Meet the Gypsies | Margaret of La Petite Touriste @petitetouriste
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Meet the Gypsies | Margaret of La Petite Touriste
1. Who are you? Where are you from? Where are you now?
My name is Margaret, a finance professional, part-time wedding planner, and part-time traveler from Manila, Philippines. When I’m not busy looking at income statements and making happily-ever-after’s come true, I’m looking forward to the next big thing.
2. What’s your packing strategy? Heavy or light packer? Backpack or suitcase?
I’m a light packer. I used to work for a Japanese retail giant so organizing and maximizing space is my specialty. I learned a particular way to fold, hang, and roll every piece of item. I can fit up to two weeks worth of clothes in my regular Jansport backpack for a summer getaway.
Here’s my strategy: firstly, I always consider the itinerary, the weather and length of my stay. Secondly, I lay out all my outfits and other necessities on the floor to make sure I have everything. I group together items according to use, similarity, or the day’s activities. Thirdly, I fold then roll each piece of clothing. I stick little things in between clothes, inside my shoes or along the edges of the bag.
3. How do you afford your travels? Budget traveler or lean more towards luxury?
I divide everything I earn into short, medium and long-term funds. Everything in the short-term category covers day-to-day expenses like groceries, gas and utilities. The medium-term savings pay for my travels and home improvement goals. Long-term funds are invested in money markets, UITF, and equities. I don’t have children, luxury shopping items, or debt and that helps me keep financially afloat.
In any case, my travel style is pretty flexible. I’ve stayed in Four Seasons and Intercons all over the world, I’ve stayed in $3 a night accommodations, I can camp with no electricity and plumbing too.
When I travel with my family, naturally it’s luxury all the way. I’m lucky to have always travelled while growing up and to have parents who made it a priority to let us see the world.
When I travel on my own expense, I usually go after value for money, not necessarily the cheapest option. Flight alerts, online reviews, free walking tours, covoiturage and friends from all over the world are all helpful resources. In some remote or underdeveloped destinations, sometimes your only option is a long bus ride, a muddy uphill hike, and a shared bathroom with no hot water. That’s ok too because it’s the destination and experience that matters.
4. If you could go anywhere tomorrow, where would you go?
South America is the dream for me! It’s so far from where I am so it would be a difficult and expensive journey. But I imagine I will encounter beautiful landscapes, fascinating history, warm cultures, and have cool adventures.
5. Is there anywhere you won’t travel to and why?
To conflict areas or places where there would be a real risk to anyone’s security. A well-travelled aunt told me that Syria was one of the most beautiful places she had been to; the history was breathtaking, it underwent thousands of years of intellectual and cultural development and of religious tolerance. The people were warm and the food was great. Even places like Afghanistan, I’m sure, were once so beautiful. But of course, it’s not possible to travel there today.
Another thing is that, I hold a Philippine passport which doesn’t offer a lot of mobility in itself and restricts us from entering many countries. We usually need to apply for visas a few months before, present bank certificates, tax forms, proof of income, letters of guarantee, go to the embassy for an interview, and pay high fees (varies from $20-$200). Assuming I don’t get rejected for a visa, then travelling anywhere is a possibility.
6. What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve eaten?
Maybe some would consider Balut adventurous. It’s a Filipino delicacy which is this fertilized duck egg that is notorious for making the world squirm. As a Filipino I eat this for breakfast, along with toasted crickets, frog legs, sisig (pigs ears), isaw (chicken intestines), betamax (grilled pig’s blood), adidas (chicken feet). Yum! I know those are totally weird for westerners but they’re quite normal for some Asian countries. On the flipside, there are some dishes which were strange for me abroad and were typical for that country like kangaroo, crocodile, camel and rabbit meat. Yes, rabbit meat freaks me out. I told this to some Italians and French and they were outraged.
7. You’ve studied in both Japan and France – what was your experience like?
I spent five months in Japan studying Japanese language and Culture. I lived in France for two years to take up my master’s degree in International Marketing and Business Development.
They’re both ridiculously beautiful countries with amazing landscapes, rich heritage, and I’m very lucky to have been able to call both of them home. I didn’t have friends or family and I didn’t know the language prior to living in either country. I’ve had completely different experiences living in each and they’ve each taught me something different about character and culture, and about myself.
Adjusting to life in Japan was a lot easier for me. Maybe because it’s an Asian country so I was often mistaken for a local and could easily blend in, or because I was studying specifically the language and culture so my mind was framed to understand this high-context world. Somehow, I instantly made Japanese and foreign friends which made everything so easy. Communal harmony is extremely important in Japan and it is not a problem for them to go out of their way and help others in need. From the school, to the students, strangers on the street and public spaces, everything instructed me on how to uphold and fit into this communal harmony. Some may find this mode restrictive but it guided me through the proper manners to start my life in Japan.
It was glaringly different from Paris’ strong sense of individuality and sharp expressiveness. The school was not helpful, the students were aloof. I had a medical check-up, which is a requirement for validating my visa upon arrival, and got snubbed by the doctor. When I first arrived, I was so frustrated. Eventually all the foreign students find each other and create their own tribe. Despite some difficulties, I ended up with a smart and humble French SO who helped me look beyond the haughtiness of Paris and towards the countryside. That’s where I found the heart of France: an unparalleled appreciation for life and freedom, heartwarming food, and a love for family.
8. What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?
Bungee jumping in Macau, the highest in the world if I’m not mistaken. Cliff diving inside a cave and maybe doing an 11-hour hike straight up the third highest peak in the country.
9. What’s the #1 item on your bucket list?
So unoriginal but it’s to trek Macchu Picchu and discover it’s secrets. All my bucket list items are about South America and Africa.
10. Most importantly, where to next?
Next stop: Kyoto, Japan. In the past I only stayed for a weekend which wasn’t enough time to thoroughly explore this beautiful place. I am staying longer and hope to visit more off-the-beaten-track highlights like Koya-san and Kurum-san. I also have a luxury river cruise through Eastern Europe with my family lined up this summer. If all goes well, then French alps by the end of the year.