Featured Monkey Series: MJ Hornilla, a Filipina-Aussie Backpacker

By Two Monkeys Travel - Contributor February 18th, 2015 Posted in Inspiration and Love Stories, Travel Blog, Travel Guides 6 Comments

Table of Contents

“Everyday we choose who we are by how we define ourselves.”

– Angelina Jolie

Traveling Filipina - 1

  • Tell us about yourself

Mary Jane Alejo Hornilla-Leahy. I was born in Batangas city (Land of the Barakos) currently based in Queensland, Australia and is a registered nurse. Countries I’ve been to: Philippines, Australia, Singapore, New Zealand, Japan, Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina. England, Ireland, Fiji, USA, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia & Indonesia.

  • Can you describe your life/lifestyle before this Nomadic life?

I worked in an finance firm for 6 years. Studied business and accountancy.

  • When did you start this trip? Where?

Started in 2003, Philippines: girls trip to Boracay first then back packed to Sagada with my cousins.

  • We always have this ‘AHA, FUCK this’ moment where it made you realize that it’s time to go.. What incident is that?

After my ex boyfriend cheated on me. I wanted to stop being sad and knowing that emotions can be affected by hormones and adrenaline – I went sky diving. After that eye opening experience I realised it’s time to reinvent myself.

  • PREPARATION: How did you prepare for this trip? How long were you preparing?

2 years, I had to finish a work contract and put a deposit on a house. Preparation? (this was infancy years for Facebook, Instagram and blogs) Reading Lonely planet book and talking to lots of other travellers.

  • How did you initially fund your travel? How much was your initial travel fund?

Save, save, save!

  • Where have you been (DURING THIS TRIP)? Which is/are your favorite? Worst? Tell us a story.

Peru was my favourite country that I visited:

Amazon jungle-went piranha fishing, went up close to a 6 meter sleeping anaconda, saw pink dolphins and was knee deep in the wonders of the amazon jungle.

Nazca lines- saw from a light plane and was just amazed by these giant drawings in the dessert believed to have been left there by aliens.

Machu piccu – 4 day inca trail. On top of the mountain to celebrate New Year’s Eve!

Cusco- we bought and gave presents to the kids of cusco for Christmas.

Whitewater rafting level 4 in Banos.

Weird experience – stayed in Loki hostel in cusco, top bunk bed was occupied by a couple constantly having crazy, noisy sex (room was occupied by 20 people!)

  • FUNDING TRAVELS: How do you fund your travels?

I once won a karaoke contest in queenstown, New Zealand $300 all the other contestants were drunk!’

  • MANAGING FINANCES: Were you ever broke during this trip? How did you manage to do this?

Very organised and well planned in advanced. Stayed in hostels, backpackers place and I had family and friends who worked for 4-5 star international hotel and got us really cheap rates. Example: Park hotel (Starwood) in Buenos Aires. Remember it’s who you know 😉

Traveling Filipina - 3

  • BACKPACKING ESSENTIALS: Things on your Backpack. What not to bring? What to bring? How heavy is your bag?

Undies, undies and more undies. Sun glasses, a family picture & big smile. Certified Photocopy of my passport.

I had a checklist of clothes I brought:

3 white t shirts (being a pinay morena White is very flattering and practical, it goes with everything)

3 pairs of shorts

1 Swim wear

1 denim & 1 black jeans

1 black dress (because sometimes you want to look lovely when out to dinner)

1 going out top

1 smart casual top

1 pair of short strappy heels (yes even backpackers likes to look lovely to dinner)

1 pair walking shoes

4 pair of socks

1 pair of flip flops

A casual jacket/sweater or sweat shirt

Black Pashmina (looks good on a cold night out and great for wrapping stuff also)

Travel towel, one of those that folds really tight and dries well.

Raincoat ( the very thin type)

I have a caribee backpack with wheels! I was dubbed a backpack princess cause of the wheels, let me tell you something, when you are walking up the steep hills of La Paz (Bolivia) you’ll be thankful for those small little wheels. My bag weighted 20 kilos with everything in it, never check in, always hand carry on the plane.

  • BUCKET LIST: Can you share your list? Have you done it? Which one is next?

Sky dive- done

Bungee jump

See sagada, banawe rice terraces (done)

Go to Palawan (done)

Stay in a junk boat while afloat in halong bay (done)

Climb fox Joseph glazier- done

Go on a safari in South Africa

See the amazon jungle- done

Inca trail macchu piccu – done

Trek Mt Everest base camp in Nepal

Sit on the north and South hemisphere in Ecuador- done

Watch a matador in action -done

See the nazca lines- done

Go to kyto japan and see traditional geisha – done

Go to Tokyo, ride bullet train, check out harujuku- done

Disney world – done

London – see Buckingham palace, London bridge and Big Ben- done

Ireland- kiss the Blarney Stone, travel the whole country -done

Try surfing in Hawaii- done

See New York- Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, eat vanilla cupcake in magnolia bakery, have a Bellini at cipriani, see MoMa, etc (done but want to do more!)

Marry the man of my hopes ( done)

Have a happy and healthy baby (done)

  • JOBS ON THE ROAD: What jobs have you done on the road, how long were you doing it, where? Odd jobs? Weird? Worst? The best?

Nanny/ au pair ( I can’t remember how much!) same with working on the farm (sorry kach I don’t even think we bothered with work permit at the time, everything was cash on hand) I’m probably not the best person for this question.

  • EXPERIENCE: Worst Experience on the Road? Memorable? The best?

No worst experience because all the experiences were a journey.

  • LOVE ON THE ROAD: How’s your lovelife while travelling?

Wonderful, my husband proposed to me while we were in buenos aires, Argentina. We had these massive streak for dinner and we decided to walk off our food afterwards. In front of a water fountain in the park, Padraig dropped to his knees, I taught he was going to have a heart attack or bad heart burn from the streak, he took my hand (he was sweating and nervous) and asked me to marry him!

  • TRAVEL INSPIRATION: Who’s your travel inspiration? Have you met an awesome person while on the road, can you describe him/her and why he/she is awesome?

My grandmother, at 73 years old she went to Egypt to see the pyramids and Israel to visit the Bethlehem and Jerusalem to experience where Jesus came from. While travelling with my husband (who was my boyfriend at that time), truly got to know him. He is an awesome organiser, hard working, kind and loyal. I think our travels taught us more about ourselves and each other as we were put into different experiences that pushed our limits and made us open up to each other.

  • How long are you planning to do this lifestyle?

On and off, forever I hope!

  • LESSON LEARNED: What have you learned during this trip?

That I need to learn more about life,

Myself and other people and everyday is an opportunity to do that.

  • LIFE AFTER/FUTURE GOALS: What are you planning to do next? Goals in life?

Have my second baby 🙂

  • Advice on readers who are planning to do this kind of life (you can be brutally honest)

Just let go of your inhibitions and fears. Be open to life and the opportunities it brings to you in different forms. Filipino travellers from my experience in welcomed anywhere because of our warm personality. If you want to take up travelling, then do it, stop making excuses, you could be dead tomorrow. Practical advice, be organised, well researched and be prepared. Most of all wag ma arte! If you want luxury travel then go for it but if you want to properly experience life then backpacking is the way to go. It will open you eyes into a different world full of colour and life.

In exchange for roughing it out, travelling all day and being tired, you will have the best memories, the most wonderful dreams and the best future because you will know there are no limitations.

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6 thoughts on “Featured Monkey Series: MJ Hornilla, a Filipina-Aussie Backpacker

  1. I love your tips on packing! I always overpack! Arte kasi and always want to look fashionable haha! And i loved the story on how you started with your adventures! Currently revising my travel plans to now include my fiance and my lovely daughter. Cheers to more travels!

  2. Mejas, I carried those heels in my handbag In New York. I’d walk around wearing my flat shoes, then pag pictorial na, 5 second shoe change para looking tall and slim sa pictures 😉
    Also just by being friendly we got so many free things and got in free venues and upgrade. (One time got a free access to eithihad lounge in Abu Dhabi by making chicka to our kababayan staff in eithidah), also I met a filipina staff of marina bay sands (singapore) who got us a 50% discount and free upgrade. I’m sure you’d probably do as well Kasi super happy and friendly ka. Just remember don’t be embarrassed to ask (for the discount, nothing to lose) hehehe.

  3. MJ,
    I love the heels yes! I cnt imagine me bringing one, kidding though…but I like it. This is not just inspiring but u gave practical tips oh said my fave. Heheh

  4. Hi Ryan,
    Travel is definitely a great experience that can reward you with happiness and wonderful unexpected experience.

  5. Adah and Mj,

    Super inspiring stuff! I always enjoy seeing those travel seeds germinate into something astounding. For me, I knew it was time to get out of dodge, aka New Jersey, because I had so much to see. I had outgrown the place and now I know 1 trip a year for perhaps a month or so is enough before I head off again. I love seeing the world and expanding my horizons.

    Keep on inspiring guys!


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