Put Your Money Where Your Heart Is

I will start this off by saying that I am in no way an expert in these things. A few people have teased me about having lots of resources because they see me going on trips frequently. The truth is, they probably have more finances than I have. I live on my office laptop (my personal laptop was broken and I haven't gotten around to fixing it), I'm smarter than my phone (my phone is solely made for calling and texting), I have no extra gadgets except for that small mp3 player which I can no longer find, and I eat my favorite tuna rice, pancit canton, and Ministop chicken for dinner at least once a week. See! So who has more moolah now? 🙂 And no, I am not complaining. I am happier with my lifestyle now than a few years back when I first started working.
The difference between you and me are our priorities. I have long realized that I loved walking inside ROX than poking at bags inside designer shops. I was happier when I got my P2K bike from Evangelista than the times when I get myself a pair of new shoes. It starts with knowing your priorities.

In an attempt to join PTB's Blog Carnival for June, I came up with the 3P's.

1. Prioritize

“Decide what you want, decide what you are willing to exchange for it. Establish your priorities and go to work.” -- H.L. Hunt

Deciding that you really want something means pushing that thing on top of your priority list. As for me, I have long decided that this "thing" is being outside and experiencing places. Three years ago, when I was still unsure, shoes, clothes, bags, and weekend dine-outs were a regular part of my monthly budget. When it finally dawned on me that I was happier when I put my money where my heart is, I have removed these from my list and only bought things on a per need basis. 

It also helped that I stumbled on minimalism blogs a couple of years ago and these inspired me to stop acquiring piles in my life. Minimalism is getting rid of the inessential to focus on what really matters, both in possessions and relationships. I have long wanted to fully embrace minimalism and though I have not yet started cleaning up my clutter, I have started to apply this on buying things. When I get new things now, I make sure that I only buy what I need. It is not an easy task, I sometimes still find myself struggling in refusing these pretty things that I deem unnecessary. When I am depressed, no amount of retail therapy can cheer me up, except if retail involves a drink or booking a ticket to somewhere.

This is not to say that I am no longer enticed with other things. In fact right now, I think I need to buy a new phone because I really, really need GoogleMaps and maybe a new compact camera too!

I'm convinced that the first step in funding your wanderlust is to decide that it is what you really want. When it becomes a top priority, you will lose all your interest in other things that might take your focus off from the goal.

2. Plan

“Action expresses priorities.” -- Mahatma Gandhi

You don't need to tell people what your priorities are. Actions are screaming proof of what those are. Planning does not mean mapping out the itinerary, much of the fun comes from spontaneity. By planning, I mean scheduling the trips well. 
I often schedule my trips around paydays. If a trip costs more than PhP15K, I plan ahead by scheduling it on the month when I get my salary increase payout or during the months when I get my bonus. For someone like me with a regular 9-6 job for 5 days a week, it also means planning for my leaves and informing my managers in advance. I have always practiced informing them 2 months in advance, sometimes even earlier. My job doesn't  allow me to be that spontaneous with long trips but I'm not complaining. Aside from my job being my main source of funds, it has secretly been a source of my happiness too. I realized that I like what I do, and most of all, my managers are all great.. they keep me always motivated by finding ways so they can approve my leaves. 🙂

Prior to a trip, I estimate my expenses and do a budget calculation. This is of course done by researching for what will be my itinerary and allotting some extra for miscellaneous spending. This way I get to know how much money I need to save up. I am guilty of not having a travel fund and that means I need to pool cash at least a month before a trip. Setting money aside for a travel fund will allow you to go for those sudden, unscheduled trips. I have been contemplating on starting a travel fund within the year for my dreams of visiting other continents.

3. Put Into Action

“A budget tells us what we can't afford, but it doesn't keep us from buying it.” -- William Feather

And the last thing to complete this is to actually stick to the budget. Sometimes I tend to overspend around a few thousands on sudden activities and pasalubongs. I keep a notebook handy where each night I jot down all of my expenses for the day. At first I found it tedious since at the end of the day I would usually just want to lay down and sleep, but when I started doing this, it became a habit. It's a good way of tracking down expenses and see if you are sticking with your budget. This has also helped me in recommending activities to friends. It also serves as a of journal for the things you did for the day, including the price that came with it. If you have done your research, you will most likely know the places where you will get the quality that you paid for. Not spending beyond your budget means that you can save some extra money for the next trip. 

Of all three, the first one is the hardest to get through. When you put your mind into something though, all the rest will follow. If being out there is what your heart yearns for (cheesy,yes!), go on and do it. Let your priorities lead your actions.

This is an entry for the June 2012 PTB Blog Carnival: How to Fund Your Wanderlust 
hosted by Journeying James.

Sagada and The Double Rainbow High

The first time I saw a double rainbow, I cried.

Hello electric cable wires
I would not have been that emotional if the setting was somewhere else, but of all places that two rainbows could pop up, it had to be in Sagada. This is a small town up in the Mountain Province whose charm has captivated me ever since I first set foot in December 2008. I went with three of my friends and even while we were still on the way to the town proper, I was already swept away by the amazing view of pine trees and rice terraces.
At The Lemon Pie House

Two years later, in the summer of 2010, I planned a trip with my former officemates who gladly agreed to go to Sagada. The itinerary was as packed as I wanted it to be (sorry guys!) but during one afternoon it rained hard that we were forced to stay in our room. When the rain died down a bit, I asked Mickey to come with me to buy a box of freshly baked lemon pie. And there it was! Right behind the houses and the pine trees were two vivid rainbows so near, I swear the pots of gold were just somewhere in the Echo Valley. All of a sudden I found everything overwhelming: the glistening leaves, the dampness of the wind, the gray clouds, the empty street, and in the midst of the gloom, a sudden burst of color was painted on the horizon. It was just too beautiful that it moved me to tears. 

A few months after that trip, a friend showed me the Double Rainbow video in Youtube. That was exactly how I felt, minus the screaming part. I feel you Paul Vasquez! That same unexplainable sheer joy. Or maybe I experienced a slight Stendhal syndrome.

The double rainbow high I experienced even strengthened my fascination with the place and its people. In 2008, Braille was my group's guide and after 2 years, I got in touch with him. I learned that he was already working here in Manila but when I asked if he could recommend someone to be our guide, he said he would come home and take us. It felt like meeting an old friend and it was great catching up with him after 2 years - he quit his job as a teacher and is now working for BJMP in Manila.

This time I asked Braille, "If someday I won the lottery and had extra money..how can I buy a house here?". Well, apparently, aside from me winning the lottery, I needed to wed an Igorot. He said the lands can only be bought by the Igorots. If I wanted to, I could rent a house but not own it. I don't know if that has changed now but I thought that as a good way of preserving the place and keeping the community and its culture intact.

Aside from the lush greeneries, cold temperature, and various activities that one can do in Sagada, another one that I like most are its people, the Igorots. Whenever I am in a new place I usually do not like people coming up to me, and in Sagada, they give you just that. The locals give you your time and space, leave you to your business, but the moment you speak to them, they are most warm and welcoming. The locals treat guests with respect and so, guests should treat them with the same level of regard. One thing that I noticed is that some locals are offended when their pictures are taken, so as a show of respect, ask for permission before taking a photo. The town also has a 9PM curfew. Since we guests are merely observers in Igorot lands, we are expected to follow the rules. The Igorot culture is very much alive in the town, with the ancient rituals still performed most especially during events like weddings and burials.

It is a small municipality packed with activities like spelunking in a series of cave connections, trekking to Bomod-ok Falls and to the hanging coffins at Echo Valley, climbing Mt. Ampacao, and camping at Lake Danum. All of those might seem like high-impact activities but Sagada is also perfect for long walks and early morning jogs just in time to catch the sunrise. The restaurants serve fresh, crisp vegetables so good that I gobble them all up, but when I'm in Manila, I rarely touch them veggies. The provinces up north does wonders to me.

Sunrise at Kiltepan Peak

I was browsing through my photos trying to find the one that would really sum up Sagada for me but as it turns out, I have not taken a single good photo of Sagada. That is one great reason to come back.

I wish to wake up again to cold mornings, jog around a bit, then go the nearest coffee shop for a cup of Alamid. For breakfast, I will go to Masferre for a plate of tapa, brown rice, a handful of veggies, and a steaming cup of hot choco. After breakfast, I will walk towards Echo Valley and see the fog coming out of my breath. In the late afternoon, I will go to that garden where I can pick oranges and eat as much I can. At night, I will go back to that place with a name that I don't remember but I imagine Bob Marley will be blasting and the ambiance of the place will still be dark and artsy. The next day, I will see the Chico River and on the way I will get myself a box of lemon pie from The Sagada Lemon Pie House. I have not tried dining at the Log Cabin yet, so the next time I go back, I will be calling for  a reservation.

OK. I am making a mental list of the things I will do when I see you again, Sagada.  But for now, I need to stop wanderlusting.

The group at the cauliflower stalactite formation  
Me going up to the Sumaging Cave exit
The coffins at the Lumiang cave entrance
The group at Bomod-Ok Falls

Echo Valley
Lemon House
Cave photos are all from Mickey's album.