From Glampacker to Poorpacker



5 star hotel. Breakfast buffets. Free flowing Starbucks coffee. 

Does that sound like a backpacker’s life to you? I choked on the mint leaf from my evian when I think about how, just a few months earlier, I was backpacking through India and Southeast Asia on $15/day- the cost of a bowl soup of at my hotel in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I know.

Fruit Platter

I’m living a double life.

Some of you may know that I was given the opportunity to attend a course on becoming a Passion Test facilitator. I got to stay at the hotel where the course was being held. But I had to pay for other expenses like food, internet ($10/day), drinks and even cable cover. Now I won’t ramble on about that here, but you can check out my newly launched blog to get the details.

Water Cooler

So here I am in this swanky hotel where they serve fruits and vegetables along with your cold water. Invisible people fluff your pillow and make sure you don’t use the same towels 5 days straight. You even get a coffee machine in your room!

Others may get used to this. But I feel like I’m in Pleasantville where everything is pleasantly fake and outrageously expensive. I tried clicking my bright red flip flops: There’s no place like India… there’s no place like India.

Tom Bihn Tri-Star Travel Bag
Using my new Tom Binh Tri-Star backpack
So here are a few neat tricks I’ve done in order to survive as a poorpacker in a glampacker’s overpriced world:

-The nice lady at reception gave me some breakfast buffet vouchers. I would sneak off with a plate piled high with bagels, fruit and pancakes each morning.

Total savings: $30

-Walk to the closest gas station or supermarket to get grocery items. Imagine yourself walking along the freeway carrying 2 bags of groceries for 2 miles. That’s how “close” the Citgo was to my hotel. I got milk, cereal, canned beans and tuna, bread and fruit- all for $15!

Total Savings: $70

-We had power lunch sessions that I couldn’t miss. So I always got the cheapest item on the menu and ordered a $2 bowl of rice to go with that. The portions were pretty big, so I would half it and ask for a takeaway box. Save some for dinner!

Total savings: $25/day

And so today my short lived adventure in a glampacker’s world has come to an end. I leave you with this:

Overnight stay at Sheraton Hotel in Fort Lauderdale: $169
Overnight stay at the Fort Lauderdale Airport: $0
Getting my poorpacker’s groove back:  Priceless.

Sleeping at the airport
Photo Credit: Travelin' Librarian 
See you in some airport somewehere,
Sole Sister Lois

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22 sole trails

The picture that started it all, from a Rothschild Safaris itinerary cover

What is THE inspiration that fuels your journeys, Sole Sisters?

Is it a favorite song or music video, a colorful postcard or unforgettable scene from a movie or perhaps a quest for the yummiest dish on the planet or maybe The Meaning of It All?

Welcome to the newest series on Sole Sisters: Inspired Travel Thursdays where we feature trips that were sparked by a book, snatches from a poem, lyrics from a song or even a person!

Last week, we featured Pauline Apilado's inspiration to summit the second highest mountain in the Philippines. This week, we're sharing New York attorney and globetrotter Jane Okpala's motivation to climb the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania and what it's like to see it for herself.

The Beginning of Wanderlust

I got my first passport when I was in elementary school – for my first family trip to Nigeria. Initially, I wasn’t completely on board with taking this trip. I was a good student, and I LOVED school, so I was loath to miss out on the sure-to-be-exciting lessons that my teachers would be sharing while I was gone. I protested so much, in fact, that my parents agreed that, if I really did not want to go, they would find someone I could stay with during my family’s absence. But the thought of being separated from my family (as well as the sneaking suspicion that my siblings would be having cool experiences while I would be left behind) blew my plans, and I grudgingly agreed to go.

Graceful crowned cranes


The experience was life-changing.

I got to meet several distant relatives and longtime family friends for the first time. I was able to see where my parents grew up and hear new stories from their childhood. For the first time, I truly appreciated the material advantages conferred upon me and my siblings simply because we had been born in the United States.

From then on, I have suffered from an incurable malady that has many names: restlessness, dromomania – wanderlust. I voraciously consumed Spanish lessons, travel books, and television shows featuring exotic places. My love of school had resulted in a full college scholarship that included, amongst other things, FREE travel twice a year. During college, I spent a few months living, working, and having the time of my life in Madrid. I also passed shorter stints studying and volunteering in Central and South America, Europe, the Caribbean, and even Antarctica!

The picture that started it all, from a Rothschild Safaris itinerary
The picture that started it all- from a Rothschild Safari itinerary

Snapshot That Started it All

I know the exact date when I decided to take this trip: February 27, 2010. It was my second trip to one of my favorite events of the year: The New York Times Travel Show. I was checking out the exhibitors in the Africa section, flipping through safari brochures. I stopped when I reached a picture of the Ngorongoro Crater. A panoramic sweep of sunny blue sky stretched down into a vast valley, carpeted in green. Red-pink flowers assertively announced themselves in the foreground. In the center, clouds cast floating shadows onto the verdant plain below. The background was dominated by a limpid, cornflower-hued lake, the shores of which swept up and disappeared into the distant rim of the crater. The image did more than just engrave itself in my memory.

It reached into my chest, grabbed my wanderlust by the tail and shook it fully awake. I HAD to go.

Paradise for a camera-toting tourist


I spent the rest of the day talking to various trip operators and then spent the next few months doing a ridiculous amount of research. After many additional months of thinking and planning my trip finally crystallized. I would spend two weeks on safari in Tanzania to experience the Ngorongoro Crater for myself and Kenya  to see the Masai Mara, leaving me with two more weeks of vacation time. I had been itching to get to South Africa, so I figured, why not tack on some backpacking in Johannesburg and Cape Town?

Warthog skedaddling towards its underground den


Into Africa

The big day finally came. I rose early, ate breakfast, and dressed. By the time I was done, I was running late, so I frantically made my way out of my apartment building, onto the subway, and over to JFK to catch my flight to Nairobi, via Dubai. A few short hours later, I was in my customary window seat, awaiting take-off.

Instead of excitement or joy, I felt that old, familiar feeling: fear. Planning the trip, although time-consuming, had not been difficult—I had extensive travel experience, so I knew how to get time off, get organized, and get packed. However, all of this know-how never quite rids me of those knots in my stomach that appear every time that I take a solo trip.

Lounging hippos


What was I thinking? Will I be lonely? Will I regret this? Can I do this?

Before I was halfway to Dubai, I had calmed down. When I reached Nairobi, my airport pick-up went smoothly. When I got to my hotel, I met my tour leader. It was a relief to know that for the next two weeks, all of the logistics were going to be someone else’s responsibility. It left me the sole task of showing up at the appointed places at the appropriate times. I met the other members of my group. And though I was shy at first, I soon became close with them. I cracked jokes and laughed heartily in turn, and any reservations about loneliness quickly evaporated. We bonded so quickly that we all celebrated my birthday in Nairobi in Arusha. By the time we finally made it to our last lodge, I was ready. Two years earlier, a picture of the Ngorongoro Crater had kick-started my safari dreams.

Now, I was about to see the crater for myself.

Beautiful landscapes of Tanzania



The inside of our lodge was absolutely beautiful, but it paled in comparison to the crater itself. Each of our rooms had spectacular, clear views across and down into the crater. The landscape was less green than I had imagined, given that I was visiting during the dry season. But the relative absence of flora meant that I was rewarded with spectacular views across and down into the crater.

I could clearly make out a soda lake that had dried somewhat and had pulled back from its normal, rainy season boundaries. There were few clouds in the sky, unlike the photo that I had stored in my brain, I could observe the floor of the crater without the obstruction of shadows, taking in all of the available sights from rim to rim. As the sunset flushed orange-red, I sat back on my lodge’s veranda, sipping a sundowner and drinking in the last of the day’s views.

Later that evening, after dinner and before climbing into bed, I snuck back onto the veranda, alone, to try to capture the star-filled night sky over the crater. After many attempts, I admitted abject failure and put my camera away. Instead, I just sat there, still, listening to the buzzing of insects and looking out. A smile tugged at my lips as I began to anticipate the adventures that the next day’s game drive down into the crater would bring.

Jane Okpala is an NYC-based lawyer, globetrotter and fitness buff. She loves to laugh and is always looking for her next great adventure. In 2012, she hopes to travel to Papua New Guinea, Ethiopia, or India. In the meantime, for more details on the trip described here and other awesome adventures, ou can read her blog Passport Addict and follow her on Twitter.

Would you like to contribute to the Inspired Travel Thursdays Series? Whatever or whoever inspires you to just go, do let us know! Send us an email at solesisters(dot)weare(at)gmail(dot)com.
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2 sole trails


What is THE inspiration that fuels your journeys, Sole Sisters?

Is it a favorite song or music video, a colorful postcard or unforgettable scene from a movie or perhaps a quest for the yummiest dish on the planet or maybe The Meaning of It All?

Welcome to the newest series on Sole Sisters: Inspired Travel Thursdays where we feature trips that were sparked by a book, snatches from a poem, lyrics from a song or even a person!

Freelance writer and seeker Pauline Apilado shares why she endured organ-displacing jeepney rides and near-frostbite just to summit the second highest mountain in the Philippines:

The Highest Goal

It was love that first led me to Mt. Pulag. This sounds REALLY cheesy but it’s true!

During my college days at the Ateneo in the mid-90s, I was infatuated with a Pulagphile who was also a straight-A management major and minor star in our campus basketball league. During breaks between classes, he’d become animated convincing me and our other mountaineer friends that Pulag was THE Philippine mountain to climb. He raved about how awesome it looked surrounded by its “sea of clouds” at sunrise. He made scaling its heights sound like the coolest thing to do on earth! I couldn’t help but be infected by his enthusiasm over this northern Luzon peak that towered over all others except Mt. Apo in his Davao hometown way down in Mindanao.

Since his heart was set on Pulag, so was mine. I simply had to climb this mountain.

My fascination with Pulag, however, lasted longer than that infatuation. All other climbs were just preparation for a date with my Pulag destiny. Reaching Pulag’s summit had become my Holy Grail. I brought a magazine with my favorite Pulag feature article in it every single place I went. I talked about my Pulag dreams with my friends all the time until one of them finally connected with a few office-based mountaineering groups that were Pulag-bound in an online forum.

Mt. Pulag

A Stormy Climb
Six years after college graduation, I finally stepped out of a Victory Liner bus from Manila past 3 a.m. into the frigid air of downtown Baguio City on December 28, 2006. My teeth chattered even through my heavy knitted cap, scarf and gloves plus jacket and pants. Eight degrees celsius at this takeoff point to Benguet was enough to shock my body into preparing for Pulag’s much, much lower temperatures. Our dawn jeepney ride through Ambuclao Dam and up Kabayan’s rugged trails also gave enough time for my body to acclimatize itself. No freezing temperatures and no amount of jarring from a two-hour long jeepney ride through Benguet’s cliffsides could stop my Pulag dream from coming true.

Indeed, Mt. Pulag, with the sky above it a vivid cornflower blue, the crashing music of Eddet River’s life-sustaining waters on aged gray boulders and its gasp-inducing panoramic views from almost every point of the trail, was more beautiful than I could have ever imagined! Then things quickly went downhill after that first day communing with Mother Nature from the Akiki Trail jumpoff point.

A fierce storm caught us on the almost vertical winding slopes of the grasslands before we could make our way to Saddle Point, our last campsite before the summit. The heavy curtain of rain made following the trail virtually impossible and its lashing winds seemed bent on throwing us off down the steep slope of the mountain. This ugly weather isolated two men from our group at a makeshift overnight camp on the side of the mountain, subjected a fellow female mountaineer to hypothermia and left the rest of us shivering while we huddled together as rainwater seeped into our tents.

Mt. Pulag2

Every one of us miraculously survived this bout with nature’s full force. 

My countless Hail Marys all through that night and a half-day of interminable downpour and fervent promises never to desert my family for a bit of  “social climbing” during the Christmas holidays surely helped.

How to Survive a Mountain
 
I also learned a few invaluable lessons: 1 Wet towels, hand sanitizers and pantyliners are ALWAYS a girl’s best friend during extended backpacking trips. 2 It’s a plus to be chummy with the guys who can brew the camp’s supply of morning coffee and cookits yummy macaroni dinner with corned beef and hotdogs. 3 And last (but most important) climb mountains only with people who will guard your life as you would theirs and whose company you genuinely enjoy.

I set off to climb Pulag in the first place in the bid for a guy’s attention and love. In the end, it evolved into a journey of personal meaning and love for the woman I was becoming. I reached the summit of Pulag for the very first time and it was like no other high! I later returned to soak in Pulag’s beauty – its verdant green plains and rolling hills, pure shafts of sunlight straight from the heavens and even the guiding spirit of our ancient Igorot forebears in its whispering breezes – during Freedom Climb 2009 in celebration of Independence Day.

Mt. Pulag3

So whoever or whatever inspires you to travel, Sole Sisters, I hope it will be inspired by Love and not just the next Cebu Pacific Seat Sale. 

As my favorite writing guru and seeker Natalie Goldberg exhorted, “Trust in what you love, continue to do it, and it will take you to where you need to go.”

Pauline is a freelance writer from Manila, Philippines. She has written for magazines like Marie Claire, COOK and InFlight. Six years after graduating from the Ateneo de Manila University in 2000 and some serial job-hopping, she finally committed to her first love- writing. Follow her on facebook or twitter and send her projects through contact.mariapaulineapilado(at)gmail.com.

Would you like to contribute to the Inspired Travel Thursdays Series? Whatever or whoever inspires you to just go, do let us know! Send us an email at solesisters(dot)weare(at)gmail(dot)com.
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20 sole trails

We've got mail

Dear Sole Sisters,

A few months back, one of my Facebook friends posted a link about this garage sale you were arranging for brave travelers like you- people who were leaving everything behind so they can begin living the lives they’ve always wanted. But until now, I still can’t put a finger on what exactly brought me to your amazing story.

Was it destiny or just the wonders of social media?

What I do know is I chanced upon your story at a time when I was starting to fall completely in love with traveling. I was an exchange student in Singapore then, wanting to have my own adventure in Southeast Asia. But before I read your blog, a part of me was a bit scared about doing all the traveling I wanted to do. And isn’t a part of us always scared or at least hesitant when we’re falling in love?

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Was I really going to spend this much money on travel? Was I really okay with coming back to the Philippines with an empty pocket because I traveled so much? Can budget airlines be trusted? What if my flights are delayed or, God forbid, cancelled? What if I miss my exams because of cancelled flights? Will I still enjoy traveling even if I’m on a shoestring budget? What if something happens to me while I’m away? Was I ready to take all these chances? And I used to be the kind of person who’s scared shitless of taking a chance. This Southeast Asia trip I was fantasizing over- it was a huge chance!

But then I met you, sole sisters. And you are my heroines.

I learned from you that I shouldn’t be scared that something happens to me. Instead, I should be scared that nothing happens to me! I should be scared that I won’t have stories to tell. That I never got lost and desperately asked for directions. That I never got on the wrong bus or paid too much for a tuk-tuk ride. I should be scared that years from now, I’ll regret that I didn’t take the chance to see a part of this world only because I was scared of cancelled flights. Come on!

I realized then that never again would I be that young and be able to travel. I realized that I might be wiping out all the money I saved from missing meals and cutting down on shopping (and Singapore is a shopping mecca!) but that’s okay.

I will have money again in the future. But the luxury of time? The chance to see foreign countries on my last year as a teen, with the kind of hopeful outlook characteristic of someone still in college? Never again will I have that.

Balinese Temples

And so I took the plunge.

I traveled to Cambodia, Bali and Malaysia before coming home and finishing my exchange program. I did all that in less than a month so it was crazy in a kind of amazing way. In a span of three weeks, I experienced sunrise at the Angkor Wat, in the rice paddies of Ubud, and inside the plane on the way to Kuala Lumpur. I walked through the Pub Street in Siem Reap, the Monkey Forest Road in Ubud, and the charming, old streets of Penang. In a span of only three weeks I took six flights and slept in five hostels. I met countless travelers carrying their homes on their backs. I became one of them and I couldn’t be happier.

I came home to the Philippines with my pockets empty but with my backpack full of souvenirs, with stamps on my passaporte and with 2000 photos on my hard drive.

I made the right decision.

Blue Mansion in Penang, Malaysia

But happy as I was, it wasn’t easy adjusting back to my life here when I came home. For weeks, I was stricken with the dreaded post-travel depression. (My dear sole sisters, I’m sure you can relate) Many times, I found myself staring longingly at my fridge adorned with magnets from everywhere that I’ve been. And for many weeks, I couldn’t begin to write this letter.

I didn’t know where to start. I didn’t know what to write. But what I did know is I didn’t just want to tell you about how majestic the Angkor temples were or how peaceful Bali was or how KL is my favorite city second to New York City. That’s meant for my travel journal. And you’ve already been to those places so you already know how amazing they are. And then it came to me that I simply wanted to tell you my story.

My story isn’t about what I did in the countries I visited or what I liked or didn’t like as a traveler.

My story is about how I faced my fear of the unknown, my fear of taking a chance. It’s about how I learned that I’m the kind of person who can be brave enough to leave everything behind so I can live the life I’ve always wanted to live and do what my heart tells me to.

Travel.

And my story began a few months ago, I saw a link to your blog on my Facebook homepage, clicked on it and met the two of you in cyberspace.

Angkor Wat Photo by Justin de Jesus
Photo Credit: Justin de Jesus
Was it destiny or Facebook doing its magic? Either way, I owe you one.

Waiting for her next big trip,
Angel

Angel Bombarda is a Filipina to the world. She made her own Eat Pray Love journey (Asian version) and traveled to Cambodia, Bali and Malaysia where she was seized by a serious case of wanderlust. Now, she's back in the Philippines working on her dream to be a writer/storyteller. Follow her adventures at Chasing Columbia.

Get a FREE copy of the Sole Sister Guide to Planning an Epic Trip by subscribing to our newsletter. You can also hang out with us online on Twitter, Facebook & Stumble Upon.
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19 sole trails

Mexican Food in Baler3

I absolutely love Mexican food. So it was a happy surprise when I found out a few months ago that a Mexican place opened up in the surfing capital of Baler, Aurora. MI CASA. How perfect is that?

I got to surf all day and gorge on delicious quesadillas, tacos and burritos for lunch. I'll shut up at this point and let all these food photos lead you all the way to Baler!

Mexican Food in Baler1

Mexican Food in Baler8

Mexican Food in Baler9

Tacos & Dips
Taco Shells
Mango Ginger Salsa
Homemade Sour Cream

Mexican Food in Baler7

Fish Tacos
Ahi (Dorado)
Mango Ginger Salsa
Black Beans
Lettuce
Picked Chili Fingers
Homemade Sour Cream
Anatto Seeds (Atsuete)
Taco Shell

Mexican Food in Baler6

Mexican Food in Baler10

Huevos Rancheros
Taco Shell
Black Beans
Eggs Sunny Side Up
Salsa
Lettuce

Mexican Food in Baler4

I had a quick chat with surfer turned chef Marco Villareal and he loves the laid back vibe in Baler. He's worked in a lot of hotels and resorts all over the Philippines and he keeps coming back home. It's a bit of challenge to get the best ingredients for fresh, homemade Mexican food, but he makes the best of what Baler has to offer. 

Mexican Food in Baler2

Mi Casa can be found on Sabang Beach at the Little Girls Lodge. It's best to come a little early on weekends as this place is always packed for lunch and dinner.

Hungry? More Sole Food from India, Vietnam and the rest of Southeast Asia.

In search of more sole food,
Sole Sister Lois
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30 sole trails

Trippin' by Sole Sisters

One of our resolutions this year is to stop being a tourist and get more involved in the local experience. No more unhealthy fast food. We want authentic local cuisine. No more sticking to guidebooks and well-worn paths. We're leaving the guidebook behind and creating our own routes. No more impersonal hotels.

We're choosing Roomorama.

Roomorama Hanoi
Hanoi
Instead of always staying at hotels and hostels that look the same the world over, we'll be staying at Roomorama- locally owned properties to get a more authentic travel experience. Roomorama is for the discerning and sophisticated traveler who wants to live local and savour the things that make a city special. Here's why we're choosing Roomorama as our official short-term vacation rentals partner:

Roomorama Madrid
Madrid
We want to live more like a local.
Staying in a home or apartment is one way to soak in the travel experience. Instead of relying on concierge services, we can use the local phone book, take our host’s recommendations, or ask the neighbors.

Roomorama New York
New York
We want a fresh  perspective .
Staying in a residential area will allow us to see a different side of the city, usually away from the main tourist traps. We can choose to stay in a quieter, suburban area and take local transportation in to see the sights, or find flats closer to the city center with pedestrian access. We'll be surrounded by locals who can give us advice on places to eat and things to do that may not be mentioned in the guidebook.

Roomorama Sydney
Sydney
We want more flexibility.
Since we'll be dealing one-on-one with the host, it’s easier to make arrangements. We may opt to check in early, check out late, or have a basket of goodies ready for a late-night arrival. If we click with some travelers we meet at the park, we can invite them over for dinner. We can have home made meals whenever we want and that makes us save a lot on the escape fund.

Roomorama Shanghai
Shanghai
Lois will get her first Roomorama experience firsthand when she flies to the US later this month. She'll report back and tell you how it goes. 

Have you had a Roomorama or short term rental experience? How was it? Please share it in the comments below. 

Excited for a new partnership this new year,
The Sole Sisters
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23 sole trails

Whalesharks Morefuninthephilippines

We've just shared with you a roundup of what last year looked like. Seems like 2011 is a tough act to follow. But we have upcoming trips, stories and revelations to share with you this year that may just rival that. Here are 10 things we look forward to in 2012:

1 DOT's new slogan - It's More Fun in the Philippines!

Lois was at the  Department of Tourism's presscon when they revealed the new campaign. Regardless of what the haters and the negatrons say, the simple truth remains: It really is more fun in the Philippines. We are so optimistic that this crowd sourced campaign will spread the word about our travel-worthy country. Here are some memes that our sole-dier friend Carl made:

2012 Forecast


2012 Forecast


2012 Forecast

More fun on Carl's website.

2 Our upcoming 21 day Pilipinas Challenge
21 Day Pilipinas Challenge - March

We've had to move the challenge 2 months later only to make it bigger and create more buzz for Philippine tourism. The mechanics remain the same: Going from Luzon to Mindanao in 21 days without taking flights. We're in the process of forming a 5 man team to go around the country and create the travel documentary. Stay tuned on how you can be part of this team. This will be our way of finding amazing things worth telling the world: It's more fun in the Philippines! 

Don't forget to promote your hometown!

Word has started spreading and the challenge has found its way to the S.E.A. Backpackers Magazine feature. Incidentally, their editor in chief Nikki Scott and their team are in the Philippines right now to experience our world-class diving, rich culture and fun locals.

2012 Forecast

3 Search for the next Sole Sisters

Sole Sisters is moving from the traditional travelogue format to a community of women travelers who are passionate about discovering themselves in the places they explore. That's why we need contributors who want to write about topics close to their heart and share stories of wanderlust. If you know someone who fits the Sole Sisters bill, email us at solesisters(dot)weare(at)gmail(dot)com.

4 We are partnering with Roomorama

We are thrilled to announce our partnership with Roomorama, a peer-to-peer rental website that connects travelers with hosts who provide short-term, furnished apartments and rooms in urban cities. Roomorama is for the discerning and sophisticated traveller who wants to live local and savour the things that make a city special. We'll tell you about Roomorama and our partnership with them in another post.

Roomorama New York


6 Blog sessions and talks

Lois has been hosting some sessions where newbie bloggers and blogger wannabes can share their ideas and talk about their passions. To get updates on the next bloggers event, check out our facebook page. If you're in need of a speaker who can talk about travel, social media, empowerment and the things in between, you know who to call!

e-book banner
5 More e-books and e-zines


We thoroughly enjoyed putting together the Sole Sister Guide to Planning an Epic Trip. Have you downloaded your free copy yet? So we're thinking of making even more guides and travel e-zines in the future. If you want to collaborate with us, feel free to send us a note!


7 Upcoming Posts

This year, we want to focus on female travel, tourism and environmental issues. We still haven't finished our Southeast Asian series so expect a comprehensive guide on Myanmar and some fun photos and videos from Malaysia and Indonesia.

8  The Next Series

We're starting series called Inspired Travels. It's a feature on the things that inspired us to travel like a string of lyrics or a work of art. We're counting on you to contribute, so send us a note!

30by30

It's no secret that we're turning the big 3-0 this year. So we need your help to reach our deadline. Go through our list and see which items you can help us with. Items #13 (swim with the gentle whalesharks in Sorsogon) #11 (get an article published in a magazine) will be ticked off soon enough. If you can't find anything, help us tick off item #30. We've almost reached 500,000 views on this blog! That sounds like a bit of a milestone doesn't it? Help us get it to 1 million hits this year by sharing our blog to your friends through social media. Send us some link loves!


10 New Year, New Travels

Besides the 21 Day Challenge, Lois is planning to travel to the US later month. She's also booked some flights to Sri Lanka and is contemplating another trip to India. Chichi just moved to Singapore, scored a job there and will be exploring more of the region.

So those are our updates and forecast for the new year. What are you looking forward to in 2012?

Excited for things to come,
The Sole Sisters

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Main image credit: George Tapan
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22 sole trails

Sole Sisters 2011 review

It was a Sole Sister year!

From quitting our jobs to finding opportunities. From India to Vietnam to Burma to Indonesia and all around SE Asia for 6 months. From meeting locals to countless people from all over the world. From starting a blog to bagging the best travel blog category. It was a crazy roller coaster ride of a year and we're telling the story from beginning to end!
Sole Sisters 2011 review Jan


JANUARY
We couldn't keep our big secret to ourselves anymore. We had to shout to the world: WE QUIT OUR JOBS TO GO ON A BIG TRIP! We did the unimaginable. We turned our backs on a cushy job, steady paychecks and great colleagues. We have given up the comfort and stability of our 'normal' lives to go on a Great Adventure.

Best Post: Can You Keep A Secret?

Sole Sisters 2011 review Feb

FEBRUARY
Lois started the journey in India by flying to New Delhi. She finally set eyes on what is arguably the most romantic structure in the world - the Taj Mahal. She made her way from North to South India, dodging pushy priests in Pushkar, surviving a meltdown in Jodhpur and riding camels in Jaisalmer.

Best Post: Lies from Sex and the City 2 or There's No Such Thing As Desert Glam



MARCH
We reunited in Vietnam. There were a lot of hits and misses in this country. Halong Bay was a bit of a disappointment. We didn't expect Hoi An to be a beauty queen of a city. And who would have thought that Chichi would have a blast watching a Backstreet Boys concert in Hanoi?

Best Post: How to Rock A Boat - Halong Bay Style

Sole Sisters 2011 review AprAPRIL
We arrived in Laos via bus ride from hell and found heaven in the sleepy riverside village of Muoang Ngoi. What's a trip to Laos without some buckets of Lao Lao whiskey and a tubing ride down the river? The finale was a laid back retreat at the magical islands of Si Phan Don.


Best Post: Laos By The Numbers

MAY
In Thailand, so many wild, crazy things happened. We got dropped off at the backpackers purgatory on Khao San Road. Shopped ourselves bonkers in Chatuchack Market. And met the craziest, rowdiest couchsurfing bunch in Chiang Mai who convinced us to join them all the way to the golden stupas of Myanmar.

Best Post: 10 Reasons Why I Fell in Love with Pai Thailand

Sole Sisters 2011 review June
JUNE
Myanmar got us all sorts of awed and excited. We got on a 23 hour rickety train ride, a 2 day suicidal boat ride and a 3 day near death trek through Tuscan-looking hillsides. But our Myanmar experience was well-earned. Seeing the sun rise over the red and golden temples of Bagan, sailing through the peacefulness of Inlay Lake and meeting a 103 year old shaman (medicine doctor) in a small village in Kalaw were life-changing travel moments.

Best Post: We haven't even begun to post this stuff on the blog yet!


JULY
Our 2 weeks in Indonesia were the final moments of our epic Southeast Asian jaunt. We spent all the time swimming in the Gilis in Lombok and taking surf lessons in Bali.

AUGUST
Sole Sisters 2011 review SepOur 6-month backpacking trip ended where it begun, at the KL airport waiting for the flight to go home. We broke down on the flight back.

SEPTEMBER
For our anniversary, we organized a series of Travel Talks and a photo exhibit to share our travel experiences. It was our first time to meet a lot of readers and we were thrilled that more than 400 people attended these events.

Best Post: From Glampackers to Poorpackers, It's A Wrap!

OCTOBER-NOVEMBER

We kept ourselves from getting Telecomm Specialist Jobs and tried to stay afloat without employment. To get over our post travel depression, we busied ourselves with more travel talks and small trips. Lois shared everything she wished she knew before she traveled at the Belle de Jour Fair. Chichi made Lacawon island her playground and rocked the masskara festival.

Best Post: 6 Life Lessons I've Learned from 6 Months of Travel

Sole Sisters 2011 review Dec
DECEMBER
We got the biggest surprise of the year when we bagged the Best Travel Blog Award at the Philippine Blog Awards. It was the icing on an already delicious and colorful cake! To say thank you, we gave everyone something that came from our hearts: The Sole Sisters Guide to Planning an Epic Trip. Make sure you download your copy!

Best Post: Philippine Blog Awards and the Next Big Challenge



That pretty much sums up our 2011! How's this year starting to look? All sorts of beautiful! Watch out for some exciting Sole Sister forecast and updates for 2012. That's next.

How was YOUR 2011?

Excited for new travels,
The Sole Sister

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