I'm diving into a new experiment: living without money. While I'm not yet completely moneyless (I still have an ATM and a credit card, and still spend on rent and food), I've been slowly easing my way out of The System, The Soul-Sucking Workforce, and The Suicidal Consumerist Economy. Along the way I'm discovering a different kind of fix, one that fattens my spirit and nothing else. None of the following things can ever be bought or commercialized, and yet they're far more intoxicating than the everyday, store-bought paperbag of happiness. With little writing work and so much free time in my hands, I've been chasing bliss towards wherever it leads me.
Exploring a new island on my own. Solo traveling is just as intimate as curling up with an impressionistic book. But unlike imagining scenes, you're launched into a 3D, HD-quality type of story.
Meeting local and foreign nationals. This is probably the biggest spice I have of traveling alone. Also, I've met my muse, my surf-riding darkling.
Feeling the ocean breeze. Some days I just while the time away on a hammock by the beach, shutting my eyes and feeling the ocean breathing on my skin.
Biking on the open road. Freewheeling and baked in the sun, I go wherever I feel like it and end up in surprising places locals themselves don't even know about.
Reading a book. Gave away my entire library and have either been reading on my tablet or borrowing books from hotels. Travelers from the world over leave plenty of good books behind.
Swimming far out in the sea. Purging, healing, revitalizing, swimming in the sea pulls me back into the aqueous womb of the earth.
Petting baby animals along the road. To replace my addiction to watching youtube vids of cuddly animals. XD
Getting stoked on the sunrise everyday. I haven't missed a sunrise since January! Light is my new alarm clock.
Birdwatching. Sighting plenty of various bird species is an everyday occurrence.
Experimenting with one less thing one at a time. Going towards ultralight, I'm shaving off one thing at a time from my backpack. Everything I own is now under 10 kg.
Helping people out. Currently lending a hand to an archaeologist setting up a museum in El Nido, among others.
Drinking coconut juice. My favorite refreshment next to plain old water. You just yank it off a tree and hack the top off. Yum!
Having a nap or picnic in the shade of trees. My room is just where I dump my stuff. Everything I do is outdoors, even my office.
Hitchhiking to remote beaches. Aw, the joys of hitchhiking! Every driver I meet on the road is swelling with a generous heart.
Sharing my spoils of the day (mostly food) with my neighbors. Just because they give me plenty of free food, mostly harvested produce or just picked from our backyard.
Brewing lemongrass tea. The grass I just pull out from the earth, wash the dirt off, and steep in hot water.
Soaking up in the view of islands and the ocean from a mountaintop. Something I can never have but have already stashed away in my memory.
Listening to eclectic music. My new digs come from other nomads on the road.
Gazing at the spray of the milky way in the black night. The universe is one deep monstrous cavern and we are but one trifling sparkle. And yet we sparkle.
Building daily habits towards zero waste. Because I'm devoted to saving the environment and eventually being an activist.
Watching kiteboarders surf and defy the forces of nature. Most afternoons I just sit back on the east coast and watch these junkies soar in between wind and water.
Fishing in the calm and clear sea under a bright, full moon. I don't eat fish anymore, but I hitch on fishermen's boats just to hang out and watch.
Immersing in Cuyonon culture. Not only am I immersing myself in this but helping out in their cultural programs.
Getting high on the scent of tree blossoms. My landlady's choice of drug are flowers. I don't even have to stop and smell these things. They're everywhere!
Shopping for fresh fruits and vegetables. Since there is no fridge (not to mention electricity!) where I live, I buy fresh produce everyday.
Eating cheap and yummy vegan food. March marks my first vegan anniversary. The transition has been hellish and lonely but definitely worth every effort.
Listening to the sound of a typhoon. On my first night in eastern El Nido, I thought there was a storm outside, what with the sound of downpour and the thrashing of trees. But nooo, it was only Amihan mimicking the onslaught of a typhoon.
Cranking into yoga poses on the beach. I used to despise yoga, but now my body cannot be booted into a new day without breathing fire into gratifyingly painful poses.
Writing my first novel. Ah, art. Possibly the only thing I can't live without next to air.
Inhaling the deliciously clean ocean air. This is what I left the city for: to breathe and be seduced once again into the simplicity of being alive.
My quest for the perfect water bottle led me to this. Prior this vacuum insulated steel bottle, I had two Klean Kanteens that did not work for me; and before those, a BPA-free Nalgene plastic bottle which I used for about five years. Below is pretty much my favorite bottle of all time. I keep it with me wherever I go.
My small water bottle of perfection. Rubbed the logo out with denatured alcohol.
I use this container for all my drinking fluids and for storing food leftovers.
I no longer drink soda, caffeinated beverages, or any type of liquor.
These days I only drink water, coconut water, and calamansi juice.
The beauty of this bottle is it simplifies all my drinking habits.
No more plastic bottles, plastic cups, and paper cups.
No more using multiple (breakable) glass or ceramic cups at home.
It keeps food and fluids hot for 6 hours, and cold ones for 12 hours.
That's phenomenal for a little thing, methinks. It also lasts a lifetime.
Everyday is a day to fall in love with here in Palawan. In the morning I'm always hyped to get out of bed that I instinctively wake up at 5 am. Without an alarm clock. I walk around town by 6, and watch the imposing limestone cliffs slowly come on fire. The rest of the day is an adventure, and comes to a close with the pretty sun dunking behind islands and islets in the horizon.
Each week I spend 3 to 4 days buried in reading and writing, and the rest of the week exploring by bike or on foot all the secret (and sacred) spots to hang out in the island. I still can't believe I'm here. A year ago, this was nothing but a dream. And now I'm here, not just for a vacation, but to settle down and live that dream. I'm carving my little perfect life, and this small town may be the best place to do that.
El Nido is busy this peak season though. Stupid of me not knowing it's peak season when I moved here. No matter how near or far I scouted for an apartment to rent long-term, all effort has been futile. In the meantime I'm staying at a hostel beside Art Cafe, just a stone's throw away to the nearest beach. If I don't find a place to settle down in a month or two, I might check out the more quiet Coron Island.
// UPDATE: Found the perfect home at the kiteboarding side of El Nido.
When I was a kid, I never wanted to be writer. I wanted to be an artist. I only happened to be a dork and loved books. Right up the year-end of 2016, I've been figuring out why I am doing this. I've brainstormed a hundred and one reasons, but I still haven't arrived at that one supreme and solid answer. Why write? What's your reason? Tell me.
An idea is a million times more explosive than a painting.
Writing is a minimalist job. All you need is one sleek laptop.
You can work from anywhere.
Your only limit is your imagination.
You can specialize in topics and genres you like.
You get to notice details that will never cross other people's minds.
Being alive feels like living in HD.
Your senses are sharpened over time.
You get to pick on other people's grammar.
You can freewheel inside your head for hours on end and never get bored.
You're not afraid to be alone and explore the universe inside your psyche.
You can create new worlds and build new characters and situations.
You can choose from being a journalist, novelist, poet, scriptwriter, playwriter, speechwriter, magazine writer, news reporter, children's book writer, travel writer, comic book writer, and so on.
There's so much room for improvement and a universe of styles and techniques to explore.
You can write while traveling the world.
Unlike paintings and sculptures, your writing can be spread across multiple platforms and mediums and yet never lose its vision and authenticity.
If you can think of 101 ways to use a paperclip, you can think of 101 ways or reasons to do other things.
It's a phenomenal mental exercise.
When you get old and everyone else is withering away, your mind is still as spry as when you were in your twenties.
You get to imbibe in the fountain of youth. Everything you'd write is a memorial of your life. It lives forever.
You can choose to be financially rich, like J.K. Rowling, or poor like Henry Thoreau. Earning and wealth are but a mindset.
There's no age like today, the internet age, when writing is in demand.
You're a creator. You're a god.
You understand that inspiration springs from anywhere and everywhere. You don't wait for it. You just grab it from in front of your face.
Writing can surprise you in ways you didn't know existed about yourself.
Writing may be an egotistic venture, but writers are some of the most generous folks you'll ever meet.
Writing can be a form of meditation. Or therapy. It's a healing process. Or a break up process. Either way, it's a process of growing up.
If you don't want to wrestle with deadlines, find clients who don't have deadlines.
If you don't want to go to an office, choose to write remotely.
If you don't want to have a boss, be your own boss.
You can choose to wake up whenever you want.
But writing at the crack of dawn can be a magical ritual.
After writing for a long time, one day it hits you that you don't really need coffee to function.
You learn at a young age how simple moments and fleeting beautiful lines can be sacred.
Writing allows you to attack a subject from multiple angles.
Writing lets you embrace your own individuality.
You get to meet eccentric people from writing workshops.
It allows you the freedom to do what you love every damn day.
Every experience can be turned into an artwork.
If you get to be a food writer, you get to try out various kinds of food from all over the world.
If you get to be a travel writer, you get to explore exquisite places and try things you'd never imagine existed.
If you get to be a gossip writer, you get to have inside scoop to the juiciest scandals in your local community.
Writing itself is drugs.
Writing can help store the best and worst of your memories. It's a pretty nifty time traveling activity.
And when you've lost most of your memories, you can always go back to your old writings and remember chapters of your lifetime.
Writing allows you to forget too. You can write for an entire year about your miserable life and come out of that a new race of human.
Writing can be a great way to spring clean your mind.
You get to understand the most complex of things with your whole heart.
You can stay behind the scenes while changing the world.
Sometimes you get to fall in love with your own fictional characters.
Reading only artistic works can be enough reason for living.
Because the world of make-believe can be even more believable than where you really are.
Most of the best movies you've seen are based on books.
Writing is an intimate way of spending time, and earning money.
Writing duplicates your spirit on a page. It's like a soul-print not just with a time, date, and place, but also feeling, perception, attitude, and even an entire worldview.
You learn to become a story-teller regardless of whether you have good or bad stories to tell.
Writing can be a road map to becoming an artist.
All movies you've ever seen sprung from the mind of a writer.
All songs you've ever heard flowed from the heart of a writer.
Some of the silent revolutions in the world were ignited by writers.
If you don't have anything to give your loved ones, writing a gut-wrenching letter can even be more valuable than any other pointless present.
You can pick a potential mate with a few potent lines scribbled on a napkin.
Sometimes you can get away with anything by writing a persuasive letter.
A politician can sway a million people with just a 10-minute speech, written by no other than a writer.
Writers are some of the most romantic fucked ups on the planet.
Writers can never completely fall in love, except with a muse that doesn't exist.
You can match the activity with liquor, drugs, or coffee, and the writing will come out different every time.
Everything you've written, even those that are not about you, exposes your unconscious to the public eye.
Being a writer can be an excuse for being reckless, immoral, or irreverent.
Writing wordplays recreates that feeling of being a child all over again.
You can be a simpleton and still be a writer.
Writers are some of the most human of humans.
Writers make love with everything.
You can discuss every sinful topic and make it sound like new world order.
In the Philippines, a revolutionary hero named Jose Rizal is a self-published novelist.
The most outrageous thinkers who have ever lived delivered their ideas through words and words alone.
Buddha's or Jesus' ideas wouldn't have survived without writing.
You get to understand that every word, spoken or written, has an agenda.
When you dive into the advertising industry, suddenly you realize that all advertisements, all taglines and storylines and jingles, are spinning an intricate webwork of illusion for you to hand over your money.
When you're a writer, you understand that words and the ideas behind them are the building blocks of beliefs, both real and illusory.
Criticizing other people's manuscripts allows you to see your own writing in a shittier light. And then you wipe the tears away and channel your pain for revenge: to become better.
You just need to give a damn about one thing, one sentence at a time, to go on living.
Writing is a vicarious way of reliving moments of your life or others' lives (or even imaginary lives) all over again.
A feeling is a feeling is a feeling, whether it is actually happening or is being written (or otherwise being imagined).
When you write long enough, you have the feeling that you are dictating the script of your own lifetime. And it turns out to be true.
You can start a revolution by writing one slim manifesto.
Your writing can outlive you even thousands of years from now.
Writing can make you undecided which side to take during a war because you can clearly see the point of view of each opposing camp.
Writers can bridge the gap of misunderstanding between two people, two groups of people, or even between two nations.
Writers are outstanding communicators but can be ridiculous at communicating their own feelings.
Sometimes you don't even need a laptop to write. You can write on paper, on a chalkboard, on a bark of a tree, on sand, on water, on air.
Writing forces you to look at insignificant things in a significant way.
You can start being a writer the moment you choose to be.
Being a writer doesn't only mean you have great ideas, but that you can fire people up into action.
An article or story that you've written for a few minutes or hours can be used to move others over and over again, indefinitely, exponentially.
You get a hand at shaping popular beliefs, or even popularizing unconventional ones.
Writing makes you understand that "meaning" isn't the most crucial part of being alive.
Like writing, each experience no matter how repetitive has the capacity for novelty.
There's nothing more thrilling than seeing your own name on the spine of a book.
Your mind becomes a sacred vessel for new ways of thinking, doing, and being.
You're writing even when you're staring out the window, looking through the clouds, remembering what sort of constellation you used to be.