1. No one speaks English

It’s true that most people don't speak English, or more accurately put, people will expect you to speak Spanish. So you basically have two options - try to learn enough to get around on your own, or don’t veer off the Gringo trail (discussed in #3).

The best option is to make a real effort to speak enough Spanish so that you can get around hassle-free and maybe even bargain a little. Carry a Latin American Spanish phrasebook with you wherever you go and practice everyday! People who live in the cities and work for the tourism industry may have different levels of comprehension and will be able to carry conversations, so you’ll still be able to make some local friends.

Misconceptions on Traveling Latin America3

2. It’s dangerous as hell

Not really. Just like lot of places in the world, petty crimes do happen and you'll have to be more careful in crowded places. So take the usual precautions. Don’t carry a lot of valuables, don’t wear flashy jewellery, and keep your cash on hand to a minimum. Avoid looking like a clueless tourist on vacation. Don’t wander around alone late at night.

Whenever I travel in public buses or trains, I never let my backpack out of sight and I always wear a money belt around my waist, under my clothes. I stick my passport, ATM and credit card in there too for extra peace of mind. I’ve traveled Central America and South America only taking public buses on my own. They play movies in Spanish so it’s a great way to learn. They’re not so bad!

Read more: 5 Tips to Stay Safe as a Solo Sister in Central America

Misconceptions on Traveling Latin America4

3. You will get kidnapped

Trust your instincts. If you are a solo female traveler, it’s best to stick to what they call the Gringo trail to play it safe. These destinations are the usual points of interests, visited by foreigners on a regular basis. These places are protected by the tourist police patrolling the areas. I sort of broke this rule when I sailed next to the Darien Gap, a dense impenetrable forest infamous for its drug cartel trade. It’s still one of the most dangerous places in the world, but a company called San Blas Adventures have been safely sailing from Panama to Colombia and vice versa safely for the past few years in the heavily patrolled marine border. It was quite the adventure and I wouldn’t have done it any other way.

Misconceptions on Traveling Latin America6

4. There are drugs everywhere

This is so true. Drugs are everywhere and they are cheap! But that doesn’t mean you have to try them. Never express any interest in taking drugs or getting involved in prostitution. Guys, make sure your Tinder date isn’t going to ask for money when you leave her the next morning. Always be sober enough to be aware of what’s going on around you and know how to get home safely. Even some of the most sacred Ayahuasca ceremonies have ended up badly, leading to overdosing, rape and even death.

Misconceptions on Traveling Latin America1

5. It’s too expensive

This is really subjective for each country and also depends on what part you’re at. But to simplify things and give you a general idea, I’m going to compare Costa Rica, the most expensive country in Latin America and Colombia which shows us about the average in South America.

Please note that the following are the average estimated costs for a typical backpacker in US Dollars in the year 2015 - 2016.


Hostel Dorm Bed
Costa Rica/ Central America - 10 USD  
Colombia/ South America - 8 USD

Hostel Cooked Breakfast 
Costa Rica/ Central America - 4 USD
Colombia/ South America - 1 USD
Cup of Freshly Brewed Coffee Costa Rica/ Central America - 3 USD
Colombia/ South America - .60 (cents) USD

1 Litre Bottled Water Costa Rica/ Central America (Potable in most places) - 2 USD
Colombia/ South America - (Potable in bigger cities) - 1 USD

Lunch at a Cheap Local Place
Costa Rica/ Central America - 8 USD for a Casado (A plate of rice, beans, salad, meat & patacones)
Colombia/ South America - 3 USD for a Bandeja paisa (A plate of rice, beans, salad, meat, arepa, fried egg & avocado slice)

Dinner at a nice restaurant
Costa Rica/ Central America - starts at 12 USD
Colombia/ South America - starts at 6 USD

Local Beer
Costa Rica/ Central America - 3 USD
Colombia/ South America - 1 USD

Bus Fare (per hour)
Costa Rica/ Central America - 8 USD
Colombia/ South America - 2 USD

Daily Total (Average)  
Costa Rica/ Central America -  Around 50 USD
Colombia/ South America - Around 22.60 USD

To save money in Costa Rica, I volunteered at different yoga retreat centers to save on accommodation and meals. In between jobs, I traveled to different parts of the country and couchsurfed or stayed in hostels. Though they were pretty affordable, it’s the meals that took a lot out of my daily budget so I ended up making a lot of vegetarian dishes. I basically had to restrain from any kind of alcohol.

I came to Colombia wanting to do the same when I realized, “Oh my gosh, I can actually afford to eat out three times a day here!” Obviously, making your own meals can save you loads of money if you are staying a couple of days in one place. Lately, we’ve been taking turns cooking sumptuous meals at our hostel and are more than happy to share. So basically, Colombia is so cheap you can choose to have a nice meal at a restaurant or cook for eight hungry backpackers!

Here’s a quick guide to help you get around Latin America:

Misconceptions on Traveling Latin America2

Off to the next adventure,
Sole Sister Adi

Sole Sister 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 just came back to the Philippines after a long term backpacking trip across Latin America. Follow Adi's adventures on Love the Search and on Facebook and Instagram.
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Sole Sister Adi has lived on and off in Bali and has taken countless girlfriends around her beloved island. Read her tips on how you and your friends can have an unforgettable getaway in Bali, Indonesia.

On a surf trip to Siargao a few years back, I was drawn to a travel guidebook of Bali laying around by the boardwalk. I browsed through its dog-eared pages that showed the island's diversity in landscapes and marine life. I was immediately sold and placed this mystical destination on the top of my list ever since.

Girls' Getaway Guide to Bali10

Bali’s undeniable charisma attracts millions of visitors from all corners of the globe, making it one of the most sought after holiday destinations. Soaking up sunshine on warm tropical beaches, biking through rice fields and a strong Balinese culture still rich in history and tradition are just a few of the many images people visualise when they think of Bali.

Girls' Getaway Guide to Bali8

There’s so much to see and do in this tiny little island of over 4 million people. And this island of the gods continues to attract a record number of visitors per year. More and more countries have been given the privilege to get 30 day visas on arrival, instead of having to painstakingly apply for one in advance. The brand new airport is a charming architectural masterpiece of modern Balinese and I always look forward to coming back.

Girls' Getaway Guide to Bali7

Read: Quick Guide to Bali

Where to Stay
With the low exchange rate of the Indonesian Rupiah, even budget travelers and backpackers instantly feel like millionaires after a trip to the ATM. A room in a homestay with breakfast only cost 100,000 - 200,000 IDR for two people (roughly 8-15 USD). For the same price as staying at a hostel in Europe, visitors can afford to stay at one of the many luxury villas, fully equipped with its own private pool and butler. What else could you possibly need?

Girls' Getaway Guide to Bali11

On my first ever trip to Bali, I brought my closest friends -- Joana, Sarah, Abi and Alcina (left to right) along with me and jam packed our week-long itinerary with trips to explore all the different beaches. We wanted to visit every single one of them and of course I sneaked in a few must-see surf spots! After much thought, we all voted to stay at a central location, near Alila Seminyak, an upscale area in between busy Kuta and more laid-back Canggu.

Girls' Getaway Guide to Bali9

Girls' Geta3way Guide to Bali

With so many options, it was quite challenging to arrive at a collective decision on where to stay. But finally, it was clear that our first home in Bali would be a quaint 2-bedroom villa walking distance to Double Six Beach. Along the way were many designer boutiques, art galleries and restaurants that seemed worthy of a Michelin star or two. Many creative and digital nomads call Seminyak home for the close proximity to all these luxuries, as well as cafes and co-working spaces with internet speed up to 15 mbps, three times faster than that of Ubud.

Girls' Getaway Guide to Bali4

Girls' Getaway Guide to Bali6

Local Flavours

With barely any sleep and arriving straight from the airport, we couldn’t wait to finally try real local flavours so we stopped by a well-known warung on the main road of Kuta for breakfast and coffee. We sampled the more popular Indonesian dishes like Nasi Goreng, Mi Goreng and my now favorite, Gado-gado.

Girls' Getaway Guide to Bali5

Girls' Getaway Guide to Bali12

Our chauffeur also recommended a place on Jalan Uluwatu that served Bali’s specialty, a dish that is prohibited in other parts of Indonesia. Babi Guling, pork stuffed with different herbs and spices before being cooked in the earth’s heat. One of our favourite restaurant finds was a warung that specialised in all kinds of grilled Sate and its mouthwatering peanut sauce which we also poured over our nasi (rice).

Where to Shop
We got a little too excited seeing the outlet stores along Jalan Ngurah Rai for the first time. Popular brand names like Quiksilver, Ripcurl, Volcom, Billabong and Insight were on sale in a massive three-storey building. They have all the latest designs on surfboards, beach clothing and accessories. There were loads of half-marked items and a regular 90% off section. We spent half a day just looking for amazing bargains! At the end of the day, we came home with a ton of bikinis as cheap at Php 200 (USD $5) per pair.

Girls' Getaway Guide to Bali2

Getting Around

We hired a local chauffer, Made Nata who’s been driving tourists for over two decades. Nata spoke English well and was highly recommended by my surfer friends who frequently visit Bali. He and his wife have recently just finished building their very own homestay and are now ready to welcome guests. Each day he showed up early and patiently drove us to different scenic spots like Ubud, Nusa Dua and all the Bukit beaches. He never complained even though we were out the whole day! 

Read: Why Bali is the Most Empowering Destination for Solo Female Travelers

It was quite a shock to be offered mushrooms and 'temporary boyfriends' by the vendors on the beach. We found some peace underneath colourful umbrellas and indulged in some ice-cream and cocktails during sunset. One night, we dressed up for hours to have dinner and drinks at Potato Head Beach Club, where apparently, Bali’s upscale crowd starts the party. We have been trying all kinds of delicious Indonesian cuisine but it was quite nice to see a wide variety of International dishes on the menu. The following night, my girl friends went out to party at Kudeta while I happily stayed at home at the villa and called a masseuse for a two hour massage and body treatment by the pool.

Life is wonderful here!

It’s not too late to make your Bali trip happen this summer! Here are some important tips to help you plan a hassle-free vacation:

How to get here:

-Direct flights from Manila, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Hong Kong and Perth
-Flights average $100 one-way and $150 roundtrip
-Most nationalities get a 30 day visa on arrival at Ngurah Rai airport
-You can also book your stay through Traveloka.com

When to go:

-Best weather is from May to November.
-Most surf competitions happen on July and September.
-Ombak Bali, a surf film fest happens every July at Double Six, Seminyak Beach.

Travel tips:

-Carry an open-line mobile phone if you want to use a local simcard. 5Gb internet data costs about Rp 100,000 (7.5 USD).

-No surfboard? No problem. Head to Jalan Poppies Lane 2 for the best deals.

-Bring a half-filled suitcase and raid the outlet stores and souvenir shops in Kuta.

-Bargaining is customary and it is acceptable to start at half the price.
-Dress and act appropriately when visiting temples and other sacred places.
-Help Bali’s trash problem by refilling your water bottle instead of buying plastic bottled water daily.

Girls' Getaway Guide to Bali1

Selamat datang, 
Sole Sis Adi

Sole Sister 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 just came back to the Philippines after a long term backpacking trip across Latin America. Follow Adi's adventures on Love the Search and on Facebook and Instagram.
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We can be strong, independent, bold, fearless, streetwise, and sassy. But we're all familiar with that creeping sense of unease whenever we have to walk alone at night. As kick-ass as we might be, it’s okay to acknowledge that the world can be a dangerous place for a woman on her own, and to take measures to protect ourselves from risks. 

We've all seen those news articles of girls who've had to face danger in unfamiliar places. It's certainly not something we want to happen to us or to our loved ones. So the best thing we can do to protect ourselves is to be aware and do our research to stay safe before we start our adventure.

Central America is just one of the regions where a woman travelling alone will stand out, and may find herself in sticky situations. But this in itself should not deter you. To ensure that you feel empowered rather than afraid, here are a few tips to live by if you decide to go on that trip...

Panamanian Couple at Red Frog Beach, Bastimentos - Bocas del Toro, Panama

1 Don't Confront Cultural Differences

The feminist inside of you may hate to acknowledge that equality has yet to reach much of the world, but travelling will soon convince you of such a notion. Much of Central America is still riddled by 'machismo'. It's unavoidable that you will get cat calls and a few illicit offers.

Sadly, such attitudes are deeply entrenched into many Central American cultures, and you may well find yourself in the company of overbearing conversationalists, whistlers, and catcallers. However, as much as it may rile you to do so, it's not worth reacting. Your best defense is to simply walk away and remove yourself from the situation rather than call attention to the perpetrators.

Nosara, Costa Rica

2 Dress Modestly

Central America is often viciously hot, so expecting solo female travellers to walk around in long sleeves and trousers to appease delicate male sensibilities would be nothing short of ridiculous. Indeed, you'll find that most women at popular tourist destinations are wearing bikinis and sarongs. But where this is not the case, you may find it prudent to cover up a little more. Although you're not obliged to do so, most seasoned female travellers agree that it significantly reduces the amount of unwanted male attention that you're forced to endure. Use the local ladies as a yardstick, and you should do just fine. Try to blend in as much as you can.

3 Pack Only What You Are Comfortable Losing

It's pretty obvious that you should leave that expensive necklace that your grandmother gave you for safekeeping. And try to bring a generic laptop or cellphone, not your Macbook or Iphone. If you can leave that eye-catching DSLR at home, do it. Your belongings can only be a burden to you, especially if you need to move around a lot, so try to pack light.

Latin America2

4 Don't Walk Alone at Night

Sadly, walking alone at night in any country poses risks to women that men never have to contemplate, and in Central America, these are heightened still further. Female-oriented sexual violence is particularly rife in urban areas such as San Jose, Costa Rica and Antigua, Guatemala, so even if you're only travelling a few blocks, it's still a good idea to call a taxi. After all, what does a little extra money matter when weighed against your safety?

5 Don't Resist Muggers

Being mugged is an absolute violation, but if allowing it to occur prevents further violence against you, then it's well worth the cost. If someone approaches you when you're by yourself, demanding that you hand over your belongings, acquiesce and walk away as quickly as you can.

Travelling to Central America is not without its dangers, but for those brave enough to face them, it can offer moments of pure enchantment, exquisite natural beauty, an intoxicating culture, and memories that you'll never forget. Know how to stay safe, and you can enjoy it to its fullest, untouchable, empowered, and independent. Why not contact a company like Exodus today, and start planning your adventure?

Have you traveled alone in Central America? Please share your personal safety tips in the comments!

About the author:

Danielle has backpacked through Southeast Asia and Latin America alone and with friends. She is currently writing her travel memoir about her experiences. Europe is next on her list.

Photo Credits: Chris Goldberg and Love the Search
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I’ve lived in Hong Kong for one year now - and it all happened by accident. I didn’t even know what an expat was before I came to this city. Now I hear the word on average 10 times a day - every foreigner here is referred to as one. 

Does belonging to a ‘community’ make living in an Asian city alone any less terrifying?

I would usually hate having a label attached to me, but it really does.

Expat in Hong Kong - Constantly surrounded by skyscrapers - but I love it

What is it like living in Hong Kong?

In one word. CRAZY. This city absolutely blows my mind every day, even a year in. It is so fast-paced, so well connected and offers so much in terms of things to do. I honestly feel like I have only just scratched the surface! A city where you can be on the rooftop of a skyscraper, on a white sand beach and in the mountains all in one day. A place that is home to every possible cuisine - at all hours of the night. Somewhere with hundreds of different languages, yet you learn how to communicate with everyone. A land of opportunities and huge career prospects.
I live in an apartment block 15 floors up that looks onto thousands, if not millions of windows, each with a person or family living their own story. Mine? I fell in love with the city within 24 hours of a 4-day trip here - I immediately knew it was a place I needed to give more of my time and energy. I feel like whatever you put into Hong Kong, it gives back. I came here alone, just one suitcase, no phone, and no friends.

Expat in Hong Kong -  Some of the friends I have made here will be for life

How do you meet people/ make friends?

It could possibly be the easiest place I have ever been to make friends. This is where the word ‘expat’ gives you a helping hand. Most foreigners are in the same situation; either they have been sent here for work, or they are giving it their all to make it in the city - which usually means they have left a lot behind and have come at it alone.

You will immediately bond with other expats and their hilarious Hong Kong-isms: funny things that only happen in Asia, what you find weird about the city and by asking where the hell you should be going. Expats are VERY friendly here. I made friends by simply talking to everyone I met. I also joined Meetup.com groups and attended networking events. I quickly made friends and a year on now have a solid group of friends who refer to each other as ‘ The Hong Kong Family’.

Expat in Hong Kong - View from my apartment in Central

How much does it cost?

To put it frankly, it is expensive to live in Hong Kong. Rent is extremely over-priced for what you get, and the same goes for food. However, salaries are higher and taxes are low, and there is always a cheap option for everything. Eating at local Chinese restaurants and living outside of the popular expat areas will save you a fair few pennies! For a breakdown of how much it costs to live in Hong Kong take a look at my post here.

Expat in Hong Kong -  Hong Kong heightens all your senses

How do you get a visa?

If you are under 30 you may be eligible for a 1-year working holiday visa to stay and work in Hong Kong for 12 months with no questions asked (just a small application form at the beginning ). However, the HK Immigration Department only has this agreement with some nationalities, so check out if this applies to you here.

The other option is to find an employer that will sponsor you to either move out here or employ you when you are here, and in both cases provide you with a working visa to live and work in Hong Kong. If you have a skill and a degree this can be pretty easy, although the process is getting tighter each year. Popular jobs in Hong Kong for expats are in teaching, finance, marketing and engineering.

Expat in Hong Kong -  I've fallen in love with this city

What is it like being a solo female expat?

Throughout my five years of solo travel I have definitely noticed I am ‘alone’ in some places more than others, and Hong Kong just isn’t one of those. I forget I came alone, as I now have so many strong relationships here that I feel like I’ve lived here a lifetime.

I will say one thing, though - it’s not the kind of city you are likely to find the love of your life

It is so transient and people are moving to and from very quickly - it can be hard to sustain a romantic relationship. I haven’t given up completely though and the friendships definitely make up for it - plus girls, it’s a VERY fun city to be single in!

Expat in Hong Kong -  This photo was taken in my first few months in the city - I will savour it forever

Sole Sister Sarah of Coffee with A Slice of Life is a 27 year old professional world wanderer who has been travelling the globe for the last 5 years, one cup of coffee a time. She is in love with the open road, and writing about it, and will do almost anything to keep living her dream... Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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Sun, sea, and sand holidays are undoubtedly great things, but there is so much more out there to experience. Take a look at the top 3 unconventional holidays to go on with your girl friends:

Go on a Cruise

Now, you may not have thought of a cruise at first when thinking about going on holiday with your girl friends, but cruises can really be a great way to get together and spend time with your Sole Sisters. See more places without the hassle of accommodation changes – often cruises will give you the chance to go to multiple places on one trip, your luxurious travel pad being a moving hotel room with everything at your beck and call. Check out Planet Cruise for some inspiration.

Need more reasons to go on a cruise?

  • Lots of activities under one roof (or deck). 
  • Great to celebrate a special occasion. 
  • Get a taste of luxury – everything is catered for. 
  • Amazing food choices – often Michelin starred chefs are on board. 
  • Get a chance to visit onshore destinations. 

Agoda at Y Resort Ubud6
Try a Yoga Retreat

If you and your friends are into yoga, or just have an interest in trying it out and getting more involved, why not take a break from the pressures of the modern world and sign out of daily life and into mindfulness. With health and fitness being increasingly the ‘spirit of the age’, we increasingly like to spend our leisure time doing wholesome, healthy and rewarding activities. Try a new experience – it may be new for you, but if you have an interest, immersing yourself into yoga can open up doors for you. 

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Why should you book a yoga retreat?

  • Allow yourself to relax and de-stress from work and life
  • Learn a new, gentle way to exercise and connect with your body. 
  • Become more flexible. 
  • Bond deeply with your friends through spiritual relaxation and mindfulness. 
Passion Play: The Retreat

Go on an Adventure Holiday

Anything from climbing, to surfing, or going on safari is a possibility with an adventure holiday. If you and your friends are tired of the same old beach getaway, this could be the perfect way to unwind and reconnect together whilst doing something challenging and memorable. 

So why should you consider an adventure holiday? 

  • Challenges are great bonding experiences when you go through them together. 
  • See more of the world and make beautiful memories. 
  • Get active and outdoors. 
  • Get out of your comfort zone. 
  • Build your confidence

Why opt for something everyone has done before? Do something different and have the experience of a lifetime, the best part being, you’re spending it with your best friends.

About the author:

Audrey is a 23 year old History graduate keen to share her travel ambitions and experiences. She has previously stayed in a variety of accommodations ranging from luxurious 5 star hotels to the most basic of youth hostels, in destinations all around the world including Paphos, Paris, London Barcelona, New York and Amsterdam.
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Dara of The Traveller's Cookbook flew from Egypt to embark on an unforgettable and soulful journey to the Philippines with Zigzag Travelers to get a traditional tattoo from a living legend.

The times are a’changing in Buscalan. But the tattoo process remains the same: thorn, bamboo, charcoal, and courage.

When Isaac, our guide, ran into our home-stay to tell us it was time, I wasn’t afraid of the pain. I was afraid of a gush of air between my ears; of blacking out and subsequently, not being worthy. When I stood up, I was dizzy. But we anyways ran to the edge of the village, hopping over a fence and dodging a pig, to see what would come of our fate and if we were worthy.

I was supposed to go first, but I froze in front of her. Apo Whang Od sat on a small stool and turned to me. She was small, but strong and ready. Oh no, not me, I said. Someone else went first. And so I watched, trying to quell my fear.

Whand Od Kalinga Philippines4

Whang Od took a thorn and soaked it in charcoal. She carefully drew the design on his back with a piece of grass. She gripped the bamboo handle and positioned the thorn against his skin. And then, as if pounding a drum, she began to hammer the design into his skin.

Whand Od Kalinga Philippines6

“Which one do you want?” one of her friends asked me. I blinked. What?

“I’m scared,” I admitted to him. My pulse pounded in my head. I strained my eyes into the mountain mist.

He told me: “It doesn’t hurt that bad. She says that it hurts worse when you are left by someone you love.”

“Look at her arms,” he said to me. “She had fifteen boyfriends and none of them ever stayed. This was after her husband, who died before all that.”

That resonated with something in me. And while I could still feel my fear, when it was my turn again, I sat down in front of her.

Whand Od Kalinga Philippines8

Before I thought I would go with the smallest one; it would be quick and the least painful. But instinctively I pointed at another one on the wooden board that felt right. It was larger than I anticipated.

“This one,” I said.

“Ah. This is the serpent eagle. It means freedom through bravery. I think it is a good choice for you,” he said.

Whand Od Kalinga Philippines12

She drew on the symbol with a blade of grass and tapped my shoulders for me to be still. I straightened my back and braced myself for the sound of the bamboo hammer. And then it came: a violent pound onto the thorn and into fleshy meat of my upper back.

The pain had been described to me once like a horde of biting ants. It was far worse than a machine tattoo, they said. There were stories of people fainting, getting sick, or being unable to make it through the process. But the sound and bite of the bamboo stick put me into a state of unanticipated tranquility. I twisted a set of beads around my thumb and finger. Then the thorn pierced my skin again. And again. I felt a trickle of blood drip down my back.

“This is your right of passage,” a friend said. Pay attention to the pain.

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In a tiny mountain village in the Philippines, a three hours walk from the nearest hospital and very far away from home; I paid close attention to my pain.

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Buscalan used to be the stuff of backpacker legends and old Philippine folklore. They said that if you took the long journey into the Kalinga Province, and hiked up a certain mountain cliff, you would find the last mambabatok, the legendary traditional tattoo master, Apo Whang Od. And if she found you worthy, she would mark your skin with a thorn from a nearby citrus tree and charcoal from her pots and pan, hammering it repeatedly with a bamboo stick until it took the form of a traditional Kalinga symbol.

Whand Od Kalinga Philippines5

But this ideology was many years ago, before Whang Od became well known throughout the Philippines and subsequently, the world. This was before backpackers, bloggers, and film crews trekked up the near-vertical pass to get a glimpse of her and her craft, and for some, even to be marked themselves.

Whand Od Kalinga Philippines10

What used to be primarily a farming community located a two hour’s walk from the closest road, has now turned its focus to tourism. After only a few short years, tourism is now the number one source of income for the community of about 650 people. Before it became a backpacker lure, every few weeks an outsider would trickle into its borders, but now small groups of people are arriving each day.

When we arrived, a group arranged by ZigZag Tours, we arranged for a guide at the drop off point. Isaac was remarkably patient and kind, and only fifteen years old. He held himself like a much older man, eventually introducing us to local workers with thoughtfulness and care. While tourists are welcome in Buscalan, a middle man is essential to decipher, explore, and especially photograph within the village.

Whand Od Kalinga Philippines11

The guides are just one of the ways that Buscalan is coping with the amount of tourists coming into the village. Every group that comes to the village will be assigned one. Additionally, there are no hotels or hostels; only home-stays. Which means staying with a local family in a simple room. Basic kitchen supplies and electricity are often available. A few of the home-stay options have a bathroom and toilet, but not all of them. You can drink and hang out- but lights out at 10 pm. This is a village-wide rule.

These simple and profound rules create an experience unique to Buscalan; instead of a community isolating outsiders to hotels and hostels, they pull them closer. This is even despite how much their presence is changing their land.

Additionally, small grassroots tour companies are beginning to arrange transport from Manila, home-stays, and guides, while working closely with local operators in the village. This creates a more symbiotic relationship with the tourists that come into Buscalan, and also gives the village more control over the amount of people coming in at a time.

Even just five years ago, outsiders were a rarity. Now they are easy to spot at Charlie’s popular guesthouse or at the tattoo spot, where around twenty people gather each day to watch or be marked.

Whand Od Kalinga Philippines9

Despite all this change, Whang Od still goes about her days just the same. She feeds her chickens in the mornings, tattoos all morning and afternoon, and finishes her day with a cup of coffee. There is talk about her retiring soon and fear that the tradition will fade away after she is gone.

Her apprentice and niece, Grace, was recently named a Young Master, thankfully further preserving the tradition. Another niece of Whang Od, Elyang, has been taken on as an additional apprentice. The three of them tattoo together everyday, each with a distinct style. Whang Od is raw and tough, preferring to tattoo only the traditional designs. Grace and Elyang are both more delicate and draw lines as straight and narrow as a machine.

After just a few short days, we came back down the mountain; first by foot, then by motorcycle. We were waiting to load our bags into the jeepney when another bike approached. I recognized the man from the day before when he got off his bike.

“Hey,” I said.

“Hey, how did it go?” he said as he got off his bike. “Let me see the tattoo.”

Whand Od Kalinga Philippines15

I pulled off my scarf to show him, trying to avoid direct sunlight.

“See, the pain wasn’t that bad,” he smiled and held his bike at his side.

I said to him: “You told me that it hurt worse if someone you loved left you. I think you are right.”

“It’s not what I said. It is what Whang Od said. And I believe her.”

“She is right,” I told him. “Thank you.”

Whand Od Kalinga Philippines13

I climbed up the ladder to hoist myself on top of the jeepney. We snaked slowly back to Bontoc, Banaue, and hopefully, Manila sometime in the night; leaving Buscalan behind us, changing and not.

Dara Denney is the author of The Traveller’s Cookbook. She has lived in New York City, West Africa, and India. She grew up in a small village in Ohio where her favourite meal was pizza and chicken fingers. Thankfully travelling changed all of that. She currently lives in Egypt where she teaches Kindergarten and writes at night.

Special thanks to Zigzag Travelers for making us part of this trip. Follow them on Facebook and InstagramSome images credited to Vin Anaras and Elpidio Guillermo Jr. with their permission.
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"Paris is a place in which we can forget ourselves, reinvent, expunge the dead weight of our past." - Michael Simkins

When I was still working in Training and Development for one of the biggest banks in the world, I felt contented. I was paid very well, I got to go on business trips abroad, and I was constantly interacting with different types of people. Unfortunately, the word "content" in English is not quite the same in French.

Je n'étais pas content. (I was not happy.)

I helped enrich companies. But what I wanted to do was enrich people's lives. So I quit my job and fulfilled my love for travel. Little did I know then that it was my first step towards my journey of reinvention. I would wear many hats such as travel blogger, social media consultant, brand ambassador, surf hostel manager, writer, and motivational speaker among others. I continue to live my passions (both old and new) in Europe by spending half the year surfing and traveling with my family in Portugal, and the other half, learning with a Cordon-Bleu trained chef in France. And this is why I believe in the possibility of living many different lives in one lifetime.
To reinvent yourself and evolve are all part of the beauty of the human condition.

I've teamed up with Anna Chen, a certified life coach based in Paris to present the Reinvent Yourself Workshop : Create The Life of Your Dreams. It's a one day workshop that helps women in transition find their passions, overcome their fears and live their dreams.


Lois Yasay Ribeiro worked for multinationals in training and development for over 5 years before she decided to follow her number one passion: travel. She quit her job to go on a 6 month backpacking trip around Asia and documented her experiences on her travel blog We Are Sole Sisters. Since then, she has been traveling and living in different parts of the world. Five years later, she continues to escape the cubicle and has transitioned into becoming a writer, social media consultant and motivational speaker. She is also a certified Passion test facilitator and has been organizing international workshops and retreats to help others do what they love and make a living doing that.

Anna Chen has worked for 6 years as an IT engineer before she finally listened to her heart and decided to find true passion and purpose. She transitioned from a dreadful job to a meaningful and fulfilling career. She creates her life in her own terms by doing what she loves: helping others to make the transition, exploring her creativity, traveling, and connecting awesome people. Her purpose is to inspire and help people to grow and create the life that resonates with them. She carries out her mission by being a certified life coach and an inspirational speaker and writer on Do What You Love. She has organized many workshops in Paris for women.


Nadia Soufi began her career in Germany in 2005 through her language services company (translation, interpretation and events organization). As a born entrepreneur, Nadia has always shown great dynamism and enthusiasm for turning her ideas into reality. Boosted by the success of her first company and with many years experience abroad under her belt, Nadia moved to Paris in 2010 where she embarked on a new entrepreneurial adventure. At this point she realized that something important was missing in the City of lights. 5 years later, after making Paris her own, Paris for Her was born, it's the first website for business women and female entrepreneurs staying in Paris. Thanks to Paris for Her, working, visionary women from around the globe will no longer simply cross paths here but will meet up to talk, share things together while attending business workshops, enjoying cultural/fun activities and discovering Paris. Mixing business with pleasure. This is a faster – and better – way to build a stronger network.


What: Reinvent Yourself Workshop Paris : Create The Life of Your Dreams
Where: Le10h10 Coworking Café - 19 Rue de Cléry - Paris 2ème - Metro: Sentier
When: April 23, 2016 at 10h00-17h00
Workshop Fee: Early Sign Up 125 EUR (Register by April 15) Regular Rate 150 EUR
Inclusive of workshop materials, a healthy lunch with Alphonse et Madeleine, coffee, snacks and other refreshments
Who should attend: Locals, expats or travelers who are women in transition in their personal lives or careers

Space is limited to 20 participants. Contact freedomworkshops@gmail.com or call +33 6 16 85 95 22.


...you are transitioning to a new role in your personal life or career and you feel afraid and overwhelmed.

... you feel confused and need clarity in which path you should take and which passions you should pursue.

... you have an idea of your next steps to become happier and more fulfilled but don't know what's holding you back.

... you're tired of settling and living your life according to other people's standards and just want to embrace the real you

... you want to meet like minded individuals who are struggling with the same issues who want to create a life that resonates with them.

... you feel like you need a big change to fall back in love with yourself and your life. 


  • You will know your top 5 passions using the Passion Test in the order of priority so you can use it as a guide for every decision you make.

  • You will find the connections between your passions, purpose, and skills which you can transform into a value, career or business idea that can help others.

  • You will know about the best practices and techniques that your facilitators have been using to constantly create the life of their dreams.

  • You will identify your fears to know exactly what's holding you back and learn to overcome them.

  • You will hold a clear vision of yourself in the epitome of success and start making it into a reality.

Contact freedomworkshops@gmail.com or call +33 6 16 85 95 22 for registration and inquiries.


The workshop was just an overall great experience. It's a great, casual venue where you can completely be yourself and meet a lot of interesting new friends. Listening to the speakers' first-hand experiences about passion, travel and entrepreneurship gave me a whole new perspective. It has definitely inspired and motivated me to stop dreaming and start acting! If you're looking for that "umph", that extra push, that hint of inspiration to get you going, this workshop will do all that and more.
-Tabitha Fernan

The workshop was fun, engaging and informative - definitely worth your time and money! It helped me focus on the things that matters to me most and take action for it. Now I'm on my way on making all that happen! You should attend because you might just find here what you've been searching for all your life.
-Victrixia Montes

I was able to build new connections to further guide me in my next steps to freedom. If you are currently lost, stuck in something you feel is a dead end, or already have plans on pursuing your passions, give this workshop a try. You might find help here. I did!
-Leng Desuasido



Contact freedomworkshops@gmail.com or call +33 6 16 85 95 22 for registration and inquiries.

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