This week’s expert interview is with Aileen Adalid. Aileen is originally from the Philippines and has travelled extensively throughout the country. She gives us an insight into visiting the Philippines as a solo traveller.
Can you tell us about your background?
Hey Lisa, thanks for having me here! For my background, I’ll have to start at a time when I was 21… At that age, I was working a (harsh) 9-to-5 job in a big international investment bank. Like everyone else, I was doing that work to follow the ‘linear order’ of life set by society for gaining and upholding security: graduate, get a job, marry, have kids, and then retire. But I was not satisfied with that set-up.
I was always thinking: “Is this all there is to it? Does my ‘unconventional dream’ really have to take the backseat?” I wanted to make a move, to break out — but I was crippled with doubts. However, after meeting successful nomads who were passing through the city, I was finally inspired to abandon my fears and go after my true dream: traveling the world!
It has been almost 3 years now, and since then, I've flown around the French Alps as a paraglider, played around with elephants in Thailand, ventured the busy streets of Hong Kong alone, and so much more! Plus, as I hopped from one country to another, I had even managed to set up an online business and a successful travel blog that lead me to live a more sustainable travel lifestyle today.
You say that you now live a sustainable lifestyle. Can you tell us more about that?
We all know how there are a lot of nomadic jobs that travelers can do on the road in order to keep going for years (e.g. volunteering, etc.); but most of the time, some of those jobs are not so steady — there’s still a chance that a job opportunity won’t pop up or that money will become an issue. That’s why during the 1st year of my travels, even while working as a digital nomad (online freelancer), I still strived to look for a more sustainable way for me to never have to worry too much about maintaining my lifestyle.
And thankfully, an idea brought forth my successful online business today that now helps fund my travels for years to come with no worries in sight! My travel blog also helps a lot in making me secure a continued life full of adventures!
What do you think is the Philippines attraction to women travelling alone?
I think the main two factors that attract women travelers (and men as well!) to the Philippines is the well-known warmth of the locals and the pristine natural wonders that we have — white sandy beaches, lush forests, picturesque mountains, Philippine islands, you name it! Philippines always has something for everyone; no matter what kind of traveler you may be!
Have you met many other women travelling solo?
Yes, I definitely have! But I have to say that going by my experience, I noticed that the males tend to outnumber the females and it might have to do with how the guys are running after the beauty or ‘experiences’ with Filipinas — if you know what I mean, haha! Anyhow, Philippines is absolutely more than that kind of destination since it’s easy to fall in love with the culture and the way of life here. In fact, there are tons of expats in the country!
Are there any hidden gems in the country that people should definitely visit?
A LOT! If I have to pick my top five, those would definitely be Batanes (my hometown!), Caramoan, Calaguas, Camiguin, and Siargao.
If you only had two weeks to see the country, what would your perfect itinerary be?
Whenever I give suggested itineraries for the Philippines, I group it into two! So for 2 weeks, if you want… Partying with a mix of adventure = First stop would of course be Manila as it is not only the center but it is also where the country’s most amazing nightlife activities can be seen and done (go to Makati and the BGC-Fort). This should be followed by Boracay, Cebu, Puerto Galera, and Davao. (Angeles, Pampanga is often mentioned as a great nightlife place but I find it a bit too seedy). Full-blown adventure and relaxation = Batanes, Bohol, Calaguas, Malapascua, El Nido, Coron, Siargao, and Siquijor.
How easy is it to get around?
The Philippines is a group of islands (we have 7,107 of them!) so even though the islands are well-connected, expect to endure hours of boat or bus rides. Rest assured, when it comes to language, talking to the locals won’t be a problem at all since a lot of us Filipinos speak English!
Is there anything to do there in the evenings as a solo?
Of course, especially if you go down the ‘party-style’ kind of adventure. There are various ways to meet locals too and you can do that by couchsurfing/home stays, joining parties, participating in bar-hopping sprees, going on group tours, or simply by just approaching anyone you see — truth be told, there’s a high chance that you’ll be approached first and you might even be invited to a Filipino’s home! It’s really no news that us Filipinos LOVE foreigners and that we do our best to make you feel welcome in our country.
Is it easy to meet other travellers?
Like what I’ve discussed in the previous questions: YES. Other than friendly traveling locals, you’ll see a lot of traveling foreigners in the country too. To add, even if a backpacker scene such as that in Thailand is not as apparent here, there are a lot of opportunities to stay and be connected.
What would you avoid in the country?
Try not to be too flashy; always be careful with your belongings. This is not to say that the Philippines is extremely dangerous because it’s not; but like any other city in the world, it’s best to always be vigilant. And if you’re staying in big cities like that in Manila and Cebu, be wary of traffic because we have the worst traffic sometimes (actually, all the time, especially during rush hours!). Also, try to avoid Philippines travel during summer time because the beaches will most surely be packed!
What would you say to someone who is looking to go to the Philippines alone for the first time?
JUST. DO. IT. I assure you… you won’t ever, ever, regret it!
Describe the Philippines in 3 words.
It’s more fun! 😉
What are your plans for the future?
This 2015, I didn’t have the chance to travel as much as I wanted to since I was busy fixing my visa here in Europe while also expanding my online business; but by the start of 2016, I’m going to do more trips — that’s for sure! So my ‘short-term goals’ are: exploring South America, South Africa and USA (apart from doing some side trips in Europe and Asia).
As for my ‘long-term goals: to continue inspiring people, sharing my stories, and traveling the world in my own time and pace since I am definitely in no rush at all. Besides, I want to acquire fuller experiences and tons of knowledge as I venture around the given how I have my ultimate goal of building up a non-profit organization that would answer the world’s problems (like poverty and pollution).
Where can people go to find out more about you?
To know more about me and my travels, you can always stop by my blog at iAmAileen.com! For my daily updates, you can see them over on Facebook or if you’re more into LIVE video updates, come follow me on Snapchat at: iamaileencom
Are The Philippines on your bucket list?