Baler- A Short Pause Before Leaving

Friday, February 22, 2013

Hey there. It’s me, Lois. 

I hardly write anything personal here. Because this blog is mainly about travel. But on occasion, I do want to tell stories about myself and what’s going on inside my head. And it’s about time I did that.

2013 has brought a whirlwind of events into my life- whether good or bad, I haven’t decided yet. But it has caused me to stop dead in my tracks and reassess where my life is going. Where all this effort to keep going, keep walking the road less taken is leading me.

And so I find myself alone, homeless and footloose as can be on a bus to- where else? Baler- a place that has grown a quiet significance in my life in the last couple of years. I had packed most of what I had on the last Southeast Asian trip and put myself on the open road again. The goal?

 To take my life off of auto pilot and start living deliberately.

I’ve made a brief pause in the surf town of Baler, Aurora where I have spent most of my weekends in recent years. This time, I came to calm down, reflect and surf my brains out. I'm giving myself over a month here to figure out my next steps.

Surfing Dicasalarin Cove, Baler Philippines

A friend of mine said that of all the surf spots he has visited in Luzon, Baler is the place where he "felt roots". The beginning, a sense of community fostered by a mutual love for the ocean that emanates from every local you encounter. And perhaps, that’s why I came.

I needed to feel rooted to something before I start getting lost again.


I realized that my home base in Manila made me unhappy. My relationship was not working. I felt a growing sense of impatience and hot headedness that was caused by traffic, pollution, crowds and deathly slow internet connection. I felt stifled in the city where I had spent most of my adult life but never really considered home. I needed to get away. I had to pinpoint the root of my unhappiness and cut loose. And that, I did.

Finding Balance at at Secret Spot Baler

Find Balance

"I don't know if it's your family or your health, but if you really want to head off in pursuit of a big dream, something's gotta give. It's up to each of us to determine what that's going to be and how we're going to allocate our energy." ~Chris Guillebeau on Balanced People Don’t Change the World

When I chose a life of travel in 2011, I knew that it would throw me off balance. Passion can often do that. It makes decisions tougher than usual and you often feel pulled into a direction that’s not of your own choice.

It’s only apt I found myself in a place called Secret Spot Baler. It’s a small resort with a few nipa huts right smack in the middle of 2 surf breaks, Parola (Lighthouse) Point and Secret by the rivermouth. Why this break is called Secret is very interesting because everyone knows about it. But the secret is when it goes off. No one knows except for the most observant, surf addicted locals. And when it does, it’s a massive wave that could go on forever! It can go up to triple overhead with a ride that will get you smiling even after your surf weekend is over.

I had been invited by my friend and Sole Sister contributor Adi to help manage their resort. I had no expectations when I first came here. But I certainly got more than I had hoped. Because it’s a short distance from the main surf area, the vibe is peaceful and laid back. I was welcomed by Tita Rose, Adi’s mom and the local family who helps run the place. I was embraced to be part of a family that lives simply on the beach- marveling at the little things that came our way. We marvel at lobster, coconuts, rain, strangers.

Pako Salad at Secret Spot Baler

I quickly adjusted into small town life. I walk everywhere, buy fresh vegetables and fruits in the public market and eat at the local carinderia. Everywhere I go, I would be greeted by the familiar faces of locals, acquaintances from manila and surfers I have shared some moments in the water with.

It’s been a while since I’ve felt this healthy, fit and happy. Tita Rose makes sure I eat only fresh, delicious meals, I surf and stretch daily, I smile, laugh and have interesting conversations with most people I meet.

I’m already growing roots in the short time I’ve been in Baler.


After not holding a formal job in 2 years, I now have to ask myself: Is this sustainable? I honestly love how exciting my life has become. But most people tend to overlook that most of it is about uncertainty. Not having a steady income, not knowing where I’ll be in the next few weeks, not being controlled or in control. Exciting? Yes. Scary? That too.

The challenge with this dream of a location independent lifestyle is that I hardly know anyone who has done this successfully. I’m practically winging it every day. There is no book, no code, no blueprint for success that I can follow. I’ve chosen the road not taken only to realize there is no road. I’m simply making this up as I go along. And so I forge ahead in the hope of making it work, making it out and making it big.

Make New Connections

My last 2 weeks in Baler have not really given me much time to reflect. It all started with the recent Aurora Surfing Challenge where several friends and acquaintances shared my quiet space at Secret Spot. We had so much fun surfing together, making empanadas, laughing and sharing stories.

Picnic at Secret Spot Baler

Then I met awesome surf and outdoor lifestyle photographer Craig Pulsifer (check out his mind-blowing work). If we had spent a few minutes chatting, I would have been more than grateful. But Craig decided to stay at Secret Spot. He decided to chase a few stories in the area and I was happy to help him out. We even had time to collaborate and shoot a video for a surf brand. How’s that for awesome?

Baler is becoming such a great place to meet people. I’ve reconnected with Mike Eijansantos of My Life on Board and Ezra Efondo of Puraran Surf Beach Resort. Met and collaborated with Alex and Joe of Charlie Does surf school and their awesome surfers, Greggie and Neil. Been in touch with Roy of Aliya Surf Camp and their wonderful instructors- including Pakito who was my first surf instructor and now the winner of the 7th Aurora Surfing Challenge. Not to mention the many surfers and locals whose names and faces swirl in my head on a daily basis.

Surfing Dicasalarin Cove, Baler Philippines

Stoke is not a personal thing to be experienced here. Apparently, it’s what everyone is on- at the same time!

Prepare for New Adventure

And why is this pause in Baler necessary? It’s also a time to get myself ready- physically, emotionally and financially. I’m about to be homeless geographically-challenged again.

And no feeling has given me more comfort or excitement. 

Since I came back from our 6 month backpacking trip in August 2011, I have always had this gnawing feeling that I don’t belong anywhere. That to travel was my only way of being at home in the world. I’ve done my best to put on the façade that I was back- I even tried to reintegrate myself. But once you’ve tasted freedom, there’s no giving it up. I’ve made decisions to deliberately not get anchored anywhere. I don’t feel tied to a place or a person. And so the only logical thing for me is to go where this heart leads.

I'm almost ready.

Dicasalarin Cove, Baler Philippines

*Most images graciously provided by Craig Pulsifer Photography

Blissful in Baler,
Sole Sister Lois

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7 sole trails

  1. Boy did this post resonate with me. You are right with the location independent lifestyle. There really is no road! And living with uncertainty, while it is exciting, does get old sometimes. But hey, we made choices, choices that changed us, and we have to make it work, and like you said, make it big. Here's to your big changes!

  2. amazing post Lois, may this journey bring you the happiness and peace of mind that you deserve.I completely share you doubts and your state of mind about the location independent lifestyle! Keep going where your heart leads you!

  3. Thanks for stopping by Madame Bavardages! I love these beautiful and encouraging words! May our paths meet sometime soon!

  4. super galing mo magsulat..u super like ko yung last paragraph mo.. relate na relate ako..u
    nameet kita sa baler nung thursday at alam kong nakita na kita somewhere.. dito pala sa cyberworld..hehe.. kaya ngayong naka-connect ako sa internet.. hinanap kita kaagad..u
    hope to meet you again somewhere... :)

  5. Hey thanks for dropping by and checking out the blog. Sana nagpakilala ka haha

  6. i was inspired! am actually going to baler next week for my birthday and will be staying at secret spot also. will be doing it to make some big decisions too! so this was a good read for me. CHEERS to more fun and safe travels! flipping out!

  7. Hi dear! Ask ko lang, you stayed at Secret Spot the whole time? :) If not, where did you stay? Me and my cousins kasi are looking for a place to stay in Baler next weekend. Thanks!


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