meeting and reconnecting with beautiful kindred spirits, I find bliss in solitude. Echo Beach grew on me more and more each day and my feet felt more grounded. Here I've found time to reflect on everything that has happened, to refuel, to reignite the fire, to look back on past weeks in retrospect so I can taste it again, learn from it, and write about it.

Solitude is bliss, and bliss is right here.

Satori Canggu

Thanks to Kima Surfari Surf Camp and FRii Hotels for hosting me and making my stay in Canggu extra magical. 

Visit Kima Surfari on their website www.kimasurf.com and Facebook page www.facebook.com/kimasurfaris, Check out Sole Sis Adi's full accommodations review.

Visit FRii Hotel  on their website www.friihotels.com and Facebook page www.facebook.com/friiechobeach

*All images by Stephanie Dandan

Stephanie is a nomadic photographer, wanderer, adventurer, dreamer. She lives for capturing moments of bliss, wanderlust, inspiring hearts, reigniting spirits, and infinite moments of Satori. Follow her journey at Infinite Satori.

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Earlier this year, my blog “Don’t Date a Girl Who Travels” became viral around the world, against my will. Fresh from a series of heartbreaks, I sarcastically typed away, ranting on my laptop one boring day at our beach hostel. Unknowingly, I published it on my personal blog. I was surprised by how many men and women could relate to it. I got thousands of messages from people who were in one way or another inspired by it, and some who hated it. Anything brutally honest, uncensored and raw will naturally upset some people, I realised in the end.

But there’s one comment that echoed in my head for months to come:

“I agree with you on everything, but never needing anyone is just sad somehow. I hope someday you will.”

When I was 16, I moved halfway around the world to the UK for college. It was a big change from my sheltered life growing up in the suburbs of Manila. I burnt my arms from ironing and cooking, I accidentally turned my clothes pink after washing them, I got confused riding public transportation and my hair even fell out because of stress. 

Since then, I’ve had no choice but to be independent in all aspects of my life.

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“Willy”, my trusted companion of 11 years

After my internship, I was relieved to come back to Manila. I drove everywhere as soon as I got my license and was pretty good at it too. I took the role of designated driver after parties and enjoyed out of town trips with my family. I treated each car I drove with tender lovin’ care. My father taught me to bring them to the casa every 10,000 kilometers for maintenance to avoid unnecessary costs and engine failure or tirik - which was my worst nightmare! I also made sure that I gassed up only with premium fuel like Shell V-Power Nitro+ for a smoother drive. My beloved car “Willy”, an Echo and “Suzy” a Vitara whom I depended on both had to be sold when I made the life changing decision to move to Indonesia, after falling in love with the country during previous visits.

Exploring Indonesia

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Where I feel most at home

In Indo, the main mode of transportation is by motorcycle. I looove just hopping on the back of it and driving aimlessly around the islands with fellow travelers and ending up in places I wouldn’t have discovered myself. I realized that back home, I’ve always had my way. I’ve always had my own car and most of the time, I ended up going to the same boring places. Do you ever feel that way too?

But I had a new life in this amazing country of 18,307 islands and so many interesting people I could meet on the road too. Who cares if I don’t know how to ride a motorbike?! I was gonna explore this country no matter what. So I hitched with locals and travelers all around Indonesia for one year.

This was my motorbike experiment.

It became my meditation. Unlike being in a car, all your senses are heightened. There is no roof over your head so you feel the warmth of the sunshine on your face. You hear all the different sounds on the road even with a helmet on. You smell (and yes, sometimes taste) all the different things that you drive past. 

You feel the wind in your hair and through your fingers, if you’re brave enough to let go.

You’re straddling the backseat of someone else’s moped with the lucky driver in between your legs. Two human beings in such close proximity to each other. That doesn’t usually happen under normal circumstances. When the road goes uphill, you have no choice but to hold on to the scruffy surfer that’s taking you for a ride, unless you wanna risk falling over. You instantly form some sort of a bond sharing that adrenaline-inducing ride.

For the first time in my life, I wasn’t fully in control of my journey. I needed these strangers to keep me alive.

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Driving through dangerous terrain and all the way to the top of limestone cliffs for views like these


One night in Bali, Lois and I were trying to hail Bluebird taxis after a day of misadventures. She had lost both her contact lenses from surfing Impossibles at Bingin so her vision was really blurry. I had to make a mental note to make sure she wasn’t going to get side swept on the dark road we were walking on. It was rush hour and no cab wanted to stop for us.
Suddenly, a warm voice across the road spoke to me in Indonesian “Mau kemana?” (“Where are you going?”) Pissed that some stranger might be trying to hit on us, I yelled “I don’t speak that language!@#$!” as I tried to cross the road completely forgetting that I was leading a blind person.

The headlights of a car driving past shone some light on his face. There he was, chillin’ on his motorbike at Nirmala Supermarket along Jalan Uluwatu Street. A 6-foot-1 Brazilian surfer who stared me down and said “So what language do you speak?” with a grin on his face. I froze for a second and tried to make my brain work so that I could say something. He laughed and insisted that he drive us home to save us the cab fare.

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Surf check: Greenbowl, one of Bali’s less surfed spots on the east side of the island
In the next two months, "The Brazilian" showed me some of Bali’s less traveled places that I would’ve never discovered myself. In Bali, your preferred mode of transport can spell the difference of either spending INR 400,000 ($40) per day on a car rental or as little as IND 30,000 ($3) on a scooter.

The Nusas

I’ve heard a lot about Couchsurfing but I’ve always been too chicken to sleep at strangers’ homes. I realised though that you could still participate by joining groups of travelers who want to explore various places. I met up with a French gentleman who was organizing a trip to Nusa Lembongan (and turned out to be an Armani Exchange model, no biggie). I decided to join the group the next day, who wouldn’t?!

He picked me up from my Seminyak hotel early one morning and remembered to bring an extra helmet, for me of course. We braved the rush hour traffic along Jalan Ngurah Rai all the way to Sanur where we took a Scoot fastboat away from the maddening crowds of Bali and into the more serene Nusa groups of islands, Lembongan, Cenginan and Penida. We arrived a day before Kuningan, a Balinese festival that marks the end of the New Year holiday. As soon as we dumped our backpacks at our guesthouse, we went on exploring the island on foot and watched a golden sunset fade into the night with Bintangs on hand.

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​Stumbling upon a little piece of heaven called The Blue Lagoon in Nusa Ceningan

In the morning, the group shared the cost of renting two scooters and spent the next few days getting pleasantly lost around the Nusas. It was such a sight to see the streets and temples decorated with handmade ornaments. Every Balinese man, woman and child were dressed up in their traditional clothing, breezing past us with their precious offerings of yellow rice and special home cooked dishes. There were gatherings of hundreds of locals in different villages sitting for hours in a deep meditative state. It was quite fascinating to watch them in such a peaceful trance.

On the northern part of the island, the cutest monkeys played within the thick mangroves. We passed through quiet local villages and made it to Dream Beach, a white sand spectacle with quite the powerful backwash along the shore. It was too dangerous to swim so the boys caught up on their siesta while some of us rolled around in the sand doing yoga until the entire sky became a blush of pinks and purples. That night, we picked the most expensive restaurant, The Beach Club out of hunger but were rewarded with such delicious presentations of sate ayam, mi goreng and the most tender mahi-mahi that melted in my mouth with the perfect burst of spicy sambal and veggies.

On our last day, we woke up early to explore the other island, Nusa Ceningan. The only way to get there fast is to drive on a very narrow suspension bridge from Nusa Lembongan. Only one scooter can pass at a time so you have to be patient. The island has so many panoramic views on every turn and you just have to stop and marvel at the view and breathe it all in.

Life as a local

As I stayed on longer, I reached The Gilis, a party island just a short boat ride away from Bali. Motored vehicles are prohibited here to preserve whatever peace and quiet is left. I also endured the long journey with some Australian Ashtangis to to the easternmost island of Indonesia, Sumatra. Famous for The Mentawais, Tanjung Setia and Krui, this is where serious surfers get their stoke. I also flew to Sumbawa, just a short flight away from Bali, a beautiful island in its own right. One trip I would definitely recommend is a boat expedition from Lombok to Flores, a huge island full of marine biodiversity, lush forests and waterfalls.

Every day is totally different than the last. And no matter how tiring, that’s exactly how I wanted it. 

Everyday had a different horizon, a different beach or a different sunset.

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Stopping over to hike up Gili Laba during the 5 day boat tour from Lombok all the way to Flores

Looking back, not only did I find so many beautiful places I would never have imagined existed. I’ve bonded with so many awesome people from all walks of life who come from different countries all because I needed a ride. I could probably curse in more than 10 languages!

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I’ve been able to explore some islands just riding on the back of mopeds, scooters and motorbikes. I’ve proven that it doesn’t cost much to go on life changing adventures. I’ve realized that there are still so many kind souls who will help strangers and never ask for anything in return. I learned that those who have nothing to give, give more anyway. And lastly, I learned that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with needing the company of people. There are those who will go with you no matter how far. 

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It was a priceless experience and I wouldn’t have done it any other way.

A year later, I can now pass as a local! I’m ten shades darker and speak Bahasa Indonesia. Baguuuuus! New people I meet are always stunned when I tell them I’ve made it this long without learning how to drive on my own. Things are starting to fall into place for me in my new island home.

However, I’ve gotten into two accidents riding with drunk friends. I’ve decided it’s time to learn instead of letting all these mishaps heighten my fear. Whenever I feel scared, I’d try to relax and take a deep breath. Oh, and I’d think of all the little bracelet vendors in our town who start driving when they’re 7. They’re my inspiration!

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​​​​​Beach day with the girls

Chasing sunsets with strangers,
Sole Sister Adi

P. S. Wear a helmet :)

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​​​​My bestfriend Tierza who’s the bravest girl I know

Special thanks to my gorgeous bestfriend, Tierza who patiently taught me how to ride her scooter and who’s been with me through countless amazing journeys around Indonesia. I hope someday I’ll have the chance to teach you how to drive a car. Looking forward to more crazy adventures with you around the world! x

Adi escaped from the corporate world so her life now happily revolves around yoga and travel. She lives a simple, eco-friendly lifestyle and inspires those around her to do the same. She shares her AntiGravity and yoga practice everywhere she goes and dreams of building rustic Secret Spot hostels in beautiful tropical destinations. She will spend the rest of the year living amongst the locals in Siargao before she sets off for another Southeast Asian adventure with Sole Sister Stephanie. Follow Adi's adventures on Love the Search.

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