This should have been posted last August 28 but because of some adjustments on the blog, it came late. But just the same, I want to present to you our 1st “Backpacker of the Month” Kareen Oloroso, aka “Kakay“.
Every last Saturday of the Month we will feature a backpacker. This is to balance my blog posts (hindi puro na lang ako, ako at ako 🙂 ) because I want us to learn what backpacking is from others as well. Here’s my simple interview with her. Without further adieu (drum roll please…. tadadaaaaahhhh….)
Name: Kareen “Kakay” Oloroso
Country of Origin: Philippines
Describe Backpacking in 3 words: “Way of Life”
How long have you been backpacking? Since I was 15, so around 12 years.
How did you start? I never imagined I would be a backpacker or a mountaineer. Adventure is a no-no in the family and especially for girls. I never had much chance to explore when I was growing up, Manila is not the best place for adventure-seekers but the yearly visits to the family in Mindoro Oriental started it all. And my chance to explore opened when I moved to Bacolod to study. My first backpacking and camping was during my first year in the university and I don’t know the city nor the neighboring cities well BUT it is like my rite of passage to independence – find my own way. A friend told me about an environmental camp where I don’t know anyone but he said it is open to all and so I joined. I can’t join the group leaving in the morning and the only way is to follow them on my own. My first backpack is the one from my brother as well as the hiking shoes and the cargo pants, I looked like a boy but I don’t care. So with the instruction on how to reach the mountain village on my notepad and my funny Ilonggo accent, I went to the camp. And it was the start of the years of backpacking, camping, and traveling.
Best experience ever: The ever-changing plan, or let’s say the ever-adjusting plan. I was in Davao in 2005 and planned a week-long backpacking with Siargao as the end destination to learn surfing. I was still in Talikud Island (Davao) when a friend called me that her friends are climbing Mt. Apo… and I can join them if I want to. With summer clothes on my backpack, I went up Apo and camped for a week. Was lucky to find a sleeping bag and leggings for the climb. However, I forgot some spare socks. My big toe nails went dead after being soaked to muddy water that couldn’t get out of my water-proof hiking shoes… However it’s totally worth it, I’ve gained friends and improved my Bisaya a lot.
Worst experience: Having an inconsiderate and irritating travel buddy. I usually travel solo but I don’t mind having a buddy but sometimes, just like during my recent travel, it is really getting into my nerves.
Favorite Travel Quote: “I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” -Robert Louis Stevenson
Longest backpacking trip: The recent one. I went to 6 Southeast Asian countries (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei) for 3 months. Took the flat-boat down the Mekong, the small boats to the small islands of Laos in the south, hitchhiked my way from Brunei to Kota Kinabalu, and took the sleeper-bus from the south to the north of Vietnam to name a few. I’ve met old friends and gained new ones. I’ve met “once-a-young-backpacker” who is at his late 60’s now and still backpacking. Listening to his stories is one of the highlights of my trip that made me promise to myself that I will be a backpacker for life. And for the 3 months (++), I’ve only spent around 1,500 USD (PhP67,755.00) for everything (everything includes 6 airfares and lots of bus rides). Some stuff are also friends-sponsored like the ever loyal sandals I was wearing the whole duration of the trip. The backpack I am using is also owned by a friend who was supposed to be my travel buddy but she is now in the UK working.
Any realization/reflections during the trip: A friend sent me an email while I was on the road. He wrote, “you made me realize that I took the orthodox way in life. I was born, went to school, finished University, got my first job, had my master’s, got promoted, going to get married soon, will buy a house, start a family, retire and die… You are doing what makes you happy and not what is mostly expected of you. And I am happy for you.”
Another friend wrote: “Seeing your photos makes me feel that I am travelling, too. Thanks for taking us with you.”
There are so many people who can’t travel or choose not to travel and I am one of the fortunate-ones who chose to travel and realized it. My recent travel in Southeast Asia changed a lot of perceptions I had of the countries I’ve visited.
Must-haves: Swiss knife, pen and notebook, hammock, basic toiletry kit, and first-aid kit.
3 Backpacking tips:
1. Always top-up your mobile and make sure you’ve got batteries. You wouldn’t want to miss opportunities like I almost did when I arrived in Bacolod. A friend brought a friend to the airport and there was a chance that he is still somewhere the airport having coffee… BUT I’ve only got 5Php on my mobile and a wrong number. Luckily the security guard who brought my water bottle from the plane is selling mobile credits. Whew! I saved 150Php and breakfast! 🙂
2. Never ever put anything valuable or sentimental on your backpack’s side pockets. I did!!! I lost my Lonely Planet in Malaysia and almost lost my SIGG water bottle in the Philippines.
3. Choose well what will be in your pack. I’ve just brought a small backpack with me for the 3 months trip but still I’ve got clothes that I seldom wore. Next time, I will just bring 3 shirts, lots of undies, travelling pants and 2 shorts. That’s still a lot, I tell you. Mind your back than minding your appearance. Nobody cares. I was carrying still around 20 kilos for 3 months just because I have my laptop and some formal clothes with me for the volunteer work I did in Malaysia during the Second World Ecotourism Conference.
Best Place in the Philippines: It would be Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental. It’s chill, it’s laid-back, it’s affordable, and my friends are there! Don’t miss the painitans at the market. Lourdes’ Painitan would be my favorite. Puto and Sikwati!!! Yum!
Best Place Abroad: Berlin (Germany)!!! The coolest capital in the world. Name what you want and you’ll have it.
For more of Kakay’s adventure, you can visit her blog at http://www.kakay-adventure2010.blogspot.com and http://www.kakay-adventures.blogspot.com
Thanks a lot Kakay for the opportunity to share you with my readers. I believe a lot are inspired on your stories. Now, I have to heed your 3rd backpacking tip, I though my 35-kl bag is already light. Hats off to your recent 3-month backpacking trip! Hope to see you soon on the road less traveled!