One of the best ways to educate oneself, and one of the best investments one can make in life—this is how Lois Yasay sees travelling, one-half of the duo behind We are Sole Sisters, one of the country’s top travel blogs. Together with her friend and fellow Sole Sister Chichi Bacolod, Lois traveled across Southeast Asia on a budget of P100,000 for six months. Leaving the comforts of home and the stability of a monthly paycheck, the two journeyed to India, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, and Burma to satisfy their wanderlust.
Lois had always been a fan of traveling. In 2008, she left the Philippines to live in Europe and in New York, because she believed moving to another country was the only way she could experience the world without spending too much. For her, long-term travel offered more opportunities than the usual week-long vacation, as having more time to get to know a place and its people was a great learning experience. “It’s more than just having your photo taken with a popular landmark or ticking an item off your bucket list,” she noted. “You get the chance to understand the local residents, and see how similar or different they are from you.”
Setting up for six months around SEA
While in New York, Lois’ passion for adventure hit fever pitch after meeting lots of travelers from all over the world. “They would tell me about countries like Laos and Vietnam, and I would ask myself, ‘How come these people have visited these places and I haven’t? I’m the girl from Southeast Asia.’”
When she moved back to the Philippines in 2010, the desire to explore Southeast Asia only grew stronger. While working as a financial services trainer for a foreign bank, Lois met Chichi who was equally gung-ho about going on a great adventure. They christened themselves the Sole Sisters and made concrete steps toward taking the big jump.
But with the grand dream came the challenges, foremost of which was the budget. Lois said she felt daunted by the idea of traveling for six straight months and leaving a good-paying, stable job behind. Yet their determination to make their travel dreams come true persisted, and Lois and Chichi made major lifestyle changes, one of which was to be more disciplined in their spending. They each opened a passbook account to keep track of their savings. Every payday, a specific chunk of their paycheck automatically went to the travel fund. Lois also stressed that research and planning were very helpful in keeping their expenses down, especially airfare costs. “We found a travel buddy in Cebu Pacific. It has opened up a world of traveling to more Filipinos because of their low-cost flights and regular seat sales.” Lois also hoped more people would realize that traveling is not exclusive for the affluent to enjoy. “Cebu Pacific has made it possible even for regular people like us to go places and experience what the world has to offer,” she said.
Crossing borders, breaking barriers
For Lois, among the best things about traveling is that it challenges the prejudices one may have on different cultures, including one’s own. “I first thought I was just immersing myself in their way of life, very much like a citizen of the world. But at the same time, I got to take a closer look at my own life and gained a deeper appreciation of who I was,” she said.
Lois counted Cambodia as one of the most riveting countries she had visited. The Sole Sisters started the expedition in Ban Lung, a remote town in the eastern part of the country, where they went on an elephant trek, visited hill tribe villages, and took a dip at the Yaek Lom Crater Lake. They also headed to Phnom Penh to learn more about the country’s history and went to Siem Reap to marvel at the Angkor Wat, a UNESCO World Heritage site. “It was a rollercoaster of emotions. The country’s beauty captivated us, while its history enlightened and humbled us,” she said.
Stressing the significance of travel, Lois said that it does not matter how one does it, as long as he or she goes out and explore the world. “Travel for a week or less, for six months or six years. It’s up to you,” she stated. “As for me, I’m thankful to have found a travel companion in Cebu Pacific, which gives me endless opportunities to discover the world and enrich my soul.”