1 year, 10 months, in Malay, Aklan, Philippines

NASA pic of the Philippines from space, with Malay, Aklan circled.

I have been in Malay, Aklan, Philippines, for one year, 10 months today. The province is circled above in an image taken from space by NASA.

As a world traveler, I was already in the Philippines (since November 2019) when the world went nuts.

Thankfully, this country has an extremely generous tourist visa policy for Americans: three years. (Plus a four-month pandemic grace period.) So there’s been no rush to leave.

This has given me time to do a lot of “living with the locals.”

Theo and I, and overseas donors, brought electricity and water to a remote indigenous Ati village. We built a chicken house so the eggs would provide income for the marginalized group.

As budget travelers, our dollars go far here and our monthly cost of living is low- by American norms.

So we used our unused travel budget to help more people over the last 22 months.

We’ve paid for emergencies like surgeries, medicines, back payments on scooters and electric bills, and bought food for families and pets. And more. A whole lot more.

People are desperate for income because tourism is shattered. (The Philippines is still closed to foreign tourists, aside from those already here when borders sealed.)

We’ve been invited to locals’ homes, celebrations, special events.

I’ve gone to three funerals. I’ve also sat with grieving families during the various prayer gatherings that continue for 40 days after a death in this predominantly Catholic archipelagic country.

These 22 months have also afforded me the opportunity to watch as the travel world transitions to a “new normal.”

I hate that *easy budget travel* won’t be back for a long time. If ever.

I am grateful the Universe gave me time with the Sulu Sea, Boracay Island, and mainland Malay’s jungle hills and scenic rice fields. And helping people has been a pleasure – it lifts my spirits, gets me away from self-centered thinking.

But I’m restless. Even in this tropical paradise.

I love travel. Crave change. I miss my family and some parts about Western cultures.

I know our fellow Earth Vagabonds can relate.

Now, someone please remind me how good I have it.


*Note, this post first appeared in a Facebook group for travel-loving women.

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