Aileen Adalid of I Am Aileen has come a long way in developing a sustainable travel lifestyle. Despite facing challenging odds, and holding a limited passport, Aileen tells how she makes her pursuit of travel reachable. 1. What inspired you to want to travel, and what made you take the leap at 21? I was born in a small island in the Philippines called Batanes. Its size alone had already exposed me to the fact that there’s so much more to see out there: places, people, and cultures. Every since I was small, I dreamt of traveling the world! However, given that both my parents and the society that I grew up in were traditional, I was raised to believe that international travel is only for the rich, the privileged, or the retired. Therefore over time, I was influenced to settle into society’s concept of security: graduate, get a job, work, get married, have kids, and retire. After my college graduation, I lived in the capital of Manila and worked for an investment bank. Now it sounds like a high-paid job, but as a new graduate, I didn’t make much money at all. Truth be told, I only earned $300-plus a month, which left me with almost no savings. Day by day, I was swamped with working overtime and I gradually became miserable. Later on, I started to meet nomads and travelers who were passing through the city. Talking to these people made me realize that it’s a lifestyle that’s truly possible. Above all they just looked so happy, that’s how I knew that I shouldn’t let my dreams be shoved in the backseat anymore. I wanted to take control of my life and not waste my 20s. After I reached my second year at the company where I was working in, I did two months of preparation, handed in my resignation, and launched my traveling lifestyle–all at the age of 21. 2. One major challenge for you in terms of traveling was that you were working a low paying job in the Philippines. How did you overcome this? True enough, that’s why I found ways for me to get paid better at a competitive price. After doing some research, I learned that the best “market” for me to work in was online because I saw how companies can pay you fairly (or better) as long as you do good work and have the right credentials. It helps to mention that I chose to do work in what I love: design and marketing. These two fields are totally unrelated from my past job and college degree, but I have always done them as a hobby on the side. Therefore I worked hard for two months to polish my knowledge and I scoured for clients that could give me a steady stream of income. Once I found those employers, and knew that my work for them would be stable, it was when I decided to hand in my resignation to my previous low-paying job. I did this because though I wanted to follow my dreams, I also didn’t want to do it haphazardly. I still wanted to secure my future, so that’s why I made sure that I made smart decisions. 3. Your other challenge was your limited Third World passport. Where was it issued, and what obstacles did it impose? I have a Philippine passport, which is one of the powerless passports in the world. It only enables me to visit 60-plus countries visa-free, as compared to Sweden, which lets its citizens to travel to over 174-plus countries visa-free. For sure, there are more countries out there who had it even worse than I do, but I know already the struggle of having to deal with costly visas and strict immigration officers (not only for visa-required countries, but even for visa-free ones too). Given that problem, I first developed myself as a “well-traveled” individual. I also continually worked on my online freelance projects, so that I could have records showing that I never overstay in any country, that I can afford it, and that I have enough documents (tax, etc.) to show. In time, I have been successful in my visa applications, so my previous preparations really helped! 4. What have been some of the most important lessons you’ve learned from traveling? There were absolutely a lot of lessons that I have learned. But I guess, what really stood out to me was when I learned how to challenge preexisting thoughts and stereotypes. For instance, the world is not such a scary place at all. We have been far too conditioned by the media to think that strangers are not to be trusted and that certain foreign countries are unsafe. It may be true in certain circumstances, but more often than not, travel has shown me that there’s far more goodness in this world than we know. Other than that, travel had also taught me to look past the bad side of things. It’s like the more people I meet, the more understanding I become of others’ quirks, flaws, and customs. In my opinion, travel is a great life skill that everyone should learn. I think most of the problems in this world are rooted in narrow-mindedness, insensitivity, and prejudices. 5. If someone told you they really wanted to travel but didn’t have the means, what would be your #1 tip to them? My #1 tip would be to “look harder.” Meaning that they should stop focusing on the factors that cannot permit them to travel and focus instead on factors that “can” make them do so. I say this because I’ve talked to too many people already who focus too much on the negative. They forget the fact that if they do the research, and if they really want it bad enough, there are really so many ways that traveling can be done. So connect with like-minded people. Look for a mentor if you have to, and don’t be afraid to reach out to someone and ask for advice. Besides, I have met travelers who had it worse off than I did, yet they have made their travel dreams come true by doing whatever means they could — traveling cheaper, selling their possessions, etc. There are sacrifices to be made, that’s for sure, but as long as you persevere, your efforts surely will be fruitful. 6. What has been the biggest reward of leaving a corporate job for a self-employed/location-independent lifestyle? I think it would be those wonderful feelings of freedom, happiness, and self-fulfillment! In my previous job, I was neither happy nor motivated and that’s mainly because it wasn’t my passion — it was a lifestyle that didn’t fit me. So once I did start to do things that I love, I became happier. I was able to do and see more things, and I could also finally take control of my future. I was even constantly finding new opportunities! For one thing, I have met various people from around the world that had actually helped give me ideas on my current online business which now makes me lead an even more sustainable travel lifestyle!
About Aileen Adalid
Aileen Adalid is a travel writer and entrepreneur. She’s the personality behind the award-winning blog http://iAmAileen.com.
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