The cost of YOLO
This is not a form of discouragement. Before you read this, please remember that we are friends, sitting down on your porch (or mine), sipping wine (or coffee, whatever you prefer) while watching the sun set, talking about the recent life changes that appeared in many different forms. In short, you and me, are slowly accepting we are adults.
I recently wrote about my 4-year old advice about quitting your job to travel the world that made your world spin like a fast toy top: “It took me years to find the courage to quit my job to travel the world and now this travel blogger bitch I followed all this time is taking it back.”
It might have been confusing to you because it really is to me. But what made me write that post is again, finding myself in a different circumstance.
I never wanted to grow up. I wanted my grandparents to live forever, for my skin to stay less damned, to smoke and not feel my lungs falling apart, to drinking 10 bottles of wine (with tequila shots in between) without having to deal with the hangover the next day, to carry 90L backpacks for the rest of my life, to live in different places every time I had the chance, to speak more languages fluently easily, to be able to move and move far and wide.
‘Age is just a number’ stayed as the strongest mantra through those 7 years I was traveling without having a home; without having to go back home. I still believe in it but my body seems to disagree.
My grandmother died in 2014 and now my grandfather is very ill. My skin is becoming more damned each day as I struggle to make up for it from all those years I didn’t care. I wake up every morning and I feel like my lungs are breaking into pieces. I drink 1 glass of wine and still gets hangover the next day. I shifted to a small luggage – I can’t even take a small backpack for 3 weeks of travel. While the endless moving still excites me, it wore me out. I decided to make Tel Aviv as my base for the time being. Along with this, I am trying to learn Hebrew relentlessly. Even if I can speak 5 different languages, my cognitive skills are not that sharp anymore. It’s rejecting the Hebrew progress. All of these limited my ability to move far and wide.
This change in the human body is something I don’t have control of. As a person who has moved and moved and moved all her life, I am still in the process of learning how to not abuse the capacity of the human body.
My visa in Neverland expired so I was forced to grow up. (Shit!)
What is this adulting thing? How the fuck do I do this? The confusion is not only to add drama to my life but I was really at a point in my life where I didn’t know what to do. “You traveled to 70+ countries, live outside your country all your younger years, learned to be by yourself all this time – why is this hard for you?!”
With the experiences I accumulated from years and years of travel, I had the assurance that I am un-freaking-breakable. The constant reminder to myself that “I know everything. I can do anything” is still there but when I entered this adulting world, I felt like I needed to enrol to a short course.
“Bills? What bills? Why can’t the freaking bills pay themselves?”
Now that I have my own apartment in Tel Aviv (which I love so dearly), I have to do things I’ve never done before. Bills. I, fortunately, have the money for the bills (thank God. I don’t want to go back to being a poor backpacker again) but I don’t have any idea how to pay them. You might say it’s easy (because it really is!) but bear in mind that you and I didn’t have the same life situations growing up. I was always out there jumping to different cities, galloping continents and shuffling relationships left and right. I never had to pay bills myself. You know, to be physically and mentally present in the billing process.
My house rent wasn’t paid on time the other day but the money is already there. Like many travelers who took their time on the road, going back to society requires looking at time. Having the sense of urgency has been very difficult for me because I never deemed it important. For me, life was an endless stream of taking all the time I need. Fudge! My travel evolution is getting more serious each day.
The cost of YOLO
Again, this is not meant to discourage you. Remember we are 2 friends sitting down on your porch (or mine), sipping wine (or coffee, whatever you prefer) while watching the sun set, talking about the recent life changes that appeared in many different forms. In short, you and me, are slowly accepting we are adults.
I can see that you are still in a different train station and denying that we are ageing but it’s fine. You might be 5-7 years younger than me. Oh no, actually, let’s put it that way. You are younger than me and is about to go out there and do some life-changing “sabbatical”.
To YOLO is not a joke. This shit is real. YOLO is freaking true. Most of our friends make silly jokes about it but it’s serious and you should do it. Kiss a boy (or a girl), sleep on the street, cross a border for 5 days, try everything and do everything that makes you curious because You Only Live Once.
But don’t forget it comes with a price. Good news though – you really can YOLO without the money. I am going to be 29 in exactly 37 days and I now I am looking at all those times I traveled without (a lot of) money but still made it.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t able to travel the world with zero money. While those travel for free articles you read on the Internet are true to those who right it, did anyone explain to you it comes with hard work, too? Are you stuck in that belief that there is such thing as free travel?
Let me tell you some of my remarkable YOLO stories that involved spending a lot of money.
To YOLO is to go to Brasil and experience the World Cup
It has been a life-long dream for me to witness one of the greatest sporting events in the world (in my life, it’s the only one) so I vowed to myself no matter what it takes, I will go to Brasil. I was just starting the blog then (2014) so it didn’t generate any income but I also was getting good in juggling online jobs. As soon as I arrived (from Bolivia, by land), I immediately withdrew my first $800 salary (after a long time of truly being financially unstable). I was very happy. I was slowly proving my parents I can be out there without their financial help but after I took out this amount from the atm, it got fucking stolen.
“Why today?! This day was supposed to be good! Why! Why! Why!”
I was already there and I couldn’t hold back. It was a dead end. How the fudge was I going to move without money? I didn’t want to call mom but I did. Shit. I explained to her what happened and begged her to lend me a thousand dollars that I will promise to give back. Not sure how I am going to pay it back but you know, YOLO. I always programmed myself I will always find a way (because I always did).
She said no. I felt my body was torn into pieces. I couldn’t move.
“Mom, please, please, please, please.”
“I didn’t choose that life for you. I am sorry you have to be on your own. I will only give you money if you decide to book a ticket back home. That, I will generously pay for no matter the price.”
“And don’t tell me you are kawawa (wretched). You are in Brasil and is about to experience the World Cup. What’s kawawa with that?”
Lesson: She’s right. She didn’t choose this life for me. I did. Why should I burden her financially? Isn’t this my own action that nobody forced me to do? Not to mention I was only calling if I needed something (what a shameless child!).
So I went out there, on my own, without hard feelings. I accepted my mother was right because she always is. That was the only way I could survive that unfortunate event. I was Couchsurfing in Rio de Janeiro so I didn’t have to worry about paying for accommodations. My host and I get along very well. It’s a sign she won’t be evicting me any time soon. All I needed to figure out was how to make it through the World Cupping month without having to ask other people for money.
My backpacking friends knew about the situation and everyone were kind to me. No, it’s not the kind pity but the kind kind. You know, just being generous about a lot of things. I was very happy to be surrounded by people like this but I was fucking uncomfortable.
YOLO. The things you do when you are 23. In Brasil. During the World Cup.
To YOLO with a third world passport and a budget airline
…. sounds unimaginable. First, the destinations are very limited. Philippine passport holders can only visit 60-ish countries you’ve never heard before visa-free. Who goes to freaking Djibouti? What the hell can I do in Madagascar? Is Kosovo even a country? At present, these countries are all amazing to me but when I went to Morocco 3 months ago (totally visa-free for Filipinos), I booked a $400 ticket (RT) from Tel Aviv. Very cheap. I saved a lot of money because the usual fare is $800 and up.
The flight was going from Tel Aviv, to Barcelona, to Casablanca then back from Casablanca, Milan, Bucharest to Tel Aviv. 25+ hours of flight and $400 roundtrip. What a sweet deal, I thought!
Sure, it’s a long flight but as a YOLOist, I will endure that pain as long as it can save me a lot of bucks. It has been like this all these years.
Until I wasn’t allowed to board my flight from Tel Aviv. There was a thing I failed to oversee when I booked this ticket. I didn’t see that these flights are with different airlines. Meaning, I will have to go out of Barcelona (and Milan going back) to board another flight with another airline. It means I need to have a visa in order for this cheap flight to work.
Gosh. These booking platforms didn’t even have the decency to call me when I booked the tickets weeks before the trip.
Gosh. I didn’t even see that coming. I didn’t want to be responsible for my actions.
I called the booking website who claimed it was a toll-free number but I was charged $20 for a 3-min call. During the conversation, I was also informed that I can’t get a refund for the ticket because it’s already 2 hours before the flight. My trip was going to last for a month so I can still refund the Casablanca-Milan-Tel Aviv ticket if I wanted to.
This trip was already planned and I don’t want to cancel it. First, my visa in Israel was going to expire (in 2 days) so if I don’t go out of the country, I will be possibly penalised for overstay and not allowed to go back for who knows how long. Israel has very strict rules with overstaying so the thought of being banned scared the shit out of me.
And so, I booked an $800 ticket with a high-class airline and never looked back. It was too late for me to blame myself for the mishaps but if I wasn’t in that situation, I wouldn’t learn. Seriously, do we ever learn?
Lesson: Don’t book with cheap airlines most especially if it’s a long-haul flight. I also realised (and computed) all those years I traveled with cheap airlines with 30+ hours of travel. The flights were really cheap but I never included those lunches, dinners, snacks and books I bought while I was on a long layover. Those should’ve not been omitted from the ledger.
To YOLO with a third world passport without a plan
Most of my YOLOs consisted of poor decisions and wrong information. When I was starting to travel, there weren’t enough travel blogs (especially Filipinos) to validate the visa issues I faced. I had to be the guinea pig and try things on my own before doing it right.
Last year, I went to Georgia because I read everywhere it was visa-free. If not, I can just get a visa when I am already there. I proved this to be wrong when this Greek airline didn’t allow me to board which shattered all my excitement to visit this exotic country. I spent hours and hours at the check-in counter proving them my point. I said “I don’t need a visa to Georgia” repeatedly. I couldn’t even hear myself anymore. I have to cut this story short because you can read what happened here (in full, cigarette and beer breaks included) but what came to my mind when they were denying me check-in was, again, the $350 (one-way) ticket I will probably never get the refund. Plus, if they didn’t let me board, I would’ve booked another ticket to God-knows-where because my visa in Israel was expiring that same day.
Lesson: Don’t act like your passport is first-world. Research. Your fearlessness will not solve anything but it can really put your spirit up. I like this part better.
Another lesson: To YOLO is to live on the edge. To live on the edge is freaking stressful.
Being a professional YOLOist was an occupation I never regret
Did I scare you? You’re still reading? Well, you’re in for the good part. This isn’t a story of regrets; of taking back all the things I did; of what-I-could-haves.
Sometimes, while reading a book lying on my couch and a phrase I can relate to hits, I look back and think about all those instances I felt was the end of me: I am still here. I am still alive. And I am better, above all.
I will never tell anyone that YOLO is bad because it really isn’t. No matter how expensive it is, courage can never be bought. The experiences you will have when you YOLO don’t come with a price tag. You can’t walk into any store and say “how much is a jar of meaningful life experiences?”
If I didn’t jump into the unknown, if I didn’t say yes to everything, to anything, I wouldn’t be sitting in this beautiful apartment with my own gorgeous office table. I wouldn’t be able to afford this life I live now. Those experiences converted to energies and enthusiasm that made me earn a living today. In short, you will never know how to make decent money if you don’t have any idea what you want to do in life first. You have to be wrong first. You have to commit a lot of mistakes first.
One’s experience is never a question. We are down to the final sip of the wine (or coffee, whatever you like, really) and this is the part where I hope I convinced you that YOLO is not a bad thing even if it comes with a price.
We are in different chapters in life so 99% percent of the time, you will find my logic (and my writing confusing). I said quit your job to travel in 2013 and don’t quit your job to travel in 2017 because this is the ‘change’ presented before me. Before you react violently on how confusing my writing is, answer this: “which chapter of my book am I in at the moment?” Should I do what other people did? Should I base my life on their stories?
The problem with us, young people, is our desire to clone other people’s books’ pages and make it ours. No one has the exact same life as you. What happened to me doesn’t mean it will happen to you, too. I get a lot of questions about this all the time: “what will happen will I go out there and do what you did?” I’d say go out there and write your own.
You don’t know. I don’t know. Nobody knows. I’d say go out there and write your own story. You will want to find your situation sitting by the porch with a friend, sipping wine (or coffee, whatever you prefer) while watching the sun set, talking about the recent life changes that appeared in many different forms. This will be the time that you are slowly accepting the adulting life. Let others go their own way and create their own path. Let others learn from you.
When I was out there and found myself in the most difficult situations, I turned to Deepak Chopra and it always made me understand life better: “If you obsess over whether you are making the right decision, you are basically assuming that the universe will reward you for one thing and punish you for another. The universe has no fixed agenda. Once you make any decision, it works around that decision. There is no right or wrong, only a series of possibilities that shift with each thought, feeling, and action that you experience.”
Wine (or coffee) is finished. It’s time for me to leave you alone by the porch so you’ll have time and space to think. Enjoy the sunset. You only live once. Xx
Monetarily speaking or not, how much was the cost of YOLO for you?
Was it worth it? What are the risks you took? Who are the people you met? What’s the greatest lesson you picked up along the way? What’s your YOLO story? Leave your thoughts in the comment box below and give your unique insights to other soon-to-be YOLOists!