Freedom can come in many forms- the freedom to travel, to work anywhere in the world or simply the freedom to be. The cost of freedom can come in many forms as well. That's true in the case of Sabrina of Just One Way Ticket, who has worked as a freelance graphic & screen designer, tour guide, German teacher, babysitter, photographer, author and a few more she dare not mention. Here's her story:

What's your version of freedom?

Doing what you love. Every day. Uhm... and sleeping in.

Sabrina Freedom Story5

Share your back story.

I used to work as a screen designer but in the end I just realized that woking full time was not my cup of tea. I started traveling long term in 2008, not knowing that this was the beginning of a new life. After 14 months on the road I knew that I wanted to travel for the rest of my life. I never returned to my old routine. Instead I developed new skills on the road. First I worked online teaching languages, later I started my travel blog JustOneWayTicket.com. My blog picked up after a couple of months, luckily nowadays, I earn enough from blogging to continue my travel lifestyle.

Sabrina Freedom Story1

What steps did you take to achieve freedom?

It's all about priorities. Freedom was traveling for me, so traveling became my first priority. I worked double shifts, saved money, quit my job, rented out my apartment, got a new passport and left my country with an open mind. Actually I've written a blog post about that, the post even won an award for inspiration. You can read it here: 8 Steps to Freedom - How I quit my job and traveled the world

Sabrina Freedom Story2

How long did it take for you to live free?

Freedom is a state of mind.

What was the biggest challenge you've faced?

Building an online business and not earning any money in the first months. It was tough but it taught me how to live on a very small budget which was actually not bad at all. I actually enjoyed.

Sabrina of Justonewayticket.com7

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

Just do it! Start today. Do mistakes, learn from them, get better. Surround yourself with other creative and like minded people.

More Freedom Stories here

Want to share your freedom story? Send it to solesisters.weare [at] gmail.com or leave a comment below.


Sabrina of Justonewayticket.com5

Sabrina has been almost non-stop traveling and living abroad since 2008. She has been to more than 50 countries and lived in various places around Asia. The Philippines is her favorite country and she's already been here 8 times. Follow her adventures on Just One Way Ticket.


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1 sole trails


I got my first visa denial when I was 6 years old.

I stood in line with my dad at the US Embassy in Cebu dressed in my Sunday's best, a pink dress and matching stockings. Dad had been to the US several times and he wanted to take me to see relatives from his side of the family in New Jersey. Mom was pregnant with my sister and couldn't come with us. I smoothed out the pleats on my dress many times to keep them from wrinkling.

Our turn finally came and Dad handed the consul a thick Manila envelope filled with documents. Then he carried me so I could give a wide, gap toothed smile to the consul.

He glanced at me for a second then asked, "Where's her mother?"

"She's back at home in Davao, pregnant with our 3rd child. She couldn't travel with us."

My dad showed him a document on top of the pile. "Here's a waiver that she signed allowing me to bring our daughter to the States."

The consul didn't even look at it.

"That's worth 25 cents, anyone can just fake that. Next!" 

~

20 years later, I was at the US embassy in Manila applying for my first visa on my own. I sat on a plastic chair while waiting for my number to be called. A girl beside me who was impeccably dressed was also holding a small piece of paper with a number and it was damp with sweat. She looked at all the application windows fearfully.

"It's my 4th application", she said.

I looked at her tattered Manila envelope which was twice as thick as mine.

"I hope I don't get that 'Korean' woman again", she said in a low voice while glancing at the 3rd window that framed a woman with pencil thin eyebrows, chinky eyes, and what looked like a permanent scowl on her face. I observed every person who walked up to her and they all had a disappointed look when they left.

My number was called- for the 3rd window.

"So what kind of work do you do?", the 'Korean' said.

"I work in corporate training." She gave me a blank stare that dared me to go on.

"Basically, I train people to do their jobs. These topics can range from company culture, customer satisfaction or time management."

An even colder stare. "Show me."

"You mean you want me to... uhmm... train.. you?"

"Go for it."

10 minutes later, I got the visa.


Philippine Passport3

~

While in New York, my relatives wanted me to go on a trip to Niagara Falls with them. I was very excited for my first North American road trip except for one thing: they wanted to go all the way to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls which is supposed to be "the prettier side".

I needed to get a Canadian visa.

Being the eternal optimistic that I was, I went to the Canadian embassy in New York with only my passport and application form in hand.

The consul was incredulous when I stepped in front of his window for the interview.

"Let me get this straight. You are a single Filipino woman in the US, applying for entry to Canada with no job here, no permanent address, no bank account and nothing whatsoever that ties you to your country- and you expect me to grant you a visa?"

"Well yes. I only want to visit Canada to see Niagara Falls. I heard it's more beautiful on that side."

"There's no question about that", he said. "It is more beautiful on that side. But how can I guarantee that you won't overstay?"

"Well, as I've said. I only want to see Niagara Falls."

"Where did you get your nursing degree?", he asked.

His question took me aback. I was shocked and exasperated.

"I don't have a nursing diploma. I don't even want to visit Canada! I'm more interested in Europe. I only want to go on a road trip with my family to see Niagara Falls!"

"I know exactly what you're going to do in Canada. You're going to work there as a nurse or a caregiver."

"First of all, I took up Political Science and not Nursing. And second of all, I'm not interested in living in Canada. It's too cold there."

"Say that again and you will never set foot in my country!", then he walked away.

I'd finally done it. I had ruined my chances of getting a visa because I spoke my mind.

Incredibly, he returned a minute later and handed me back my passport.

It had the Canadian visa. 

"I'm only granting you the visa because if I gave you a denial, you won't be able to get a visa for Europe."

Philippine Passport5

~

2 years ago, I was invited to fly to Spain to join 4 women travelers for the Girls Who Run With Bulls challenge. I was able to get sponsors to cover for my flight and accommodations.

There was one hitch: I had to secure a Schengen visa.

I felt very positive at the time, having already been granted a Schengen visa previously from the German consulate. Plus I had 2 Spanish friends who personally vouched for me through letters of recommendation from their city hall. I also had more than enough funds in my bank account to cover for the trip. 

At this point, I had already applied for many visas and was confident I could answer the consul's questions. Except one.

"How much money do you make a month?"

"How much? Uhmmm... I just started freelancing so frankly, I don't know." 

That ended the interview and you can easily guess the outcome.

Read my full account on How My Spanish Dreams Came Crashing Down.

~

The reality is, traveling with a Filipino passport poses a lot of challenges. We often face discrimination because sadly, a lot of Filipinos are illegal immigrants. We also need to apply for visas to  a lot of countries and that means we generally have to apply for it in the Philippines (reducing the ease of travel). As of this year, the most powerful passport in the world, Finland gets visa free access to 173 countries. Filipinos only get 58. We also need to secure visas way in advance and spend a lot of money on application fees.

But I don't think that this should stop us from traveling. Yes, it's more difficult. Yes, it makes travel more expensive. Yes, we feel restricted, frustrated and powerless, even. But it should not stop us from exploring the world. I know a lot of Filipinos carrying a Philippine passport who still travel despite the odds. I even know of people from less privileged countries who travel as an act of defiance.

“It's not about the cards you're dealt, but how you play the hand.”― Randy Pausch

Philippine Passport1

There are no guarantees in life and there's nothing we can do to make sure we get a visa. 

But here are some suggestions on how you can increase your chances of getting approved:

1 Be meticulous and gather all the necessary documents at least a month before your interview. Carefully fill out forms and always be honest.

2 Do your research well and ask others who have recently applied for the same visa for some tips and advice.

3 If you have previous visas and entry stamps from other countries, this may increase your chances of getting approved. 

4 If a travel itinerary is required, go to a reputable travel agency. The agent can provide you with a reservation and itinerary for a small fee (around 10-15 USD in my case) without getting charged for the ticket yet. Once your visa gets approved, you can pay for it. 

To save money, book the flight online once the visa gets approved. But make sure you get the same exact itinerary as most consular offices verify that.

5 Practice the application interview with a friend. Prepare some questions that may be asked. The more confident you seem, the more credible you will appear. Make sure you have memorised all the details of your trip (i.e. accommodations, contact person, reason for visit). 

6 Dress for the part by wearing something simple and professional looking. But don't overdress- this can be seen as an act of desperation.

7 A consul will always have a main question in mind: "Is this person going to overstay in my country?" Reassure him as much as possible by showing all possible ties you have to your home country (i.e. a stable, well-paying job, assets, properties and strong relationships)

8 Be confident during the interview but stay humble. Never lie. Embassies make a thorough background check for sure. Being able to speak English fluently is a major plus.

9 Don't give out unnecessary information or documents when it's not asked. Keep your answers brief and straight to the point.

10 Visualize yourself as already arriving in that country. Sometimes, all it takes are positive thoughts and a dream.

Philippine Passport2

What if you get approved?

Check the information on the visa to make sure they are correct. Clarify anything on there that you're not sure of like the length of stay you are allowed or the conditions of your visa. Most importantly, don't overstay. You don't only jeopardize your chances of getting your visa approved next time, you're also going to give people from your country a bad reputation.

What if you get denied?

Thank them calmly and avoid any negative reaction. Try to find out why the application has been denied. Sometimes they will provide this information but don't expect them to give you the details. You can either reapply (if this option is available) or choose among other countries where you don't need a visa.

You may not have a say when it comes to the denial. But you can choose how you react. It can embitter you or make you a better person. It can paralyze you with fear or motivate you with more desire. You get to choose if your story ends here or if you turn the page and go to the next chapter. 

But never ever let visa applications stop you from traveling.

Always on the move,
Sole Sister Lois

Lois is the Editor-in-Chief of the female travel blog wearesolesisters.com. She's in Manila after recently giving birth to the youngest Sole 'Sister', Naya. She will be traveling and surfing with her small family very soon. 

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4 sole trails


It's quite rare to encounter individuals who radiate freedom and boundless energy in daily life. So I often look online for my tribe and find more and more people who choose to be themselves despite what the world dictates. Last week, we featured Lydia of Screw the Cubicle who helps corporate prisoners escape the confines of the 9-5 life.

This week, we're featuring Camille of This American Girl who is constantly exploring gorgeous tropical destinations all over the world. Here's her version of freedom and what it takes:

What's your idea of freedom?

To me freedom is the ability to be who I am, when I am, where I am. That might look like acting with purpose instead of fear of failure, expressing joyfully instead of with controlled perfectionism, creating for the sake of creating without attaching to the outcome, loving myself and others without needing them to be any different than they already are, or seeing the beauty of every single moment no matter how different it may look from what I expected.

This American Girl Freedom2

Share your back story.

Freedom through creative expression has always been extremely important to me. As a child I broke into my mother’s supply of expensive inks and painted my entire face and body. I sang, danced, and performed when family members came over to our house. Eventually I began performing on stages for audiences in musical theater productions. Those were the moments when I felt the freest.

When adolescence kicked in, so did my voice of self-criticism. I no longer wanted to be different, I wanted to be accepted. Expression opened me to judgment from the outside world. I began to conform to who I thought I was supposed to be instead of simply being who I was.

By the time I graduated college I had abandoned theater altogether because I was afraid of rejection and failure. Instead I pursued a business degree, a safe path that assured a steady paycheck and a predictable life. At 24 I had a fancy job title, an impressive salary, a big apartment, a successful boyfriend, and an extensive shoe collection. Yet I felt completely trapped in my own anxiety and dissatisfaction. I planned my life according a mold I thought I wanted to fill, but it never fit.

Suddenly I found myself jobless, boyfriendless, and completely confused about what I wanted. Previously I spent all of my time working at my job, working on my relationship, and working on putting together the best gathering for friends and family, so when I wasn’t working, I wasn’t even sure what I liked to do. 

That’s when my story of freedom began.

This American Girl Freedom3

What steps did you take to achieve your freedom?

First I knew that what I needed was space. I needed space to remember who I was and what I wanted and surrounded by the visual cues of my old life that felt extremely challenging. This is what initially drove me to book a flight to Costa Rica. I came with the intention of giving myself a couple of months to relax on the beach and connect with my personal joy before returning to the USA and starting over.

In Costa Rica I wore hardly any clothes and I hardly ever wore shoes. I connected with nature, befriended people from all over the world, challenged my ideas about everything, lived on little money, and did whatever I wanted. My life was my own. For the first time since childhood I felt free. When I returned to the states I didn’t want to lose that feeling.

At the time I interpreted freedom as the ability to move at will, so I sold everything I owned to remove my physical baggage and to have enough money to not have to work. When I realized that wouldn’t last forever, I began considering how I could create a business where I could work from anywhere and work very little. I had seen others do it online by creating blogs, so I decided to start my own.
This American Girl Freedom10

My blog became a new form of expression in my life. It became a way for me to share my self-discovery with whomever chose to read it. I worked against my innate perfectionism by sharing my imperfect truths, my imperfect grammar, and my imperfect photography with the World Wide Web. That practice helped me break through the walls that entrapped my creativity. I began to shine in ways I never could have imagined.

When I began practicing yoga in Costa Rica I experienced an even deeper form of freedom. Freedom that existed no matter the outside circumstances. Freedom I could find within my own being. I discovered limitless freedom. Today I practice using mindfulness that I have cultivated in yoga to help me experience greater freedom in everything that I do. Being fully present and aware in life as it is happening, I have the ability to respond to circumstances in a way that feels true to me.

This American Girl Freedom4

How long did it take for you to live freely?

I began earning an income to support my travels online about a year after I started blogging, however from the moment I arrived in Costa Rica I began living free. Once I decided to live because it felt good, to live from a place of joy, I became instantly free. Yet even today, without anything tying me to a physical location, there are moments that I feel trapped by my circumstances or my feelings. Freedom is more of a practice rather than an achievement. It’s something I strive to embody more fully every single moment of every single day.

This American Girl Freedom7

What was the biggest challenge you've faced?

The biggest challenge I have faced is unlearning the limiting beliefs ingrained in me by my past experiences. To me, reenacting patterns or staying stuck in old stories out of fear is the opposite of freedom. I may not work inside of a box or feel encaged in a relationship, but like everyone I can build walls that limit me. I practice opening myself to greater possibility, which expands my ability to experience even greater freedom. How? By doing things that scare me like jumping off of waterfalls and surfing in the ocean and traveling to countries where I know no one. By listening to the beliefs of others with an open mind even when it feels easier to judge. By turning inward when something feels difficult to bear and asking myself how this challenge is an opportunity for self-growth. By allowing life to show me its magic instead of needing to anticipate or control what happens. Each time I do this the world shows me how limitless it truly is. What could be more freeing than that?

This American Girl Freedom8

What advice can you give to others who want to live life on their own terms?


Go be alone somewhere. The first step in freedom is connecting deeply with your inner voice of wisdom that contains the intelligence to know what you truly want and need. You need physical, emotional, and mental space to do that. Then let go of everything that you can in order to create the openness to move in the direction of the life that you want. When you ask yourself “what is essential” you begin to see how few things you actually need. Learn to live with less and you will receive so, so, so much more.

This American Girl Freedom9

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

I know so many wonderful, inspiring people, but here are a few near and dear to me who inspire me in my own pursuit of freedom.

I met Gayle of Live2Heal when I was traveling through Cambodia. She was teaching yoga classes on the beach and we instantly clicked. At only 25 she is already traveling the world working as a yoga instructor, life coach, and licensed hypnotherapist, recently volunteering to teach yoga to underprivileged women in Cambodia. Gayle embodies the freedom one can experience with others when she truly knows and loves herself. She constantly inspires me to engage more authentically in relationships with those around me.

One of the freest people I know, Sarah of Skin Deep Nomad was born and raised in Switzerland, had a long stint as a New Yorker, and has been living nomadically around the world for years. She has a profound ability to play and be silly, a wonderful way to connect with freedom. We recently took a motorbiking trip together through the countryside in Laos in torrential downpours, danced barefoot to reggae on islands in Indonesia, and ate more street food than should ever be acceptable in Thailand. She works as a fashion photographer helping travelers connect with their own freedom through nude photoshoots in nature.

This American Girl Freedom5

My dear friend Avani of Om Pura Shanti is a certified yoga instructor, licensed massage therapist, and a kick ass business woman from Maine who owns a yoga studio and guesthouse in front of the beach in the South Caribbean of Costa Rica. She never fails to surprise me with her ever-evolving knowledge and expansion of her own personal freedom through her yoga, breathwork, and reiki practices. The joy and bliss she feels living in Costa Rica shows me that we can be rooted in a place and still experience incredible freedom.

I recently met travel blogger Anna of The Legendary Adventures of Anna on a press trip in Costa Rica and we clicked immediately. I love that she is a woman who does whatever she wants. She goes wherever she wants, she says whatever she wants, she wears whatever she wants, she lives the life that she wants. In a world where it's so easy to conform to who others think you should be, she inspires me to be even more myself and to own that.

More Freedom Stories here

Want to share your freedom story? Send it to solesisters.weare [at] gmail.com or leave a comment below.

This American Girl Freedom1

Camille is a coconut-loving, barefoot, beach bum who finds bliss exploring the endless possibilities of the Earth. She aims to inspire people to release their fears, chase their dreams, and live life on purpose. Follow her journey on her blog: This American Girl.


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0 sole trails


Days before my Southeast Asia trip, Sole Sis Lois asked me what bag I was planning to bring. I had my mind set on my trusty North Face roll on duffel bag that allows me to bring up to 12 kilos. I admit it, I've always been a flashpacker. I've carried it everywhere with me from The MaldivesThailand, Hawaii and all over Indonesia. But this time, I decided to challenge myself and travel with a backpack instead after hearing Lois' advice.

Backpack is Best

Traveling with a backpack is just so much more convenient if you pack right. I am barely 5 feet tall and weigh only 80 pounds, so I've limited myself to a mere 7 kilos worth of stuff. It's a scary thought, but no doubt it will be more convenient to drive around on motorbikes, no need to hire taxis all the time. I can save thousands of pesos because I no longer need to buy extra luggage allowance on flights. This will also teach me to leave non-essentials behind and prevent me from shopping for random things along the way too. Sorry guys, no more pasalubong!

7 Kilo Life1
So many too choose from!
I went to a popular sports equipment store and looked for a proper durable backpack. The sales assistant demonstrated the importance of having the right fit. I learned that a hipbelt transfers most of the weight from your shoulders to your hips instead, it makes all the difference! The chest strap also helps keep the shoulder straps in the right place. It took me a while but I finally opted for a 28 Liter Deuter backpack for about 5,500 PHP. I also loved the fact that it opens from the top and from the front as well for easier access. The hipbelt has a small compartment for a phone or some loose change, plus it's adjustable so that it's just snug on my tiny hips. Right now, I'm pretty obsessed with it!

7 Kilo Life4
Specially designed for women so the straps feel comfortable on my petite frame.
7 Kilo Life5

If you want to turn minimalist and downsize your life like I did, here's my packing advice:

-Bring clothes that mix and match
-Have a color scheme so it's easier to pair tops & bottoms
-Button down shirts can be also be worn as a cardigan or as a bikini coverup too
-Bring multiple use items (i.e. Sarong, virgin coconut oil, shampoo/body wash)
-Pack a light eco-bag for day trips & a refillable water bottle to lessen plastic consumption
-Store clothes and toiletries in ziploc bags
-Refill 100ml toiletry bottles so you don't have to check-in your backpack
-Just bring one book that you can swap during your travels

Read more packing light tips.

7 Kilo Life3

Here's my comprehensive packing list:

Clothing:
11 tops
1 polo shirt
4 pairs of shorts
1 pair of leggings
1 pair of genie pants
2 dresses
1 hoodie
11 pairs of underwear
2 pairs bikinis
1 sarong (doubles as a cover up/towel/mini-blanket/yoga mat)
1 microfiber towel

Essentials:
Passport
Tickets
Wallet (with multiple compartments for different currencies)
Coin Purse
Sunnies
Eye mask
Ear plugs
Flip flops
Ballet flats
Universal adaptor
iPhone
Pen

Toiletries:
Travel Toothbrush
Toothpaste
Shampoo/body wash/laundry soap
Lavender soap (slice into 6 smaller bars)
Face & Body Lotion
Deodorant,
Virgin Coconut Oil (can be used as a mouthwash, body oil & hair gloss)
Throat Spray
Face Mist/Sanitizer
Lip gloss
Skin Balm
Baby wipes & pocket tissue
Dental Floss
Cotton buds
Nail cutter
Tweezers
Feminine cup - must try for the ladies!

7 Kilo Life2
The only luxury I allow myself during my travels is to have all natural, eco-friendly skin care products

Reading:
iPad (for blogging, booking flights/trains, travel guides & ebooks)
Osho book

Total Weight: 7.5 kilos

Where am I off to, you may ask?

This time around, there are no pre-booked flights. I want to see the rest of Southeast Asia. Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and parts of Thailand that I missed during my past journeys. I’ve read about these magical places a million times before. I’ve dreamt about these places during endless conversations with gypsies and nomads. But I have no plans whatsoever or any set itineraries. I don’t know where I will be spending my birthday, Halloween, Christmas or New Year’s eve.

All I’m carrying is a 28 Liter backpack, and leaving my dependable roll-on luggage. I only have room for the bare essentials. Maybe just a week’s worth of clothes and an Osho book. No fancy camera, no laptop and no elaborate outfits, not even my sacred yoga mat.

I have no room for fear and negativity. I’m barely five feet tall, and carrying a mere seven kilos on my spine. I’m leaving 99% of all my stuff behind, and every single one of my family and friends. I’m letting go of all the attachments I have ever known. I have no one to please, nothing to prove and nothing to lose. It's just myself and the long road ahead.

Read my heartfelt post on Love the Search.

Have you ever traveled with 7 kilos or less? Share your experience in the comments below.

Ready to jump into adventure,
Sole Sister Adi

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



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0 sole trails


I got a note from a friend a few months back that I should check out this Travel and Fashion Style Blog, The Love Assembly. I did and got hooked!

So I connected with the creator and curious mind behind the website, Aubrey. I love the fact that she's a Filipina living abroad who has a great sense of style and that she always looks fabulous whether she's traveling in Sydney, Rajasthan or Paris! I asked her some questions about travel and life. It wasn't easy- she prefers to stay behind the camera to keep a low profile and focus on her blog instead if herself. But I was able to sneak in a few personal questions:

Where is home for you?

Sydney, Australia is where I was born, raised and consider home. My Filipino heritage is definitely a big part to calling the Philippines home also - a piece of my heart is always there.

Aubrey - The Love Assembly10

When did you start a travel lifestyle?

I travelled with my family when I was younger, mainly around Australia and to the Philippines and America to visit family. Then once I hit my late teens/early 20's I was travelling with friends and my boyfriend. I feel like the more I travel, the more it sparks my wanderlust and the more I want to see in the world.

Aubrey - The Love Assembly15

How would you define your travel style?

A mix of simple basics with a touch of bohemian.

Aubrey - The Love Assembly3

Do you still keep a 9-5 or is there any special work that funds your travel lifestyle? 

When I was working full time I would always put away a lump some every week for savings and travels. Now my work is majority online - I create travel and lifestyle content for both my blog, The Love Assembly and Conde Nast Traveler. I also work in digital and social media marketing.

Aubrey - The Love Assembly4

Is it possible to travel comfortably and still look chic?

Of course! Pack a travel wardrobe that has elements of classic and basic pieces that you can mix and match, a specific colour palette and accessories that can instantly update your look.

Aubrey - The Love Assembly9

What are 3 some memorable items from your travels?

3 most memorable items from my previous travels right now would have to be:

1. A vintage pocket book titled 'butterflies' - I love butterflies and my boyfriend surprised me with this book (and a few other gifts) on my 25th birthday in Paris. He picked it up from Portobello Markets from our travels in London and hid it from me until we arrived in Paris. I secretly saw it though when I was looking for my camera in our bag, but I didn't want to ruin what he had planned :)

Aubrey - The Love Assembly17

2. An embroidered kurta from India - I'm addicted to flowy white cotton tops and I've worn the one I bought in India a lot! It's one of my favourites from my collection... I probably should've bought more.

3. I collect seashells from around the world and the most prettiest one I've found was randomly in El Nido Palawan!

As a female traveler, what was the most challenging country you've been to? And how did you overcome that?

The most challenging from my travels was Prague. Coming from Paris, I didn't find it as friendly and I found it quite difficult to navigate with public transport. We got fined a few times for having wrong tickets but it's all part of travelling so it's all good!

Aubrey - The Love Assembly5

What's your advice for all the women out there who want to start living their passions but feel like they're stuck?

Whenever I feel stuck I motivate myself by looking back on where I started to acknowledge what I have achieved so far. I write down goals with clear steps on how to reach them, then take action!

Aubrey - The Love Assembly12

What are your upcoming travel plans?

Hopefully Philippines next month if all goes to plan. Then a European summer next year!

Aubrey - The Love Assembly11

Aubrey is the founder, creative force and curious mind behind The Love Assembly, and travel blogger for Condé Nast Traveler. She's an avid and experienced traveller who doesn't sacrifice style while jet setting around the world. With her love for travel, photography and shopping, it only seemed natural to create an online destination to wander a world where travel meets style.

*All images are used with permission from The Love Assembly.

Want more? Read other features on Sole Sister Spotlight.

Do you know of travelers who conquer the world one country at a time? We would love to interview them for Sole Sister Spotlight. Please send us an email at solesisters .weare@gmail .com. We look forward to your suggestions!

Searching for other sisters who make travel happen,
Sole Sister Lois



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2 sole trails


The journey to freedom is never the same for everyone. 

Some people are able to achieve their ideal lifestyle, but either run out of resources or get tired of the lack of structure  and choose to go back to the cubicle. But for a select few, the taste of freedom becomes so addicting that they will do anything just to keep that lifestyle and encourage others to do the same. Last week, we've featured Sacha of 8 Miles From Home.

Another such person that I've met this year is Lydia who is the Cubicle Crashing Ninja at Screw The Cubicle. She helps corporate prisoners escape the confines of the 9-5 life and awaken to their true purpose. I've collaborated with her for the Live Your Passion workshop in Bali and learned so much from her. She's not just a dreamer but a doer who is constantly working on her businesses and projects and here's her freedom story:

Lydia of Screw the Cubicle3

What's your idea of freedom?

Freedom in all aspects of life is what I am most interested in, and currently strive to live this vision in my current life. To me, it's about the freedom to be the "real you" on purpose (not what your family or society defines as "you"), freedom to do work you love, freedom to explore (location and lifestyle mobility), and a very important one- the freedom from conditioning and fears that no longer serves us.

The last one is important, as our mindset and perspective of ourselves and life will dictate whether we have the courage to pursue what is true to us, and to follow our own path authentically.

This is what I call full freedom at its finest.


Lydia of Screw the Cubicle2

Share your back story.


I was born in Malaysia, and moved to Canada when I was very young. I have always been very grateful to my parents for making this decision as it opened up education and life opportunities for me that I wouldn't have had otherwise. Growing up in a very traditional household where everything needs to be "safe and not risky" and not to question too much about life, I was quite a little rebellious rascal and got into trouble often for speaking my mind and being over opinionated (or my Mom would say, "bossy")! I don't blame my Mom for not taking too many risks or raising us traditionally. It was what she knew and she lived in a very different time. However, I knew very early on I wasn't very good at following rules.

Fast forward to my adult life. I was successfully working in corporate Canada in industries like real estate, publishing, marketing, hospitality, and international education. In my last corporate job, everything looked great on paper. I was highly paid, travelled half the year around the world, and had everything "they" told you would be the definition of success. I had a comfortable life, with the home and car living in Vancouver.

 But something big was missing from this "formula" of success.

That missing piece...was purpose. I did not feel I was living out my ultimate truth, and I couldn't feel aligned with the work I was doing at all. My lifestyle was great, but I was craving meaning in my life. I had a disturbing feeling that I barely knew who I was, and what I would want my legacy to be in my time in the world.

On a business trip to Moscow one winter, I had an emotional breakdown in my hotel room, which came out of the blue. I simply did not know why I wasn't happy with my life, when everything seemed to be "working out". It wasn't about money or security of a good life. I was so disconnected with my true self I did not know who I was without the title of that job. That breakdown was the tipping point and the moment that changed it all for me.

The "a-ha" moment came for me when I realized that a human life cannot be simply confined in a 9-5 cubicle life, waiting for vacation days to be "free". I made a choice to not conform and accept that, and decided I had to create a life I truly wanted, or this feeling would never stop.

I knew I had to find out who the "real" me was. I started from scratch and went through a sabbatical trip to Asia and hired a coach. I quit that job, started two mobile businesses, and now live a very meaningful and fulfilling life helping others suffering from an "identity crisis" and craving more freedom in their work and lifestyle.

Lydia of Screw the Cubicle1

What steps did you take to achieve freedom?

The first thing that I did, and I would suggest this to others, is to take the time to dig deep personally (not logically, but the true desires from the heart) to find out what you really desired and are passionate about. Knowing this is important so that you are tapped into that internal GPS of yourself to help guide you to the right opportunities and ideas to make that a reality.

Secondly, I had to create a business that encompasses my skills, passions, and the big WHY, so that I moved from the employee life to an entrepreneur lifestyle where I can be creative and inspired. The "why" is the reason for all of it to happen, my mission for myself and the world. It is important to have a meaningful mission for your work, as it keeps you going when the going gets tough in business. It is bigger than yourself, and not to sound morbid, but something where you'll die happily knowing you've been a part of. Figuring out what you're designed to do, from your passions, values, how you express, and how you help will assist in finding the right type of business idea that is in sync with what you do naturally.

The third thing is about support. Hiring a coach and speaking to friends about my desires helped make my vision come to life. It is now real, not just a dream. Being surrounded by people who have similiar value systems about life is great for encouragement and inspiration.

Lastly, I decided where I wanted to explore, and made sure my business was mobile where I could run it from my laptop and live a life that made me happy. I really believe in having a type of work and lifestyle where you can't tell the difference between work and play. Picking a location that allowed me to eat great food, live in an environment I love, and a place where I can fulfill my interests were all very important to me. That's why I've stumbled upon Bali, and have been here for a year! It's a great hub to have my home and continue to travel throughout Asia.

I made a conscious choice to prepare my transition for mobile living, sell all my belongings in Canada, and pack my life into one bag.

Lydia of Screw the Cubicle6

How long did it take for you to live freely?

From the moment I knew what business idea I wanted to start, it took about 6 months for me to be running my first business. In between that time, I had hired a coach and it really helped me to see myself and perspectives that I couldn't have done alone. She didn't allow me to self sabotage or live in fear, and kept reminding me of why this was important to me. I am very grateful for that.

The ultimate freedom of a mobile lifestyle came to me as an idea 6 months after I started my business. Then 4 months after that, I was on a one way plane ticket to Asia!

What was the biggest challenge you've faced?

I would say that being a "Type A" person, it was hard for me in the beginning to let go and let things flow. I was so used to the old formula of working super hard to get what I want, and pushing against the grain. It was my work style, but I knew it didn't make me happy. So it was having to re-condition and re-program my mind to have less control, and to just live in the moment. I had to create a harmonious balance between my heart and mind so that they played nice together.

Exploring and living in places foreign to me required a sense of trust and intuition. I had to learn to quiet down the critical monkey that sometimes exists in my head, and to learn to take things easy. Even in my business, I found that the more I relaxed and just be real, opportunities always showed up. Allowing myself to be as authentic as I can be, and be open to what I need to receive instead of controlling every aspect of my life and business, gave me the ease to be in flow. And a lot more peaceful night's sleep!

Lydia of Screw the Cubicle5

What advice can you give to others who want to live life on their own terms?

Find out what you're designed to do authentically, and do whatever it takes to turn your skills and passion into a valuable service to help others. And know why it matters to you. Get comfortable honing your skills and understand how you serve others. Keep going until you find an idea of work that you would have done for free because it comes to you so naturally. It is your birthright to know your calling and for you to live on purpose.

Be aware of what you desire in all aspects of your life, and what freedom means to you. Be in the mindset of knowing that all is possible, because others have done it. Talk to people who are doing it and living a life you admire, do the research. Continuously bring more things and people in your life that are aligned with what you love.

Travel, get inspired, and be in the community of people who are living their dreams. There is more to the world than just what you are familiar with. Get out of your comfort zone and be open to experiencing what you need to experience. Make a choice to be happy, and step away from anything that doesn't give you those feelings of joy that make your heart sing. Be curious about yourself and life. The world is waiting for you to express your authentic self and you, like everyone else, have a unique "secret sauce" to create impact in the world. Don't settle until you find out what that is and turn up that sense of presence and awareness for opportunities that allow you to share that unique part of you.

Forget what society has told you about what is possible, you get to be the pilot in your own life flight. Get accountable for this amazing gift we call life. Seize it!

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

I really admire Anne Perry, the editor in chief of Business Heroine Magazine, as she's a big advocate and supporter of women in business to create freedom lifestyles through business.

I also love Natalie Sisson from The Suitcase Entrepreneur. She is living what she is teaching, and helping others build a mobile business with resources and technology tips to make it happen. Her website is .

Ash Ambirge is an awesome chick with a potty mouth like me! I love her concept of "screw business as usual", and her website at The Middle Finger Project is one that I visit often for straight up marketing tips, with a dash of sarcasm to boot.

More Freedom Stories here

Lydia of Screw the Cubicle4

Lydia is the Cubicle Crashing Ninja at Screw The Cubicle. She helps corporate prisoners escape the confines of the 9-5 life and awaken to their true purpose. Lydia left a well paying but unfulfilling cubicle job in Canada to launch small business startups. Now based in Bali, she enjoys location independency, self-expression, and a purposeful career coaching others to gain full freedom at its finest.

Utilizing her own unique The “Real You” Roadmap program, she guides people towards careers and lives of authenticity. She combines their passions with skills and talents they already have to live a life of meaning, play and service. Certified as a True Purpose™ coach and Neuro-linguistics Programming (NLP), she also shares her many years of experience in small business. Lydia taps into people's "sweet spot" by discovering what they're designed to do and why, then helps them craft practical steps to deliver that purpose in a vehicle of a mobile business.

Lydia is also getting ready to fly to the Philippines in November to conduct YOUR FREEDOM BUSINESS ROADMAP workshop. If you're interested in the Freedom Lifestyle and need that extra kick to launch your own escape, email us at solesisters(dot)weare(at)gmail.com with your most preferred dates below and we'll put you on the priority list.

Nov 15-16 (weekend)
Nov 22-23 (weekend)
Weekdays between Nov 15-23 (please specify dates)

And if you have friends who might be interested, feel free to hit the FORWARD button!

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After my recent travels around Asia and the Philippines, as any traveler would know, I started getting “the itch”. And it's not the kind that over the counter ointments can easily remedy. I needed a special cure: the feeling of being in a place for the very first time.

Travel has always been a part of my life. Having parents who worked for an airline, my siblings and I were always encouraged to see new places. My dad is an adventurer himself and he always showed us the fun in taking the road less traveled.

So the question remained: “Where to next?”

And then I saw the movie “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”. That’s when my obsession about Iceland began. I mean sure, it’s not like I don’t know what or where Iceland is, right? But I always thought it was entirely made of…well...ice. It wasn't until I saw that film that I became aware of how truly beautiful and diverse the Icelandic landscape was.

snaefellsjokull - photo by joncy

And yes, I felt that Iceland is still off the beaten path. 

Fast forward to almost a year later, after a few tourist visa runs, a friend and I found ourselves on a plane to Reykjavik, amidst a volcanic eruption (truly a la Walter Mitty).

Reykjavik was not what I expected. At 64°08' N, the northernmost capital in Europe is small compared to other countries’ big city capitals. But it was big in terms of personality with its quirky and colorful streets, and even quirkier people with a dry Icelandic sense of humour.

reykjavik grapevine
Icelandic sense of humor on the Reykjavik grapevine

I quickly fell in love with this place. Piling on our thermals, wool socks and fleece lined coats, we strolled the streets of Reykjavik.

Iceland3

Iceland1

Iceland2

After a few days in the capital, we set off on a 12 day, 2500km road trip around the country. We took our rental car/mobile home through the highways, tunnels, and gravel roads of Iceland, where sheep and horses hung out by the roadside and where every turn gave us a stunning sight.

Iceland1 gravelroad

myvatn - krafla caldera, namafjall

Iceland horse

The weather was moody, it could change dramatically every 15 minutes. We drove through pretty harbour towns, lava fields, about 500 different species of moss, geysers, geothermal pools, glaciers, fjords, mist covered mountains, black sand beaches and probably thousands of waterfalls (or fosses, in Icelandic). Most of the time I had to remove my sunnies or open my car window just to see them without anything between my eyes and stare at the magnificence before me.

Stykkisholmur, Snaefellness Peninsula

Icelandic coast

Vatnajokull, largest glacier in Europe

Iceland mist

But the highlight of our trip would definitely witnessing the Northern Lights on three different nights. They looked like green and pink ribbons of light dancing in the sky.

Northern Lights

Godafoss - waterfall of the gods

Jokulsarlon - Glacier lagoon, South Iceland

Anarstapi

Apart from the majestic landscapes we saw, it was the people of Iceland that made our experience special. Despite the freezing temperature, they gave our trip warmth and soul. Everyone that we met was truly genuinely kind and happy. And the other travelers we saw along the way shared the same awe that we felt in this incredibly beautiful country. A couple we met invited us to stay over their beautiful home and all of their friends welcomed us with open arms and happy hearts. Before we left, they showed us their collection of mineral stones that they get from the sides of the cliffs, and gave me one. 

Iceland stone

So that I can literally take a piece of Iceland home with me.

When the road trip was almost over, after the long drives, parking at campsites, curling up in our sleeping bags, and enduring the cold, my travel bud (and personal paparazzi) asked as we were driving back to Reykjavik, “So Niks, last stretch. Any thoughts?” 

Only one thing popped in my head. “I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.”


Iceland  fave part

How to Make this Trip Happen: 

-Filipinos need a Schengen visa to get into Iceland.

-You can easily fly to Iceland from many European cities including Paris and Zurich. The cheapest flight we could find was via EasyJet from London Luton to Reykjavik.

-Iceland is VERY expensive. It's even pricier than Switzerland. If you are not a luxury traveler, you can happily survive on hotdog sandwiches (made from lamb) which you can get from food trucks and petrol stations.

Iceland1 map

-Sept. 1 in Iceland signals the beginning of the low season, which runs until May 31. The price difference from high to low season can be huge so you should consider your travel dates carefully.

-There are several hotels and hostels all over the country. To save on cost, we stayed at campsites. You can rent campers, tents and other camping gear.

Iceland paparazzi
My travel buddy and personal paparazzi, Joncy Sumulong
-Renting a car is the best way to explore Iceland but it can be very expensive. We got our vehicle through Hasso. Biking as well as hitchhiking are also common and very safe. Although quite pricey, day tours are available to almost all the sights and tourist areas. Most tours start and end in Reykjavik.

Is Iceland on your bucket list too?

Iceland horse2

*All images credited to Joncy Sumulong and Nikki dela Paz

Nikki is an architect, surfer and traveler. She's the daughter of traveler parents, so she naturally got that gene. She's also an adventurer by heart and surfing is her passion. Her job as a freelance architect allows her to travel and surf, and in return surfing and traveling inspire her design. Follow her on instagram, twitter or her blog.



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