I’m happy to welcome Trisha Velarmino to the latest interview session of EuroTribe. She’s the main person behind P.S. I’m On My Way blog and in this session we’ll talk about volunteering, productivity, jobs and other interesting stuff. Before we start you can also follow Trisha on Facebook and Twitter. Enjoy!
1. Hello Trisha, tell everyone about yourself!
I am from a small town in the Philippines called Subic Bay. When I was 20, I left home to study in Italy at the same time, do my internship. Living in Europe triggered my love for traveling. I used to have a fashion blog, because of my work but it slowly transitioned to being a travel blog. I realised I didn’t want to write about Fashion Week in Paris anymore as I had more interest in learning French, eating and being culturally involved. I spent most of my time doing this than focusing on my job. When I came back to the Philippines, my studies in Milan really helped me land good jobs. I was offered contracts left and right, from the smallest to the biggest fashion companies in the country. I did not have any difficulties getting a job so I picked one. I stayed for a year and again, realised that I wasn’t happy despite the salary and lifestyle. Though I thought it was “the one” for me, it turned out it wasn’t. I quit, packed my bags and left last year. Up until today, I am living a life of travel for almost 20 months, covering all the countries of South America.
2. What was the main reason to leave fashion industry and pursue the life of travel?
It’s superficial. I made friends of course, but this industry is the most tedious in the world. I have no regrets of at least trying to fit in but I didn’t want to force myself to be happy. A lot of people get trapped with their current lifestyle but I had to break the barriers no matter what others said. I followed my heart and it led me here. Do you know that feeling when you are literally forcing yourself to get up in the morning to work? I didn’t want to do that anymore. I just woke up one day and said, “I’m done. I’m leaving.”
3. As many people associate travel with being rich, I wonder how do you debunk that myth? How do you fund your travels?
I get that a lot. I am from a country where people look at travel as a luxury activity. I think you’ll get used to it as time passes by. I never wanted to explain myself but when I came here, I learned a lot of ways to keep myself on the road. I do a lot of things, actually. I volunteer in exchange for food and accommodations, Couchsurfing, house-sitting, au-pairing and stayed with local families. Of course, I need money too! I get a regular income in teaching English and working as a social media marketer online. Both of these jobs allow me to work from anywhere in the world.
4. Which jobs are the best if you are constantly on the move and how difficult it is to actually get them?
I would highly recommend online jobs. To avoid overhead expenses, most start-ups in the United States look for employees online. You can be a Virtual Assistant, Graphic Designer, or anything that needs computer skills. All you need is a laptop and you’re good to go — whether you’re in front of the beach in Copacabana, chilling in an island in Thailand or on a Carribean cruise, you can do this. We call these jobs location independent. Of course you need wifi too!
5. What are your favorite budget accommodation options and which one do you recommend the most?
B&Bs, I guess. It’s cheap and you have a place for yourself. I’ve been living in dorms for over a year now because of my volunteering jobs and believe me, I am tired of it. B&Bs are bordering luxury and cheap travel so I am pretty sure everyone can afford it.
6. So you do freelance work and you also volunteer in hostels and bars. How do you manage all that without going crazy? Explain your ideal day and how you deal with productivity.
Oh my God, you have no idea. I cannot believe I am able to manage all these in 24 hours but I guess time helps. I wake up really early to walk, do yoga and eat breakfast. Food is very important for me. At 8:00, I start working on my blog and social media platforms. My online work is based in the US. Since I am in South America, I am 4 hours ahead of them so I can work around midday or after lunch. Most of my English students spend their whole day at school and work so I only do classes with them after work hours. During the night, I’m just dead and want to sleep but of course, I still have time for some beers with friends. Crazy, right? But as I’ve told you, when you are out here, you have to find ways to survive. I definitely shut off from my laptop or any work over the weekend. This is where I get to explore places and give myself a break.
7. I imagine traveling with A Philippine passport is not an easy task. What are some of the difficulties that you face? Did visa requirements keep you from visiting certain countries?
Well, yes. But in South America, Filipinos can travel in 6 out of 13 countries visa-free. Fortunately, visa applications have been easy too. Everyone believes that applying outside their home country is difficult but it’s not. I was able to do some last minute visa applications here (for example, Argentina and Chile), hassle-free. At first, I didn’t think it was possible but it’s all about how you present yourself. The idea is not too common to everyone but you need to try it first before you say “no. It’s not possible.”
8. Do you exercise on the road and how do you find time for that? Do you have any tips to share, any great website or app?
I used to believe that it’s not doable but I realised, if I wanted to travel more, I have to take care of my health. When I stay in one place for a long time, I do running every morning and the afternoon. If I am on “vacation” (short trips), I make sure I find time to do yoga and meditation. Nothing hardcore really. Oh, I also do spinning classes when staying in one city for more than a month.
9. You’re a big fan of volunteering. Why? Why would you convince someone to do it? What are the benefits?
A genuine cultural experience. I am very fluent in Spanish now and I didn’t even take classes. I just volunteered and put myself in situations where I don’t have to speak English. Volunteering will also make you humble and appreciate the worth of other people’s jobs. I was a receptionist and a bartender for a long time now. I even cleaned and fixed hostel beds for the duration of my Volunteering. I realised that these jobs are not easy and more often than not, most of us take them for granted. I also learned about the importance of tipping. I am not from a tipping country but after experiencing these jobs, I developed a habit of leaving at least $1-$5 for service. These people are hard workers and you wouldn’t realise that not unless you’ve been in that position.
10. Mention one book that inspired you to travel.
On The Road Again – Ernesto “Che” Guevara
11. What blogs do you like to read?
I admire those blogs who are true to themselves and write about what’s really happening when you are out here. I like blogs which are honest. There’s a quite a few but you know, in the travel blogging world, adventure and destination posts are the one which sells. I love those blogs who would not compromise their dignity to earn money. I love travel bloggers who keep on writing despite the low traffic they have. For me, being true to yourself is more important than selling what you write.
12. What’s one advice that you’d give to a girl wanting to embark on a solo travel adventure?
Like most of us, we will always start with fear and that is perfectly normal. I highly recommend to start traveling in your home country — somewhere comfortable. Go on a weekend drive and make it a habit. Try eating in restaurants or drinking in bars alone. This will enable you to meet other people and learn from their experiences. Build your confidence at home and slowly drift from the normal activities you do with friends and family until you become really independent. As soon as you feel the confidence, do not delay, book your ticket and never look back. The more you wait, the more it will never happen.