My love affair was kindled in France.

I was walking around the streets of Paris when something shiny and colorful caught my attention at a shop window. When I realized what it was, I couldn't believe my eyes.

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Europe, early this year. Sole Sister Julienne from the far east was freezing her a** off in Madrid, so she decided to escape to the warmest place she could think of in Europe - Costa del Sol, in the southernmost tip of Spain.

I found myself flying back into Spain last February to continue my Spanish studies in preparation for an exam I had to take this year. I was due to start a new full time job in Hong Kong, but while waiting for my employment visa to get transferred, I decided to return to Madrid - one of my favourite places in the world.

It made sense since I have a tita (aunt) based in Madrid, as well an amazing Madrileña girlfriend with a spare room in the city (lucky me!). Covering utilities like water, cleaning, wifi, electricity etc. I basically paid 350 euros a month for a room in a sunny and sizeable apartment in the north of Madrid. It took me around 35-45 minutes to get to the city centre, but that was a great time slot to cram in my homework while on the metro.
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First photo of my workspace in the dining / living room area

Temperatures refused to go over 10°C when I first arrived, and freezing my miserable butt off, I searched for a warmer and sunnier escape before school began. In 2015 I had hit the major cities of Andalucía with my family (Granada, Sevilla, Córdoba), so this time I had to venture further out to find something different.

It was a toss-up between Cádiz (Costa de la Luz), Almería, and Málaga, but in the end I chose the latter because of its easy access from Madrid (it’s also an international hub for those flying in). Plus, upon further research Málaga seemed to pack far more punch in in terms of options (culture, nightlife, cuisine, activities) beyond the beach. It was sunny (isn’t it always here?) but there was no way I was swimming in the frigid Mediterranean in the throes of winter.

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Málaga’s is the largest city in its province, and the sixth largest in Spain 
with a population of approximately 570,000

Travel Tip! Booking train tickets last minute in Spain / Europe can be very expensive (ie. more than twice the original price). I was able to get “resold” tickets through the website Truecalia where people can super efficiently search, buy and sell train tickets in Spain. I got mine at a good price (30-40 euros) as if I had bought it weeks in advance. The private seller just sent me the QR / bar code after I transferred the money, and that’s all RENFE needed - no paper copies required.

And so I boarded the high-speed train from Madrid Atocha one morning and took off for Málaga. Less than three hours later, I was at Estación de Málaga-María Zambrano, stepping into the sun! It felt so good after dreary Madrid, you could not imagine how my whole sun-loving yet sun-deprived being was rejoicing.

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At Madrid Atocha Station; it takes only 2h40 on average
from Madrid by train while driving would take 5-6 hours

Worst Restaurant: Bodega Bar El Pimpi

On my first night there, I went to a resto-bar that all the websites had recommended: Bodega Bar El Pimpi. Apparently, it’s a “malagueño” institution sitting at the foot of the Alcazar: a massive 11th century Moorish castle in the city centre. The location was fantastic - it was also right in front of the ancient Teatro Romano de Málaga (Roman Theatre) - but the food was sub-par. I was a little bit disappointed, since many articles had hailed the city as an emerging gastronomic hub.

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The Alcazar: a massive 11th century Moorish castle in the city centre

Best Restaurant: El Tapeo de Cervantes
Being the belligerent foodie that I am, I doggedly searched for the best places to eat in town (that wouldn’t break the bank). Luckily, I struck gold a few times after that. Tapas restaurant El Tapeo de Cervantes had absolutely mouthwatering dishes, and for someone who can’t eat big portions (like me!), they offer their plates in THREE different sizes (and prices!) so you can have more variety and share as much as you like.

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Best Day Out: Cycling to the Chiringuitos of Pedregalejo

But to get to the best food experience in Malaga, you'd have to bicycle out (or commute, if you can’t cycle) and head east along the waterfront towards the fishing village of Pedregalejo. From Plaza de la Marina, it’s an easy 25 minute flat cruise along several interconnected beaches to get to the most famous chiringuito* around: El Tintero II.

Towards the end of my ride, I was enigmatically pulled by the crowded establishment, the servers walking around with several of the same dish in their arms, shouting their specialities in Spanish. You don’t order from a menu, you just catch one of the waiters walking around if you like the plate they are carrying - mostly freshly caught seafood, cooked to perfection. But of course I had paella.

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*Chiringuito: bars selling drinks and tapas along the beach

I would say almost the whole 6km stretch from La Malagueta (the main beach) to the end of Pedregalejo is jampacked with restaurants, cafes, bars, local dives, shops - and barely any tourists the time I went. If it was lively towards the end of winter I can only imagine what it’s like in the summer. If I were to come back I’d be on the beachfront everyday!

Rent a bike in one of the shops around Plaza de la Marina - ask the Tourist Information centre in the middle of the square for directions.

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Sole Sister Julienne - Malaga Spain9

Best Churros: Casa Aranda

I didn’t mean for this post to be a food-focused one, but going through my photos I found so many food shots which brought back too many delicious memories for me not to share:


When in Spain, the typical breakfast is churros con chocolate 
and the best in Malaga is the 84-year-old churrería Casa Aranda

Fresh finds: Mercado Central Atarazanas

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Piping hot fish adobo and croquetas

Historic Malaga

Coming from the tropics (where we hardly have any surviving monuments dating before the 16th century), I find myself awestruck at old-world relics such as Malaga’s Moorish Alcazaba and the even-older Roman Theater (circa 1st century AD). The city’s big three are so closely situated you can even hit the third major site on the same day: the Castillo de Gibralfaro. The latter is set on a higher hill and thus harder to get to, but the views make the trip well worth it.


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Get a glimpse of a time when Spain was ruled by enlightened Muslims 
who built grandiose and striking palaces and fortresses

For me a huge part of Andalucia’s beauty - its architecture, culture, music, people - is thanks to its exotic Moorish heritage, giving it a mysterious and passionate-romantic fusion that sets it apart from the rest of Western Europe.

Other cultural sites I wish I had hit:

  • Malaga Cathedral - It was closed for the siesta when I went… beware the siesta! Most things close down during the hottest hours of the day. 

  • Picasso Museum - Malaga is the birthplace of one of Spain’s (and the world’s) greatest and most visionary artists: Pablo Picasso, inventor of cubism. You might want to escape the heat in here, but I was trying to soak up as much sun as I could in March so I skipped it…
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Some Roman-era materials from the ancient theatre were reused in the construction 
of the Hammudid dynasty Alcazaba (from the Arabic al-qasbah, meaning "citadel")

Sleep: Room Mate Larios

I couldn’t have found a more perfect place to stay in Malaga. This boutique hotel I found online had windows overlooking the pedestrian shopping street of Calle Larios - the city’s main artery. And of course it sits on the corner of Plaza de la Constitución, the main square where most major events are held.
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View of Málaga’s main square, Plaza de la Constitución, from my hotel room.

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The most beautiful room in the city - mine!

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Everything was walking distance from the hotel, 
which was at the heart of the shopping and nightlife district as well.

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They even give you free pocket wifi to roam the city connected

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Room Mate Larios’ rooftop terrace was apparently the hippest in town 


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Shopping in Malaga: I didn’t have much cash to blow on shopping but I couldn’t resist trying on practice skirts for my flamenco classes - after all, the dance was born in this region of Spain!

Finally, one last “wish-I-did-this” that I was unable to check off my list: the Caminito del Rey, dubbed “the world’s scariest footpath” and “Spain’s most dangerous hike”. I love all kinds of walks and treks, and this one promised to be exciting, heart-stopping, and breathtaking. Unfortunately, it was a few weeks short of opening when I went, so I had to save it for another day. But just in case you’re reading this and it’s open when you are going - I would love to know how it went!

Signing off for now (and missing Spain incredibly!),




Sole Sister Julienne of Morena Travels is a 27 year old Manila-but-not-so-Manila girl who's lived in Hong Kong for five years as an editor of a tourism magazine. She loves board games, adventures, getting lost in the great outdoors, karaoke, trying new things, dancing, good food, meeting amazing people and having intelligent conversations. Currently based between Manila and Hong Kong (but earlier this year between Madrid and Berlin, her two favourite cities in the world), Julienne is getting ready to hustle in the corporate world once again after over a year of travelling. Stay tuned for her latest at IG @morenatravels.
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Is it possible to enjoy so many different activities and terrain in one Malaysian island? Talon Windwalker shares his experience in Langkawi. From bird watching, to bird feeding. From walking on a Skybridge to visiting the mangroves and so much more! There's definitely something for everyone to enjoy!

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Blushing bride-to-be and guest contributor Annie Bautista - set to be wed end of August 2016 in a heritage ceremony in Iloilo, Philippines - was taken on an “ultimate all girls trip” by her bridesmaids as a last hurrah dedicated to singlehood and friendship

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What happens when you get tired of traveling? Once you get past the sightseeing stage, you realise that sights become repetitive - another Church, another castle, another cobblestoned plaza, another amazing beach and so on and so forth. When Sole Sister Julienne took up a few weeks of Spanish last year, she realised that many young Europeans would rather stay put and learn a language and enjoy a city over a longer period of time rather than spend all their money on a 13-country tour. She comes back with a review of the third language school she’s attended in Spain over the span of two years.
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Rooftop Gourmet Experience, El Corte Ingles, Callao 

April 2016: Madrid, Spain

It was time to make the switch. I had been studying with a language school near Gran Vía for a few weeks up to that point, and I was not a hundred percent happy with how it was going. While I liked my teachers, I was placed in the wrong level and in a time slot that didn’t fit my schedule. Reception did not do anything about my requests until over a week had passed, and even then they were not very pleasant to deal with. A little smile never hurt anyone, has it?!

So I transferred to AIL Madrid - the third Spanish language school I’ve tried in the span of two years.

Discovery: your language school of choice has the power to define your experience in the city.

Read: 7 Reasons Why You Should Really Take Spanish Classes


Spanish Classes - AIL Madrid
Taking a siesta at the rooftop of Mercado de San Antón


Language Study vs. Traveling for the Sake of Travel
Many people - especially Asians - would rather blow their money on a grand tour packed with sightseeing, cruises, hotel accommodations, “must eat” restaurants, etc. A lot think language study is an unnecessary expense when they just want to see and do as much as possible with the time they have. Little do people know that it doesn’t have to be expensive, and it provides and even fuller experience than just traveling for the sake of “ticking things off your bucket list” (and having all those Instagram pictures of yourself superimposed on 1 million UNESCO heritage landmarks).


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Nothing wrong with a tour, just like what we did with our dad in Cordoba. 
It’s just a completely different experience!


You can get a room in Madrid for a month for as low as 300 euros (I was paying 350). That beats hostel rates per night in Europe. A good value language school can be around 150 euros a week depending on how long you stay (the longer, the cheaper).

And what you can’t put a price tag on: friends that you will make for life. For a period, you live your day to day life with them, exploring your own little secret corners of the city together.
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Hiking Madrid’s La Pedriza with my classmates

I met so many people from the very first day in AIL - not just from class but also thanks to the welcome tapas the school holds for all new students every Monday (more free food and drinks than we could actually finish). That’s when you meet people of different levels of study, eager to make new friends because like you, they’re new to town.

Other after class activities included Spanish cooking classes, bike rides along the river, and the popular Friday “noche de copas”. But my favourite were the Spanish and Dance (Flamenco, Tango, Sevillanas etc) courses, because dancing is my thing. But if it’s not yours, there’s Spanish and Art (painting, drawing, photography, pottery…), Gourmet Spanish (cooking) etc.

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Welcome tapas - more free food than we could finish


Who do you meet at language school? Talking demographics, last year AIL had students from over 63 different countries from all ages and stages of life. At 27, I was sitting on the fence between university students and retirees. I really got along with a super intelligent Brazilian lady lawyer doing her sabbatical in Madrid. And then there was the party-hard Dutch guy on Erasmus who kept inviting me to electronic parties with his flatmates.

The Smallest Politeness Can Go a Long Way
Compared to the previous language school I was in, admin at AIL Madrid was so much more accommodating and way more efficient - from switching campuses and timeslots to arranging the level to advance rather than waste time re-learning things you already know. Plus, they would smile and greet you and say bye whenever you come and go - funny how the smallest cordialities can go a long way. (Obviously, I’m scarred from the last school)

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I couldn’t resist eating this on my way to school - the best chocolate cake in the world!

I already had my own accommodations but the school offered a variety of options. If hadn’t already been living with my Spanish girlfriend, I would probably have chosen to stay with a host family. I had classmates who had the funniest reenactments of their host mothers in class; I would go green with envy when they actually had home cooked meals when I would have to resort to burritos at Takoaway, where the latino staff would always hit on me in the most hilarious of ways.

"¿Que tal cariño?... Aprende español conmigo, te enseñaré todo lo que necesites saber…" (How are you love? Learn Spanish with me, I’ll teach you everything you need to know)

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“Playing” in the famous El Retiro Park with classmates after morning classes

One thing I really appreciated as well was the fact that you could get an International student ID valid for one year. This gives you either free (!!!) or super discounted access at museums and other similar establishments all over Europe. Wish I had gotten one sooner!

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When the weather was bad, I would spend afternoons at museums. This was taken at the compelling Museo Arqueológico Nacional, also right by the school. And of course, entrance is free for students.

Location: Barrio Salamanca, Madrid’s Prettiest

Walking to school everyday, I would pass by Retiro Park - Madrid’s most famous. Barrio Salamanca is Madrid’s poshest district full of chic cafes and restaurants. The neighbourhood is lined by beautiful old buildings, birds chirping in the trees, chic shops all around, and the greenery that the barrios around Gran Vía (where I was formerly studying) lack. I would grab breakfast at the Carrefour Express across the school, or at the hipster bakery around the corner. They even had the Valencian specialty horchatas con fartons (like a cold, light, summer version of churros) by the metro station, which I couldn’t resist on warmer days.

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Walking to school everyday, I would pass by Retiro Park

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Horchata con farton

Literally at the school’s doorstep are the shopping streets of Goya and Serrano, and if you like to party (like me, because I love dancing, especially to latino music!), Madrid’s preferred nightlife hotspots are right there: Gabana, Le Boutique, La Posada de las Animas, etc.

  • Metro stops three minutes from the school: Velázquez, Principe de Vergara, and Retiro stations

About AIL Madrid

Academics: I didn’t mean to leave this one for last, since after all it should be the most important aspect of a school. Here are the basics - AIL Madrid is Cervantes-accredited (always the best place to begin when booking a Spanish course), and lessons are conducted via debates, games, grammatical exercises, music, and conversation. You can eat in class, speaking your mind (in Spanish, of course) is encouraged, even joking around was the norm. AIL is apparently the only school that makes up class hours missed for national holidays, and my Dutch classmate chose to study there because they agreed on a flexible programme for him wherein he could come in around thrice a week rather than do the intensive everyday schedule.

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Scrabble in Spanish


Before I was able to move up a level, the academic director personally made sure I was qualified and tested my subjunctive skills, which I managed not to botch up too badly.

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Class selfie on my last day of class


Have you taken up a language during your travels? Share your experience in the comments section!

Disclosure: AIL Madrid provided a one week intensive course in exchange for an honest review.


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Missing Madrid from 7,000 miles away,
Sole Sister Julienne

Sole Sister Julienne of Morena Travels is a 27 year old Manila-but-not-so-Manila girl who's lived in Hong Kong for five years as an editor of a tourism magazine. She loves board games, adventures, getting lost in the great outdoors, karaoke, trying new things, dancing, good food, meeting amazing people and having intelligent conversations. Currently based between Manila and Hong Kong (but earlier this year between Madrid and Berlin, her two favourite cities in the world), Julienne is getting ready to hustle in the corporate world once again after over a year of travelling. Stay tuned for her latest at IG @morenatravels.
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We all want to travel forever don't we? But there's always something standing between our dream destination and where we are: that dreaded bank account balance. What if I told you that there's a way for you to spend less money and travel to more places? 

These tips are things we can all do. It just takes a little bit of sacrifice and a lot of creativity. 

BEFORE YOUR TRIP

1 Stop Spending Unnecessarily 

Months before my planned trip, I always have my mantra on replay "The less you spend here, the more you get to spend elsewhere." For example, if I have the itch to buy some new clothes, books or whatnot, I just imagine myself in a place I've never been and buying things from there. Suddenly, my impulsive need to make a purchase disappears, knowing that I can get something better if I can wait a little more. 

Travel Blogger Money

2 Cancel Recurrent Fees 

If your account gets automatically debited for anything you don't really need, just cancel it. You can survive without your gym membership, postpaid cellphone subscription, or movie club membership, can't you? Try to replace them with other things to preoccupy you that don't cost that much. Think of other costs you can do without, your weekly salon appointment, that daily cup a joe, expensive rent... Perhaps it's time to downsize your lifestyle and use your savings to explore a new country?

Garage Sale 5

3 Sell Your Stuff

With social media, anyone can do a virtual garage sale these days. Perhaps it's time for some spring cleaning and take out any unwanted items from your place? Decluttering, upcycling, recycling and letting go of some possessions can do wonders.  A few used things you can get rid of that can add to your travel fund: bags, clothes, furniture, gadgets, equipment, watches, books, etc. You may think some of these are worthless, but other people may be willing to pay for them. 

DURING YOUR TRIP 

4 Book Ahead 

Sign up for budget airlines seat sale alerts so you can be notified of cheap flights. If you book months in advance, flights and accommodations may also cost less when the demand is low. 

5 Avoid High Season

Do your research in advance and find out when is low season at your planned destination. Chances are, accommodations, tours and other expenditures will cost much lower than usual. Even just a few weeks before or after high season can save you a lot of money. 

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6 Use Online Travel Agencies

One of the main benefits of using travel agencies like Traveloka is being able to compare flights and accommodations not just based on rates and prices, but also on reviews. It makes things a lot easier and your choices become less complicated. You can also view facilities that each hotel offers and what popular sights surrounding the hotel. They don't only help users find the best price of flights and hotels, they also provide assistance in case of problems during pre-departure. This user-friendly experience comes with non-stop customer service.

7 Find Freebies

Travel does not have to be expensive, sometimes it comes free or at a small cost.

Transportation: Get free flights with travel points through your credit card or frequent flyer miles.  To get from point A to point B, consider hitchhiking (where it's safe), biking, or walking. You can also try ride sharing like BlaBlaCar

Strangers We Know: Meet Jorgelina


Accommodations: Find friends or family living in your travel destination and ask if you can stay with them. Alternately, you can also ask to stay with locals via couchsurfing. You can also offer to house sit or do a home exchange. Some hostels offer free food and lodging in exchange for work.

Make Travel Happen 2 - Volunteers

Gear: Specific gear for winter, sports or specific activities like mountain climbing can cost a fortune. Try to borrow or barter. Also try scouring second hand thrift shops. 

Food: Always ask if breakfast comes free wherever you are staying. Sometimes, even though it's not clearly offered, some establishments can include meals in the price if you ask nicely.

Groups Discounts or Perks: If you're traveling in a group, ask your tour operator or hotel/hostel if you can get a discount or some add-ons. They might be willing to lower your cost or include breakfast or even a massage to get more business.

FOR LONG TERM TRIPS

8 Look for Volunteer Opportunities 

They are so many opportunities to volunteer all over the world. To start with, think of a skill or a talent that you can share to create value. Then find establishments, companies or organizations that can benefit from them in exchange for covering some, if not all, of your travel costs. Some examples would be teaching yoga, teaching English, working at a hostel or bed and breakfast, teaching children, and so much more. Check out WWOOF and Helpx for more volunteer opportunities.

9 Find Work in a Foreign Country 

There are so many websites that offer jobs that allow you to travel, live and work abroad. Here are a few examples: Workaway, Backpacker Job Market, Start Me Up.

Traveling Light2

10 Travel Full Time

If your job allows you to work remotely, why not make travel your lifestyle? Instead of having to pay for rent or a mortgage, car payments or internet and mobile fees, you will be able to roam the world and not have to stick to a boring routine. Clearly, this move is not for everyone. But if you decide to become a full time traveler, you will certainly get to experience the world at your own pace and live a remarkably unconventional life.

Enjoyed this article? Also check out 10 Sassy Ways to Master the Art of Travel

How do you travel more? Share your tips in the comments sections!

Sole Sister Lois has traveled extensively and has lived in Asia, the United States, and Europe. She is currently based in Europe with her husband and daughter. She is the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of We Are Sole Sisters
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When I first decided to travel in Southeast Asia, I went on that journey with only 1 goal in mind: to travel to as many places, for as long as I can, on as little as possible. I had set out with 1 backpack, with around 2,500 USD and very little expectations.

I ended up exploring 9 countries in the region for 6 months and came back with more than a backpack's worth of wisdom earned from the road. Southeast Asia taught me many things. To be humble, to lose myself, to let go of attachments, among many things.

But most of all, it has healed my soul and opened me up to limitless possibilities. Here's how:

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I learned to channel into the NOW.

One of the most poignant moments of my trip was sitting in a slow boat in Laos on the Mekong river and simply staring at the water and the foliage. It was in that moment when I realized that I was exactly where I needed to be. I was not in a rush to be somewhere or to do something. I was simply allowing the moment to unfold without interrupting it with my own thoughts and interpretation.

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I learned to accept strangers' generosity.

In Indonesia, I was forced to rely on the kindness of a stranger. I had to fly out of Bali during Nyepi, the Balinese Day of Silence. It's a day where the locals don't work, travel, talk or even eat. It was very unfortunate for me because I didn't have enough cash and the ATMs at the airport were all closed. At boarding time, the ticket counter would not let me get on the plane because I did not have the 15 USD airport fee. I felt very helpless and was close to tears. Then the guy behind me asked what was the matter. I explained the situation to him. Without another word, he opened his wallet, took out the money and wished me a good flight. 

This was not an isolated case. I've received kindness from others on a regular basis while traveling in the region. I've had to borrow money from an Indonesian guy when I went broke in Thailand. I've been offered tea and pastries by teenage girls who had very little in Myanmar. I was handed 100 USD by a Canadian traveler just because she thought I could make good use of it. I've been hosted by countless people through couchsurfing who have never asked for anything in return.

And the most surprising thing? Those who have little are often the ones who give most.

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I realized just how trivial my problems were.

Back at home, I found myself complaining about the littlest things. A rude co-worker. Traffic jams. An expensive camera that I couldn't afford. Bad weather. But while traveling through Laos, the Philippines, Myanmar and Indonesia and all those far flung and less developed places, I realized that I had so much to be grateful for and very little to complain about. 

I met a farmer who was wounded and could not afford to buy bandages and antiseptic. I dressed his wound with my first aid kit. I've seen little children who could not even return my smile because they were suffering from hunger. Being exposed to these realities were painful at times, but it balanced my perception of the world. So now, when I'm faced with something difficult, I simply remember my travels in Southeast Asia and tell myself, "You can hack through this. You've seen worse. You've been through worse."

Southeast Asia - Myanmar

I felt so poor and found meaning in suffering.

While traveling in Southeast Asia, I ran out of money a few times. I became literally penniless because some of the places I went to didn't have any ATMs. There were places I went to that wouldn't accept the currency I was carrying. I knew what it was like to be hungry. I knew what it's like to have to sleep on a cold airport floor. I knew what it was like to have to be resourceful to survive. I may have been in a pitiful state but I never felt any self-pity. I knew that everything I was experiencing was fleeting and temporal. But what I learned would stay with me forever.

Southeast Asia - Vietnam

I felt so rich and developed compassion.

Alternately, I landed in places like Vietnam where I became a millionaire overnight, albeit in the local currency. I've paid a few dollars for lunch in some places where families had to survive for a week on that amount. I've witnessed people working so hard in fishing villages to bring home a pittance to their family but shared with me the fish they caught that day.

All in all, I learned that poverty and affluence are only a matter of perspective.

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I've practiced an attitude of gratitude.

I'm not a very religious person and people often ask me why I always remember to say a prayer before each meal. It's to express gratitude that at that moment I had something to eat. There were days when I had to go without. While hiking across Myanmar, there were moments when I was grateful to be able to sleep on a mat and have a bucket of cold water for a bath.

Even today, I remember not to take these small luxuries for granted.

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I've accepted that nothing is within my control.

 
I missed a flight in Thailand. I got a flat tire while biking in Angkor Wat and missed the splendor of the sunset. I ran out of money in Myanmar. I've thought I lost my passport while trying to make a border crossing in Vietnam. I've left my luggage on an island in Batanes and had to go for days with almost no possessions. I've been forced into situations where absolutely nothing was predictable or familiar. So I learned to let go of that need to always be in control of things. Because nothing truly is.

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I learned to test and go beyond my limits.

Traveling for 6 months in Southeast Asia tested me physically, emotionally and spiritually. I learned how far I can actually walk with 10 kilos on my back. I learned to endure nonstop bus and train rides. I've even gone for days without a decent shower or a bed. It tested my patience constantly. It made me realize how much I can actually carry, literally and figuratively. I learned to stare at Fear in the eye, acknowledge its presence, and discovered we were actually on a journey together. I lowered my expectations in every place I visited and was always amazed each time.

The cornerstones of all spiritual practice are reducing fear and expectation. And if that's true, then travel is one of the best ways to attain enlightenment.

Kid monk in red robes  Myanmar

I learned to suspend judgement.

Because I was exposed to different types of cultures and environments, I realized how we are all essentially the same. We all have dreams. We all have fears. We all love and protect those we love. So I became less on my guard and more open to the little miracles of daily existence.

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I learned that I am not my ego.

Before this trip, I had a very comfortable life. I had a stable job, a great place to live, the respect and admiration of family and colleagues. I had been on my way to what would have been a very fruitful career in the banking industry. When I exchanged my heels for hiking boots, and power suits for tank top and shorts, the change was absolute. Stripped of a job, my most prized possessions, a familiar and comfortable environment, affection and support from family and friends, I asked myself "Who am I?"

That's when I realized that identity and other people's perception of me did not matter as much as I thought. All that was just ego. When you put yourself in a wildly unfamiliar and often uncomfortable place, you begin to be more aware of your thoughts, your fears, your hidden desires. And then you come face to face with who you really are.

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I allowed myself to be. 

In Chiang Mai, I chatted with a monk and learned about the Buddhist principle of anatta, or the non-self. It's the doctrine that allows you to let go of the trappings and get down to who you really are, which is the observer.  The observer feels, but is not the feeling. She sees but is not the scene. So she becomes lighthearted and free to see the world as it is without getting herself caught up in it. 

And so, when my 6 months traveling around Southeast Asia was up, I came home to the Philippines knowing that it was not the end of my exploration. I arrived where I my journey began and started to see the place for what seemed like the first time. Nothing had changed. It was I who had been completely and irrevocably transformed.

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When I first planned this trip, I stared at a map of Southeast Asia and marvelled on how vast it was and how small I was. I saw myself as this tiny dot, fragmented and broken, apart from the whole. 

When I came back from the journey, I learned to see who I really am- a more expansive, more connected part of a much greater World. I found my true, humble place in the World, and all is well with my soul.

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Our ebook "Where Should I Go in Southeast Asia?" is available only until June 30th! 
This was co-created with Marie of Miles of Happiness.
After that, we will be removing it online. It's now on sale for only 9.99 USD! BUY NOW!


Sole Sister Lois has traveled extensively and has lived in Asia, the United States, and Europe. She is currently based in Europe with her husband and daughter. She is the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of We Are Sole Sisters and has written the ebook "Where Should I Go in Southeast Asia?" based on her travels in the region for 6 months on less than 2,500 USD.
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