The person behind Engineering Travels. I’ve got this crazy love for exploring beautiful places and making memories that last. When the pandemic hit, I took a leap of faith, ditched my well-paying engineering job to chase what sets my soul on fire.
About Engineering Travels
It’s a fusion of “Engineering” and “Travel,” both my passions. But it’s not as simple as that. It aims to help travelers to plan and construct a meaningful journey to the world’s historical places and breathtaking destinations. It’s here to help you create amazing trips that you’ll remember forever.
A blog that was meant to be written.
Summary: The creation of “Engineering Travels” wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision. It came about as a culmination of a decade’s worth of realizations and experiences, all in the pursuit of a life filled with purpose.
Date written: June 15, 2021.
Man, it’s wild to think it’s been a whole decade since I first stepped foot on that college campus. That day? Still as clear as crystal in my mind. I was wandering around like a headless chicken, trying to find this place called “NR”. Turns out, it was just the college auditorium. Crazy, right? Time sure has a way of zooming past when you’re not looking.
Those first couple years of college? Talk about a rollercoaster. For the first time, I was cut off from my high school buddies – the guys I was tight with. Suddenly, it was on me to make new friends, figure out how to deal with all these different types of people, and get used to a whole new scene.
Right from the get-go of our first year in college, we were already hitting the math books. Analytic Geometry and Solid Mensuration, a couple of brain-busting math subjects, were our introduction to the world of engineering. These subjects were tough, no doubt about it, but the older guys kept telling us that the real deal was yet to come.
The days we started tackling those math subjects? That was the beginning of the end for my brain cells and sleep schedule. LOL. Those were the days when the first wave of sleepless college nights hit us. All I know is, back in the day, I didn’t consider myself a brainiac or anything. It was always about the grind for me… and those study techniques I came up with that seemed to do the trick every time. That’s what got me through all those quizzes and exams. Some of my buddies would say I was some kind of genius, but I never bought into that.
In my head, I always wished I was one of those “naturally smart” guys. You know, so I wouldn’t have to spend hours writing out complex formulas over and over just to get them stuck in my brain. Or having to read a theory paragraph two or three times just to get the gist of it. But despite the math, my first couple years in college were actually fun. Big shoutout to my super smart classmates who didn’t mind sharing their brainpower. Every piece of homework, every project, even the exams would’ve been twice as tough without them. I hit the jackpot having some of the brainiest kids in our year as my buddies.
These new buddies of mine, they’re not just brainy and reliable, they’re also some of the most welcoming guys you’ll ever meet. Back in the Philippines, we have these annual fiestas, right? And these dudes, they’d always make sure to invite the whole class over to their place to join in on the festivities. Man, those fiestas were wild. We’d belt out tunes on the karaoke while knocking back bottles of the local brandy.
Some of us ended up hugging the toilet, others just conked out right there in their chairs. But no matter what, those were some of the best times I’ve ever had, and I’ll never forget ’em. I gotta say — our generation hit the jackpot. Why’s that? We were the first ones to get our hands on smartphones, right? These little gadgets let us snap as many pics as we want, capturing all the crazy and hilarious moments.
Back in the day, I had an iPod Touch 5th Gen and a Blackberry. My iPod was loaded with over 15,000 photos and videos, all of which are now safely tucked away in my Google Drive. Every now and then, when I’m feeling nostalgic, I’ll take a peek at those old pics and shoot a few over to my college buddies.
In the Philippines, studying engineering takes five years. After that, there’s another six months needed to prepare for a professional exam. So, when I talk about the first two years, it’s just a part of the whole five and a half years of my engineering journey.
The real test kicked in during a summer class right after our second year. This class was all about putting to use everything we’d picked up in our physics classes. Even though we were just dealing with the basics – voltage, current, electric resistance – building an electronic prototype was no joke. Sure, understanding the concepts is one thing, but designing your own printed circuit board, soldering the components, and actually getting the thing to work? That’s a whole different game. It’s tough and it can burn a hole in your pocket.
During that eight-week summer class, I got a real idea for how electrons flow, jumping from one atom to another, and how that flow slows down when there’s resistance. It gave me a real appreciation for what engineering is all about. And it set me up nicely for the main engineering subjects in my third to fifth years. That was the time when it hit me — knowledge is like a drug. Getting to understand how our stuff works? It’s an incredible feeling! That’s the real beauty I discovered about studying engineering.
My third through fifth years of college were filled with a series of ups and downs.
1. My First Academic Failure.
It’s kinda funny looking back now. I remember bawling my eyes out alone on the roof deck and punching the wall of our engineering building when I found out I had to retake a class. That hit me hard. As an Asian dude who always aced his classes in high school and the early years of college, this felt like a major screw-up. I knew my folks would be bummed. And to top it all off, our tuition fee was no joke! But when I took the subject the second time around, I made damn sure I wouldn’t mess up again. Ended up passing it with flying colors, too.
Ever since I bombed that one subject, I made a pact with myself to give it my all in every other class, no matter what! Fast forward three semesters, and boom, I made the dean’s list. This time around, I snagged the second-highest GPA in our entire batch. I couldn’t believe it, man! Not just because I’d managed to bounce back, but also because it scored me a sweet discount on my tuition fee. It even offset the extra cash I had to shell out for retaking that subject. I was over the moon!
3. Love? Infatuation?
While I was on my redemption arc, I started catching feelings for this girl I met at a debut party. Dude, it was the first time I’d ever chatted with someone till 3 in the morning, sending these massive paragraphs and all! She was the one I gave my first chocolate bar to, a bar that was just bursting with feelings and admiration. Man, I miss that rush of falling in love. But, things didn’t exactly pan out between us. I guess we just weren’t meant to be, and I get it.
We were like tangent lines, you know? We had that one shot at getting to know each other and then we just drifted apart. We had different goals, different priorities, and eventually, the spark just died out. You know, love’s a tricky thing. It’s all about timing and being on the same page. I was caught up in my own redemption story, and she was all about her studies… and that’s all she wrote. LOL. Time to move on, right?
4. Enthusiasm to help people.
Oh yeah, back in the day, I was an officer for this organization, IECEP-DLSL-SC. For a solid two years, I was in the thick of it, planning and pulling off our organizational programs. We’re talking team buildings, outreach, awarding events, the works. I even got to flex my creative muscles, making videos, invitations, and souvenirs for these events.
That’s when I realized I had a knack for the visual arts. And serving people? Man, there’s nothing like it. There’s this buzz you get when an event you’ve worked on goes off without a hitch, especially when you see people genuinely enjoying themselves. Seeing those smiles, hearing that laughter, it’s a real kick.
Juggling my duties in the organization with my studies was no picnic, though. Most nights, I was running on just four hours of sleep. But you know what? I loved what I was doing, and that’s what kept me going.
So, we finally hit the home stretch of our college journey. I was still rocking the officer gig in our organization. This was the year we had to knuckle down and crank out our thesis – basically our golden ticket to graduation. That year was probably the most grueling of our college life. In electronics engineering, a thesis isn’t just about gathering data, crunching the numbers, and spitting out results. Nah, we had to design prototypes, both hardware and software, which was usually a pricey and time-consuming process.
Here’s the lowdown on what goes into a thesis: we study components, apply principles, and figure out how they all mesh together. Once we’ve got the design down, we build the prototype and load it up with a program. And to wrap it all up, we write up the documentation. It’s a whole process, man.
But the fun doesn’t stop there! Next up is testing and calibration. If you’re lucky, you can test your prototype right after you build it. But sometimes, life throws you a curveball: you fry an expensive component and have to wait two weeks for a replacement. Or a capacitor blows up, or even worse, you get zapped.
The real kicker is when you’ve put together the whole prototype, and it just doesn’t work. The computer program simulator says it should be fine. But in reality, it’s a total dud, and you’re left scratching your head, wondering why. Trust me, that’s more painful than getting a 220V AC shock. LOL.
Yeah, there were times when I had to vent. It was just that heavy. But let me tell you, I put in the work, like 99% of the time.
Hard work, that’s my thing – my only talent, maybe?
I had to put my love life, video games, all the chill stuff I used to do, on the back burner. I poured all my time and energy into the project. And I gotta say, I was lucky to have a thesis team that was on point in every aspect of the project. I was the code guy, Terence was the hardware whiz, and Rio, he was the research and documentation guru. Sure, we had our communication hiccups, but we always managed to sort things out. Those two, they’re as dedicated and hardworking as they come. I know they gave it their all till the very end.
After a year of blood, sweat, and tears, it all finally paid off. At a recognition ceremony, our thesis snagged not one, not two, but three titles: Best Thesis, Best Documentation, and People’s Choice Award. How’s that for a payoff?
I’m not claiming to be the MVP here or anything. But I reckon one of the things that really drove our project to success was my burning desire to create my first-ever device. I mean, this has been a dream of mine since I was a kid. And let me tell you, it’s that raw determination and passion that can make your dreams a reality. But I couldn’t have done it without my two buddies. I’m certain they put in even more effort than I realized.
Right after graduation, me and my 8 buddies packed our bags and headed to Manila. We were gearing up for our licensure exam. We ended up renting this room on the third floor of a small apartment building, just a stone’s throw away from one of the top universities in the country.
Now, let me tell you, in the Philippines, getting your license is a big deal. It’s like this huge weight on your shoulders. Here’s the thing: First off, you’re carrying the “reputation of your school.” The way people see the quality of education in Philippine universities is pretty much based on the passing percentage of their students in the licensure exams. And second, if you’re from a more traditional province, pretty much the whole town knows you’re taking the board exams. If you fail, it’s not just a personal blow, it’s like the whole town’s judging you.
I was in both boats, but honestly, it wasn’t a big deal for me. My main goal? Pass that exam and make my folks proud. I wanted to show them that their hard-earned cash spent on my education wasn’t wasted. Yet, that kind of outcome is not easy to achieve. The licensure exam covers the whole engineering program — that’s a whopping 5 years of knowledge! And get this, they only ask 400 questions, split into four exams. Score less than 70 on any of them, and you’re out. Finding the right study materials that match the exam questions is absolutely crucial to getting that license.
There were moments in those six months when I seriously thought I was going nuts. It felt like my brain just couldn’t soak up all that info. There were days when I’d be up on the roof deck of our apartment, hitting the books for 16 hours straight, no matter the weather. But it wasn’t all work and no play for the whole six months. Of course, we had our little fun too. Every Tuesday, the eight of us in the room would throw a mini bash with boxes of Dominos Pizza.
There goes my love for pizza.
Also, our review classes were epic! We had a ton of laughs in between all the dry stuff. I can’t recall a single lecture where we didn’t crack up at least once. Then, every Thursday, we’d head over to Mendiola for mass and to pray the novena for Saint Jude Thaddeus. That was something I really committed to. Saint Jude, the patron saint for hopeless cases, is known for helping students ace their board exams. I never skipped a single Thursday at that church. Heck, I even memorized the Latin songs and some prayers! I reckon that was when I felt my deepest connection with God.
During each novena, I’d pray for all of us to ace the exam. I also asked God to help us accept whatever results we got. Since this was the first time I was away from home, I started praying for my family’s safety too. I asked Him to keep us happy, healthy, strong, and safe. And to give us more quality time to grow our bond. To always have Him in our lives. I gotta tell you, there’s nothing like the peace you feel after a heartfelt prayer.
A week before the exam, I stopped stressing about passing or failing. I stopped caring about what people would say. If I passed, awesome. If not, it just wasn’t meant to be. I kept reminding myself that if I failed, God probably had something better in store for me.
People say that doubt and nerves are your worst enemies in an exam, causing mental blocks. One way I dodged them? Prayer, man. It worked.
When exam day rolled around, I just went with the flow. Also, here’s what was going through my head just before the test: (1) Confidence: “I’ve been grinding for six months. I’ve learned all I need to know. I’m gonna ace this exam.” (I didn’t even think about the stuff I hadn’t finished studying) (2) “Superstitions are bogus.” (It’s kinda funny in the Philippines, people think getting a haircut will make you forget what you’ve studied). Basically, it all came down to confidence and believing in myself. The second point doesn’t really matter if you’re from a different culture.
A week flew by, and boom, the results were out. Everyone was buzzing. My Facebook feed was flooded with congrats posts. I quickly jumped onto our Facebook group to find the link to the new passers list. My heart was racing as I opened up the list. My hands were sweaty as I typed my name into the search box on my laptop. E… L… J… I practically leapt off the couch after typing the third letter of my name. My old man was right there, and I couldn’t resist giving him a big hug. I whispered to him, “Engineer na po ako, tay.” (I’m an engineer now, dad)
It was a sweet victory! All the blood, sweat, and tears finally paid off. I was stoked, but it wasn’t quite the over-the-moon feeling that the old-timers had described. The buzz kind of faded when I found out some of my buddies didn’t make the cut.
March 1, 2017 — It was a holiday in the city where I was working. I wasn’t chilling at home or hanging out with my buddies. Nah, I was out job hunting in a different part of town.
“I didn’t bust my ass studying just to end up cleaning machines in a factory,” I muttered to myself, frustration seeping into my voice as I walked past the company I was currently stuck at.
I was literally grinding my teeth.
It was the first real hurdle I faced after getting my license. And man, it was a nasty one! I felt downright humiliated. But I shook it off quickly and started looking for another job. I was fired up again, but this time, I was determined to find a job that would actually make use of the skills I’d honed in college.
Fast forward twenty-three days, and a tech company scooped me up as an associate software engineer, putting me in charge of data engineering. For real, I was over the moon to have dodged that bullet at my old job.
Now, I’m not stuck in some factory, but working in my dream office. We’re smack dab in the middle of the country’s newest business district, and the view from our office windows is killer. I felt like a legit professional. I was wearing very nice clothes, and we were rubbing elbows with clients. Our team was all about the Agile methodology, and every sprint planning was like a party, complete with food and drinks.
After landing my first job, I felt a real sense of self-respect. Plus, our bosses were super understanding. I didn’t feel any pressure from them. And the cherry on top? Once or twice a month, they’d treat us to some seriously tasty lunch meals. I’m talking about some of the best grub I’ve ever had in my life. And you know what they say, food always tastes twice as good when it’s free, right? LOL. But it wasn’t all work, we had our fair share of fun too. Our team-building events were off the charts! However, there was just one thing missing: a job as a legit electronics engineer.
I found myself missing everything about college. I felt this urge to put all that knowledge I’d soaked up over the past 5 years to good use.
I wanted to actually practice my profession. That license I’d busted my hump for over 6 months had to mean something, right? Plus, I knew I could really shine in this field. I was fired up about it. Sure, there were other factors that made me want to look for another job. But the main reason? My solid skills in electronics/firmware. I figured, if I’m gonna kick off a career, I might as well do it right! That thought was like a ghost, haunting me for months! Until one day, I said screw it, and started hunting for a job as a firmware engineer.
I was just hanging out in line that time, waiting for the bus home, when I stumbled upon this job opening for a firmware engineer on my phone. I’ll never forget what the description said: “Join us and be one of the greatest engineers in the world!” It was like it was calling out to me, you know?
My palms were sweaty when I spotted the job. Sure, part of it was the insane humidity in the Philippines, but man, the excitement for this job just cranked up the heat. Without a second thought, I hit the apply button on my phone. A few days later, I got an interview schedule. I’ll never forget the technical interview with the British CEO and the face-to-face meet-and-greet with the French VP. The company was still in its start-up phase, so the big guns were the ones firing the questions.
Man, words can’t do justice to how it felt being interviewed by the CEO. I was a bundle of nerves, but also buzzing with excitement, amusement, and a pinch of disbelief! It was the first time I’d ever had a chat with someone so clued up in our field. Right then, I knew I was gonna learn a ton from this company.
Then came the day of the onsite interview. I rocked up at their office, and I gotta admit, I was a bit let down. Their office was basically a spruced-up warehouse. Total 180 from the swanky office I was used to at my old job. But, when I saw all the electronics scattered around in boxes, on shelves, and tables, my eyes lit up. That’s when I realized I’d trade in a fancy office for a job like this any day.
Man, quitting my current job was hands down one of the toughest calls I’ve ever had to make. It’s no joke saying goodbye to the folks you’ve been hanging with for a while. Plus, it was like a comfort zone already, you know?
April 2, 2018 — That’s the day I kicked off my new job with the start-up. It felt like I’d given the wheel of fate a hefty tug and it had spun around to land on a whole new side of life, totally flipping my world view. They gave me the title of firmware engineer at this start-up — the job I’d been dreaming of. But it wasn’t all smooth sailing from the get-go. There was a bit of a mix-up, and it took a solid eight months before everything was finally sorted out. But hey, dreams come at a price, right? I had to give up all the perks I enjoyed at my old job for this one.
I went from a sleek office in the heart of a buzzing city to a warehouse next to a river in an industrial park. Now, when I look out the window, I don’t see skyscrapers, just trees and overgrown vacant lots. I won’t lie, I missed the swanky bathrooms, the stunning Metro Manila skyline, and the speedy elevators. Back in the day, I’d roll into the office looking sharp, fresh off a comfy air-conditioned bus. Now, it feels like I could wring out my shirt from all the sweat by the time I get to work. I mean, I have to catch 2 jeepneys, 2 tricycles, and hoof it for 15 minutes just to get to the office.
Back at my old job, lunchtime was like a culinary adventure, man. Now, it feels like I’m stuck in a food rut, eating the same meals over and over. We’re smack dab in the middle of nowhere, where you need wheels just to grab a decent bite. But you know what? The initial disappointment of the office location (not to mention the commute) faded pretty quick.
I was digging what I was doing and learning. I was hands-on with electronics, programming microcontrollers. Everything we did at this company was straight out of our college playbook, even down to the documentation! And when I got my second device up and running, man, it sparked this little burst of joy in my heart that I’d been missing.
Working at the company was a real eye-opener, man. It was humbling and rewarding, but it was not totally the case.
Back at my old job, I was part of a team where we bounced ideas off each other, executed plans, and wrapped up projects using the Agile Methodology. But at this new gig, I was flying solo, juggling 3 projects at once, with deadlines set by client calls. It was pure chaos. I felt like I’d been zapped with 220V of stress and mismanagement. But, I couldn’t really blame the start-up for not having their act together. It was still finding its feet… what was I expecting? So, I kept my head down and worked my butt off, despite the lack of a proper system. I gave it my all, weathered the storm, until I hit my breaking point.
Short but fun trips with friends:
But even before I hit total burnout, I was living it up with my buddies, hitting up different beaches and resorts. Just your typical early adult life, you know?
In 2018, we kicked off our first trip to Puerto Galera, nestled in Mindoro, Philippines. It was just a bus and a boat ride away from our hometown. The whole adventure was supposed to last 3 days, but since I’d just started at the start-up, I could only squeeze in 2 days of fun. On the third day, I was back at the grind while the rest of the crew were out and about, mingling with folks from around the globe in the bars.
That weekend with my buddies was something special. We’d shoot the breeze about our dreams and the future, all while soaking up the sunset. And of course, we made sure to hit up the nightlife. Having friends you can trust, vibe with, and dream big with, that’s worth more than a million bucks any day. Then in 2018, we hit up another beach in our country. This time, we piled into an old delivery van for the trip. Turned out to be one epic road trip through the countryside, bending a few traffic rules and breathing in the fresh air from the rice fields.
Once again, we found ourselves soaking up the sunset on the beach, just shooting the breeze about life and work. When night fell, we cracked open bottles of gin and tore into bags of snacks. With a good few liters of booze in our systems, we let loose, singing and dancing on the beach without a care in the world. It was a blast! Sure, we’d had our fair share of boozy nights before, but this one was special because it was on the beach. There’s something about partying on the beach that just feels like you’ve got more freedom than when you’re cooped up at someone’s house.
These kinds of moments are like a breath of fresh air from the grind, you know? It’s like every time we hit up a beach, I come back to the office feeling totally recharged, both mentally and emotionally. It’s a full reset!
All the stuff I’ve mentioned above, along with my other short trips, were just part of the rollercoaster that was 2018. It was mostly a cycle of down-down-down-up, down-down-down-up. In short, I was just scraping by. But because I was so passionate about my work, I taught myself to embrace all the soul-crushing challenges thrown my way. I was determined not to bail on my dream job just because the work environment was a bit of a downer. So, I started tuning into podcasts and diving into books and websites all about self-development and growth.
That’s when I stumbled upon the Mark Manson website. During those long commutes, my phone screen was filled with Mark Manson’s articles. I also dove into Paolo Coelho’s The Alchemist and Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie. Those writings really opened my eyes, man, changed the way I look at life. I was totally hooked on the concept of the Personal Legend from The Alchemist. And the message from Tuesdays With Morrie? Living a meaningful life – that’s something I’ll never forget.
There were times during my commute when reading just wasn’t an option. So, I’d switch gears and tune into some really meaningful tunes instead. I’ve got this Spotify playlist I call ‘Living Inspired’. I’ve swapped out a few songs over time, but for the most part, the tracks I’ve listened to have stuck around. I’ve got another playlist too, called ‘Figure Life Out’. It’s got a similar vibe to ‘Living Inspired’, but I reckon the songs on this one have a bit more depth to them.
Another thing that helped me keep my head above water at work was those long coffee breaks with my office buddies. I can’t even picture what my time at the start-up would’ve been like without them. We were in it together, sharing the same struggles and lifting each other up. But despite all my efforts, I just couldn’t break free from the cycle. It was exhausting. I felt completely drained, like I was running on empty. I’d lost all motivation to go to work. I think I might’ve even been dealing with a bit of mild depression…
Right before the ball dropped for 2019, one of my buddies from my old job hit me up. He was like, ‘Hey, you down for a trip to Sagada with us?’ And I was like, ‘Heck yeah, count me in!’
You can check my Sagada experience on one of my blog posts. But basically, it was an epic journey to one of the most beautiful destinations in northern Philippines and it showed me the real deal about traveling. Our Sagada trip was like a wake-up call from that funk I was in, whatever that was. I was totally blown away by the stuff I saw and experienced in Sagada. The blue soil, mountains, waterfalls, you name it. It was this insane, indescribable vibe I’ve never felt before.
I was stoked. I felt like a bird that just got out of its cage. One memory from Sagada that’s etched in my mind is the pure bliss I felt when I jammed out on the guitar at Sagada Cellar Door. It was the first time I strummed those strings in front of a crowd of strangers. I got swept up in the awesome campfire vibes we had going in the middle of the forest. Sagada made me feel more alive than ever. I couldn’t get enough of the rad stuff I experienced in Sagada, so I made a pact with myself to keep the travel train rolling all through 2019. ‘I’m gonna hit up a new spot every month,’ I told myself.
Even though I was hitting the road, I didn’t ditch my day job. I made the most of every weekend, holiday, and a good chunk of my vacation days to check out different spots. Here’s the rundown of all the places I got to see in 2019:
- Ifugao Rice Terraces, Banaue
- Batad Rice Terraces, Banaue
- Maligcong Rice Terraces, Mountain Province
- Mount Fato, Mountain Province
- Mount Kupapey, Mountain Province
- Mount Pulag, Benguet
- Baguio, Benguet
- Manaoag, Pangasinan
- La Union, Pangasinan
- Mount Pinatubo, Zambales
- Nagsasa, Zambales
- BCG, Metro Manila (Discovering hidden gems)
- Caliraya, Laguna
- Pansol, Laguna
- Lipa, Batangas
- Calatagan, Batangas
- Chocolate Hills, Bohol
- Panglao, Bohol
- Loboc, Bohol
- Cebu City, Cebu
- Moalboal, Cebu
- Badian, Cebu
- Oslob, Cebu
- Osmena Peak, Cebu
- Sumilon Island, Cebu
- Taipei City
- Sun Moon Lake
- Yehliu Geopark
- Taichung City
- Taroko National Park
- Sa Pa
- Ninh Binh
Hong Kong (2nd time)
Singapore (2nd time)
Sure, travel can be a bit pricey. But the discoveries I made and the lessons I picked up? Priceless. I’ve jotted down three of them here, and I’ll share the rest in another blog post.
- You’ll never be alone — One of the best things about traveling was bumping into people who just get you. There’s always gonna be folks you cross paths with who vibe with your mindset, your goals, your ideas. You just gotta put yourself out there to find ’em.
- Conquering your fear — Once you stare down a fear and beat it, you’re invincible. I remember being scared of heights before I tried canyoneering in Cebu. But after that first leap off a cliff into the water, I was hooked. I couldn’t wait to do it again.
- I learned myself — Traveling gave me the chance to really look inward and ask myself questions only I could answer. Usually, I’d dive deep into my thoughts during a flight or a long bus ride. But one thing’s for sure, I always found myself reflecting whenever I hiked.
Trust me, introspection taught me a ton. Diving deep into my thoughts led to a whole bunch of realizations. Most of these realizations were about stuff I was doing wrong. They ranged from how I interacted with people to how I chased happiness. I’ll share a couple of them here:
- First off, I realized I needed to stop trying to impress people. I’m not proud to admit it, but one of the reasons I wanted that dream job was to show off, especially to my classmates. I wanted to prove that my work was relevant to what we studied in college… to show them that our five years of hard work wasn’t for nothing.
- Another thing I realized was that I needed to stop wasting time. After seeing all these beautiful places and experiencing unique cultures, I realized there’s so much beauty in this world to take in. Not visiting these amazing places would be a huge regret.
- Tied to the goal of seeing beautiful places is spending quality time with the people I truly care about: my family and friends. I want to travel with my loved ones and witness breathtaking sights. I want to make unforgettable memories with them. When this hit me, I decided I wouldn’t waste time on things that kept me from traveling. I also decided I wouldn’t do anything that kept me from spending more time with my friends and family. I needed to stop wasting time on things that didn’t help me reach my dreams. At the end of the day, we’ve only got around seventy years to live. Now’s the time to travel, live our lives, and show love to the people we care about.
November 2019 — so, back to my story… The year was winding down, and I’d ticked off almost all the spots on my bucket list. Plus, I’d had all these realizations and learned all this stuff I’ve been sharing with you…
Just got back to the grind from a week-long local trip, and I knew I was back to the same old, same old. Yeah, that life of being overworked and underpaid, hanging onto that dream job by a thread. But when I got back, I realized I couldn’t stand the system anymore. Nothing had changed in the company since day one. In fact, it had gotten worse. I was totally over it. With all these new ambitions, I felt like I was just wasting my time there… Staying in the company was a drag. I was seriously ready to throw in the towel.
But finding another job with the same roles in our country was like trying to find a unicorn. It was bonkers. I was cornered with no other choice but to stick around and try to flip the script. For several weeks, I went all in. I flagged the issue, pitched a few solutions. Tried to rally everyone to streamline our work. But all I got was a face full of disappointment. ‘Maybe the world is just a hot mess. We can’t have it all.’ I told myself.
January 27, 2020 — I was back in the city grind with a fresh gig in a slicker office. Scored a new role there, a bit of a switch-up from my last job. No more messing with prototypes, just straight-up embedded systems and coding.
For the first couple of months, I was feeling good. Right off the bat, I could see my career taking off. I was learning a ton, even picked up two new programming languages; they had me in training left and right. What is nicer? During my first day, my officemates took me out to one of the top Korean spots in town and gave me a free milk tea. I gotta say, I really missed working in the city.
My new coworkers were total champs! Whenever I was in a bind, they had my back. And when it came to fun stuff, pretty much everyone was game. But the real kicker? They were all about that work-life balance – just what I needed for my 2020 game plan.
Atually, I whipped up the plan back in December 2019 on a paper, and it took me over a week to get it just right. I had everything mapped out, like, every long weekend had a trip slotted in. Every month, I had a new goal to crush. I was so amped to tick everything off the list! I even psyched myself up that 2020 was gonna be my year. ‘New decade, new year, new productive me!’ I told myself. I was all in to travel and make some killer memories with my fam and friends.
Off the top of my head, here’s what I jotted down on the list:
- 4 mountains to climb/visit (Mount Pulag, Mount Mayon, Mount Apo, Mount Maculot)
- 4 international trips (Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia)
- 4 local trips (Davao, Siargao, Albay, Rizal)
- Spend time with family/friends during non-travel weekends
- Learn at least 3 new skills (Not specific, but I aimed to learn: a new programming Language, investing, and blogging)
- Stay Fit (1 hour of fitness activity per day)
- Find a girlfriend (Yes, this is included! But I do not require myself to do so if there’s no prospect)
That list is history now because I’ve already trashed it. You’ll find out why later… or given the dates, I bet you already have a clue.
But for the first time in my life, I felt like I had a roadmap, you know? I was buzzing with excitement and ready to take on the world. I even thought 2020 was gonna be my golden year. Until…
March 11, 2020 — The World Health Organization dropped the bomb that Covid-19 was a pandemic. March 12, 2020 — Like dominoes, different places in our country started going into lockdown, starting with our capital region where I was grinding. The government pulled the plug on all transport, and we were stuck at home for weeks on end. If it wasn’t for my mom’s network, I wouldn’t have been able to make it back to our hometown.
For the first two weeks of total lockdown, I was banking on our country getting a handle on the virus. I was clinging to the hope that life would bounce back to normal in a month. But the lockdown kept getting extended, and things just didn’t get better. After three months cooped up in quarantine and all the news I’d been hearing, I knew my 2020 game plan was toast. It was a real gut punch. But the worst part? It was still to come.
In the months that followed, after weeks of hardcore lockdown, I was hit with some serious anxiety – something I’ve kept on the down-low until now. Sleep was a no-go with a thousand thoughts racing through my mind every single night.
Sometimes I’d find myself tearing up on my pillow at 4 am because:
- First, I was scared I was wasting the prime years of my life. I’m in my mid 20’s, man, and I figured this was the time to be making those killer memories I could look back on when I hit 60.
- Second, I was terrified that CoViD-19 would hit me or my family. I couldn’t bear the thought of losing anyone before I had the chance to make some epic memories with them.
- Third, I felt like a massive chunk of my happiness had been ripped away. I live for traveling, it’s my go-to for a good time. I missed all the mind-blowing views and jaw-dropping natural wonders I used to take in.
I went dark on Facebook for a few months. I needed to cut out all the anxiety-inducing info overload everyone was sharing from all corners of the globe. Instagram became my go-to instead. Sure, there was Tiktok, but… it just wasn’t my vibe.
As you probably know, Instagram is chock-full of travel pics and videos. It was my sweet escape from the harsh reality we were living in. While I was scrolling through the discover tab on the Instagram app, I stumbled upon an account that was basically a mountain photo gallery.
Being a mountain lover myself, I decided to hit up the account owner to get the lowdown on these spots. We clicked right off the bat during our first chat. Our convo took us on a virtual tour of all sorts of mountains. We started off swapping stories about our first hikes, then moved on to the mountains we’ve had to scale within ourselves. It was epic!
Even though it was all online, I’d never connected with someone like this before. Our friendship just took off over the next few months. We got to the point where we considered each other best buds. We’d share memes and laugh at videos of people doing dumb stuff. We even spilled the beans on the most cringe-worthy moments of our lives! This dude helped me tackle my anxiety by steering our chats towards travel-inspired topics and fun online content. One video he shared that’s stuck with me is Elina’s PCT (Pacific Crest Trail).
Here’s my favorite part of Elina’s PCT video series:
Here, I was hard hit by Elina’s words:
“A lifetime of memories fit into a single experience, an experience that pushed you to your limits, limitations you acceded to create moments that shaped you.
With something like this, we take lessons away: Maybe a stronger sense of self. Maybe the realization that we are so capable of so much more. More adventure, less comfort. We are looking for growth, for meaning, for something deeper…
And sometimes, the things we find weren’t even what we’re looking for.”
Elina, in her video, nailed the ‘exact’ vibe you get when you’re out hiking or traveling. It’s this whole concept I’ve been wanting to share with my fam and friends, but just couldn’t find the words for.
My best bud shared Elina’s PCT videos with me just a few weeks before the pandemic hit rock bottom: I caught CoViD-19. I’m grateful that my family and I pulled through and didn’t end up in the hospital. I won’t go into the nitty-gritty of what we went through. But let’s just say it was a major stress fest that left us pretty shaken up at home. I even started losing some hair afterwards. Not sure what exactly triggered it, but I’m guessing it had something to do with my anxiety going through the roof. Never had to deal with anything like that before in my life.
I reckon CoViD-19 and the burnout from those crazy long work-from-home hours took a toll on me. Before I got hit with the virus, I was cool with grinding for 10 to 14 hours every weekday and even clocking in a few hours on the weekends (the workload was insane, but hey, it’s not like I had anything else to do but work).
But after a while, I just wasn’t feeling it anymore, mentally or physically. Felt like I needed a serious time-out to bounce back. So, I said ‘peace out’ to my job and gave myself some breathing room.
January 2021 — Right after I ditched my job, I hit the ground running on my recovery. Literally. I was out there pounding the pavement every day, and I started flipping the script on my mindset.
I took a look back at what was supposed to be the ‘best year of my life.’ And you know what? I realized that one of the goals I set for myself actually came true. That goal was spending more time with my family. I mean, after growing up, I never really had much time for them until this whole quarantine thing happened.
Even though I was still getting back on my feet, I felt like just ‘recovering’ was a waste of time. I needed to do something that would get me closer to my goals. Basically, I had two main goals: (1) Travel more and (2) Spend more time with family and friends. So, I started looking for ways to make both happen. From my experience, I knew it wasn’t going to be another 9 to 5 job. So, I started researching ways to make money online. It seemed like the only option that could give me the income and flexibility I was looking for.
So, after diving into a ton of articles, reflecting on my past, and really getting to grips with what I’m passionate about, I decided to start a travel blog. That’s how Engineering Travels came to be. In the beginning, I had big plans for Engineering Travels. I thought it would be a blog where people could learn about all the tech gear they’d need for their travels. But as time went on, I realized that reviewing travel gadgets wasn’t really my thing. What I really wanted was to help people get the most out of life through travel, just like I want for myself. It’s like I’ve found the purpose I was meant for.
- My family — I can’t even begin to express how thankful I am for the life my family has given me. Their hard work, the sacrifices they’ve made, and their unwavering dedication have all made it possible for me to chase my dreams. Everything I am and everything I’ve accomplished wouldn’t mean a thing without them. I’m seriously lucky to have a mom, dad, and sister who are so selfless and responsible. I promise you, I’m going to do everything I can to give back all the love you’ve shown me. And I’ll do whatever it takes to take you to all the amazing places you’ve always wanted to see.
- My best friend — Man, I can’t thank you enough for the crazy connection we’ve got. I’ve spent years hoping to find someone who gets me the way you do. Once this pandemic is over, I’m stoked for us to hit the road together and conquer the most epic mountains out there. It’s our ultimate dream, right?
Alright, let’s dive right in and start crafting an epic journey for you! Check out my top picks for destinations below. Feel free to pick one and let’s get this adventure rolling!