I love The Philippines! Volcanoes. Lobster. Coffee. Scuba. Whale Sharks. USA Today Article. What more could I ask for?
Seoul, South Korea
Hello Friends and Family,
I know, I know. It’s been a long time since my last newsletter. Thanks for being patient.
One of the questions I like to ask my new friends that I’m meeting on this trip is, “If you could snap your fingers and go back to your favorite place on this Earth right now, where would that be?” Most people have an immediate response and a heartfelt answer. They usually smile and get a bit nostalgic just thinking about their favorite place. When they share their experience and passion with me, I usually write it down and put it on my list of places to visit before I die. Some of the places they have recommended are… to go see the polar bears and arctic landscape in Spitsbergen, Norway, to go trekking in the Himalayas in Nepal and Northern India, and to explore Buenos Aires, Cuba, western Africa, Laos, and New Zealand.
And a few of my new friends said they absolutely loved the Philippines. Matt from Canada and Jagos from Greece basically convinced me that I should not miss the Philippines if I could help it. I met Matt in New Zealand and Jagos while scuba diving in the Togian Islands in Indonesia. The stories they told me about how friendly and hospitable the Philippino people are, and about how beautiful the islands and beaches are, made me realize that I needed to go check it all out for myself. I am so happy that I took their advice. My experiences in the Philippines were some of my favorites so far on this trip. I ended up spending about five weeks island hopping and exploring the Philippines, and I don’t regret a single moment of it.
So this edition of the Lexpedition will focus entirely on my adventures in the Philippines. But before I get into that, there’s something I really want to share with you…
While I was relaxing on the beaches of Boracay, my good buddy back home, Pat MacDonald, sent me an email to tell me that the USA Today newspaper was looking for people who had moved out of the real estate market and into other investments. Well, long story short, I was featured on the front page of the Money Section of the USA Today on June 6th. One of my friends wrote me an email and said: “I find it ironic and hilarious that a guy who has not worked for two years, and who has been scuba diving and eating bugs in the jungle can end up on the front page of the Money Section.” I corrected him by saying that it has actually been 29 months since I had a job. But he was right about the scuba diving and jungle bugs. I find it hilarious as well.
I enjoyed the article. It talked about how some people had done really well in the real estate boom a few years ago, while also pointing out how many people had bitten off more than they could chew and were regretting their choices. I also enjoyed having the last word in the article. I like having the last word. The last word. The last word. I like having the last word.
So you can see the USA Today article by clicking on the link at the end of this newsletter.
And now back to the countdown…
I arrived in Manila after a few days of enjoying Macau (Hong Kong’s little next door neighbor with a serious gambling problem.) In Macau I bungee jumped off the 70-story Macau Tower. At 764 feet (233 meters) it’s currently the world’s highest bungee jump. It was frickin’ amazing. I’m very glad I did it, and I’m even happier that I am still alive today, as it’s hard to travel around the world when you’re dead. I’ll tell you more about that later, and include some cool pictures from my bungee jump there. What does this have to do with the Philippines, you ask? Nothing. So let’s move on…
I arrived at the Clark airport outside Manila and hopped on a two-hour airport shuttle bus to the city. On the bus, I met three really cool guys from Copenhagen. We started talking, and the next thing we know we’re sharing a taxi to find a hotel. Originally, I was planning to spend a few days in Manila before heading north to explore the rice terraces and green landscapes of Banaue. But after spending the night exploring the waterfront and famous midget bars of Manila, I decided that the four of us would have a blast traveling together.
So the next day we left on a sleeper bus from Manila to Legazpi for a day of swimming with whale sharks in Donsol. I ended up traveling with these guys all over the Philippines for over four weeks, and we had a LOT of fun. I have been traveling on this trip for almost eleven months now, and I have traveled a lot in the past. And I can say that it is very, very rare to find new friends or a group of people who can travel together and get along well and share the same interests and attitudes. I experienced this rare “magic” with my Stray Bus friends in New Zealand and a few brief times in Indonesia. When I find good, friendly, fun people who are on the same basic itinerary as I am, it’s a bonus. If I can travel with them for four weeks, well, that’s just lucky.
Morten, Anders, and Louis were really fun to travel with. They were very funny guys with big hearts. They had recently spent a month volunteering at an orphanage in Nepal. I can’t wait to visit them in Denmark soon. I also traveled with some really cool Danish people in Ladakh and New Zealand, so I have lots of tour guides in Copenhagen. Be patient… I’ll get there eventually.
After swimming with the whale sharks in Donsol, we headed back to Legazpi to catch a few flights down to Cebu. The whale sharks in Donsol feed on the massive concentration of plankton in the bay. We swam with nine different whale sharks during our three-hour boat tour. The whale sharks are the largest fish on the planet, measuring up to 40 feet (12 m) long and weighing up to 15 tons. They are actually extremely passive and gentle creatures, but I still felt quite intimidated and humbled to be swimming with these massive beings. I’ll include some pictures in my next newsletter so you can understand me better.
We had a quick “breakfast” at the local airport in Legazpi while waiting for our flight to Cebu. And then we had some fun. Here are Morten and Louis doing their best Shao-Lin Warrior impersonations. If you click on the photos you’ll see how much fun they were having. Notice the fuming volcano in the background.
We spent 17 nights in Boracay, one of the most beautiful places on the Earth, as far as I’m concerned. We initially went there to spend 6 or 7 nights, but we were having so much fun there. We kept pushing back our departure from Boracay… we just did not want to leave. The local people were so gentle and hospitable. The weather was impeccable. The nightlife was amazing. I went scuba diving in the afternoons while the guys rode bikes or skim-boarded on the beach. We had a blast! How can you leave a place that looks like this???
I will write more later about how nice and generous and hospitable the great people of the Philippines are. In all honesty, they might be the nicest and warmest people I have ever met, right up there with the gentle and gracious people of Nepal and Ladakh. They were always smiling and willing to help us if we needed it. The children were smiling and carefree… like children should be. Here’s a sweet little boy in Donsol (where we swam with the whale sharks.) I walked around with him and his friends at sunset for a while, laughing and playing and having a blast. He reminded me of my nephew Elliott back home. I really miss Elliott.
OK, I’ll write more about my adventures in the Philippines in my next newsletter. I’m still having a blast on my trip, and I can’t believe that I’ve already been gone for almost eleven months. Wow, how time flies when you’re having a blast. I lost my new digital camera while hiking in Seoul the other day. I had just bought it in Australia in December to replace the one I broke in Indonesia. So now I’m going on digital camera number three already on this trip. Ouch!
So happy solstice, my friends. And Happy Birthday to Rockbox (my dad), who just turned 66 on June 19th. Of all the people and things I miss while I’m traveling, I have to say that sharing coffee and baseball games and fun times with my father are at the very top of the list. Happy birthday, Rockbox!
Life is good. It now looks like I will be returning to the Himalayas in northern India (Ladakh) at the end of July. That’s my current plan, and that makes me a happy boy! If I could snap my greasy little Latvian fingers right now and magically transport you to stand on top of a Himalayan peak in Ladakh with me, I would. That’s my favorite place on Earth so far. Try to get there if you can. If you can’t… well, stay tuned… I’ll send pictures and stories about my adventures there.
Don’t forget to read the USA Today article below.
Thank you all for your support and friendship. And thank you for all your emails, especially the funny ones. And remember, no matter where you go, it follows you.
Peace & Love,
Founder and Spiritual Guru of Honyaks Anonymous (Hon-Anon)
Original Member of the Village People (Construction Worker)
One of the Seven Financial Wonders of the World
Final note: My brother Dominic was actually on the front cover of the USA Today in 1985 when Villanova upset Georgetown in the NCAA basketball championship. In the cover photo, Dominic was wearing around his neck one of the two nets that were cut down after the game. How he got one of those nets is a really good question. How he also ended up on the front cover is an even better question. I guess he’s the lucky one in our family.
Here’s the USA Today Article – enjoy:
“Many Investors Feel Like Running Away From Homes”
USA Today, June 6th, 2007, by Matt Krantz