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Meet the Gypsies | Melai of Loved and Wanderlust
1. Who are you? Where are you from? Where are you now?
Hello, I’m Melai! Originally from Philippines and now currently lives and works full time in sunny Singapore. I started traveling around my own country for three years. Philippines is a fun and great destination if you love nature and the beach!
When I moved to Singapore, I found the opportunity to explore internationally. Singapore’s airport is hailed as one of the best in the world so it’s easy and convenient to fly anywhere.
2. What’s your packing strategy? Heavy or light packer? Backpack or suitcase?
I’m a work in progress in this area. I don’t like to pack heavy but I always try to bring extra clothes or toiletries just in case. For long weekend vacations, I usually just bring one backpack. For longer trips that lasts one or two weeks, I bring a backpack and a carry on suitcase.
Backpack or suitcase, it really depends on where I’m traveling. But after having to carry a wheeled suitcase up a four-story apartment in Paris and cobblestone streets, I’m now considering a wheeled backpack.
3. How do you afford your travels? Budget traveler or lean more towards luxury?
Hard work and savings. Growing up with my single mom, I learned early on the value of “hard-earned” money. I always try to be frugal on how I spend it and I’m luckily one who finds no fulfillment in makeup and shopping. I only shop when I need to and try not to accumulate too much stuff.
I think of myself as an independent budget-traveler. I plan and organize in detail all of our trips on my own and seldom go on packaged tours. But I am willing to invest on once-in-a-lifetime experiences like Skydiving or riding a Hot Air Balloon. I’d soon write about that on my blog.
Basically, we save on cheap lodging, budget flights and food costs so we can invest more on experiences.
4. If you could go anywhere tomorrow, where would you go?
Morocco! I’ve heard so many beautiful, life-changing stories about this place and its people.
5. Is there anywhere you won’t travel to and why?
I’d like to keep my doors open but I don’t see myself visiting Somalia, Afghanistan, Iran and North Korea anytime soon.
6. What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve eaten?
I grew up eating the most delicious and creative street food in the Philippines like Balut (hard-boiled undeveloped duck embryo eggs), Betamax (grilled blood), Isaw (grilled chicken intestines), and Adidas (grilled chicken feet). There are food carts who sell these outside my school before and sometimes, they go around neighbourhoods too. These are common in Asia. I know the description doesn’t sound or look appetizing but they all taste good! Promise! 🙂
7. How do you balance full time work with traveling?
I plan my travel dates around the months where I do not have major project deployment at work. I also ensure that every task under my care is delivered before I leave. My work involves 24/7 support so it’s critical that everything is done on time and I have transitioned the right information to my colleagues who will cover for me.
I also combine holidays with my annual leaves to extend my trip.
8. What’s it like having a third-world passport? Any tips for others?
This is an important question to me. We’ve all heard the story “I quit my job to travel the world”. That may sound inspiring but in reality, third-world passport holders like us are not privileged to do that. I’ve done several visa applications in the past and the three major requirements to get approved are always Employment Certificate, show money (proof of income and savings) and a return ticket. Yes, a return ticket. So it’s not possible for us to book a one-way ticket to travel infinitely. The exceptions are if you have a foreigner partner who holds a stronger passport than yours or a sponsor invitation from a family or employer. It’s a more complicated story and may need a separate post. LOL
That said, just because you’re holding a third-world passport doesn’t mean it’s not possible to travel far and wide. Here are my tips:
(a) Build an emergency fund. It’s useful for proof of savings and it also makes your statement of account look good since you’re letting the money sit longer in the bank rather than just borrowing a lump sum for show money.
(b) Plan early. Pick your destination and read the visa requirements carefully. Don’t be afraid to contact the embassy and ask questions if there’s anything you’re not clear with. This will help you prepare your documents accurately for easier processing on the actual application.
(c) If you’re a third-world passport holder, I assume that you also have a full time job. 🙂 Don’t ever feel that something is wrong with having a full time job or your life is mediocre because you can’t travel like everyone else. We all have different stories to tell. The greater purpose of traveling is not to tick off places on our list, but to bring the life-changing experiences we learned back home.
9. What’s the #1 item on your bucket list?
Norway! Or generally, places around the Arctic Circle – Alaska, Sweden, Finland and all!
I have always lived in countries where it’s summer all year round. And though, I don’t think I’d be able to survive living in cold places for long, I’d still like to experience what it feels like. I want to make snow angels and snowman, try dog sledding and skiing, and watch the midnight sun and polar night. I’m curious like a child!
10. Most importantly, where to next?
We’re heading to Bali in June with family. Then, hubby and I are traveling to Greece and Iceland in autumn. We already went to Iceland last year but it was only for 3.5 days. We’re planning to do the Ring Road this time. Currently, working hard to save and make it happen. I’m excited!
Find Melai here…
Blog: Loved and Wanderlust | http://www.lovedandwanderlust.
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