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 has so much 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. 

Passion Play Weekend5

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.

Whand Od Kalinga Philippines3

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.

Whand Od Kalinga Philippines2

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.

FACILITATORS



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.

GUEST SPEAKER



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.







































EVENT DETAILS

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 SHOULD ATTEND IF...

...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. 


WHAT YOU WILL LEARN


  • 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.



WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

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

EVENT PARTNERS



 








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



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Traveling solo in Latin America as an Asian woman can be quite a challenge at first. Get used to people staring and scanning you from head to toe. You’ll stand out like a sore thumb because obviously you look and act different from everyone else!

Here are some tips to make your travels a tad bit easier:

Sole Sis Adi2

1 Mi amor! Mi corazón! Preciosa! Linda! Chiquita! Hermosa! Rica! Mamacita! Mamita!

Latinos might call you any of these things even if they don’t know you at all. These are everyday terms of endearment for them and should not be taken too seriously. Just smile and say buenas! I walked around the gorgeous colonial town of Cartagena, in unbearable 32 degree Celsius heat in my tiniest shorts and yoga top and heard catcalls from every corner, of course. I came back to my hostel, sick to my stomach and almost in tears. But I realized, I will never get anywhere if I let it get to me. So breathe, my sole sister and suck it up.

2 Hola, Chinita!

If you look the slightest bit Asian, even if you have darker skin, most people will think you are from China and everyone will refer to you as Chinita. The word chinita usually refers to a feminine person with smaller, chinky eyes. Don’t be offended when people call out to you, “Hola, Chinita!" on the streets. It could happen everyday, so get used to it. Just say “No soy Chino, soy de ___________ (wherever you’re from)”. You will also find out that many people think that every Asian country is part of China; don’t take offence and explain calmly where your country is in terms of geography. You’ll also probably be the only Asian in every hostel and everyone else is always so curious to chat with you.

Traveling Latin America as a Filipina3

3 Besito

If you are being introduced to some locals, a cheek-to-cheek kiss is the usual way of greeting. There have been times I’ve stuck my right hand out for a handshake, but some people didn't really know what to do with it! In the Philippines for example we only give a beso when we greet people we know quite well, but over here, it’s customary to give a kiss on the cheek. Give a big smile, say “Mucho gusto” and “Como estas?” and you’ll be fine!

Traveling Latin America as a Filipina2

4 They make out everywhere

Latinos are known to be very expressive of their emotions. You will see couples, young and old in sweet embrace, gazing deep into each other’s eyes and making out in the strangest locations — in a fast food restaurant, the crowded metro, in the Botanical park next to the crocodiles, on the beach next to kids running around. They are very comfortable with public displays of affection.

5 Café, café, café

I liked coffee before coming to Latin America but I wasn’t very picky about it. Now I drink it like water throughout the day! The smell of freshly brewed coffee is everywhere, from Juan Valdez coffee shops to tinteros selling little plastic cups of coffee on the streets all day. Café negro o tinto por favor! They will look at you in a strange way if you ask for some milk. Coffee is meant to be enjoyed black.

Traveling Latin America as a Filipina

6 Manny Pacquaio and Miss Universe

“Filipinas! Manny Pacquiao!!! Wohoo!” said the rare albino Kuna tribesman in the far off San Blas islands of Panama.

Translation: “Philippines? I have no freaking idea where it is and I don’t care, all I know is that Manny Paquiao lives there!"

They may have no clue where the Philippines is geographically located but all the men will know who Manny Pacquaio is and the women will know Miss Universe 2015. The Colombian President was interviewed live on national TV. It was a national disaster.

7 History lessons

Older generations will know that Las Islas de Filipinas was once a Spanish colony. They’ll know who Imelda Marcos is and that she had 3,000 pairs of shoes, of course. But younger generations don’t know that. So you’ll have to give them a lowdown on how we were colonized by the Spanish for almost 400 years, about the same time they were in Latin America so review your history lessons well. They’ll feel some sort of a connection and will want to visit The Philippines out of curiosity.

8 “Entonces, tu hablas Español?" "So you speak Spanish?"

Err.. not quite! Our grandparents spoke it fluently, Spanish was the official language until 1973 when the government changed it to both English and Pilipino**. You’ll have to tell them that the Americans came and tried to conquer us after the Spanish, thus the change in our language in one generation. But wait! You know how to count and tell the time in Spanish! It was a required subject in college until 1987. About 4,000 Spanish words remain in Tagalog and 6,000 in other Visayan dialects***.

Traveling Latin America as a Filipina4

9 Learn the language

Whether you are traveling for a week or a year, it’s always a good idea to have some basic knowledge of the language. Everyone will speak to you in Spanish even though you look Asian. Carry a small phrasebook or download Duolingo on your mobile device and start learning words and phrases.

If you have the budget to take Spanish language classes for 150 USD per week, by all means invest your time and money. Spanish isn’t the easiest language to learn because it requires frequent conjugation, masculine/feminine articles, singular/plural articles, formal/informal structures, etc. You can’t just “pick-up” these rules as you go along, unless you are a genius or learn from a very early age. It’s definitely easier if you stay in one place longer, but if you are backpacking, it’s better to have some formal structure to guide you. Every country has their own generational slang and regional accent as well.

Sources:
* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Philippines_(1521%E2%80%931898)
** https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_language_in_the_Philippines#List_of_Spanish_words_of_Philippine_origin
***http://askthepinoy.blogspot.com.co/2010/11/mexican-asks-how-much-spanish-remains.html

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 ended her Southeast Asian adventure and is currently exploring Central America. Follow Adi's adventures on Love the Search and on Facebook and Instagram.
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Unathletic and skinny-weak Sole Sister Julienne broke out of her sedentary lifestyle three years ago and threw herself into the wild outdoors. 

By any means, I don’t consider myself a bonafide hiker or hardcore trekker. I don’t trail run. I can’t read coordinates. I don’t have a compass or headlamp on me (I wish I did). I can’t speak “hiker’ talk (MUDS = mindless ups and downs, haha!). And I don’t think I’ve even ascended more than 2,000 metres ASL (above sea level… :)) ). I usually depend on other people to build fires and pitch tents (I mean I could probably do it, I would just be 10 times slower than the more experienced people around).

All this said and done, I may not be great at hiking, but I love it, and have not stopped since late 2013.

01 Hiking in Hong Kong's Maclehose Trail Sec 10
Hiking in Hong Kong's Maclehose Trail Section 10, early 2015

You should have seen me when I began. I couldn’t walk uphill without whining and gasping for breath, calling for a rest break every five minutes. My heart was not used to the exertion, and my legs would scream in protest in those early days. I have my ex to thank for being patient with me all those months of struggling up Hong Kong’s hills. Back in the UK, he was a long distance runner, so it was probably boring as hell for him to have to keep waiting for me when he could run up The Peak in 30 minutes when it would take me an hour and a half.

Sole Sis Julienne Hiking1
We would even hike in Macau. Yup, this was taken in the Coloane Trail

But as shitty as I was at it, I loved it. I loved being in the outdoors, especially living in Hong Kong and being cooped up in an office day in and day out, in the heart of the world’s skyscraper capital. We would even do night hikes up to Victoria Peak, where we’d catch amazing views of the sparkling city below.

Hong Kong at night
Hong Kong’s skyline through the foliage

I loved all the new things I would see, and never would have seen had I not hiked. I loved being able to take my mind off things and enjoy nature, getting “fresh” air (as fresh as it could get where we were). It was especially rewarding to end at a great beach, preferably with delicious food by the sea.

Sole Sis Julienne Hiking9
Hiking to Long Ke Wan Beach (Hong Kong) with my sister, summer of 2013

So after getting into the hobby for a couple of years, I thought it was finally time to get some proper gear. It began with a backpack, and then most recently the boots. I may not be doing anything extreme yet, but when the opportunity arrives, I’d at least be prepared, right?!

I could have used those boots in Daraitan, where normal trainers lose all grip in the mud

I admit I was jealous of my sister, who got her own heavy-duty pair to climb Mount Pulag. I wanted nothing less than a waterproof yet breathable, mid-cut shoe… like the one she had. Sole Sister Lois put me in touch with the R.O.X. Philippines, who forwarded me to that legendary outdoor brand - The North Face.

Sole Sis Julienne Hiking4
At the Mt. Ulap triangulation station, surveyed exactly 77 years ago


Never in my life did I think I could get that excited 
about hiking boots


I settled for The North Face Storm II Mid Waterproof Hiking Boot (Women's) in brown (I wanted the Limestone Grey/Paradise Green combo, but they didn’t have them in stock in the Philippines). To be honest, never in my life did I think I could get that excited about hiking boots. The pre-2013 me would have curled her lip in disgust at wearing such a bulky, awkward looking monstrosity of a shoe. But when I got my hands on them, I thought they were absolutely beautiful, and couldn’t WAIT to go off on adventures in them.

The North Face Hiking Boots


Waterproof leather and HydroSeal® construction seals out moisture when hiking through wet environments. Crafted with Snake Plate™ and EVA Cradle™ technology in the midsole to protect your foot upon impact and stabilize your stride. Finished with a grippy Vibram® outsole that delivers stable footing over wet and dry terrain.

So the very same weekend, I tested them out in Mount Ulap, a 40 minute drive from Baguio City in the North of the Philippines. I decided on Benguet Province because of its high altitude, and thus cooler clime. I find it unbearably hot to hike in the Philippines otherwise.

My verdict:

  • Grip is excellent. I was able to tread on unstable and gravelly terrain with more confidence, less risk of losing your balance. 

  • Ankle support: You’re less likely to twist or sprain your ankle thanks to the mid-cut. 

  • Get the next size up (I’m a US size 8, but initially I had gone for the EU38 which translated to US7, too small). 

  • The shoe price, at 7,290 PHP , is a bit on the steep side. But I saw other styles and boots on sale below 6,000 PHP at The North Face stores in Glorietta, Shang Plaza, SM Megamall, and SM Aura.

  • I wasn’t able to test its waterproof abilities as - February being dry season - the river we crossed was dried up. But I’m going to update this post when I get the chance.

Sole Sis Julienne Hiking6
Embracing the stunning views of the Cordillera mountain ranges

The one drawback is that despite the shoe being the right size for me, my feet are wide and my toes hurt at the end of the 4 hour, 9 kilometre hike. Further reading on choosing the right hiking shoe, though, has led me to the concept of breaking it in, which gives me hope.

Sole Sis Julienne Hiking2

Special thanks to North Face PH and R.O.X. Philippines for giving me a pair of boots to try out and review.

Sole Sis Julienne Hiking10


Have you tried hiking in your country yet? Are you planning on doing any hikes soon? Do you have any hiking recommendations or tips for us? Do you think it’s worth it to invest in hiking gear?


Always love to hear from you! And see you on the trails ;-)


Sole Sister Julienne of Morena Travels is a 27 year old Manila girl who's lived in Hong Kong for four years as an editor of a tourism magazine. She loves board games, adventures, getting lost in the great outdoors, karaoke, trying new things, dancing, fitness, good food, and intelligent conversations. Currently based in Madrid, Julienne is at a crossroads of her life, so stay tuned for her latest at IG @morenatravels.
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