Stop counting years, let the adventures begin!

The Canopy Walk in Swaziland’s pristine forests was one of the most exciting glides I have done. Doing it with adventurous friends doubled the fun. What is your most daring experience ever?

This March, istoryya.com is excited to share the lives of over 36 women from all over the world. Telling us their life, love and lessons, these women will show us how beautiful life is, and how we can go for the adventures we want – that impossible does not exist.

Limits exist when we impose it on ourselves. You’ve read that so many times. But you must have decided it can happen only to others. Are you crazy? Why not?

My life is a fascinating journey of storytelling. Whether I did it in a silver-chromed chair in a sleek office in Singapore, in a colorful rug under a scorching warm Indian sun, in a freezing tent in a camp in Iraq or a decaying wood in a thatched-roofed African hut, the stories never failed to enchant me.

I was once upon a time, a skinny-weeny girl who wondered how her life could be the same with those who can have dolls that blink and lovely dresses with frills.

Apart from the fact that my life is no fairytale, all I wanted was to afford a truckload of books and write non-stop. These are my definition of luxury those days.

Fast forward, I can now buy books more that I can read them. Do not get too impressed, my favorite hangout was a nearby second hand bookshop.

Honestly, I did not even consider traveling would come with it –too expensive for me even in a dream. It came as a bonus! My succeeding jobs just swept me off to places responding to global emergencies. And yes, my job does a lot of writing, 90 percent of it.

The best part is, I get to listen to stories of people – all colors, all walks of life, all the drama and suspense. Wherever we come from and no matter how boring we think our lives are (we always assume that) – we have a unique life, a story to tell. It can never be the same with anyone.

Nevertheless, there is always that common ground that binds us together. Trust me.

My story as a woman who got married at 18 and have three children before my 30th can be as common as your next-door mom’s life. But mine did not stop there. I took it a bit further – and I did it!

I got to blogging (as most of the bloggers I guess) to inspire more women never to give up on their dreams even when balancing them with motherhood and bills. All because I have proven it is doable.

Ask the person seated next to you. She has a story to share, I bet. Imagine how rich our lives will be if we are able to stop, ask and listen? Have you even listened to your grandma, mother, your sister, your aunt?

I hope this new phase of istoryya.com will give you the courage to pursue the life of adventure you want. Tell us if you have done it. Tell us if you are at it.

One thing for sure, if you can think of it, you can do it. Stop counting years, start logging adventures!

This weekend, our first guest blogger is Alina Shresta from Kathmandu, Nepal.

Alina is a communications manager in an humanitarian organization and a happily married mom of two boys.

Growing up watching Bollywood films, Alina always dreamed of marrying the man she will fall in love with. What if fate intervenes in the form of her parents and saves her the trouble of finding her knight in shining armor?

For all their good intentions, Alina tried to duck and dive from an arranged marriage. Did her parents succeed? What will you do if you are Alina and tradition gets in the way of your plans?

Please join me in welcoming Alina in istoryya.com and her funny but insightful story “Marrying in Nepal: Fall in love or get arranged?” about settling down in Nepal and finding the man of your dreams in a way you least expected.

Then tell us if your courage and your zest to life are as bold as Alina’s!

 

Hold it! Istoryya.com is also coming with a fantastic bonus.

Ready for Taiwan!

Madison the explorer, your tiny adventurer, will soon join us in the Traveling Mom & Toddler page with her mom Diane sharing their travel exploits in Japan, Hong Kong and soon – in Taiwan.

Maddie, as we all fondly call her, will give us tips how to be one-year old and start traveling. Watch them and their fun trips!

 

 

 

@ 52: Over to the next journey

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Before you scroll down the page, I advise you to read this old blog so you are properly warned.

I have something to tell you. When I got to my 30’s, I imagined it will be a downhill rollercoaster-ride. When they say life begins at 40, I felt that’s a bad joke to appease people getting there.

Today, I turn 52 but I feel like I am 22 and life has just began. Okay, that’s cheesy. Let’s try this – my life is going full circle and the best thing is, it’s going the way I wanted it to be.

Age is in the mind. I have a five-decade experience figuring that so you better believe me.

If you want to run the race and win it, it doesn’t really matter if you are 18 or 78. It’s what you think you can. For me, life got more exciting when I went past my 30’s. Honestly. The children grew – there was less baby-sitting to do.

Not perfect but they are nice kids. I could complain, and nag, but deep inside I tell myself I’m lucky. I started early at 18, and that gave me a wide head-start at being mom.

It was exhilarating to have landed a job in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq this year. I never even planned or much less imagined a tour of duty in the Middle East! Think of the wide-eyed reaction of people around me. They know better than to argue.

travelBut when I got the offer, I know I will go. Have you gone through a time when everyone disagreed with but you know you have to? (My kids would probably tell you, ‘You do it all the time, Mom!’)

I have this one nagging feeling that God’s promise of the best that is yet to come is a never-ending assignment. Fancy that!

I wanted 2015 to be more on giving back and enjoy what God wants me to do. He never fails to surprise.

When things get rough at times, our conversation would be – “Well, God, You’re preparing me for something bigger, don’t you?” All the time, He does.

Last Thursday on my way from Sulaymaniyah to Erbil, I was suddenly flushed with joy at the thought of how privileged I am to be entrusted with the stories of the Iraqi people. I can only salute their strength and endurance that’s so hard to match.

I am a thousand miles away coming from Asia to the Middle East and I was brought here. It is a special assignment delivered on a silver platter. You know it arrived the time I was doing round-the-clock media interviews for Typhoon Hagupit in the Philippines?

There must be a special reason why – and at 52 and onward – I intend to live it. If you know me quite well, you know I will.

Don’t dread getting into your 50’s. That’s when the real fun starts!

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#ThrowbackFriday: Fascinating Old Dhaka

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The buzzling Sadar Ghat Terminal. I am amazed by the boats ferrying people and goods to the other side of the river.

“Old Dhaka is a term used to refer to the historic old city of Dhaka, the capital of modern Bangladesh. It was founded in 1608 as Jahangir Nagar, the capital of Mughal Bengal. It was one of the largest and most prosperous cities of the Indian subcontinent and the center of the worldwide muslin trade. The Nawab of Bengal shifted the capital from Dhaka to Murshidabad in the early-1700s. With the rise of British Calcutta, Dhaka began to stagnate and came to be known as the “City of Magnificent Ruins”. The British however began to develop the modern city from the mid-19th century.” – Wikipedia

There are sweet memories you cannot easily forget. This happened in 2012 but I still feel the joy that I said yes to the chance.

When our friend Desmond Lim, a walking tour advocate, convinced us to join him for a half-day tour in Old Dhaka, I raised my hands quickly. Three of us, one was Caroline, who was as excited as I am, got into the adventure.

Old Dhaka’s charm sticks inside you. It felt like going through a journey that takes you back in time – a walk with history, seeing what had been there hundreds of years ago is a privilege.

We saw the 85-year old Star Mosque, the 150-year old Manir building and the crumbling Barokata Towers with its amazing 22 chamber shops. One can wonder how doing business was during the ancient times. It must have been brisk.

My most unforgettable moment was meeting 91-year old Am Jahanjir born in 1922. His family served us with freshly-baked bread straight from the wood-fired oven. His son was so happy seeing me having worked in Makati, our business district in the Philippines for several years with an airline company.

The people’s friendliness touched us. It was a walking tour I won’t forget. I became an advocate just like Desmond after this, organizing friends whenever we are in another country.

As I walked out of Old Dhaka buoyed by the sumptuous and plateful biryani we cleaned up, I was reminded how old things and memories can be valuable in our lives. We should not take them for granted. They will be there for a time and will be gone forever – so much like the opportunities that pass through us in life.

“If you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday.” – Pearl Buck

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On my right was 91-year old Am Jahanjir who welcomed us to the warmth of his old home right in the heart of Old Dhaka. It was a privilege! On my left was French artist Laurent Fournier who also joined us in the walking tour.

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The magnificence of the 85-year old Star Mosque inside Old Dhaka.

Dhaka: Just keep walking

“If you’re doing something you love, it doesn’t matter that it’s challenging. You can keep going for a long time as long as you’re motivated – just make sure you make the right starting point.” – Chris Guillebeau, The Happiness of Pursuit

The people of Bangladesh are among the friendliest I have met. Just don't do a thumbs-up sign. It means good-for-nothing in this part of the world.

The people of Bangladesh are among the friendliest I have met. Just don’t do a thumbs-up sign. It means good-for-nothing in this part of the world.

Traveling to Dhaka felt like a break. Ten months after non-stop typhoon Haiyan (the world’s strongest storm, so far) work, energy is fast ebbing. I am not about to stop – but I know I need a slowdown.

My flight from Cebu City to Singapore got delayed for over an hour. But I was confident that since I am flying Silk Air and via Singapore Airlines to Dhaka, everything will be fine. The plus of same airline connection!

Off the thought of missing my flight! Then, I realized I forgot to change money (my Philippine Peso tucked comfortably in my purse!). My mind fast-forwarded to having time to change to US dollars on my way to the boarding gate. I did.

My luggage got priority-tagged so it got out ahead when I landed in Dhaka. But then, the hotel car was also picking up two Japanese passengers, one got his bags out last. The driver was profuse in his apologies as I smiled my waiting-time away.

Three past trips and one two years back, Dhaka has progressed considerably (at least judging by the no-jam ride to our hotel in Banani. The Japan prime minister was visiting. The streets were cleaner and the debris from road and skyway constructions gone.

Many things unfolded back in the Philippines while I was in Dhaka. From them I found my strength and resolve. I guess you get them as you mature and mellow in age. If they happened 20 years ago, I could have broken down or even panicked. Not quite but likely.

I just accepted them as things to go-by and move on. One reminder from a billboard: Keep walking.

  • Love life and its eccentricities with a positive attitude. Enjoy the challenge.
  • In the end, it is your call for a situation to make you or break you. Really up to you.
  • Dodge tricky tests like a rickshaw in Dhaka. Move and speed-up and never stop.
  • Smile your trials away. I assure you, smiling will take you a long way away from it.
  • If it happens, it happens. You probably cannot stop it. Accept and move on.

The week ended well despite the fireworks of changes and events while I was in Dhaka. Could I have stopped them? Maybe not. As I said – I will just keep walking.

The lovely friends we found in Bangladesh.

The lovely friends we found in Bangladesh.

-o0o-

2013: A game-changer … at least for me

At M&M World in Piccadilly Circus on my first London trip!

At M&M World in Piccadilly Circus on my first London trip!

It took me almost five months to put this together. Too much have happened in between. I went to London on October 2013 and dived into one of my biggest disaster work by November.

My 2013 finished like no other. On hindsight, it was like first I got the cake – then the candles blew-up in my face. No time to bask on my first London trip!

I am not complaining, just stating some facts of life. I am in full empathy of the Haiyan survivors who didn’t even have the slightest choice on what hit them.

The year also reminds me of 2004. I got a midnight call to coordinate for an emerging disaster that eventually the world knew was the massive Asia tsunami that surged through 11 countries. That one got me to Thailand for two years.

This one got me back to the Philippines to serve my people. A privilege. The rest was an open book that I need to fill-in until December 2014.

One of my most unforgettable interviews with TIME Magazine (my longest so far due to bad connection) got me into this memorable article: ‘They’re walking because there’s nothing else’ and my blog Desolation and bleakness has engulfed Tacloban with The Guardian.

Haiyan aftermath: My first glimpse of Tacloban on November 2013. I went through an Indescribable sadness.

Haiyan aftermath: My first glimpse of Tacloban on November 2013. I went through an Indescribable sadness.

-o0o-

Antique Jeepney Diaries: Braving Bugasong

One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller

As soon as my sister Nanette stepped inside the Suzy Star van in Dalipe Terminal at San Jose town of Antique province, the heavy showers started. In pelts, then progressed into torrents. We got a bit worried but eventually enjoyed the cool 24C weather. No matter how hard the rain is, we know it will stop. Nothing lasts forever.

The van driver was engaging – venting his frustration over the unpredictable weather that sent his 4-year-old son to the hospital for bronchitis. He said he accepted to drive for a 3-hour trip to Caticlan for tourists going to Boracay out of necessity. Extreme caution is needed because the highway is slippery.

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