Frankly, I’m not preparing much at all. I learned long ago that it’s best to just show up with a lot of time available and and take it from there. This gives maximum flexibility. If I like a place I can stay longer. If I hear from other travelers on the road about a good place that I wasn’t planning on visiting, I can go without worrying about messing up my plans. Having a lot of time helps in dealing with delays and other travel problems.
I am doing some things in advance. My lack of knowledge of the Philippines is vast, and I had no ideas about where to go. So I did some research, mostly online, and a little in the poorly-written Lonely Planet Philippines. I learned that the Philippines, which consists of 7,000 islands, is surprisingly big. There’s no well-defined backpacker circuit like in Thailand and Cambodia. There’s no way I’ll come close to seeing most of it in two months, so I had to come up with a rough plan.
It would be possible to spend my entire two months on the main island, Luzon, and still not see all of just that one island. So I decided to concentrate on North Luzon, famous for its rice terraces. Then the remote Palawan islands, which have white sand beaches are snorkeling opportunities, sound nice. After this it will be good to take some time to work. Cebu City in the Visayas sounds like a nice city to spend some time. After that I may explore some of the Visayas before finishing up the trip in Manila.
I needed a ticket there, so I cashed in miles for my flight to Manila. Since I’ll be arriving late, I booked my first night in Manila. Airlines don’t let you board flights from the US without an onward ticket, so I bought a ticket to Bali. For stays longer than 30 days, United will not let you board without a visa, even if you have an onward ticket, so I had to apply for a tourist visa. Finally, because the Philippines is an archipelago, I’ll need some domestic flights, but these can be booked a few days before I want to fly.
As for gear, the only things I really need to travel are a passport and a ticket. I have pretty much all the other stuff I’m going to take. I can wear the same clothes I wear at home; there’s no need for expensive travel clothes. Most travel gadgets are unnecessary encumbrances. I aim to keep it simple. And it’s possible to buy anything I might need once I arrive.
One thing I am doing is learning to use my camera’s manual mode more effectively. Some of my best photos have blown-out skies, and not even Lightroom can fix that. I’m going through the classic book Understanding Exposure, 3rd Edition: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera, and reading about features of my venerable Canon Rebel Xsi. I have to learn how to set my camera so I get consistently correct exposures in-camera, in order to minimize post-processing time.
I put myself on a three day a week blogging schedule. There’s still the matter of the design of the blog. I installed a free theme that looks OK, but it’s not exactly what I want.
My slow travel strategy will never allow me to brag about how many countries I’ve visited. If I spend two months in every country I go to, I won’t make it to many. But I’d rather go slow so I can immerse myself in the local culture.
Do you have any tips for visiting the Philippines?