Our Greatest Journey Yet

Winter 2014: Follow my footsteps and discover new worlds with me.

Granada Nicaragua

In Search or the Perfect Ceviche and other adventures out soon in my TravelOkcity column, Leisure+Adventure Magazine, and here.

Marshall Islands

Got Wasabi? (A deep sea fishing adventure in the Marshall Islands)

Prairie Dog Town

Adventures in the city of Oklahoma and beyond in my travel column, TravelOkcity.

Hefner Lake Park

Adventures in the city of Oklahoma and beyond in my travel column, TravelOkcity.

Huahin, Thailand

The warm hospitality of a boutique hotel in the beach resort town of royalty in the northern part of the Malay Peninsula.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Late Bloomer (Spring 2014)

Once again the seasons escape like water through my cupped hands. At the start of the year, I had vowed to put the spring banner up before summer comes. But summer is starting to pack up for the colder days.

I have no excuse. It is always the same story: busy, busy, busy, and life has a way of derailing you, throwing curveballs at you – mostly pleasant surprises, but still unexpected. We always plan one international trip and one local trip every year, but God saw it fit that I should cross borders twice this time.
Escape the Spring Break crowd in Tulum, Mexico.

Our first international trip was to Tulum, Mexico. It was a beautiful escape to kick off another exciting year. And as planned, I had my fill of ceviche, margarita, sun, sand, and sea. It also gave us a good dose of culture and history as Tulum is home to one of the best preserved Mayan ruins. Tulum is also the place to go to avoid the Spring Break crowd. While Cancun is overrun by American college kids, Tulum is quietly dotted by hipster Europeans who prefer to soak in the sun in silence. There is a price to pay to avoid the crazy crowd though as everything was pricey, including the shopping.  
Shopping is part of the joys of travel, hoo-hoo! Oh, I love owls too.

We like to fill our home with stuff we had picked up from our travels. For this trip, we bought a beautiful black and white Talavera water dispenser and the fish plate featured on the banner which I use as my ladle rest. I also got this gorgeous Mayan weaved necklace bib made from Chiapas. I like to fill my wardrobe with statement pieces that tell a story, and I’m excited to wear this one on a date night.
My Animo family: Reunited in the Philippines, 2014.

Our second international trip was to the Philippines to visit my ailing mother. Although we had come home expecting the worse, it was surprisingly pleasant in spite of the circumstances. It was the first time that we were reunited (save for my husband who had to stay home because of work) as a family in a long while as we all live in different cities now. We bonded once again as a family, gathered around the table, celebrating family and food (Because in Bacolod, all you do is eat and eat. And eat. And if you have nothing to do, you eat!).
Barber bonding between grandfather & grandkid: priceless.
I could have made the trip without my boy, but my husband had insisted that I bring my son along, knowing how important it is for the little one to spend time with his Filipino family. I am most grateful for that, for a husband who wants his son to form a strong bond with his Filipino heritage. And although we missed my husband’s birthday and our anniversary, seeing my son do everything with his grandfather, made it all worth it (In honor of our anniversary and my amazing life partner, I included the head wreath on the banner. It is my wedding wreath which I wore during our reception, handmade for me by our Marshallese friends.)
Snuck in a little bit of beach time (Carbin Reef, Negros Occidental)
Father and grandson went to the barber’s and the bakery together. Every weekday Tatay would drive my son to school although it was within walking distance. He would sit patiently while the toddler ran around the playground and while I paced, impatient and ready for lunch. We had been home for over a month now and every day, my son would say, “I want to go to the Philippines.”
My son's teachers at Creative Beginners.
And yes, he went to school for a couple of weeks. I thought I would deal with some crying once I left him at the classroom, but the moment the classroom door was closed between us, he forgot about me. I also enjoyed the whole experience as much as he did (because I knew the owner, every now and then I was allowed to watch unobserved even when parents are really discouraged to.) The letter F on the banner is one of his little projects at school, and of course, it stands for his name and “family”.
My Mother's Day backyard breakfast prepared by my boys.
Like the birds who had been banished by winter and returned at the last frost, spring also saw me tweeting to celebrate the blooming of life. Twitter was another time suck that I didn’t have the time or the interest for, but I joined it for a project which I later abandoned. Although the project was shelved (maybe for now), my Twitter account soared. As of today, I have over 9,000 followers and close to 900 fans. Not bad, for a fledging Twit, I think. And if you want to know how I did it, email me. I’ll be more than happy to share my secret. In fact, I might write about it soon.

Come travel with me aboard a different vehicle!
And just as @wwwAnaViajera took flight, it also opened some doors for me. First, it connected me to kindred spirits: writers, photographers, artists, and dreamers. It gave me the venue to share my photos and to earn some approval from fellow artists. I am overwhelmed and surprised by the number of Retweets and Favorites that my photos have been getting (the ones from fellow writers and photographers give me the most high). I also have a couple of established photographers emailing me to discuss my work. On top of that, my posts have been featured in a few travel sites like Geotravellers, Bluegreenresorts, and another travel site that currently slips my mind. In all the spring madness, there are so many things that have escaped me, and there are probably several milestones that I fail to include here.
My photo was featured on Blue Green Resorts and a few other sites.
But I digress. Through Twitter, I was also invited to write for Editorial IV, a news website for leaders and movers, a venue for intelligent debate. I was honored to be invited as guest contributor and thankful to be given the opportunity to share my thoughts on the equation of success.  You'll find the article here.
Another new writing opportunity presented itself to me through Pinay.com, a site that inspires Filipina women to shine. I appreciate how the site allows me to write about issues that are close to my heart. Read one of my stories here.
Easter is like Christmas for this family.
And as always, spring bloomed for us without fail. My son continues to blossom as he celebrated another Christmas in Easter. Yes, Easter is like Christmas in our household, which I figure is appropriate, because according to Christian teachings, Easter is a more important holiday than –eep- Christmas. Yes, you read it here.
After all, it is Easter that gives Christmas it’s meaning. Without the empty tomb, the significance of the cradle in the manger would be just as empty. Not many are aware that the Easter season is actually observed for 50 days until the seventh Sunday of Easter. And so it is that we would have several Easter egg hunts and treats throughout spring in our household. And looking at my son eye’s shine every time he gets his Easter treats makes me feel like a child on Christmas morn all over again.
The children’s classic Guess How Much I Love You, represents our Easter celebration. It was something I’ve always wanted for my child, even before I got married. It is a recordable book from our beloved Aunt Tracy. We also have a smaller travel version, a gift from friends during one of my baby showers (I had two!).
Another book on my desk is A Fine St. Patrick’s Day by Susan Wojciechowski in honor of - you guessed it – St. Patty’s Day, another important holiday for this family. I may have mentioned this before, but my boys are part Irish. I also love everything Irish. The first Irishman I met was a priest who officiated one of our masses in St. Scholastica’s Academy back in grade school. I can’t remember how he looks like. All I remember vividly was his ruddy cheeks, his engaging sense of humor, and his lilting accent. He also said the Irish loved to drink. I thought then that the Irish were the most interesting people in the world. Oh, and did I tell you that I love U2?
Almost everyone in my husband’s family has already been to Ireland, so our first European trip will more than likely be to Dublin and Galway to find Finnegan’s forefathers (just putting it out there in case the universe is reading).
Spring saw me another year older and wiser. I got my wish too!
And finally, Twitter got me waxing poetic and inspired as every now and then I would compose my own quips and quotes about travel and life. I know I am no Dalai Lama and I probably have no business composing inspirational rhetoric, but these are thoughts and observations that I’ve picked up along the way through my journeys, some I may have unintentionally and subconsciously picked up from enlightened beings and made my own.
I’ll be leaving you with a few lines that I think best suit this blossoming period of my life:
There is no such thing as true love. Love that is not true is not love at all. Love is love. There is no other kind.”
“Love is a travel story. Travel is a love story. What's your story?”
And because it is good to be home:
“The best destination is home.”
Some of the spring blooms in our backyard - Zinnias!

More spring blooms. A gift from a friend.

As the seasons change, so will my desktop banner. I will be adding little touches to it, moving the items around, and customizing it for the season. I will archive its transformation on My Desk. 

Read more about how I put the banner together and how my real writer's desk looks like at My Desk. And tell me how your desk looks like, and I will tell you who you are.


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

My love story

Published by Pinay.com

I once met a Spanish dreamer who said that “travel is a love story.”

My husband and I had just arrived at her little rustic inn hidden by trees from the rest of Little Corn Island, and she had asked me what I did for a living.  I told her I was a travel writer which started her waxing poetic. Watching her looking out at the sea, her eyes reflecting the quiet ebbing of the waves, she got me thinking of what we had to go through to get there.

Sitting on the edge of the Caribbean, Little Corn Island is one of Nicaragua’s best kept secrets. To get there, my husband and I had to get on a 10-seater plane from the city of Managua. After lurching and wobbling through the clouds for one and a half hours, it got us to Big Corn Island in one piece.

At Big Corn, a cheerful Creole drove us to the dock where we waited for our boat at a restaurant by the water, observing dark-skinned fishermen clean their catch on the shoreline. We watched the fish being gutted and its blood streaming like a dream into the water. Our ceviche was as fresh as could be.

The boat was larger than our plane, but we were packed like excited sardines baking under the sun. It rocked uncertainly under our weight. When we finally arrived at Little Corn, the journey was far from over. We walked for 30 minutes, dragging our heavy bags along a roughly cleared path through the jungle.  Coconut trees nodded overhead as if to say, “welcome,” but I hardly noticed. I was thirsty, tired, and my shoes were digging blisters on my heels. I wanted to blame my husband for choosing a place so difficult to get to. Instead I bit my lip, because I could hear him cursing under his breath, having to carry my extra load.
Read the rest of the story here.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

What’s Missing in the Read+Write Equation of Success

An excerpt from my guest post in Editorial IV, a place for news, opinions, leaders, and intelligent debate. 

I’ve read quite a number of writer’s memoirs not only because they are interesting reads, but also because I’m constantly looking for ways to improve my craft. There is plenty to learn from them in the craft of writing and the art of living. What they all have in common is that they all subscribe to the Read+Write equation for success. According to many of the literati, if you want to be a great writer, then you must read much and write more. It is a tried and tested formula resulting usually to a Pulitzer Prize or a spot on the N.Y. Times bestseller list.

Writing while on assignment at Huahin, Thailand.

Some have even longer equations like read+write+read, read+read+write+write, and several other combinations. Each one promises success. But whatever happened to the variant called “live”, I wonder. What about living? Shouldn’t that be part of the equation too? In fact, shouldn’t it be the most important part of the formula?

One of my favorite writers answers by saying that if you want to be a great writer, you must forget about having a life. And that’s when the equation fell apart for me.    He said that when he waits in line, to buy a ticket for instance or wait at the doctor’s office, his nose is always half buried between pages. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather people watch. I prefer watching the mom with a crying baby on one arm and a phone on the other while a toddler tugs at her leg, and I wonder how she manages it all. I think about how it must be like in the morning when several things are pulling her in different directions. I imagine there is a dog or cat waiting at home too, waiting to be fed. All this visualizing - isn’t that in a way storytelling too? Or at least, the beginnings of a story?

The books can wait (Tulum, Mexico).

Pardon me if I fail to mention the name of this royalty of the letters whose words I consider gospel (except for this “not having a life” part). I couldn’t find my copy of his writer’s memoir, and I don’t want to misquote him. What I’m writing about is simply what I remember from reading his book which is like most of his novels- pulls you in and never lets go (if you want to know who this writer is and what the title of the book is email me at www.anaviajera.com).

Maybe I am wrong. Maybe the the reason why I do not have a notable award to speak of yet is because I would rather romp barefoot on the grass than sit inside, forsaking the sun, to read about life although it is out there waiting for me.

Read the complete article at Editorial IV.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Still on a different Time Zone? Here's how to Beat Jet Lag

Ahh...the pains you have to go through to get to paradise (Corn Island, Caribbean).
Published by Action and Fitness Magazine

You’re back in Manila, but your mind and body clock is still in New York. That’s not a good thing when there is a night and day difference between cities. Everyone around you is getting up and at ‘em, while you walk around in a daze, ready to crash any moment. You got the travel bug, and it’s not the good kind. It’s called jet lag, the kind that punishes your body for the 14 hour long haul flight and the 12 hour time difference. There’s is no way you can turn back time, but there is a way to squash the bug. Here are a few quick turnaround tips:


Quick fixer-uppers
Hydrate – drink lots of fluids before, during, and after the flight. The dry cabin air can leave you dehydrated and can make you feel more tired than you already are. And when we say drink lots of fluids, we don’t mean the complimentary in flight beer or vodka on the rocks.

Rest – make sure you’re well rested before your trip. If you’re tired before you travel, jet lag will even be worse. Get a full night’s sleep before you take off.

Exercise – a no brainer, don’t you think? Staying in good shape in general can do lots of wonders. Stick to your exercise schedule. Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean your fitness routine should be on leave too.

Stretch - Athletes stretch and warm up before the game. You can benefit from that as well. Stretch out your limbs before the flight. Doing so helps your muscles and joints endure the hours of inactivity. You can also do it during the flight.


Fly fully equipped – bring a neck pillow, a blindfold, slippers, and earplugs. Wear loose fitting clothes so your body can breathe. Your feet may swell up while in transit; avoid high heels or snug footwear.

Freshen up – while in flight, wash your face, brush your teeth, or even change undies. Freshening up can be rejuvenating.

Go decaf -   After the equivalent of 1 P.M. in your destination, refrain from drinking coffee.  Caffeine can greatly affect your snooze time and will make it more difficult for you to adjust to the new time zone.

Eat up – on the first few days of your trip, eat light snacks every few hours. Doing so will help keep your metabolism cranked throughout the day. It will also help prevent possible food coma from overeating.

Adapt - upon arrival, follow the schedule of the time zone you are in.  Even if you don’t feel like it yet, eat when the locals eat. Same goes for your sleeping schedule.

Shower – take a nice cold shower if you arrive in the morning. A shower after you’ve landed will make you feel refreshed and will help stimulate circulation. If you arrive at night, a hot shower or bath will help you relax before bedtime.

Readjusting your clock

According to the National Sleep Foundation, it will take you about a day to adjust for each time zone travelled.  Adjust your snooze button before your departure.  Several days before your flight:
Westward:  always wake up an hour later and sleep an hour later
Eastward: always wake up an hour earlier and sleep an hour earlier

You can also pre adjust by regulating your light exposure before your departure. If you’re heading:
Westward: expose yourself to light in the late afternoon and evening, and stay away from light in the morning 
Eastward: expose yourself to light in the morning, and stay away from light in the evening

Anti-jetlag diet  

Follow the following diet days before you’re scheduled to leave:

4 days before – start the Argonne Diet by consuming large meals. Opt for a high-protein breakfast and lunch. For dinner, stock up on the carbohydrates. Coffee intake should be limited between three and five in the afternoon.

3 days before – eat small. Total calorie consumption should not be more than 800 calories. You won’t be running a marathon so easy on the carbohydrates as well. Again, limit caffeine intake between three to five P.M.

2 days before – Gobble it all up. Eat large meals. Again, prepare high-protein meals for breakfast and lunch, and a high-carbohydrate dinner. Limit caffeine intake between three to five P.M.

1 day before – eat small and light. Total calorie consumption should not be more than 800 calories. Similarly, limit carbohydrate consumption. If you’re westbound, caffeine should only be taken in the morning. If you’re heading the opposite direction, coffee should be limited in the evenings.

Departure day – If it’s a long haul flight, sleep until breakfast time at your destination. Consume large meals with a big, high-protein breakfast.  

To pill or not to pill

Taking sleep aids may help you get a good sleep, but incorrect sleep medication, can only make jet lag worse. Here are some things to consider before popping the pill:
-          The National Sleep Foundation does not recommend over the counter sleep aids as they may cause a severe hangover effect.
-          If you are considering melatonin, a hormone produced by the body to induce sleep, take a pill at the time you wish to sleep at your destination, beginning three to four days before your trip.
-          Drink 0.5 to 5 mg of melatonin no earlier than three hours before you wish to go to sleep.
-          Taking melatonin with a light therapy box is known to reduce the effects of jet lag. A light therapy box gives off light that mimics outdoor light. It is often used to treat depression and other conditions caused by exposure to bright artificial light.
-          For a good four hour sleep, consider Sonata.
-          For long haul flights, you may want to take Lunesta. This sleep medication guarantees about 8 hours of sleep.
-          If you’re using Ambien, avoid taking it for a flight that is less than 8 hours long. Also, do not take with alcohol.
-          Remember that taking sleeping pills can cause nausea, dizziness, confusion, headache, vomiting, and dry mouth.
-          You may also want to try antihistamines and motion sickness pills to induce sleep.
-          Consult your doctor before taking any of these medications.
Get moving in-flight

If you’re not getting any sleep, might as well get moving. Combat discomfort, poor circulation, swelling, cramps, and lethargy by exercising in flight.  
-          Walk around the aisles when seatbelts signs are off.
-          Squeeze a tennis ball or even a balled up sock with your hands until they’re tired.
-          You derrière gets the most beating during long haul flights. Exercise your gluteus muscles by flexing and holding as long as possible.
-          With the balls of your feet planted, raise your legs using the calf muscles. Place your hand carry on your knees for more resistance. Repeat until tired.
-          Do repetitive, head, shoulder, and arm rolls.
-          Stretch your arms and legs constantly. Arch your torso forward and backwards like a cat.