Life is beautiful. Thank you 2013.

Tasmania family picture

Life IS beautiful, isnt it? I look back at the past year and know how fortunate I’ve been. Today, just like every first of the year, I feel as though I’ve done too much and yet I’ve done too little. I feel as though I blinked and the year is over. I feel as though I have more than I deserve. I feel as though I want time to slow down a bit so that I can appreciate each and every second that I get. The new year always brings out a truckload of emotions that usually boils down to gratefulness because I am truly grateful for each and every experience He has given me.

1. I am thankful for my family – every hug, smile, kiss, phone call, skype/facetime, message – every moment I spend with them makes life worth living.

2. I am thankful for friends – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – my friends are like family to me. He gave me the most wonderful set of friends in the Philippines (and my best friend in America) who I love and miss and who I know despite the distance will be my greatest strength and support. He also blessed me with a great bunch here in Australia – friends who make my new life here more colorful. Friends who have now seen me happy, hyper, in tears, in turmoil, in all my weirdness and still love me for who I am (I hope. haha). I am extremely lucky. Thank you all for being in my life.

3. I am thankful for being able to visit new places. The past year made me realise yet again that there is really a lot to see in this world. There is so much beauty yet to be discovered. I wasn’t able to visit a new country this past year which is a bit weird – but oh the new places I’ve visited (like the one in the picture), just took my breath away. I am thankful that my son sees the magic of traveling and I am thankful that I get to see those places that I’ve been to through the eyes of a five year old. There is no greater gift than to see the world with your family. There’s this quote that I read somewhere that said “This heart of mine was made to travel this world” and I know I will always feel that way and I am utterly grateful that I do.

4. I am thankful for Australia. I’ve been here for almost two years and I still feel as excited and blessed as I did when I first arrived. I was watching the fireworks last night and I still can’t believe that I was there watching one of the best fireworks displays in the world. It might seem insignificant for some but at that moment I felt like the luckiest person in the world.

5. I am thankful for 2013. We are all blessed. That is one thing that I’ve realised even more the past twelve months. We can’t look at other people and wish we had what they have because our own lives are so full of special things, people and experiences. I am so grateful for what I have. I have been given more than I could ever wish for. Words aren’t enough to express how indebted I am to Him.

Wishing you all a very happy and blessed new year! May this new year bring you closer to your dreams and give you what your hearts truly desire.

Thank you 2013. You have been amazing! And welcome 2014, I know you will be even more incredible!

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Typhoon Haiyan’s destruction: lost lives and shattered dreams. How can we help?

It has been a few days since Typhoon Haiyan (Philippine name: Yolanda) barreled through the Philippines, specifically the Visayas Region. Like Filipinos everywhere, I am heartbroken over what happened to these people. You all know what happened and so many things had been said the past few days on the web/news/social media – both necessary and unnecessary – so I will no longer elaborate on what happened and how I feel (because I honestly don’t know how to put it into words). But the bottom line is there is only one thing to do: help in whatever way you can. Even the smallest donation will go a long way.

The Philippine Red Cross is accepting donations. You can go to their website and choose the Super Typhoon Yolanda (HAIYAN) campaign.

Some people I know have formed a group collecting relief goods that will be sent to the Philippines with the help of LBC. For any donations such as canned goods (those that do not need can openers), dry food, bed sheets, towels, medicines, boxes (to be used to post these donations), etc. here in Sydney, you can look for the Sydneysiders Relief for Yolanda Victims event on facebook.

For those residing here in Australia, these are some agencies/groups that you can contact if you want to donate money:

1. The Australian Red Cross – visit their website or call 1800 811 700

2. Caritas Australia – visit their website or call 1800 024 413

3. ChildFund Australia – visit their website

4. ADRA (the Adventist Development and Relief Agency) – visit their website or call 1800 242 372

5. Medecins Sans Frontieres Australia – visit their website or call 1300 13 60 61

6. CARE Australia – visit their website or call 1800 020 046

7. Australia for UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency) – visit their website

8. UNICEF – visit their website

9. World Vision – visit their website

10. Oxfam – visit their website

11. Plan Australia – visit their website

Here are some websites that you can also go to for more comprehensive lists of organisations from around that world that you can support: CNN, The Guardian

If you’re looking for friends or family who were in the Visays Region or have any information about someone, you can use Google Person Finder.

Sending my prayers to everyone in the Philippines and to those who have family and friends affected by this horrific disaster.

Year 2012: Thank You For Leading Me Home

I suppose it’s a bit premature to say thank you to 2012 twelve days before the new year. But just in case the world ends tomorrow I want to have been able to reflect on this past year (and of course it helps that I have time to do that now ๐Ÿ™‚ ).

Moving to Australia was the hardest things I had to go through in my life. Leaving my friends behind broke me into a million pieces. I left my comfort zone, my home and the people who have been the source of my strength in life. I remember thinking “am I wrong for wanting such a massive change? am I wrong for wanting to follow my dreams?”. At my age stepping out of that small Manila bubble was more than a big change. It was a life altering decision.

sydney australia

Looking back, I wouldn’t have imagined being where I am now. There had been great highs and terrible lows. I’d been disappointed. I laughed and I cried. Because of the move, I was able to push myself emotionally, mentally and physically. Looking back at 2012 I can’t be more proud of where I’ve been and where I am. This year brought me more than I could have ever wished for. I wasn’t able to travel as much as I wanted to but I discovered the Maldives and the South of New Zealand. I am too far from my Manila friends nor do I have heaps of friends over here but I have been blessed with the most wonderful bunch of people.ย  These past few months would have been terrifying without all of them. I was always afraid of applying for a job and ended up with one of the most satisfying (albeit very tiring) jobs one could ever ask for. I was scared that since my 2 boys moved for me they wouldn’t be able to adjust but it seems that they have – beautifully.

So to my family, thank you for putting up with the move, for putting up with me and for loving me every second of the day. To my friends and family in Manila and to my best friend in the US, I miss you more than words could ever say. Thank you for the unending text/facebook/whatsapp/viber messages, emails and calls. Even from across the miles you all have been my strength and the reason why I smile everyday. To my friends here in Australia, thank you for the warmth and laughter. I am very lucky to have you all in my life and cannot imagine not having all of you in it. To the big Guy up there, I never say it enough but thank you. This year has been the biggest blessing yet and for that I am utterly, wholeheartedly grateful.

So 2012, thank you for leading me home.

new zealand

My Top 8 Travel Memories Of 2011: #1 Traveling Alone

SOLO TRAVEL: AN ADVENTURE WORTH TRYING

This is a year late but still the most important travel goal I achieved last year. Among my circle of friends and family, traveling alone was not a normal occurrence.ย This was also one of my goals before turning 30 last April. I opted to go to Ho Chi Minh city in Vietnam. I chose Vietnam because it was a place I had not been to.

Vietnam Traveling Alone

The hardest thing about traveling is wanting to go home and be with family yet still having the urge to continue moving forward and discovering new things. I know if it weren’t for my husband and son, I would probably just keep traveling until that thirst is fully quenched- which I know might never happen. I always get this wave of sadness as a trip comes to an end. It is something that I truly love and long to do everyday of my life. It is something that I know some people will never fully understand.

Vietnam tunnels

Traveling alone put certain things in perspective. It gave me the silence that I never thought I needed. It gave me peacefulness like I never knew existed within me. Like it said in Kent Nerburn’s book “You should spend time alone. I don’t just mean minutes and hours, but days and, if the opportunity presents itself, weeks. Time spent alone returns to you a hundredfold, because it is the proving ground of the spirit”.

I went to Vietnam not knowing anyone at all. But then realized that I was actually lucky to not have had friends there because it gave me that push to open up and talk to people. It was fulfilling. The good thing about this experience was it made me want to travel more on my own. It was not easy and it was very stressful at the beginning but at least I was able to do it and know that I’ll be able to do it again.

Vietnam

Vietnam 2

I also realized that other Filipinos are not used to seeing Filipinas traveling alone for pleasure (or maybe I just looked like a lost puppy). The ones that I talked to were quite shocked that I was on my own and immediately assumed I needed help and wanted to take me under their wing. This was also the case prior to my trip. Friends that I talked to about it wanted to know why I wanted to travel on my own and were quite bewildered that it was my own choice. It was sort of funny. But I’m truly grateful for all the kind people I met and got to spend time with.

The scary part of it all was being away from home when the big earthquake/tsunami hit Japan. My hotel room did not have a window and I could not help but think of the things that could happen. But like any other trip, despite the stress and frustrations I encountered (and the fact that there isn’t that much to do in Ho Chi Minh), I really had a good time. And though I don’t think I’ll have a lot of time to travel on my own again anytime soon, I would gladly do it again in a heartbeat.

My Top 8 Travel Memories Of 2011: #2 Moscow, Russia

THIRTY

I started this blog mainly because I wanted to write about my quest to visit 30 countries before I turned 30 last April. Unfortunately I was not able to do that until 1 month and 16 days after my birthday. And my 30th country was Russia.

Prior to the trip, I’ve heard so many things about this country. I never really knew what to expect. We booked a private tour and was met immediately by our guide Natasha. My first impression as soon as I got out of the airport was ‘I’ve never seen this much pollen in my life’. Coming from the Philippines and even though I’ve travel quite frequently, I’ve never experienced high pollen season. At most I remember being a kid and trying to catch one of these because they said that you could wish on it if you did. It was thrilling then. Pollen season in Moscow wasn’t.

After the initial shock over all the pollen, I was able to breathe normally without the fear of choking on pollen and I was able to enjoy the beautiful city. During our short stay in Moscow, we were able to visit the historical Red Square. This is the city’s main square where famous structures such as St.Basil’s Cathedral and Lenin’s Mausoleum can be found.

Moscow Russia St Basils

Moscow also has beautiful subways. I am not talking about clean, nicely structured subways but a few of the Moscow Metro stations are some of the most extravagant and probably magnificently designed stations in the world.

Moscow Russia Subways

Despite having a hard time communicating with people it was fun seeing signs in Cyrillic script. It was also fun trying to learn how to speak Russian even though the only word I remember is vadah (water). All in all, I was pretty happy that this was my 30th. I’m now looking forward to the next 30 ๐Ÿ™‚

Moscow Russia

A Giant Leap Of Faith

a giant leap of faith

Another place. Another time. Another life. Sometimes life gives you twists and turns that you dream of but never really expect.

As I looked at out my window 24 hrs ago I was still home. I felt the nervousness, sadness and excitement all at the same time. Now thousands of miles away, as I sit alone in this room I realize more than ever how big this decision really is. I know that for the next few months I will experience probably the biggest change my life will ever encounter. Even with family, change is always a scary thing. Going out of my comfort zone is a scary thing. So here I go, I am crossing my fingers, closing my eyes, and jumping – hoping that the leap will bring me to greater heights.