Romblon, Philippines

On the night of the 30th of October, I was already 99.9% positive our trip would be cancelled. Winds brought by Typhoon Rosita were stronger than ever. Domestic flights and bus trips were constantly postponed until further notice.

Next morning was a different story. The day is brighter than ever. I hurriedly packed my things, because this meant our trip to the province of Romblon is a definite go.

carabao island.

Clear waters, friendly locals, cliff diving spots! Carabao Island is just a boat ride away from the world-famous Boracay Island. While it is less known than the said island, Carabao Island didn’t disappoint at all, serving all sorts of picture perfect views and memorable experiences everywhere you go. For 500php, we were able to hire a habal-habal to take us around the island for the remaining afternoon. Koding Koding Point was the first stop. Here we got to experience cliff-jumping to crystal clear waters. Just beside Koding Koding lies Cathedral Cave, which takes pride of its rock formations. It’s as beautiful as the prior tourist spot! By the time we decided to leave and move on to San Jose beach, we only have approximately an hour to spare before sunset. We ended our day sitting by the said beach, taking goofy photos by the instagrammable leaning coconut tree and watched the sun set before our eyes.

romblon, romblon.

Day 2 is the primary reason why we wanted to travel to Romblon. Bonbon Beach’s sandbar connecting to another island is one of the core reasons why travellers–us included–are motivated to see Romblon.

akim’s haven.

For our last full day, we have decided to stay at one of the province’s famous Airbnb place–Akim’s Haven. We had a surreal experience as staying in Akim’s Island felt like temporarily disconnecting ourselves from our busy lives. It almost felt like we owned the land. No other people were present but us (and the owner). That night, we laid under the stars, appreciating a portion of the galaxy we’re seeing.

itinerary.

Grand Circle Tour | NV-UT-AZ

When I was still residing in the Philippines, I promised myself that I would visit the Grand Canyon if I were ever given the chance to travel to the United States. That time, I only knew of the Grand Canyon. It never came to mind that the park is only one of the 58 majestic national parks United States has to offer.  

In a nutshell, my Grand Circle Tour itinerary comprises of:

  • Zion National Park;
  • Bryce Canyon National Park;
  • Capitol Reef National Park;
  • Arches National Park;
  • Canyonlands National Park;
  • Lower Antelope Canyon;
  • Horseshoe Bend;
  • Lake Powell; and
  • Grand Canyon National Park.

Planning the trip took a while. From booking the flight to mapping out the places I would like to see and finally fitting everything in a span of 8 days, it did take time. Fortunately, a great number of resources are already easily accessible online. Some really helpful blogs and websites I have visited are:

I’ve been flying Allegiant Air for all my domestic travels. If you are like me who does not mind flying minus all other value-added services and amenities and is a very light packer/traveller, then booking a flight through a low cost carrier like Allegiant Air is the more cost-effective way to go. I decided to fly SDF-LAS roundtrip, get a rental car and drive around Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and then back to Nevada.

For $350, I was able to book a flight and car rental package offered by the airline company. I was ecstatic. This was my first time renting a car, and I did not know those insurance charges and added tax fees could really add up to a large amount of cash. One lesson learned is to always read the fine print and to check your insurance plan. Later during the trip I realised I could have saved more had I not paid all those unnecessary fees. Still, it gave me peace of mind, knowing that I will be driving for more than 1,000 miles and the rental car is insured and covered during the whole trip, especially during emergencies and any other unforeseen events. What’s a couple hundred more bucks to spend if it’s going to give you additional security, right?

national park annual pass.

If you plan to follow my itinerary, I suggest purchasing an annual pass provided by the National Park Service. For $80, it gives the cardholder unlimited access to the 58 national parks in one year. One pass is needed per vehicle

America the Beautiful Annual Pass

day 1: las vegas.

Day 1 was spent mostly on travelling and preparing for the 7-day road trip. The plane landed around 4:00 PM. After getting the car from Enterprise, I checked-in the hotel, and took a rest, knowing tomorrow would be a long and exciting journey. 

day 2: zion&bryce.

Walking through Zion and Bryce Canyon felt like living in a postcard. Everything is just picture perfect.

The great thing about these parks is its accessibility. The authorities understand that not everyone who would like to see these beautiful creations are athletic nor fit enough to hike. I appreciated the availability of shuttle buses regularly going around the vicinity to load and unload tourists to the various viewpoints and trails in the area. Also, because of the various stops with equally amazing views of the national parks, they were able to distribute the tourists effectively, developing a sustainable way of managing tourism in the area, while taking into consideration the parks’ carrying capacity.

Because of the limited time, I did not stay long at the Zion National Park. Together with other tourists, I ended up taking the Weeping Rock Trail (mainly because of the interesting name), trekked for about 30 minutes, ate some snacks, and then went back down to the shuttle stop.

About an hour and a half drive away is Bryce Canyon, a national park known for its hoodoos (irregular columns of rocks). Similar to Zion National Park, viewpoints are easily accessible through shuttles that operate on a regular basis. Below are photos of the iconic Bryce Amphitheatre.

As a repercussion for my poor planning skills, it took more than two hours to reach the AirBNB place I booked online, much to my dismay. Don’t get me wrong, I would still recommend the place! The host went above and beyond with her hospitality, and the place was cozy and clean. I just failed to factor in the proximity of the place from the national park.

day 3: capitol reef.

The most scenic portion of the Waterpocket Fold, found near the Fremont River, is known as Capitol Reef: capitol for the white domes of Navajo Sandstone that resemble capitol building domes, and reef for the rocky cliffs which are a barrier to travel, like a coral reef.

National Park Service, NPS.gov

Capitol Reef National Park is nothing short of breathtaking. I chose to hike the 2.5-mile Fremont River Trail. On the way to the trail, we found an abundance of yellow peach trees, a lovely addition to this travel experience.

Fearing heavy traffic and possible detours, we thought it was better to leave early. We left the national park a little after noon, and took a scenic drive to Moab, where I allotted two nights of stay. At about 3 in the afternoon, we are now in Moab. We took the rest of the day exploring the place.

day 4: arches&canyonlands.

Arches National Park felt like a combination of all parks I have seen so far. The whole morning was spent exploring the different trails and picturesque views the place has to offer. Because my group chose to see more parts of the park, we were unable to hike the 3.2-mile trail to the Delicate Arch, the most popular arch in the world. 

Canyonlands National Park is less than an hour drive from Arches National Park. Below is a photo taken at the southernmost point of the Island in the Sky scenic drive, the most accessible part of the national park. 

day 5: lower antelope&horseshoe bend.

Depending on the traffic, Lower Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona is a 3-4 hour drive from Moab, UT. Because of the popularity of the destination, it is advised that this tour should be booked in advance. In addition, because of the risk of flash floods, the authorities do not allow travellers to explore the canyon by themselves. Our tour guide shared a story of a group of 12 hikers trapped in the canyon back in 1997.

On a lighter note, the world’s most expensive picture was taken at the Lower Antelope Canyon. Tourists around the world travel to see the canyon because of its photogenic beauty brought by its smooth limestone walls combined with rays of sunlight and contours and shadows.

Hiking the Horseshoe Bend at 2 in the afternoon is probably the worst decision I’ve made to this day. At 100 degrees Fahrenheit, on a very hot summer day, walking to and from the tourist spot was dehydrating and exhausting.

Horseshoe Bend prides itself for its impressive overlooking view of the horseshoe-shaped meander of the Colorado River in Page, Arizona.

day 6: lake powell&grand canyon.

The night before, my group made a last minute decision to take a break from hiking and experience paddle boarding at Lake Powell. Lake Powell Paddleboards were nice enough to accept us despite the extremely short notice. Exploring Lake Powell through paddle boarding, the experience was definitely one for the books. 

Around 12:00 pm, I left Page, preparing to travel to the last leg of the trip, the Grand Canyon National Park. I had a lot of free time. Like some of the travellers, I decided to rest and explore the Grand Canyon just before the sun sets. Below are photos taken when the sun was setting.

day 7: las vegas.

Day 7 was mostly spent driving from Arizona to Nevada, and exploring the Sin City.

itinerary.

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estimated expenses.

For the purpose of this blog, I have attached a table of estimated expenses if two people are to do this tour:

quick travel tips.

  • Plan your trip well.
  • Get a National Park Pass.
  • Make a road trip playlist.
  • Purchase snacks and drinks for when you’re hungry/thirsty on the road!
  • Bring a powerbank.

Click here to see more of my photos from the trip!

California-Nevada

Yesterday, I found myself going through my old ebook collection. Before I knew it, I was already rereading Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie. His writing really touched my soul. In this particular book, Morrie talked about knowing and accepting death to fully live one’s life. And with this, a person inevitably re-analyzes his priorities and life choices. The book primarily discusses living a meaningful life.

“So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they’re busy doing things they think are important. This is because they’re chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.” -Morrie, Tuesdays with Morrie

So how does one know what to do with his/her life? Am I chasing the wrong things? Two years ago, I flew from Louisville, Kentucky to San Francisco, California to see my mom for the first time in over a year. Here’s a little backstory: I left Manila to participate in a one-year internship program in the US. I am one of the lucky few who has parents supporting me always, in all ways possible. While internship year was easily my favorite year to date, being away from everyone left me feeling empty. People continuously praise me for being so independent. While I appreciate this way of life I’ve developed, I cannot help but feel disconnected from everybody. Scratch that. Feelings are fleeting. This will eventually go away. I think too much.

At last, we finally landed. I waited for a few minutes, eagerly looking for a familiar face. A few more minutes had passed until I saw Mom walking towards me, smiling warmly. She embraced me. I realized I’m home.

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NYC

I cannot believe it’s been two years.

Two years had passed since my then-boyfriend and I decided to go on a road trip to NYC. We drove for about 12 hours from Southern Indiana all the way to NYC, stopping mid-way for a quick nap. Unfortunately, because of our busy schedules, we were only able to stay in the said state for three days before packing up and going home. And let me tell you this, three days in NYC was not enough at all.

We spent most of the trip walking around the city. Despite our exhaustion, we just couldn’t stop walking, mainly because everything is so close to each other. As a person who really fancies taking photographs, I really liked the Brooklyn Bridge and NY Times Square.

We went here attempting to enjoy the city on a budget. We skipped eating our hearts out and chose not to try food trucks and Instagram-famous restaurants. Out limited time did not permit us to go see the State of the Liberty. The high admission fees in the museums stopped us from entering the said places. Still, I must say that our three days in NYC were still one for the books. I would probably go back. Not in the near future though.

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Taal, Batangas

As an international student, I only get to visit my country land every year or so due to budget and time constraints. That is why whenever I get the chance to go, I always make it a point to make the most of it.

While stuck in the airport waiting to board my last flight, I contacted my college friends and told them I’m almost home. Because it was Christmas season, everyone already had plans, so we couldn’t decide on a date where all seven of us would be available. I got somewhat upset with this, as I felt like they didn’t really value our friendship. But looking back, I guess I was not being fair as well. I didn’t take into account that the holidays are approaching and that I thought highly of myself. I should’ve been more considerate with them. I just get way too sensitive at times. I guess the I need to keep the virgo in me in check.

Despite this, I am more than grateful to have the greatest set of friends. They knew my spoiled and selfish self would be upset if we don’t go somewhere while I was visiting. A hundred Facebook messages later and we’ve finally decided to take a day trip to the majestic Taal Volcano.

Taal Volcano is located on the island of Luzon in the Philippines. From what I recall, it took us roughly 3-4 hours to drive to the area from Manila. While the trail is considered easy, trekking the smallest active volcano in the world could get challenging for anyone who has respiratory issues because of its sandy nature. We were then asked to wear masks while climbing.

At around 1 in the afternoon, we finally reached Talisay, Batangas. By this time, we were starving! And so we decided to make a quick stopover, parked by a local Filipino restaurant and ate our heart out. At 2:30 pm, we met with the local tour guide and took a quick boat ride to the trailhead. I couldn’t believe how much I missed this view!

30 minutes after and we are now ready to start trekking. While walking, we came across tourists who opted to go horseback riding instead, a great and refreshing alternative to those who would like to explore the place but didn’t really think their endurance would allow them to climb it, making Taal more accessible to people. Because our group likes taking pictures and videos, it took us around 45 minutes to reach the crater lake. The scenic view was nothing short of amazing.

Just in time for dinner, we decided to end the trip with a big bowl of Lomi, a local noodle dish known in the province.

ITINERARY:

1000H-1300H: Drive, Manila to Tanauan Bayan

1300H-1430H: Lunch, Tanauan Bayan to Talisay

1430H-1500H: Boat Ride to Trail

1500H-1700H: Trek

1700H-1730H: Boat Ride to Talisay

1730H-1700H: Dinner

1900H-2200H: Drive back to Manila

I feel like I’ve always taken this for granted because they’ve always been there for me, but I now realize how fortunate I am to have met these crazy group of people and call them my friends! Saying I love them is such an understatement. We bring out the best in each of ourselves, and we support each other in all that we do. Through ups and downs, we’ve always had each others’ backs. This is definitely a kind of friendship that’s built to last a lifetime.

Chicago, IL

Went out of town with these bahos (yes, that’s what we call each other) for a change. Three days in Chicago is far from being enough. But that’s the downside if every single person in your squad is working in the F&B industry — it’s too difficult to get a request off for the same dates. But in any case, we still did it — against all odds. ;)

We left the apartment a little past 7 and was able to reach the city around 2, just in time for the hotel’s happy hour. So, eat, drink and unwind. Photo ops and naps. Walk and drive. What we did for the next two days was pretty much along those lines.

There had been small conflicts and unfortunate events among the group– cards dropped, money spent, friends lost, hearts broken. But hey, all these are nothing compared to every memory we made! Charge them to experience. I’m still grateful all were able to go.

Edited: Want to hear something sad? This was the last time we were ever complete. I miss you, guys!

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St Louis, Missouri

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Filipino Hospitality. Zoo. The Arch. Resto hopping.

I was lucky enough to travel to Missouri with my namesake and her uncle. 2 days of pure isolation and relaxation. I needed that. Thanks, sis!

We got back to the city riding Greyhound. And I do not think we will ever do that again — not in the near future at least.

#MissouriNotSorry