In the world of internet we get the chance to virtually meet some of the best people far before we actually get to meet them in person. The bloggosphere is no different as we get to invade other people’s lives through their own words which they wrote for everyone to enjoy and be inspired. They share some of their best experiences in life like their travel lifestyle and as well some of their mishap stories for us readers to be inspired.
In this blogger to shine series we got the chance to interview Rica Yulo, author of “The 3rd World Traveler: A Guide to Fulfilling Your Travel Dreams on a Shoestring Budget” and as well the writer/traveler/all around awesome person behind Rica’s Rucksack. Rica shared some of her best moments in her blog and in this interview we highlighted some of it and as well some few words of encouragements.
Hello and welcome to Two Monkey’s Bloggers to Shine series. To start with, tell us a little bit about yourself and your blog?
Rica’s Rucksack was created in 2010, a year after I backpacked a part of the banana pancake route (Thailand – Cambodia – Vietnam). I may have traveled to a few places within and outside the Philippines when I was younger, but it was that particular backpacking trip that changed everything because it exposed me to different cultures and allowed me to meet people from all walks of life. That experience also paved the way for me to discover my passion. I ended up quitting my job in 2014 to travel and just giving myself a break. I went away for a total of nine months and when I got back, I ended up working in a backpackers hostel. Right now, I’m trying to improve my writing. I enrolled in an online travel writing course and hope to finish it soon.
Travelling as we know is very educational on its own. Could you tell our readers few but meaningful lessons you learned from travelling and how it served you personally?
One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned is to live in the moment. We tend to plan too much or rush things and end up ruining what’s right in front of us. I remember not getting out of the house for weeks just to save money to travel long-term. It became so intense that it made me refuse an offer from a friend who wanted to take me to this hidden river in Zambales for just a day. Then she said to me, “You know what Rica, you should take it easy.” That changed everything because going to that hidden river became one of the best trips of my life. Sometimes, we just have to let go and enjoy what this life has to offer. Elizabeth Gilbert wrote it best in her book “Eat Pray Love”: “You gotta let go and sit still and allow contentment to come to you”.
Talking about adventure, what are some of the most amazing experience you had during your travels?
I’ve had plenty of amazing experiences but I still consider visiting Mingun Pagoda in Myanmar as one of the highlights. I found out about this temple in 2010 through the blog of renowned photographer Steve McCurry. He took a photo of two young monks making their way to one of the doors of the stunning temple. I wanted to take the same shot and I finally did in 2012 minus the monks, of course. But the experience was surreal! For me, the Mingun Pagoda is still the most beautiful Buddhist temple in the world.
Amazing experiences doesn’t always happen during our travels and sometimes for an experience to be amazing sometimes great mishaps happens first. Can you share to us few travel mishaps you just simply laugh about nowadays?
I didn’t book an accommodation before I arrived in Mandalay, Myanmar so I quickly said yes to a cheap room offer in some hotel near the tourist area without even checking the state of the room because I was too tired and hungry when I got there. You know what the room looked like? A torture cell that could be used in a Southeast Asian remake of the film “Hostel”. In fact, the entire building looked like a bad horror movie. In Haputale, Sri Lanka, I was also chased by two men riding a tuk-tuk. I don’t laugh about this experience though.
Can you share to our readers three places you have been and left a piece of your heart? (Could be because of its beauty/ its people/ or the experience)
1. Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam – Everything becomes magical when you walk the streets of Ho Chi Minh and The Miss Saigon song “The Ceremony (dju Vui Vai)” starts playing in your head. Though most locals are mum on the war, as a foreigner, you become immersed in their history. And despite everything, their culture remains intact. It’s embedded everywhere you go.
2. Luang Prabang, Laos – Met my soulmate (not love soulmate though) who taught me that happiness can be found anywhere. The best thing about that serendipitous encounter was, it all happened in just one day. We never saw each other again after that. And we don’t even have each other’s email address.
3. Toronto, Canada – It’s your typical first world city but the people I’ve stayed with and met made everything so memorable. They taught me a lot about kindness and generosity.
Travelling by popular belief is supposed to be a luxury that cost a lot however we know that it shouldn’t. Can you share few budget tips you have used during your travels that helped you lessen your expenses?
Traveling can be expensive only if you allow it to be and this means staying in swanky hotels or eating at expensive restaurants. But you can always travel on the cheap especially when you’re in Southeast Asia where you can get a $5 hostel room or buy food for less than a dollar. So always do your research before saying yes to anything that involves money. I’d like to say though that MOST first world countries are expensive. You may have plenty of options such as couchsurfing for a free stay or getting deep into the bowels of the city for that cheap sushi joint, but do expect to spend a little more because I’m sure you don’t want to feast only on armpit baguettes for your entire week in France.
As the travel business is booming right now and along that comes great amount of travellers and tourists alike flocking around popular destinations and with that said comes great risks of damaging the sites. As a blogger with a voice, what do you think you can contribute to avoid that?
This is a very difficult question to answer because it has always been about the money and certain destinations are governed by powerful people who will do anything to maintain profit. But if there is one thing that I may be able to contribute, it would be not skipping this question and emphasizing that the next few lines are solely dedicated to anyone reading this. Here goes:
You need not be reminded that you shouldn’t be smoking pot in Angkor Wat or leaving your shit up there in Mt. Pulag to rot. Be a responsible human being / traveler.
You’re a published writer and your book looks absolutely interesting. Can you tell us a little bit about it and why you decided to write it?
Why thank you for the kind words. I wrote the book in 2012 when most bloggers were just writing about the places they’ve been to and how fulfilling traveling is. No one wrote anything about how to save money in order to travel so I wrote “The 3rd World Traveler” because I wanted to share how I was able to turn 5000 Pesos to almost 50,000 Pesos in just one year despite living and working in the Philippines and having responsibilities such as paying for rent / electricity. The book is a comprehensive guide to help you create your travel fund by using your salary. It will show you how to lessen your commute and food budget. It also includes information on SSS benefits and other financial resources that you can tap to help you create your travel fund without stealing millions of tax money.
Rica, your blog documented a huge part of your travel life. Can you say you’re now living the dream? If yes, how does it feel? If no, what are your other endeavours in life?
I don’t want to say that I’m living the dream. I’m not perfect but I think I’m a better person now thanks to traveling. I’m happier now, more than ever. I’ve outgrown all the bad shit I did when I was in my 20s and it’s always a good thing to step away from everything that pulled you down in your life. Though I’m done with the “quit job to travel” part and my health is now my no. 1 priority, the journey continues. I’m still very much in love with traveling and, if given the chance, I’ll definitely backpack Northern Pakistan alone in a heartbeat.
Lastly, can you share a powerful message to our readers?
Follow your happiness, but be honest with yourself. I know that there are people out there feeling frustrated that they cannot quit their jobs to travel. Honestly, it doesn’t matter if you don’t get to do it because you have a responsibility at home or your family needs you. You can always travel to other countries or even just in the Philippines for a few days. Know that experience is far more important than the number of countries and the length of travel. After all, the best journey happens within.
Thank you Rica for this interview and we, the team behind Two Monkey’s Travel Group, wishes you all the best in life! Positive vibes indeed and best of luck on your future adventures and success in life!
Thanks and ALL THE BEST to you folks as well!
Follow Rica’s adventures through her blog and social medias: