25 Things I’ve Learned in 25 years

On Sunday, I’ll be halfway to 50.

This birthday comes with a healthy dose of reality. While my friends are buying houses, getting married and settling into their careers, I’m single, working part-time online, living with my mom and don’t have a vehicle (or much else to my name).

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Luckily, a good friend reminded me that it’s all relative. While I may not have fancy objects to show for my 25 years on earth, I have a wealth of experiences. While I may not own any property, I’ve stepped foot on 33 different countries. And while I may not have a stable career, I absolutely love my job, and I am actually getting paid to write travel articles, which has been my dream since I first went to Europe at 11 years old (14 years ago!).

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I’m not claiming to be old and wise just yet, but I have learned a thing or two along my journey. Here are 25 little life lessons I’ve had to learn over the past 25 years.

1. Just go. Renew your passport. Book the plane ticket. Don’t wait to travel on a bet that you’ll be able to do it later – you have no idea what the future has in store.

2. Do what you love, and monetize it. I know it sounds crazy, but there are thousands of people making a living doing what they love. You don’t need to be stuck in a job you loathe.

3. Life is about people, not things. Pour more into your relationships than you do into your possessions.

4. When you go, you go alone. Your body is the only thing that goes in your casket – not your car, your cash, or your expensive clothes. Stop worrying about things so much.

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5. Eat healthier. You will feel better in the long run.

6. Exercise. Ditto.

7. Drink less. Okay, I’m still working on this one.

8. Read. I know it’s not cool, but it’s important to exercise your brain as much as you exercise your body.

9. Learn something new every year. German, French, guitar, saxophone, tap dance, hula hooping, latte art. Whatever it is you want to be able to do, shut down Netflix and learn.

10. Be happy on your own. Don’t settle for someone because you’re afraid to be alone.

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11. Ask for what you want. And if you really want it, keep chasing it, even when you’re rejected. People who land their dream jobs rarely get hired on their first try. Motivation, perseverance and patience pay off.

12. Network, and be nice. You never know who could end up in a position to help you out (or choose not to). Forge professional connections and keep them current.

13. Instagram likes say nothing about your value. What really matters is the people that will pick up the phone when you need them.

14. Take care of your skin. Wash off all your makeup. Wear sunscreen. If you don’t, it’ll show.

15. Have real conversations. Move past recounting drunken escapades and talking about cute boys. Most people are afraid to open up, but if you dig deep, you’ll find a lot of similarities at the core.

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16. Let go of old grudges and rekindle old friendships.

17. Let go of negative people that bring you down. Life is too short to be pessimistic.

18. Surround yourself with people who inspire you, push you, support you, motivate you and bring out the best in you.

19. Tell the people you love that you love them. You never know when they could be taken from you.

20. Forgive. Yourself, too.

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21. Get off the couch and dance in the rain. Jump in the water. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty.

22. Participate. Don’t worry about winning or looking cool; do it for the experience (and the crazy stories you’ll have after).

23. You’re stronger than you realise. And sometimes, the bravest thing you can do is ask for help.

24. Go easy on yourself. You’re still young. You’re still learning. You’re going to make more mistakes, and that’s okay.

25. Never be stagnant. Life is a verb. If you’re not constantly moving, growing, changing and learning, are you really living at all?

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How to make the most of Two Weeks in the Philippines

Google the Philippines (or better yet, Palawan) and you’ll find mouth-watering images of green palm trees, turquoise bays, spider-legged fishing boats and empty beige sand beaches.

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When I flew to the Philippines in December, I discovered something even better: those pictures barely came close to its real-life beauty.

Jared and I spent two weeks travelling through Palawan, Cebu and Bohol. To be honest, it was barely enough time to see it all. We spent the majority of our days motorcycling from dazzling attraction to attraction.

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If you’re going to the Philippines, my advice is to choose between the stunning, sandy beaches of Palawan and the natural waterfalls hidden in the jungle in Southern Cebu. Or, if you’re like me and Jared and FOMO makes you have to see it all, follow our way-too-rushed itinerary:

Day One

Give yourself a full day to get from your POD to Manila and on to Puerto Princesa. We spent the night in The Bamboo Nest, which was the best place we stayed in the entire country. Picture this: hammocks strung between hand-bent bamboo rooms, adorned with local art. Literally my idea of heaven.

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Day Two

Rent a motorcycle from your host and head to Nagtabon Beach. We were lucky enough to spend Christmas Day here with a bunch of locals and even made a sandman with some long-term expats. Of course I brought my banjolele to serenade the waves.

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Day Three

Order a cozy air-conditioned van to El Nido. The drive is long, windy and squishy – you’ll share with 4-6 other travellers. When you arrive, you’ll find a seaside town that attracts beach-bum tourists, without the usual high-rise resorts that tend to overtake beautiful islands like this.

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We checked in to our quaint cabin at Eco Sommer Residence. It’s a little ways from town in Corong-Corong, but if you’re looking for a secluded, romantic spot, this is it.

Day Four

Get to know El Nido! Wander the touristy core, order a fresh mango smoothie, use the free wifi at Artcafe, haggle for new sunglasses at the pop-up market stalls and browse the cute boutiques for unique souvenirs.

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Day Five

Head out on a boat tour! We took Tour A, which had several fantastic snorkeling spots. We stopped at the most gorgeous beach for a swim, bought beers and coconuts from a man in a kayak and climbed through a little cave to a warm-water pool. Lunch was included and served on the beach next to a Komodo dragon (seriously). Our boat broke down half-way through the day, which (honestly) just made for a better adventure.

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Once we arrived back to town, we went to a restaurant where we could pick which fish we’d like fried for our dinner. We ate buttery garlic shrimp and fish with our feet in the sand (and ocean, once the tide crept in).

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Day Six

You’re probably sick of the other tourists by now, so rent a scooter and get the heck out of El Nido. Drive up to Nacpan Beach (voted the best in the world, so you have to see it) but then keep driving. There is a plethora of stunning sand beaches along the coast, some of them with ZERO OTHER PEOPLE. Go find your own little slice of paradise. (You won’t need to look far.)

Island Tour A

Day Seven

Say goodbye to El Nido and hop in a van back to Puerto Princesa. We spent the night (which happened to be New Year’s Eve) in a gorgeous hotel with an outdoor pool, sipping rum and pineapple juice.

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Island life is tough.

Day Eight

Fly out of Puerto Princesa and arrive in Cebu city. Grab some grub and check into your hotel.

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Cebu city is big, bustling and pretty grungy. We opted to spend minimal time in the cities and get back to island paradise.

Day Nine

Explore the (random) massive assortment of huge shopping centers and indulge in a Starbucks drink (if you’re like me, you’re craving actual coffee after days of instant) before hopping on a bus that will take you south. Tell the bus driver to drop you off at Noordzee Hostel.

Day Ten

Wake up for sunrise across the ocean. Since the beaches are pebbly here, it’s time to venture into the jungle.

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Rent a scooter and drive around the southern tip of the island, following signs to nearby waterfalls. The major ones are must-sees, but our favourites were the lesser-known waterfalls. Just as majestic as the popular falls, these ones come with a smaller price tag and literally no one else. Bamboo raft all to myself? Don’t mind if I do.

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Day Eleven

Take the ferry over to Bohol. We stayed in the Tower (find it on AirBNB). We were tired after so much travelling, so we stayed close to home the first day and went snorkeling at the beach just down the road. Sadly, it wasn’t very vibrant – it seems like a lot of the marine life here has died. On our way back, Jared ate chicken intestine cooked over coals by some 10-year-old girls. Then we went into town for an actual dinner.

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Day Twelve

Rent a motorcycle and go to White Beach and Dumaluan Beach for snorkeling. When night falls, head to Alona Beach for Pina Coladas and the best nightlife on the island.

Day Thirteen

Take the ferry back to Cebu island and catch the bus up to Cebu City. Spend the night if necessary, and if not, head straight to the airport for the long flight home.

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There you have it – an amazing two weeks in the Philippines. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to the Chocolate Hills, and we didn’t go whale shark diving because the animals are baited (which is never a good thing!).

But we did do a lot. We ate really weird and delicious dishes at somewhat sketchy roadside stalls, got a flat tire and spent the afternoon with eight families living in a few bamboo huts, found ourselves on random empty beaches, swam in mindblowingly beautiful waterfalls, got lost down dirt roads and drank a lot of local beer.

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We had a fantastic trip to the Philippines. Because we were constantly on-the-go, I feel like I spent the majority of my time on the back of a motorcycle, holding a cold beer while zipping past the ocean.

But hey – that’s definitely not a bad way to spend two weeks.