Hey guys and girls!
Greetings from Lipa City, a city in the Philippines about 2 hours south of Manila if traffic is being kind. I'm visiting my parents for the weekend for the first time after returning from my year long backpacking trip. It's been a while since I penned something on here. The last post I did was dated October of last year. Yikes!
In order to whip myself back into a literary writing machine, I wanted to start a new recurring blog series that I am titling "Saturday Snooze". Welcome to the first ever post of this new series!
My plan with this new weekly series is to share what my life is like post trip with bits and bobs about the past week and a preview of the my week ahead.
Now that the big trip is over, this is a pivotal point in my life where I will hopefully get to make choices that will shape a more fulfilling life for myself. Part of the reason I took a year off from my life to travel the world was to escape the cubicle hell I was in. After learning so much from my travels, I'll be damned if I am going to imprison myself like that again and throw away the key.
I will warn you, there's going to be some really random stuff on here but I guarantee that I will make you smile at least once! I want to commit to doing this every Saturday for the next 12 weeks and maybe longer if the cartharsis becomes addicting.
SPOILER ALERT: I have a very loose plan for the rest of my life and I don't have everything figured out. This is going to be truly a journey of discovery, missteps, failure, and eventually, triumph.
You still with me? Awesome. Let's do this.
Biggest Thing I've Accomplished This Past Week?
Aside from actually making it back and completing my goal of circumnavigating the globe, the biggest accomplishment following that had to be going through all the things I left behind. It may not sound like much of an achievement but it was for me. Hear me out, it was an interesting exercise, to say the least.
In my room at my parent's house, I left behind some things that I couldn't take with me. I had forgotten how much stuff I had stored until I began going through it all. My wardrobe suddenly doubled, I was reunited with my grown up watches, and my suits still hung in the closet neatly pressed and recently cleaned.
I began to try on all of my old clothes again and was dismayed to find out that about half were ruined by the lack of use or were way too tight. Sigh. The stark realization of all those beers in South East Asia and empanadas I scarfed down in South America coming back to haunt me as a full on cellulite nightmare hit me hard.
Countless stories of backpackers losing weight on the road and I was not one of those lucky enough to tell the same story. I looked at myself in the mirror while I struggled mightily to put a pair of suit pants, nodded my head, pursed my lips, and conceded to the fact that I had gained weight on the trip.
The first step is to remedying anything is admitting to yourself that you have a problem, right? This isn't my first rodeo with weight gain. I had lost 60 pounds in my early 20s (I'm 29 now) and turned my life around from a collision course with heart disease. If I could do it back then, I will do it again. I will fit back into my suit like a glove!
The newly minted minimalist in me as a result of backpacking also began the purge of things I no longer needed. Extra bands for a Fitbit that no longer worked went in the trash and clothes in good shape that no longer suited me went to a donation pile. I suddenly didn't have as much stuff as I did when I first started this process. Ahhhh, just the way I like it.
What Am I Working On This Coming Week?
What starts with an R, ends with an E, has E-S-U-M in between, and is something most people dread?
As much as I want to revel in my laissez-faire life of post travel funemployment forever and ever, real life is going to come straight at me. I need to get back in the swing of things or end up as a squished bug on the windshield of the real world.
I am currently living off my 401K (retirement funds from working in the USA for 7 years) and a small income of around US$500 a month from my part time remote job. I am making do with it for now but I'll need a little more than that in order to have the financial wiggle room I am really looking for.
If you're gasping at how I was okay with paying a 30% penalty to cash out my retirement early, well, it was always part of my plan. I had saved enough to travel comfortably for an entire year and I was under no illusion that I would be able to get a sizable stream of income immediately after coming home. I needed runway (startup speak for savings) until I was back on my feet and feeding into my retirement early meant that I wouldn't be trapped in forever saving for the trip and the runway. I could always make more money but I could never manufacture more time.
On May 18th, 2017, I will board a flight from the Philippines to Sri Lanka. This beautiful island in the Indian Ocean was where I grew up from a curious boy to a driven, yet naive, young man. My hopes in returning to this island are to begin a new future with my wonderful girlfriend who currently lives there and to also live a more satisfying life where I don't live to get to Friday week in and week out.
Hold your awws and warm fuzzies because I'm not riding off into the sunset. Even though I spent about 13 years of my life there, I never actually became a citizen of the country. My citizenship still lies with the Philippines and I will need employment with an organization that will be able to sponsor my residency on the island. This whole song and dance is not a given by any means, but before I can even begin the job seeking process, I will need to dust off my resume and figure out a strategy on how to sell the fact that I have been formally unemployed since October 2015.
If you have any ideas in this department, I am all ears!
When I'm not tearing my hair out looking for synonyms for "hard worker" and "problem solver", I will be working on completing the vlogs I recorded of my trip for my Youtube channel. There are currently 26 of them on my channel with another 16 in the editing pipeline. I'm hoping to have all of them ready to go before I leave for Sri Lanka. Keep me accountable, please!
Favorite Trip Photo Of The Week & The Story Behind It
This is one of the last snaps taken in the US, on my very last night, in fact. The couple in the picture are my friends Katie & Tyler. They are the reason I got to extend my trip for 3 more weeks after they gave me the opportunity to house sit and watch their adorable dog, Puzzles, while they were on their honeymoon in Japan.
Those 3 weeks in Austin, Texas helped me wind down after 12 months of travel and recharged me physically and mentally. Thank you so much guys and see you again soon!
What Am I Most Grateful For This Week?
Without a doubt, my family. I'm grateful for my brother braving the blood-curdling traffic of Manila to pick me up from the airport and to my parents for being kind enough to let me use the closet in my room for storage. Maraming salamat hah!
Best Thing I've Seen On The Internet This Past Week
I love a good deal and my eyes lit up when I discovered the gift card exchange sub reddit, r/giftcardexchange. What makes this open forum special is that you will get the best deal on gift cards if you are buying or selling since it is a trade directly between buyers and sellers.
I got my feet wet by scoring $200 worth of AirBnB gift cards for $180 in Paypal (cash). With all my upcoming AirBnB stays, this is perfect timing! There was a lot of action on this subreddit with trade requests for Amazon balances, Home Depot Gift cards, and even Bitcoins.
If you need to unload or pick up some gift cards and are savvy about online peer-to-peer transactions, this place is a gold mine!
That's a wrap. Again next week?
About The Author
Nico Atienza is a third culture kid who took year off from his life to make his dream of circumnavigating the globe come true. Apart from his love of travel, he is making videos for his Youtube Channel, an award winning volunteer who knows how to travel for free using miles & points, and is also probably trying to figure out how to tell his next story. You can peer into his life by following him on Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, or by sending him an Email.