What’s it really like moving overseas?

Great morning to everyone from the islands!  It’s been a while since our last blog post – apologies for the lack of updates during the transition, while navigating through the challenges of moving to another hemisphere, terrorism, martial law, and shootings during our journey.  But suffice to say we’re alive and well ….. Our family of five recently packed up our lives into a few pieces of luggage and moved from TX to Southeast Asia this year after having a love-affair with Philippines.  We’ve been living here for almost 4 months now and have been getting a lot of questions about our lives so far.  The first two questions people ask are, “Why did you move?” and “How do you like living there?”

My wife Joan and I share several passions in life, one of which is pizza and another one being Travel.  Our marriage started on a snowboarding trip to Schweitzer Idaho, when I proposed to her in a freezing snowstorm on New Years Eve 2004.  We also had our wedding in Italy in the hill-country outside of Rome and honey-mooned all over Europe, which deepened our love for pizza (and eachother of course ;).  Our travel frequency waned after having kids, but after breaking beyond limiting beliefs about family travel, we started globe trotting all together.  Traveling with kids is another thing people ask us about, but that’s a whole different topic – we’ll save that for another day…. But our exploration of this world gave so much connection to others in meeting people from all different walks of life, and we learned so much about things outside of our normal routine.  We decided to give our family and children the opportunity to get full-immersion experiences to expand their education not just in the classroom but in the small towns in Europe, the coasts of Australia, and most especially about our own heritage and culture in the Philippines.  Plus we decided to take advantage of living in the current and unique environment where technology allows anyone to communicate with world through an internet connection, create income streams to live on and invest/grow wealth, and truly live a laptop lifestyle.

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It’s been anything but easy, but it’s been absolutely worth it.  After returning home from a 1 year deployment with the military, my wife and I made the choice to live with no regrets nor reservations.  One of our favorite family movies is the old Disney Classic, Swiss Family Robinson, where a family with 3 sons (we also have 3 boys) gets ship-wrecked onto a deserted island, and watching it with the family sparked a conversation.  The conversation revolved around a few questions: “What if we did what we wanted, when we wanted?  And, where would we live if we could live anywhere?”  The conversation morphed into actual plans and eventually a reality.  So we sold our house, unloaded the bulk of our “stuff,” and packed only the essentials – mainly clothes, books, and laptops. It was pretty therapeutic to donate and let go of the superfluous things we didn’t need.  I’d be lying if I said that leaving our family and friends wasn’t an emotion-filled decision, but we couldn’t escape the dream nor the vision.  Our sense of adventure kept shouting at us until we finally decided it was time.  We’ve been called crazy, reckless, and wild – but we choose to live by the cliche saying: LIFE IS SHORT, CARPE DIEM … (YOLO is a little too new for us old folks 😉

Flash forward to today, we are now living in the La Union Province of the northern Philippines, where the surf is up, the people smile big, and the beer is strong!  The first few months were a huge adjustment getting used new environment.  Spending a holiday at a place is very different than living there.  The true test of a place to call home is moving into a home and getting internet!  We’re still getting used to the pace of things, especially the speed of service and life in general (it took the internet company almost 2 months to activate our service).  There were a number of world-events and irritable situations that made us think about packing up our stuff and moving back to our comfort-zone in Texas, but we talked through the uncertainty and continue to find ways for making our own peace of mind.  It doesn’t take much for the people here living the provincial life to smile & laugh, so we may as well learn from them, adopt the culture, and do the same.  Every day we wake up to the sounds of the ocean, try all kinds of tasty cuisine, spend time with great people, and catch waves when the swell comes in.  Here we get a bite-sized vacation every single day of our lives in La Union, and live a good life with the company and community we’ve discovered.  It was a real treat to discover legit coffee at El Union so good it even impresses Italian travelers; ginormous burgers at Mad Monkeys that give TX beef a run for its money, delectable chocolate perfected by it’s Italian founder at Tigre y Oliva; and unforgettable places to hang out at like Flotsam & Jetsam, where you can escape to a rustic paradise at their hostel, restaurant, and bar.  If these things weren’t enough to put smiles on our faces, the open and awesome group of locals living in San Juan make us feel at home with each person we meet and connect with.  We’re lucky enough to have befriended other people and families who have moved out of their “safe havens” to this cozy little surf town.

There’s a definite shock to the system after the initial move abroad.  It’s tested our patience, discipline, and ability to live in a constant beautiful state.  It’s not like in America, where if you want almost anything, you can easily find a way to get it.  Here, you have to spend an extraordinary amount of time and effort to do even the simplest of things.  Many people look at us like walking ATM’s as they try to charge us triple the price as soon as they hear our “foreign” accents (I do my best Filipino/Tagalog accent, but still sound like poser).  I see things every day that make me say “WTF” on a regular basis, like really bad off-pitch karaoke parties that go into the wee hours in the morning, looking at mirrors that only reflect as high as your chest, the unbelievable ant infestations, or breathing in fumes when people burn their foliage/grass (which they often cut with scissors).  Also, the insects are colossal.  Back home, they say everything is bigger in Texas.  But they haven’t been here, because the cockroaches and bugs (in which the boys love collecting) are like crawling hockey pucks.

Despite our list of complaints, the storm of 1st-worlder-frustration always settles, and we always come to realize the stuff we bitch about here actually is tolerable and not a real threat to our lives or happiness.  Sometimes, we simply have to adapt and compromise some of the little things – like learning to find ways to get comfortable without central air-conditioning or becoming local-vores, eating local food/fruits/veggies instead of what we’re used to in the U.S.  We’ve been forced to learn to be grateful for the things we have instead of counting the crap that bugs us.   Before departure for Asia we planned for the unexpected, but we didn’t expect to throw so many of our plans out the window and have to improvise.  Instead, we get to practice the art of trading expectation for appreciation.  While an element of unknown remains that is both exciting and unnerving, we’re growing more and more comfortable with the uncertainty.   Who knows what we will find or who we will meet in the coming days ahead?   We may find absolute bliss or come across an even greater challenge.  But in any case, you’ll be able to find us spending time as a family, enjoying the beach-life on a surf board, laying in the sand, or eating a fresh catch of the day.  I’ll take that any time of the week instead of the old story of my life sitting at a desk, wasting away working to fulfill someone else’s dream.

If you have any questions for us or would like to drop a line, please comment below.  We’d love to hear from you 🙂  Cheers and Mabuhay!

Love,

The Limitless Family

P.S. If you’d like to know more about how we live our laptop digital nomad lifestyle CLICK HERE 

P.P.S. Bitcoins are pretty freaking awesome too… CLICK HERE to know more

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden

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 Why visit the Philippines?

Our family of 5 went on a tour of the Philippine Islands and it was one of our most memorable trips EVER, if not the most memorable one.  We’ve seen so many breathtaking and unforgettable places and met so many of the happiest people on earth, and there’s so much more to explore and discover.  The Philippines archipelago is comprised of over 7,000 islands, and we only experienced a minuscule fraction at 10+ islands.  Needless to say, we cannot wait to come back again to uncover even more, and are planning another trip already.

If you’re into aesthetically stunning white-sand beaches, exotic turquoise waters, seafood, and experiencing adventure, then the Philippines is a MUST for your bucket list.  Here are some top reasons to visit:

1) See the top beaches & islands in the world

You have to see it in real life to truly know just how stunning the landscapes are. According to Conde Nast Traveler, El Nido was voted #1 as the most beautiful beach IN THE WORLD for several years now (http://www.cntraveler.com/galleries/2015-02-24/top-10-most-beautiful-island-beaches-hawaii-australia).  Travel & Leisure Magazine also lists 3 of the world’s 10 best islands in the Philippines (http://www.travelandleisure.com/worlds-best/islands#intro).

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Guimaras

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Hundred Islands National Park

2) It’s unbelievably inexpensive

It’s almost like shopping at the dollar store: Beer for $1 , Bottle of Rum for $1, Haircut $1, straight-edge shave $1, Full meal with drinks $2, $3 Pedicures, Full body 1 hour massage for $4, Fresh oysters and scallops for $6.  And for you long-term travelers there is “done-for-you/perfectly folded laundry” for $3 per load (usually charged by kilogram).

3) Most everyone speaks English, so it’s easy to communicate and get around

4) Underwater Sealife – snorkeling and diving are pristine and spectacular, with an abundance of exotic animals and lush plant-life

5) Delectable Food – you can get the freshest seafood straight out of the ocean and the sweetest fruits, many you’ve probably never even heard of.  There’s even mango-pizza in Guimaras, which is fantastic!  If you’re tastes are flavored for American food, then rest assured that many well-known American restaurants are available in all major metro areas.

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Fresh Oysters and Scallops in Siquijor

 

6) The People.  Filipinos are happy, always smiling, and love to make friends.  We were even invited to a pig roast when we befriended some locals in Siquijor

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Having Fun with Kids in Umingan, Pangasinan

Here’s some useful info to make your trip more enjoyable and to limit the stress of traveling to a minimum.

Navigating around the Philippines:

Air: Manila, Clark, Puerto Princesa, Cebu, Tagbilaran – strict luggage allowances for both carry-on and check-ins, pay for meals/drinks

Sea: Ferry, Boat (Ocean Jet, http://www.oceanjet.net/, SuperCat, http://www.supercat.com.ph/)

Land: Bus, Jeepney (usually only 7 Pesos/person, Tricycle (usually around $1 per ride), Scooters, Taxi (Uber and/or Grab is available in Manila and Cebu), Hire a Van & Driver for the entire day (usually for about $70, includes gas)

Lodging: Hotels, Pension houses (hostels), AirBnB, VRBO (Home Away), Citi Prestige Credit Card was very helpful with the (4th Night Free benefit).

Shopping:

The Philippine Peso (PHP) is the national currency, and at the time of this blog post the exchange rate is about 1USD to 49.73 PHP.  Credit cards are not widely accepted, except for major metro areas.  International ATM fees rack up very quickly, so talk with your bank for your most convenient access to cash.  There are many currency exchange places, especially in the big cities and malls, but are hard to find on the remote islands, so plan ahead.  In El Nido, for example, be prepared to pay for everything in cash.

Helpful things to pack/have:

– water shoes (some beaches have coarse rocks and coral you’ll be walking on)

– mosquito repellent

– portable battery chargers (for cell phones and cameras – your camera will be working extra hard!)

– electrical adapters (two pronged and three pronged converters).  Most electrical outlets are 220V with two prongs.

– Uber on your mobile phone (for Manila and Cebu).  Grab app (similar to Uber)

– Cash, ATM Cards (activated for overseas use), Credit Cards (with no international fees)

Mobile phone use:

T-mobile users have free international roaming texts and data (4G LTE in Manila and Cebu, 3G and wi-fi in most major metro areas) – check with your provider (click here for T-mobile Roaming info (T-Mobile Roaming).  You can also rent pocket wi-fi devices for extra connectivity.  The remote islands have VERY slow cellular & internet connections, if any.  You can also get a local cell phone where you’ll have to load minutes and data with SMART & GLOBE providers.

If you have any questions, want to know more, or are familiar with the Philippines, please leave a comment below; we would love to hear from you!  Stay tuned for upcoming blog posts with details on our favorite spots in the Philippines.  Cheers to tan-lines and sandy bottoms!

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El Nido

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Tarsier Monkeys in Bohol