Sunday, September 11, 2011

5 Reasons Why It's Important to Meet the Local Travel Community

I began travel blogging a couple of years ago. However, only recently did I start taking it seriously what with my six-month backpacking trip happening in less than five weeks (yes! and see the destinations in my itinerary here). Eventually, I ended up discovering the great travel community online: travel bloggers, photographers, videographers or simple travelers who share the same passion as me.

Two travel bloggers I stumbled upon via my travel partner, Angelica of Angge Turns 26, are the dynamic duo of Lois and Chichi of We Are Sole Sisters. These two Filipinas (yes, they’re Pinays) quit their jobs and traveled throughout India and Southeast Asia for six months having only 100,000 pesos in each of their pockets. That’s around 2,350 US dollars. I don’t know about you but that is one amazing feat!

The Sole Sisters

Their journey started early this year and this August, they’ve come home to share their stories in an event they’ve called From Glampacker to Poorpacker, a travel photography exhibit and travel talk series aiming to empower Filipinos by encouraging them to travel and choosing their own adventures. Of course, I attended. It was I think the first travel blogging event I went to. So yes, these girls popped my travel blogging cherry!

Through the event, I got to connect, network, meet the travel community who are right now in my city. And I realized that that is very important. Here are five very valid reasons why:

1. Your decision to quit your job and travel the world long-term is, while unusual, not at all novel.

Chichi and Lois both quit their jobs to pursue their passions. Angelica and I did exactly the same thing. We are saying goodbye to our cubicles and seeing the world outside the windows of our high-rise corporate offices. Our decision is unusual in that not many people our age would have made the same choice as us. It’s terrifying what lies ahead, but it’s comforting to know that other people have successfully gone through or are going through the same thing. You realize that like them, you’ll be alright at the end of all this.

2. You meet other travelers from other countries passionate about promoting your country.

One of the speakers in the event is a female backpacker from New Zealand who came to the Philippines three years ago and fell in love with this country. And she wants other backpackers to fall in love with the Philippines, too. So she and an editor of the Southeast Asia Backpacker Magazine are launching Flip Flop Tours, a tour company that encourages backpackers in the banana pancake trail to give the Philippines a go, traveling in a fun and laid-back manner helping local communities along the way. I’m glad to be seeing these kinds of things. I do wish them all the success in this endeavor.

3. You get a new t-shirt and other awesome contest prizes.

In between the speakers’ presentations are of course contests! One was a trivia contest and the first one to raise their hand and answer the trivia question correctly will win awesome prices: t-shirts, headgear, packing cubes, etc. One question was how much the Philippine Travel Tax is (a sort of departure fee everyone pays at the airport when leaving the Philippines). I raised my hand first and answered 1620 pesos. I was correct. For that, I get a t-shirt. Score!

4. You discover new and exciting options offered specifically to independent travelers such as yourself.

One of more enterprising travelers in the event talked about a website they were launching, which was designed specifically for independent travelers. The website is, a site where hosts (anyone with a house really) can list their properties so that travelers can book those properties, affording them options beyond the usual hostels, hotels, etc. I am eager to learn more about this. Fortunately for me, travel bloggers are part of their marketing plan. We exchanged details and we’ll take it from there. That’s exciting.

5. You witness first hand that your passion is shared by lots of other people.

Lois and Chichi mentioned that they were expecting just a few people to attend their event. They were surprised to see that a lot more people turned up. I didn’t realize it then but all these people were here not only because they wanted to support the Sole Sisters but also, they were extremely passionate about travel and the event was sort of a forum where they knew expressing their passions would be met with much enthusiasm and excitement. I think everybody needs that, that feeling of belonging in a community who feel strongly about the same things as you. It keeps you going. In some sort of way, even if a small one, it gives sense to where you are now, where I am now. And I thank the Sole Sisters for that.

The travel photography exhibit and travel talk series aren’t over yet! They still have two more sessions this coming week. For more details, please visit this page on their website. (Disclosure: I am in no way affiliated with the Sole Sisters, Flip Flop Tours and Roomorama. They did not ask me to write about them. I just feel passionate about the same things as they do.)

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