In a month or two I can celebrate my ‘2 years in the Philippines’- anniversary, I love to take you back to the first months and how I’m doing now. How is it to leave all behind and move to a country you have never been to before?
How it all started
My son and I owned a business in the Netherlands, a coworking hub. trendy, stylish and cheap. And the maths did not added up as we thought they would. We were ahead of our time I guess. The phenomenon ‘digital nomad’ was new to the Netherlands, and Dutch people are stingy when it comes to investing int heir own workspace. After 2 years we had to make a decision: Struggle on and see all our private capital being absorbed by this monster we created, or quit.
We decided to quit. We ended the lease and sold the inventory and we closed the books. Recently I looked at the pictures we keep in dropbox, for sentimental sake and God, we had a good thing there, just not the right time and place I guess.
My son was very clear, after we closed down, he would leave for Asia, the philippines. And he invited me to come along. Me being unemployed, no perspective of any job, since int he Netherlands 34 is considered old for any employee let alone 50+, I was doomed to live in social benefit for a few years and loose the house I bought and become homeless.
And that is how it all started! I sold everything I owned and left for good
Months of preparation were spent well once we landed in Manila. With all the expat wisdom in mind we went to Puerto Galera to acclimatise: Get used to the country, culture, climate and pace of the land. Since we were a little stressed (understatement) Leaving all behind and starting all over again is no easy decision to be made.
Although I travelled before, I started travelling at the age of 17 and did all of South America in 2.5 years, I did have a culture shock all over again. No matter how hard you prepare and how experienced you are, living in a rich, fully stocked 24/7 wester economy makes you forget about poverty: how it looks, smells and sometimes even feels.
But after a few weeks I settled in and Puerto galera became to small. I wanted to visit other island, explore other beaches and move on.
And so I did. I travelled for 6 months more or less to settle for a while in Dumaguete.
God I hated that place.
I had a nice house, but there all ‘nice’ things ended. I do not get the magic of Dumaguete. It is noisy, smelly and ugly. They may call it the number one retirement paradise, but I live in paradise now, while I lived in Dumaguete I felt much closer to the gates of hell.
It is all a matter of opinion I guess, many people are very happy living in that city, for me it was not a match
So I moved to Siquijor, and there I found love, I thought. Two times. Only to be tricked once and fooled twice. I guess all expats living here have some ‘love-story’ to tell and me being a woman makes no difference. To the Filipino man I’m beautiful, attractive, a rare species and available, since I live here and I’m single. (Their words, not mine)
Now, as I type I’m single again. Learned some lessons about cross cultural relationships with Filipino men and some character traits, and learned a lot about myself also. And although I would love to have a relationship, I would love to have a ‘normal’ relationship. And what is ‘normal’ to me, is very uncommon in the Philippines or to the Filipino men.
Two years, it has been a time of ups and downs, like it would have been anywhere else in the world
The most important thing I learned is that you are you, no matter where you go, you take yourself with you. Getting a second chance in life does not mean that your temperament changes or your character. You gain more life experience, that is for sure, but you are still you in all your uniqueness happiness, moodiness and sometimes sheer loneliness. Ups and downs even occur on white beaches and under a palm tree.
I longed for a simpler lifestyle, more in the moment and less stress
I do my laundry by hand. I live on a budget. I follow the pace of the land as much as I can and my former stress has been replaced by new stressors like:
- will the interent work today
- god, a brownout, how long will it last, since my freezer is stuffed with meat
- when will there be shampoo (or juice, or yoghurt, corn flakes, spare parts for the motorbike, or….. you name it!) available again in this island
- what to eat today or where
- will it rain
- how clean is the beach?
- will the ferry to Negros sail today
- how about that martial law thing and the negative travel advice
Stuff like that. And: will my visa be granted again? Yes it will. The Philippines has the most easy going visa rules in the world. Not so cheap, but it is very easy to get a visa here and extend it.
From ‘Nomadic Blogger’ to ‘Island Woman’ to……..
Although you take yourself with you wherever you go: I changed:
- I lost an enormous amount of weight and went from size XXL to M (Happy me)
- I’m more aware of the environmental impact we humans have on the earth
- I’m more grateful for smaller things and even more so for bigger ones
- I’ve become more patient
- I’ve lost my appetite for personal goals and achievements
- I found ‘me’ again and freed myself from all that Western society “go-go-go – you can do it -“bullshit
I still struggle with some of the cultural habits in this country, but I intend to stay. For a while, as the Filipinos tend to say.
Too many island are yet to be explored.
I changed my brand from “Nomadic Blogger to ‘ island Woman” only a few months ago, but being single again and the world at my doorstep, I’m in doubt.
But wherever I travel in this country, or if I settle down: I will always be on an Island and “Island Woman” suits me fine.
Blogging in the future? I do not know, maybe I stop. Focus more on Instagram, YouTube and Facebook.
Who knows what my future holds, the world is mine to explore and so is the internet