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 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 similar passions in life, one of which is pizza and the other 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 ;). We continued to travel after marriage and even globe-trotted after having children. 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, and create income streams to live on and invest/grow wealth.
It has 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, but some toys I have to admit were hard to get rid of. And 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 of the islands calling us. It’s been said all too often, but we have been living 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 month or so was a huge adjustment getting used to living in a new environment. 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). Lots of things 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 eating local food/fruits/veggies instead of what we’ve been accustomed 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’ve learned to be comfortable with 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 another 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!
“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