TOP THINGS TO DO IN LAOS

Laos is a favorite of mine since the day I step on it. For five years traveling in Asia and nearly touched down all the countries in the Southeast, Lao PDR stood out and has a special place in my heart. With the country’s slow pace life, kindness of people, cleanliness, simple and peaceful living, I won’t mind coming back over and over. This underrated paradise sitting in the landlocked area of China and the rest of Indochina countries has a lot to offer. From food, nature, temples, water activities and parties, you definitely can’t ask for more. When you set foot here, it will surely be part of your top destination. For my two previous journeys from the northern to the southern part these are the top things worth doing.

Chase Waterfalls

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Laos will never disappoint you with waterfalls. It has the reputation of possessing the biggest, tallest with clearest blue water worth chasing for. From Kuang Si and Tat Sae in Luang Prabang to Tat Fan twin waterfalls in Paksong Bolaven Plateau, you can’t help but to be amazed how postcard worthy the images are.

Waterfalls Entrance Fee: ₭ 10,000- 20,000 (₱58- 115)

Catch the Sunrise and Sunset in Mt. Phousi

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The most stunning ig worthy view is the sunrise and sunset of Mt. Phousi in Luang Prabang. Hiking up the temple on top of it will bring you closer to witness the huge sun rising and setting. I would advise to get there earlier because along the way you will surely stop to take photos and appreciate the overlooking beauty of Luang Prabang. Be sure to check out the temples you pass by while going up the hill and get a nice spot while waiting for the sun.

Entrance Fee: ₭ 20,000 (₱115)

Learn to Cook Authentic Laotian Food

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Isn’t it frustrating to know that you can never have authentic Laotian food again once you leave? Well, might as well learn how to make it by signing up for a cooking class. Many restaurants in Vientiane and Luang Prabang offer 4-hour small group classes. The class covers picking ingredients to the garden or local market, learning about local herbs and produce that makes the dishes flavorful and interactive know-how discussion with local chefs to gain more understanding about the dish. It is a perfectexperience especially for those who love to cook. Who knows this might land to be your next business. *wink wink

Cooking class: $60-80 (₱3000-4000)

Tubing

DSC00909-01 Tubing is one of the signature activities in Laos. Vang Vieng Province, the center of water activities offerscountless package tours for tubing. There are many ways to enjoy this activity such as tubing through a cave, chilling in a blue lagoon and half day tubing activity in Namsong River. Sitting on a tube and letting the river flow takes you is the most classic and preferred by many visitors. This activity includes different stops along the river. Each stop has drinks and games you can play. It is an opportunity to meet and bond with other travelers. Although local guides are everywhere to check on people tubing, be sure to take care and make safety your priority. Be warned that the river flow might be rough in some parts. If that happens, hold on to the rope and make a stop at the side of the river and wait for the water flow to be calm again. When you book your tubing activity, you are advised not to consume too much alcoholic drinks. Bring waterproof camera or dry bag because you will be soaked in water and will surely leave all your things wet.

Half Day Package Tour: ₭ 50,000 (₱286)

Whole Day Package Tour with Lunch: ₭ 200,000 (₱1,150)

Party For Free in Vang Vieng

C360_2020-03-02-09-53-25-572-01For party goers out there Vang Vieng is for you. It is not only known for water activities but for parties too. It is comparable to our very own Boracay (before the close down). During the day, visitors are busy doing their water activities and at night the main road is lit with music from different bars and pubs. Two of the most popular are Sakura Bar and Vivo Pub. They offer customers wide range of upbeat music and FREE UNLIMITED whisky during their happy hour. Yes! You read it right. Drinks are free and unlimited from 9 to 10 pm in Sakura Bar and 11 pm to 12 midnight in Vivo Pub. They are just few meters away from each other. So be sure to arrive at those bars during their happy hours. Just head to the bartender and grab those free glasses.

Learn their History at Lao National Museum

DSC00850-01If you are a museum person and curious about how Laos evolved through the years, check out Lao National Museum in the capital city, Vientiane. Learn their colorful history, from colonial time to their current leadership. How Laotians started their country, its struggles, how they end up after the world war and their current political situation. It is mind blowing and very interesting. Reading their manuscripts will make you intellectual too.

Museum Entrance Fee: ₭10,000 (₱58)

Lie in a Hammock In Front of Your Bungalow along the River

C360_2019-10-03-21-21-17-514-01Don Det one of the three islands in Si Phan Don, South of Laos is known for the real slow pace Laotian life vibe. Backpacking or traveling long term can be tiring sometimes because of the amount of things to do and enjoy. For travelers looking forward to lazy days, making a stop in this island for a few days will address the issue. You can stay here to take a break from the busy activities during your journey. There are activities to enjoy in this island such as Irrawaddy dolphin watching and Li Phi waterfalls tour but the highlight of this place is lying in a hammock all day being carefree of what will happen throughout the day. It is an ideal place to totally relax and recharge by doing nothing. Imagine a day riding around the island by bicycle and lying in a hammock in a hot lazy afternoon. How does that sound? For me, it’s paradise.

 

HOW TRAVELING CAN’T MAKE ME KEEP A RELATIONSHIP: Confession of a Traveler

 “When are you getting yourself a partner?” asked by concern family members and friends of mine during get-together since I am away most of the time. They haven’t heard about me dating anyone nor see me post on social media being with someone so they are excited to know if I already brought home a man to be with and will soon settle down. To their dismay I always just smile at them as a respond whenever these types of questions would arrive at a lunch or dinner table during occasions. But these types of awkward situation make me entertain questions in my head “Bakit nga ba?”(Why?)

 

When I attended my childhood friend’s wedding she introduced her husband as her “travel buddy” in her speech.  It is interesting to see her post about their travels and vacations on social media. Then I thought “I have been traveling for almost six years and I haven’t found my travel buddy yet”. I laughed at that thought but some realizations also made me think why I am single and cannot keep a partner.

 

Traveling Can’t Make Me Stay

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I am a traveler and when you say traveler, it is not only going on a trip or a vacation. It is also constantly moving and seeking places. I travel for work, leisure, and experience. But the most important thing is that travel is part of my life. It is something non-negotiable that I can’t live without. I am so grateful and privileged to travel and keep my job at the same time. This gives me opportunity to be away and explore other places and try new things. However as I progress in places I visit it also signals the downfall of the relationship I have. Most of the guys I met wouldn’t want their girl to be away from them for quite long. That means it is either I have to let go of my travels to pursue a man (which is not going to happen) or find a man who will understand my lifestyle (which is not the case with a lot of guys). As a result, I am going solo.

 

I Can’t Afford To Date

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The cost of dating can be sometimes unbearable on my part.  Do you know how much would it cost to go out, go on vacations, buy gifts and celebrate anniversaries? Being raised as independent, I am a firm believer that women should also pay a fair share of financial responsibilities with their partners. My experience backpacking for years and being with the company of fellow travelers, I am used to picking up my own bills. The same is true with my dating, believe it or not every time I go out on a date even if it is the first one I always offer and insist on paying at least half of the bill. That way, when my date and I didn’t turn out to be compatible at least he won’t resent me because I paid my part. Dating and traveling could be both pricey to keep up but I would rather spend my money surfing or hiking than dining with someone.

 

Dating On the Road Usually Ends Up Going on Separate Ways

 

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Living overseas and being on the road enables me to find love and potential partners. However such situations will not make it permanent most of the time. The next thing you know, you are both bidding your goodbyes. I heard a lot of stories of finding their forever while traveling but not every traveler has similar fate as them. I know to myself that it takes a lot of time, effort and compromise for their relationship to work and that is something I am lacking. Not that I’m stubborn but I just don’t want any of us to give up our hard earned ambitions to follow the other. Especially if our goals and own growth are heading to different directions. This is just too much for me and I don’t want to be neither selfish nor selfless. Therefore, it is better to let go than being resentful to each other just in case the fire stops burning.

 

I am ONLY Interested in a Guy Who Travels

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Some of my friends call me picky or has high standards but that’s not the case. It’s better to say I have a specific standard. I am always attracted to guys who see travel as a way of learning the unknown, appreciate new culture, keep an open mind about the different beliefs, tradition and always up for a new adventure. Unfortunately, in the place where I am from most of the guys there sees travel as luxury, waste of money and couldn’t understand my traveling life. Although, I tried really hard to show them and prove their opinion wrong about traveling, it is not working. So I decided to give up because I don’t want to force myself to a man who is obviously very different from me.  We are two different people, having different mind-set, priorities and lifestyle. So, K! Bye!

 

I Haven’t Found My Travel Soulmate Yet

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Some of you might have thought while reading this article to find a man who has similar lifestyle and go on adventures together. I did millions of times and I did everything I can to keep him too. I tried my luck with guys who are in traveling industry, travel junkies and simply travel enthusiasts. But in this journey called life, we all have our own bucket lists not just of places we want to visit but also achievements we want to reach. It takes a lot of hard work to touch them down. As a traveller I also have my own big dreams of where I want to be and so they are. When your plans and goals don’t support each other then it is better to grow individually than being together. It is heartbreaking to cross path with someone with the right feelings but can’t stay at each other’s lives. Sadly, we have to go our separate ways in the end to fulfill our dreams and our travels.

 

Of course, I won’t blame travel for everything. There are also other factors why I can’t keep a relationship out of this context. But I know to myself whether I stay single or find my lifetime travel buddy, I will continue my journeys. Travel and I have a solid bond. For all those years traveling I learned one thing “Finding love could be easy but keeping it would be the most difficult part.”

LONG WEEKEND TRIP IN BRUNEI AND KOTA KINABALU: Free Things to Do plus Itinerary

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I am currently working on my goal to travel all the countries in Southeast Asia. As I hit Brunei, the second to the last country of my Southeast Asia leg, I also included another country nearby. If you’ve been a follower and a long time reader of mine, you know that whenever I have a chance to hit another country I go all in and travel it even if I have a very little time.

*This travel itinerary can be very chill to others but some may find it very busy and compact in schedule. It all depends on your preference but I still hope you will find it helpful.

BRUNEI

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Abode of Peace as marketed by their tourism organization is still an unknown destination for many people. Some people would even find it boring as I read blogs while doing my research and talked to my friends who have been there. Most of them didn’t actually recommend it. However I know to myself that there will be something in this place that others may not find attractive but something worthwhile for me. It just all boils down to our preference. So I took a leap of fate and book the flights for a long weekend holiday.

How to Get There

Cebu Pacific serves 8 pm direct flights to Brunei from Manila on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays only, while Airasia flies twice a day daily. Average cost of round trip plane tickets may cost Php 3,000-5,000 depending on the season. In my case it was a New Year holiday so I paid ₱5,600 one way and ₱3,000 from Kota Kinabalu to Manila.

Places to Visit

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Brunei has a lot of museums, art galleries and mosques to check out that are free of entrance. If you are looking for an authentic Bruneian experience check their 38 kilometer floating village. Want nature tripping? Go and see their proboscis monkeys via river cruise or hiring a water taxi driver to drive you around. You can also include Ulu Temburong National Park to witness their virgin rainforest while walking on the treetop canopies. But since this trip is only a long weekend holiday and the fact that Kota Kinabalu is squeezed in, I only settled in the capital city, Bandar Seri Begawan.

Yayasan Sultan Haji Hasannal Bolkia Complex

A nearby mall from Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque where you can get good angles for photos and sight of the mosque. It is just a typical mall where you can shop and chill to avoid the midday sun of Brunei with lots of shops and restaurants to choose from. It has a souvenir store called BWN Souvenir Centre worth checking out because of its lots of good finds to bring home.

Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque

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Built on artificial lagoon on the banks of the river, the mosque is a place of worship for Allah but also an attraction to visitors. This place is picturesque and not very tourist infested compared to the other mosque. In fact, when I was there I witnessed two local pre-nuptial photo shoots.

Jame Asr Hassanal Bolkiah Mosque

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It is probably the more popular mosque in Bandar Seri Begawan out of the two because of the influx of tourists when I was there. It is built in 1992 to celebrate the 25th year of the sultan’s current reign. At night, when it is lit, its golden domes are shinning and very stunning to look at. Just be aware of the schedule where it is open to have fully access of the mosque. Although visitors are still welcome around the vicinity and in front of the mosque even when it is closed, it is still better to have a full experience of the place.

*I checked the schedule of the opening hours thru google maps.

Istana Nurul Iman

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The palace is the official residence of the Sultan of Brunei and the biggest private residence in the entire world with 1,788 rooms. However, it is only worth a visit during the Hari Raya public holiday where it is open to public and visitors have the chance to meet and greet his Highness and the rest of the royal family.

Gadong Night market

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A place to quench thirst and satisfy hunger! With a lot of food selections to choose from, from Borneo cuisines to flavorful fruits at very affordable prices, it is surely the answer for your food trip.

Kampong Ayer

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This is a must-see place when visiting Brunei. The century-old village on stilts above the water is a reflection of the ancient Bruneian life. The village has a mix of ancient and modern houses because a lot of them these days are made of 2 story concrete cement with attic. It also houses Kampong Ayer Cultural and Tourism Gallery where visitors can learn the history or the floating village.

Getting Around the City

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Bandar Seri Begawan is a small city that you can actually walk from one site to another. However, the strong sun does not allow it. From the airport there is a public bus that can take you to the city center which only costs B$ 2 but it only runs from 6 a.m to 6p.m. After that your only option is to take the taxi which is B$ 20-25 (₱756- 943). There’s also no taxi app available in this city and the bus routes are not registered in google maps. So in taking the city buses, better ask the driver if it is going or passing by your destination. English is widely spoken there anyway so there’s no problem in communicating with the locals and asking directions. In case of tours, you can book with a travel agency or water taxi drivers would politely approach you and offer you an hour or more tour. The cost varies from B$20-35 (₱756- 1,312) depending on the site s you want to visit.

Traveling To Kota Kinabalu

Going to Kota Kinabalu from Brunei can be both accessed by bus or ferry. I chose the bus because it is the easiest, less complicated and most certain one. I booked a Jesselton bus thru Sipitang express online. The fare is MYR 100 (₱1,300). The bus leaves from its station in Jalan McArthur just be there 30 minutes before your scheduled trip. The journey is about 8 hours with 3-4 times entry and exit between Brunei and Malaysia territories. So if you want to collect stamps in your passport, this is the way to go.

KOTA KINABALU, MALAYSIA

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The city is the capital of Sabah, Malaysia. It is known for its stunning beaches perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving and home for the 4,095m-high Mount Kinabalu.

*Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to explore this city too much and didn’t have the chance to check out any of the places mentioned above because I only stayed here for around 32 hours which means, I have to go back here. Anyways here’s my city tour and places I visited for the limited time.

Places to Visit

Filipino Market

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I don’t know why it is called Filipino market because most of the products sold here are wide range of Malaysian produce. It serves clothes, accessories, gadgets and food so if you are on the hunt for some souvenirs you may want to check this place out.

Kota Kinabalu Waterfront

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A one-stop dining and entertainment centre and a popular hangout place for both locals and foreigners. Here, you can chill and enjoy the beach view while waiting for the sunset.

Signal Hill Observatory Platform

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The highest point in the city with an open deck area where visitors can witness an amazing view of the city extending until the beach. It is also a good spot to catch the sunset. It requires a little exercise when you hike up the 250m stairs, but if you are not up for that you can take a taxi going up the hill.

Kota Kinabalu City Mosque

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The second main mosque in Sabah is another stunning attraction worth visiting. The mosque seems to float on top of the water but it is just a man-made lagoon nestled around the mosque that creates a reflection and illusion. This place can hold 12,000 worshipers. Non-Muslims can’t have an access inside but you can still view the mosque from the front. Be aware to dress modestly because this is a place of worship.

Entrance Fee: MYR 5

Getting Around the City

Similar with Bandar Seri Begawan, Kota Kinabalu is also a small city that can be accessed on foot. Public buses are also working but no visible route in google maps so better ask the drivers if the bus is passing by your destination. Again, English is widely spoken here so it is not difficult to ask for directions. Unlike Brunei, taxi apps are available too with friendly drivers to keep you entertain during the ride.

ITINERARY

Brunei

 Day 1: City Tour

  • Istana Nurul Iman
  • Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque
  • Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Complex
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Day 2:

  • Proboscis Monkey River Cruise (book through travel agency or water taxi driver)
  • Kampong Ayer
  • Jame Asr Hassanal Bolkiah Mosque
  • *Gadong Night Market

 Day 3: Travel to Kota Kinabalu

  • Arrival in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
  • Filipino Market
  • Cente Point
  • Kota Kinabalu Waterfront

 Day 4: KK City Tour

  • Signal Hill Observatory Platform
  • Kota Kinabalu City Mosque
  • Sunset Cruise (book through travel agency or hostel)

HOW I BUILD MY TRAVEL FUND: Ways To Save Up for Travels

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I got asked a lot of times how I am able to travel. How do I afford to go overseas when I don’t make much? Some of my close friends would even joke I have a secret sugar daddy who is sponsoring my trips which I just laugh about since it is NOT true.

Traveling is deemed as privilege and luxury especially to where I am from. That’s a sure thing if you are hustling an 8-5 job and you are not paid well, you have bills or loans to pay or a family to support. Traveling would be your least priority.

I am lucky enough since I am making decently more from standard living cost. I don’t pay rent and I don’t have much responsibility so I am able to save up and build a stable travel fund. It also takes a lot of cutting back and sacrifices but it’s a matter of priority and consistency. I am sharing to you the following ways I learned from my personal experience in order to save up for my travels and might work for you too.

HAVE A SEPARATE BANK ACCOUNT FOR YOUR TRAVEL FUND

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As an adult who works hard to make ends meet at the same time preparing for the future, it is practical to have multiple bank accounts for your investments, long term or short term goals, emergency fund and also your travel fund. Treat it like money dedicated just for traveling. In that way you won’t feel guilty when you are traveling since you are being responsible and smart in your finances. You won’t be broke too after every travel since you know you have your other accounts filled. If you have a bank account only for traveling, you don’t have to re-adjust your budget, pull out money from your savings or worse borrow from someone.

  • I would suggest you use a passbook over an ATM so it won’t be accessible whenever you are tempted to withdraw it and use it in unnecessary things.
  • I’m not sure if there’s a psychology behind it but whenever I see the numbers in the passbook, it makes me happy and motivates me to increase it.

ALLOT A SPECIFIC PERCENTAGE OF YOUR PAYCHECK ON YOUR TRAVEL FUND

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I was asked a million times before how to save up for traveling and I always tell them that it is like a tithes in the church, or monthly insurance that you deduct on your paycheck. You set a percentage and you have to be consistent in depositing it in your travel fund. There are many ways on how to divide or allot your paycheck on the internet. There’s a 20-30-50 rule, a 10-20-20-50 rule and a lot more. There are tons of financial advice that you can read or watch on the web depending on the goal you are achieving and the lifestyle you are living. You just have to live below your means to make ends meet and be religious on putting that money on your travel fund.

DO SOME SIDE HUSTLE OR HAVE AN EXTRA INCOME

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In today’s world where inflation is fast and high, you hustle a lot but it seems you still don’t have money then consider making money on the side. . Anything that can be turn into extra cash, whether a hobby or a passion you have been working on or simply selling your pre-loved items is extremely encouraged to build or increase that travel fund. In my case, I teach online in the evenings or weekends when I’m free. I also do sponsored product reviews and freelance writing gigs. Even though I don’t make much on these side jobs but it can pays my get together with my friends, daily expenses for a week or increases my travel fund especially if my travel is fast approaching.

KEEP TRACK OF YOUR EXPENSES

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The number one advice I would give whenever people ask me how to start saving up. Whenever you keep track of your finances you will realize how much you are spending on unnecessary things. Then you will realize what if I just put that on my bank account or use it for my travels. There are many money tracking app you can download. I personally use “money manager” because I can set my budget on each month. It has calendar where it shows how much I spent that day, week or month. It also has statistics categorized how much you are spending on households, social life, apparel, beauty, health etc. You can also input your savings so you can monitor how much money you are making, saving and spending. With this simple tip you can jumpstart your adulting 101, improve your budgeting skills and also increase your travel fund.

CUT BACK ON UNNECESSARY EXPENSES

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Along with tracking your expenses, it will also make you cut back on things not part of your necessities. A lot of my friends told me it’s difficult to save. I always answer, yes! It is difficult to save when you always get your coffee every morning to collect your stickers to get a free planner. It is definitely difficult to save when you go shopping every paycheck. It is totally difficult to save when you eat out three to four times a week.  And it’s more difficult to save when you are always queuing in the cinema just to keep up with the latest movies.

Disclaimer: I am not shaming those people who do these. You have all the right to spend your hard earned money to whatever you like but if you are saving up you might want to do some sacrifice by cutting them back or having these in moderation. Before buying or doing something, weigh it first if it’s a need or want and you will be surprise how much money you can save.

MINIMIZE EATING OUT OR TAKEAWAYS

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Surely, there are pros and cons of eating out especially for those who don’t cook like me. It is delicious, convenient and time saving. But think about how much money you kiss goodbye in one sitting on your favorite restaurant compare to making it at home. One of the tip I learned when I was saving up to finance my travels is to make my favorite food in small batches at home. That way, when I crave for it, it is ready to be made or reheat. I realized the three meals I make is equivalent to one meal I pay in the restaurant. Sure thing, we can’t get away with eating out especially with get together but if you can make it two to three times a month and just put those bucks on your savings since you will be eating out when you travel anyway.

P.S: I’m a huge snack person so, I buy my bulk of snacks in grocery store good for a week plus I make my own drinks. That way, I don’t spend a lot on grabbing these food in cafe or cafeteria.

DON’T BE A SLAVE TO CONSUMERISM

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Yes gurl!! Been there, done that. Youtube, instagram and my favorite celebrity made me buy stuff. My friends have these cool things so I should also have them and so much more reasons to buy stuff that aren’t really working or needed in our life. The power of digital marketing and influencers these days makes us have this “buy buy buy” notion as if we “need need need” them not thinking it’s just a “want want want” instead of just “save save save” to make travel happen.

HAVING AN UPGRADE IN INCOME DOESN’T MEAN AN UPGRADE OF EXPENSES

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The Team! Photo Credit to Mr. Abel Sanyver

The title says it all. It happens especially to single young adults and professionals who got a promotion or salary increase. We tend to think since we have more money so we can now upgrade our phone, our car, our wardrobe etc. We miss the point that as long as our stuff is still running or hanging in there and we are still surviving with the lifestyle that we have, we don’t need to upgrade. We don’t need to change our old stuff and old lifestyle just because we have more money. Our extra money, we can use it for investment, savings or add it to our travel fund.

HAVE A TRAVEL JAR

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I would credit this tip to Laureen Uy. I learned it when I was watching her youtube video about saving money for traveling. She mentioned that at the end of the day, whenever she has loose change she always put it in her travel jar so that whenever she travels, she use those coins for food and drinks. I do that too. I set a daily budget and when I have something left for that day I put on a jar in my room and I use that money for food or additional budget for souvenir shopping when I travel. You wouldn’t realize how far those coins can get you. It might even fund your transportation allowance for your next travel.

So these, my friends are the things I learned and I am practicing for five years of traveling and having a wanderlust lifestyle. I hope it helps you and motivates you to start saving up for your travels.