Friday, October 30, 2020

My Experience in Fukuoka and Nagasaki, Japan Part 1

Fall in love with discovering Fukuoka prefecture and the rest of Kyushu!

When it comes to traveling, Japan has got to be in my top 5 or even top 3 favorite countries in the world. No matter what anyone says, it remains to this day one of those countries that have had a positive impact in my life. That impact has been the reason why I have been to Japan at least 10 times in my life. I have gone from the very north in Hokkaido and all the way south in the Kyushu islands, and even the remote islands of Okinawa, Japan. There's something that Japan has to offer in terms of food, culture and atmosphere for everyone. Add the fact that it's so safe there for solo travelers, it's no wonder it made such a huge positive impact in my life!

Ai-san picked me up at the airport in Fukuoka, so I gave her a box of homemade cupcakes!

So when you're in a country with as much varied landscapes as Japan, the thing you should do is to explore outside of the city. Don't just visit Tokyo or Osaka, but rather see the other less explored places of Japan as well. When you go outside of the less commercialized places, you get to see more unique things that are not commonly seen in your own country. You get to see more of the real culture and history that Japan has, and not what you always see on TV. I live for getting unique experiences that I don't normally see in my home country. It makes life worth living as well as gives me the motivation to discover more and open myself to others.

Going on a roadtrip with Ai-san to the beach was so refreshing for me! Love it!

Thursday, October 1, 2020

I Learned to Cut My Own Hair, and You Should Try, Too!


Been a challenge, but I've enjoyed learning to cut my own hair!

During the lockdown, did you ever feel frustrated that your hair started growing longer and longer, and due to the pandemic, you couldn't have it cut? I felt that. I'm sure you may have had a new goal, and that is to trying growing it as long as you can, and maybe decide later on whether or not you want to chop it all off, and donate it. However, I have already done that back in 2017 when I grew the top part of my hair for 2 1/2 years. So having experienced that, I don't plan to grow my hair at least 12 inches again anytime soon. It's hot where I live most of the time, and having long hair can be frustrating and itchy, especially when you are someone who sweats quickly like me.

My hair grows really fast: I used to get a haircut once every 4-5 weeks, but just mostly my sideburns, and back part! How often do you get your haircut? And on average, how much does it cost? Getting a haircut at a hair salon or barbershop can be expensive because you're basically paying for a service done by a group of people. In Philippines, the average haircut at a barbershop or salon is around PHP 250 or around $5 USD and up plus tips. The money you pay goes not only to the person cutting your hair, but also the person showering your hair after, sweeping the hair on the floor, and even the person managing the cash register, and the person who owns the entire business who has to pay rent and the rest of the bills. Maybe it's cheap for you, but can you imagine how much money you'd save if you invested on hair clippers, scissors and other equipment, and just do it!
This was the first time I cut my own hair ever since 2014!

Saturday, August 1, 2020

What Have You Done to Keep Yourself Sane During This Pandemic?

Memories of being at Great Ocean Road in Melbourne, Australia back in 2019 that I cherish especially right now!
Let's face it: we're all having difficulties adjusting to the new norm of living life during lockdown. The coronavirus outbreak has cost us our loved ones, our past lifestyles, and possibly our sanity. This global pandemic has led us to reflect on what we need to do moving forward. Things are probably not gonna be the same in the coming future. We are constantly sanitizing ourselves, wearing facemasks, and practicing social distancing from others. This may or not drive you crazy, but without a doubt, it has impacted everyone else's lives, one way or another. Many have lost their jobs or have been laid off due to this impact. Many are struggling financially due to unemployment and have us worrying what this pandemic will be moving forward. Our nightlife has been greatly impacted. Just a simple thing like going to the supermarket, getting a haircut or just going to work has been difficult and scary to do because of the lockdown. So many places have closed and gone out of business as well.
Poured my heart and soul into making pastries that others will enjoy like these cream cheese brownies!
Some have gone into depression, and it has greatly affected their mental health. Many have found other outlets just to keep themselves sane. Some have even taken their businesses online, and finding new ways to get themselves more involved on social media. Some have taken a break, and have finally focused on their well being. Whether or not you're learning or earning during this pandemic, know this, whatever you're doing is valid. Just make sure you're keeping yourself sane, and you're wearing facemasks, constantly sanitizing, washing your hands, and avoiding crowds. So now I ask this: What have you done to keep yourself sane during this pandemic?

Thursday, June 25, 2020

My Attempt at Making Salvadoran Pupusas from Tasty

Burst of flavors and textures right here! I love how intense it looked and tasted!
I love tasting new things from around the world! Growing up, I didn't get much chances to try different kinds of food since I had parents that were traditional and always liked eating mostly Asian cuisine at home. I wanted to taste the world since I grew up surrounded by people of all nationalities. I wanted to try all kinds of cuisines as well as products from particular countries. When I lived in US for a year, I encountered so many kinds of cuisines since US is so diverse. Mexican food was so popular that it became a comfort food for me. I got access to other latino and south american dishes from my boss who was Peruvian. I loved the zesty, citrusy, intense and flavorful dishes they had! It was tangy and refreshing without being too greasy, oily or bitter like many dishes I have tried in Filipino, American, Chinese or other cuisines. 
Some people prefer it without the refried beans, so you can do without it. It's a flexible recipe!
When I moved from Nashville, Tennessee to San Francisco, California for a month before moving back to Manila, I wanted to maximize my time in California by trying out all kinds of dishes that I wouldn't normally get back at home. From French Soul Food to Mexican to Asian fusion to Brazilian and even Salvadoran food, I had the chance to taste the world at the palm of my hands! I had so many memorable moments that I could relate it to a certain dish or cuisine I have tried! I encountered this dish called Pupusas from a friend I met who had Salvadoran relatives. It's a flatbread made from masa harina or ground cornmeal with several fillings inside. It gave me great excitement when I saw it being opened, and the gooey, stretchy cheese just expanded from the inside! The flavors and textures it had gave me so much happiness, that it motivated me to make it myself because there aren't any places in Philippines that offers this type of cuisine. 
I kind of burned my fingers trying to open this up because I wanted to see the cheese stretch!
I always believed that if you want a certain type of dish, you should learn how to make it yourself. I always have attempted to try making certain dishes at home if I have certain cravings because it makes me try new things. I wanted to let my family see things that I tried abroad, and hopefully would enjoy themselves. Some of the things that were frustrating were lack of ingredients but thankfully, places like Amazon or even Healthy Options had certain ingredients that were difficult to find! My whole motivation with cooking since the beginning has always been because I wanted to make dishes that I actually enjoyed eating. 

Sunday, May 31, 2020

10 Reasons Why You Should Go To Hokkaido, Japan

This snow sculpture right here was more than enough reason for me to go to Hokkaido!
Hey world. I hope everyone is okay despite the coronavirus situations going on. I took a long break from writing for many reasons apart from just traveling and exploring. I went back to dancing more often last 2019, and started taking dance classes again. It took up a lot of time that I normally used for watching random Youtube videos, sleeping, as well as hanging out with friends partying or exercising. Now normally, a lot of people try to exercise during Christmas season or diet before pigging out and going all out on eating at Christmas eve. Food during Christmas eve or also known as "Noche Buena" is one of the traits that happens here during Christmas season. Filipinos love Christmas season. They start celebrating it as soon as the "ber months" begin (September, October, etc.) We try to mimic a lot of Christmas traditions here which other countries (especially in Asia) would find weird. One Christmas thing that Philippines can't get due to its geographic location is snow. Unlike the northern parts of Asia, Philippines doesn't get cold much. We're a tropical country so it's mostly sun and rain we have here. I know a lot of people in Philippines would like to experience a white Christmas or Christmas where we see snow so delicate and white, but since it's not possible to experience it in this country, I would definitely make a suggestion to try out a city that has snowy seasons, but isn't as far away from Philippines like US and Canada is. That city is Sapporo in Hokkaido prefecture, Japan!

Otaru Canal! So much beauty all around it! Go to Otaru Saint Germain near the train station for some amazing pastries!
Without a doubt, Japan is my favorite country in Asia, and maybe even the world! I have explored probably more places in Japan than most people I know! So when I went to Hokkaido, it was not only beautiful, but really life changing! Japan has such varied landscapes. Hokkaido is Japan's northernmost island. It is well known for its culinary culture, beautiful city life and amazing natural beauty! Every season has special events such as the Sapporo Winter Festival in Odori Park or the Ice Festival in Biei! It may be completely different weather from the tropical climate I'm used to in Philippines, but that doesn't stop me from wanting to explore this amazing and unique part of Japan! So here are 10 reason why you should go to Hokkaido, Japan!

When going to Asahikawa, make sure to stop by Ramen Aoba for their delicious ramen!
1. The Sapporo Winter Festival!

I cannot tell you enough how much this event changed my perception of perfection in Japan! This annual festival features snow sculptures from all over the world, and my goodness the works of art there showed me just how amazing not only the snow sculptures are, but also the people behind the works of art! It is really perfection brought to life! Some examples include a life size statue of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France, a fully detailed Japanese temple with a projector animation included, and several popular cartoon characters brought to life like Pokemon, Star Wars and even Youtube sensations like Pineapple Pen! It may not sound appealing through writing, but once you look at the photos of the Winter Festival, as well as the videos, you will see why I fell in love with Hokkaido! That event alone should be the main reason why you should go there! They got activities, performances as well as super delicious food being sold everywhere there!

During the Sapporo Snow Festival, they set this man made snow slope for you to go snowboarding at!
There are even several foreign souvenirs being sold there, depending on the theme such as Russian dolls or Finnish handcrafts! I had an amazing time just walking around, and seeing the amazing works of art! They even add animation to some of the works of art there using a projector screen! The music performances during the night as well as the music applied to the snow sculptures make it an incredible experience! If there's any reason to come to Hokkaido, this would be the number one reason! I cannot wait until I have the chance to make it there again!

This is a Chirashi don with everything on it! When you go to Hakodate morning market, make sure to try their food!

2. Some of the best seafood and fish in all of Japan!

A friend of mine once told me that the colder the region is, the tastier and more savory the fish will be! Hokkaido is no exception! You want the best seafood in all of Japan?! Most likely Hokkaido has it for you! Based on my experience, seafood in Japan tastes so fresh and amazing, without that fishy or in Tagalog "malansa" after taste. Most of the travelers I have met have said that Japan is seafood heaven, and that some of the best tasting fish comes here! Buttery, fatty, melting, and heavenly goodness. The typical Japanese diet is heavily seafood based, which is no surprise since Japan is surrounded by seas all over its island. Other places that offer very tasty seafood are the prefectures of Sendai and Aomori, which is also known for their top quality tuna! Remember: when in the northern parts of Japan, do not miss out on the seafood!

This Otoru fatty tuna belly sushi makes all the language and cultural barriers worth it!

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Follow Your Heart, Do What Makes You Happy

Kiyomizu dera in Kyoto, Japan, 2020. Felt so much peace and happiness there!
Hi there. I haven't done much write ups lately because I been out and around exploring or just not having the motivation to stay put and write something. I wanted to say something: this life moves at such a fast pace. One day, your life will just come flashing at you in an instant, and next thing you know, the people you may know and love may not be there anymore. Aside from that, the chances you had to travel or explore anywhere may not be there as well. I take each day as a day to do things that make me happy and feel good because when you are feeling good, it's easier to be nicer and kinder to others. What makes me happy lately? Well: cooking, baking, dancing, traveling, partying, making friends from all over the world, trying out new stuff. The list goes on!
Not everybody gets to experience Sydney, Australia. So when you're at Sydney Opera House, just appreciate it!
So when your heart is calling for something, you follow it right? A lot of us don't really pursue our ultimate bucket list because of many reasons such as budget, finances, priorities and as well as other obligations that prevent you from doing what you really want to do! It's time you start doing more of what feels good for you, despite other people's opinions about it. One step at a time. Save up by getting rid of things that don't spark joy in your life. Cut certain people out of your life who bring out the stress in you, and not the best in you. I know we live in a society that gets jealous easily and likes to compare ourselves to other people, as well as judge others. We even do that towards others, too. We also tend to be very materialistic, but we have to learn to let go of those things, and focus on doing what makes you happy. Even if it means having to do it by yourself.
Certain cities will make an impact in your life. They will make you feel a sense of belonging like Melbourne did!
My hobbies aren't the typical watching movies, playing basketball or badminton, or even watching basketball live or on TV, or playing video games. They include things like taking dance classes, learning languages, going out and partying with people from everywhere, and even just relaxing at a park. Funny thing is: I feel more at home in places like Japan or Brazil sometimes than in my own home country, Philippines! Maybe it's the weather, the food, or not having to prove to anyone anything. And I love that. I love being at places where you can be yourself, and where you can just go and not have to worry about people voicing their opinions about you. It may seem weird to others that I surround myself with people so foreign to me, and yet love them just as much as my own, but to me, I feel like I can be friendly towards anyone who is approachable and willing to talk to me.
When you are away from the hustle and bustle of the city, places like Arashiyama Bamboo Forest really relaxes you!
"Enjoy, travel, enjoy your journeys, see new places, give yourself the pleasures you deserve. Allow dogs to get closer. Don’t put away the fine glassware. Utilize the new dinnerware; don’t save your favorite perfume, use it to go out with yourself; wear out your favorite sport shoes; repeat your favorite clothes." I saw this at a social media post titled as "Gentle Reminder by Pope Francis". Although I'm not sure this post was actually said or written by him, the whole entire message was very uplifting and encouraging for me. I could quote many of them more here, but the point is: you need to stop depriving yourself of certain happiness or pleasures in your life, and start living your life the way you want to! *Link to the full quote will be posted down below.
Learn to appreciate what Mother Nature has to offer. Like these Sakura Cherry Blossom flowers in Hiroshima, Japan! 
Personally for me, I don't do local or domestic travel so much cause I feel like I am young. I have the energy, physical and mental capacity to surround myself with new places and new cultures. I can do local travel when I'm much older like 40 or 50 years old. Traffic is such a big factor for me. I simply lose the will to go explore anywhere local simply cause of the unbearable traffic going to certain places. Hence why I haven't been to certain places locally like Baguio or even Bicol. I enjoy beaches no doubt, but I enjoy beaches that are accessible just by a quick road trip, and not one where you have to fly out and spend a lot at an expensive resort to enjoy. Colder weather is also a preference for me, such as experiencing some snow or feeling windy breeze. I like getting unique experiences that I can't get at my home country. It's just my personal preference to go explore the great big world around me, which to me is worth it.
Great Ocean Road, Melbourne, Australia! Invest in breathtaking moments and experiences. Those memories stay with you!
So far in my life, I have applied for visas so much to the point that it's become routine for me. It would be nice to have a better passport, but so far, getting those visas has been worth it for me. One of the things I learn when I travel really far and go on long haul flights is to be patient. I know people who can't stand to wait, and want things instantly in front of them. And I know many of them aren't happy cause they haven't gotten what they want because they are unwilling to be patient and unwilling to compromise as well! I have learned that certain places are worth waiting for, which is why you need to be patient, and just keep learning and growing as a person. You want to go to a certain country that needs a visa? Then do your research, find out the things that you need, and take that huge risk to go out and get those visas to see the world! We're only in this world for such a short amount of time, so you shouldn't waste it doing the same things, and surrounding yourself with people who don't make you feel good and don't help you to become a better person. Don't waste your energy trying to please others who wouldn't even lift a finger for you.
Unique experiences like taking a selfie with a deer just roaming around Nara, Japan are really special for me!
I am very thankful for the friends that I currently have in my life, as well as the family that doesn't judge me, and just accepts me as I am. My friends may not be people I went to school with in high school or college, but the friends I have now are friends that I feel like are family to me as well. We may not come from the same backgrounds, but I think that's part of the beauty of growing as a person. Especially during this lockdown and quarantine time due to coronavirus, you really learn to appreciate who your real friends are, as well as the family you talk to. I use this time to look back at all the things I've done, and all the places I have been to. I think I've done pretty good exploring this great big world around us. Live life with no regrets. The bad moments you had can be used to learn and become a better person. They can be used to appreciate all the great moments you had, making them even more special. Having meaningful friends and family during times like this really help with getting through tough times. Learn to surround yourself with people who make you feel good.
Learn to make friends who truly care about you, and who actually make the effort to meet and spend time with you.

After this lockdown, I really hope that you can learn to stop delaying things you've always wanted to go, and just do them! I am no longer doubting and having second thoughts about where I want to go, and what I want to do. Being in this lockdown made me appreciate the brave people who go out there, who clean and provide services for us, those who provide food, necessities, and healthcare for us, and those who keep uplifting us and motivating us to persevere during these tough times. Work your way into pursuing your goals, ambitions, and dream destinations. I no longer want to hear but I'm too afraid to do it on my own, or I'm not good enough. This lockdown reminds us all that we need to stop doubting ourselves, delaying our passions, and start just doing it. Take that first step!
Brighton Bathing Boxes in Melbourne, Australia. Appreciate the creative artist who made this!
I would like to end this post with another quote I got from the "Gentle Reminder by Pope Francis": "So what? That’s not bad. Why not now? Why not pray now instead of waiting until before you sleep? Why not call now? Why not forgive now? We wait so long for Christmas; for Friday; for Reunions; for another year; for when I have money; for love to come; when everything is perfect… look… Everything perfect doesn’t exist. Human beings can’t accomplish this because it simply was not intended to be completed here. Here is an opportunity to learn." Have the courage to be yourself, and to pursue what really makes you happy in life. May you go out there, discover, explore, and live the life you've always wanted.
Fushimi Inari Shrines, Kyoto, Japan. Some places just makes you feel peaceful and happy like this place did for me!
*Here is the link to the full message of the "Gentle Reminder":
Did Pope Francis Write the ‘Gentle Reminder’ Message?

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Why I Was Gone in 2019, But Now Back This 2020

My life in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil! Honestly an amazing experience right here!
I deeply apologize for being away for more than a year from writing. It's not that I didn't care, but rather because I was busy doing things that didn't involve me sitting down on my laptop all day or at least for a couple of hours, typing and writing up stories. Believe me, I have sooo much to say with unwritten stories, all in my head! You see, this 2019 was a revelation for me. A revelation that I need to stop wasting time doing things people think I should do, and I do what I actually love to do instead, despite other people's opinions about it. It's not just traveling, but also involving hobbies I just missed doing as well as getting rid of things that don't spark joy for me anymore, and is possibly toxic in my life! I keep telling myself that people come into your life for two reasons: one is a blessing, and the other is a lesson.
Dance has taken up so much of my life, and has made me so much more happy and confident as well!
So a little story telling about my year 2019: I had a goal of going to a different country every year, or if I am going back to a certain country, go to a city or certain area that I have never been to. I decided to go back to one of my favorite countries in the world, YET AGAIN: Japan! But however, I went to different cities at the beginning of the year in Hokkaido at Shikotsu and Asahikawa, and to Hiroshima prefecture as well! And another achievement off my bucket list as well: to make it to Australia! This is my 15th country that I've technically set foot on, as well as the second to the last continent that I've set foot on (the last one I haven't been to is Antarctica). And another thing that I went back into that took over a big chunk of my life: dancing!
The dance lessons I took here, made me so much more comfortable with myself because of the love and support!
You see, I was dancing for a while now since 16 years old. I'm turning 30 this year 2020! It started out by accident, but it ended up being something that I just loved to do because it gave me a outlet where I could express my weirdness, as well as feelings that I just kept to myself. I took classes, did recitals, and even did street jams where I would just dance in public with a boom box or just simple speakers with friends. However in 2013, I left Philippines for a year to live in United States to do my internship as a culinary arts student. That took up a big chunk of my life, and the only times I got to have dance sessions were when I would dance with my roommates at the gym during day off or after work, with my Peruvian boss who introduced me all these styles like bachata or latin ballroom (hence why I love a lot of Latino food, culture, and things), and at the club where my friends and I would just go out and celebrate having a great time! 
Seeing Machu Picchu in person makes you very appreciative with life. I am so lucky to be alive and healthy to explore Peru!
So when I got back to Philippines after being gone for a year, I decided to go back into dancing again, even though the dance studio was pretty far from my home because I was waiting for my graduation ceremony from college. I took up the dance style popping since that's one of the first dance styles that I actually took seriously, apart from contemporary in high school, and hip hop in college. After doing lessons and the recital, I left again for Japan. I traveled, explored, fell in love with the country, and had the time of my life. But when I got back, reality hit me. I needed to start working. Family business, kitchen life, etc. The dance studio I went to a lot was all the way in Tandang Sora, Quezon City, and my work was in Makati City, which is considerably far from each other (around 2 hours drive, given the unbearable traffic in Manila). So I had to give that up for a bit. I did take dance classes sometimes, but it was more of the dance workouts like Zumba or 360 Body Jam.
Hokkaido, Japan during the snow festival season was such an amazing experience for all!
So working and then falling in love with traveling from 2014 to 2018, I completely forgot about taking dance classes because most of the great dance studios are far away from me. I did have moments where I did take up some dance sessions at certain events, but not one where I was consistent at it. I got into the Couchsurfing community in 2018. The friends I made there have been so amazing, loving, and supportive, and they are part of the reason towards why I decided to go do the things I wanted to do. They complemented me, and just encouraged me. While I was traveling from Europe, to Japan, to all the way to South America in Brazil and Peru, I saw many street dancers there. Performing just randomly on the streets with a boom box. I kept thinking to myself: I really miss dancing, jamming and taking dance lessons and classes. Should I go back? I'm sure the people I met would still accept me back, and go back again. So getting back into Manila, I decided to take one dance class, and the teachers were surprised cause I knew some of them. I realized that I should go back because it just kept sparking joy into my life!
Experiencing Fushimi Inari orange shrines in Kyoto, Japan is a must for all travelers and explorers!
Fast forward to 2019, a friend of mine in the dance community that I took classes with said that there is a dance studio opening up in Makati, which is not too far away from where I am working. I took up the pop up class randomly, and fell in love with the classes so much. I decided to go back, use majority of my Saturdays to go and have fun there, and try doing more things that spark joy in my life. Forget what other people would say, and forget what negative people and complainers have to say about it. This is what made me happy, and this is what I wanted to keep doing because it made me happy. Cut out and ignore those people who think it's a waste of time, and it won't go anywhere. They don't spark joy, and not everything you do has to be something that will make you rich. How about doing something just solely just because of the fact that it makes you happy, right?
The Twelve Apostles in Great Ocean Road in Melbourne, Australia was so breathtaking for me! Absolutely incredible!
So throughout 2019, I did dance classes every week most of the time or hang out with my Couchsurfing friends at least twice a week! I did a lot of soul searching, finding out what really makes me happy instead of doing what I think others would expect me to do. Being back at dance life, I became more comfy with myself. I have met some amazing people through dance, and through having that kind of lifestyle, I have decided that this is something that I would like to keep doing for now because of how happy it's made me. These two things made me so comfortable to be okay with myself, as well as to forget those who think otherwise. Even in other countries, I would like to keep on dancing, and keep on being more and more myself. That may have kept me from writing and posting new content here, but there are more outlets where I could express my life experiences online such as Instagram*! I have come to realize that I shouldn't be so hard on myself, and that I need to surround myself more often with people who spark joy into my life, even though they are not my classmates in high school or college or even the same race! So maybe this 2019, it was all about being able to do more of what makes me happy, and learning to love myself more. 
Appreciate the smell and appearance of mother nature like these flowers in Hiroshima, Japan during Cherry Blossom season!
So far at the current condition of 2020, it's not exactly been the most happiest or the most positive experience, given the situations going on in my country Philippines, as well as the whole world (Bush fires, death of an amazing icon, Coronavirus, etc.) But I realize one thing: life goes on. And you can choose to either keep looking back the past and dwell on it, or appreciate the little beautiful things in life, and hopefully have a positive outlook in life for a better future. It's really difficult to be positive in a city where traffic takes up almost half of your life, and you constantly hear complainers and toxic people everywhere. But having those outlets such as dance, travel, friends through the community  of exploring and dancing for me makes life so much more worth living! I hope that you find what sparks joy in your life, pursue it, and hopefully inspire others to do the same!
Looking at the amazing view of Kiyomizu-dera in Kyoto, Japan! Admire and appreciate the beautiful nature!
*To see my travel pics, special moments, or just my day to day life, follow me on Instagram @yrwinty.  Please and thank you so much!