Making mistakes while traveling is common, even for globetrotting veterans who have been in the game for decades. It’s especially common for novices, who may not consider things like seasonal weather before they travel, or might not know how to avoid wasteful spending or how to not get scammed. Or what to do when travel plans fall through at the last minute. In this edition of Celebrity Travel Addicts, we speak with travel bloggers Yosh Dimen and Vins Carlos, whose website, The Poor Traveler, offers helpful travel tips and guides to help fellow travelers avoid common mistakes while sharing funny looks into their own misadventures. We chat with Yosh and Vins about their disastrous first trip together, the importance of planning, their top destinations, The Poor Traveler, and much more. Find out why travel is important to them and check out their best travel advice!
How did your passion for travel get started?
We were both homebodies. If you told our younger selves we would become travel bloggers, we’d probably laugh in disbelief. But we discovered the joys of travel when we were both full-time employees. We used to work for separate start-up companies, but both offered some travel benefits. Once or twice a year, the companies would treat their employees to a trip somewhere within the country. These little company outings started it all for us, allowing us to experience several domestic destinations. Eventually, we decided to travel together from our own pockets.
What does travel mean to you? Why do you feel it’s important?
For us, travel is an opportunity to learn, in every possible way. On a personal level, it helps us grow as responsible adults who know how to work under extreme pressure, manage finances better, and become more open and sociable. But on the deeper level, it enables us to learn more about the world — how tyrants rise and empires fall, how places shape culture and cultures affect perspectives, and how different people live their lives and experience the world around them. There are many concepts that our 20-year-old selves would find uncomfortable or even unacceptable, but travel opens not just the eyes but the mind and the heart as well.
You guys run a travel blog called The Poor Traveler. Can you please tell us a bit about it? How did it come about and what makes it unique?
We started by joining company outings, but when Vins and I decided to go on a personal trip, it was a disaster. On our first trip together, we got stranded at a deserted wharf because our boatman didn’t show up. We had to walk through a wooded area until we reached the highway and hitchhiked to the resort area. On our second trip, our roof-less boat crashed to a rocky islet, leaving us floating aimlessly in the middle of the sea AT NOON. Then our next trips were plagued with bad weather. We thought it was funny and ridiculous, so we created a blog to document our misadventures and share tips. Back then, there weren’t a lot of online travel resources about local destinations, so we decided we’d create comprehensive travel guides.
The Poor Traveler had meager beginnings but has since grown into one of the biggest travel blogs in the world. What do you think makes your content resonate with your readers?
Our content is tailor-made for travelers from developing countries like the Philippines. We experience the world differently. We have a relatively weak currency and low purchasing power. When we travel to developed countries for a weekend, we spend two months’ worth of salary. Our passport isn’t powerful. Just to get a tourist visa, we need to go through rigorous inspection of employment records, financial documents, familial connections, and travel history. We don’t paint an aspirational life where we spend days lounging at the beach with a martini on one hand or partying all night. We keep it real, warts and all.
You’re both from the Philippines. What makes the Philippines such a great travel destination? What do you suggest people see and do there when they visit?
The diversity of what it has to offer. Whether you’re looking for nature, culture, or adventure, the Philippines has an island that suits your needs or preferences. We always recommend the highlands and intricate cave network of Sagada, the beaches and canyoneering trails in Cebu, and the wildlife and karst islands of Palawan.
How many days/weeks do you travel in any given year? What types of places do you like to visit?
We divide our year into traveling and blogging seasons. We usually spend three straight months traveling, and the next three staying at home just writing. September-November and March-May are usually our travel seasons. We tried blogging while on the road, but we found out soon enough that it wasn’t for us. When we travel, we don’t like to think about the blog too much. LOL.
What do you want audiences to gain and learn from your work?
Being savvy when planning their trip. We see a lot of quotes online discouraging travelers from planning. “Just go and travel,” they say. But that’s coming from a very privileged place. When you need to apply for a visa and you have a limited budget, there has to be some planning involved whether you like it or not. And we want them to be prepared so they won’t waste their hard-earned money.
What are the top three destinations you’ve visited?
Tough question. Aside from the Philippines — Japan, Australia, Turkey.
Give us your ‘Top 5’ list for one of your top 3 destinations. Like a mini-guide or a to-do list of sorts. It can be anything from your favorite hotel, the best place to have lunch, the best sightseeing, etc.
- Hit the supermarket. You’ll find lots of cheap, ready-to-eat meals. If you visit past 7 or 8pm, you can even get massive discounts, up to 50%.
- Use Hyperdia when using the train system.
- Check out transportation passes. There are countless of city passes and regional passes for trains, buses, or both. The Kansai and Chubu regions alone have dozens.
- Avail of tax-free shopping. Licensed shops can waive taxes for foreigners who spend over 5000 yen at once.
- Stay away from vendos. Yes, vending machines are convenient. But their prices are considerably higher than at a supermarket or even convenience stores.
How many countries have you visited so far?
What are your top 3 favorite cuisines?
Japanese, Thai, Italian.
What is your favorite restaurant in the world? What dish do you recommend there?
Endo Sushi in Osaka. It’s the best cheap sushi place for us.
What is your favorite travel movie?
Not sure if it qualifies as a travel movie: “Up in the Air” (2009)
What is your favorite international airport?
Changi Airport in Singapore. When we need to connect in Singapore, we intentionally extend our layover so we could stay longer at the airport. Haha.
Which city had the friendliest people?
We always hear that the Philippines has the most hospitable locals, but within the Philippines, the people of the cities of Iloilo and Bacolod are the friendliest and the most helpful.
Besides each other, who is your favorite travel companion?
Family! We love traveling with the seniors and kids in the family. We love seeing their smiles whenever they get to try something new. It’s always more challenging because there are a lot of limitations and considerations, but it’s also more rewarding.
What is the best way to kill time while traveling?
We tremendously enjoy checking out supermarkets when we travel. It gives us an idea of how cheap or expensive the place is. At the same time, we’re always curious about the sort of products that locals usually buy.
What is the most exotic place your career has taken you?
Kazakhstan. The Turkistan region is incredible.
What is your best bit of travel advice for someone who wants to, or is about to, embark on a life of travel?
Timing is everything. I know this because it took me two attempts. The first time I tried, I quit my job and jumped right into it without any fallback. It turned out that I wasn’t ready for this. I was miserable, barely getting by. I went crawling back to where I came from. After three years, I tried it again. We were more prepared this time around — emotionally, financially, and even socially.
What is your ultimate dream destination?
Where are you headed next?
We’re supposed to be in Europe now, but the COVID-19 threat put a stop to that plan. When this is all over, we plan to go backpacking around South Asia, from India to the Maldives.
Yosh Dimen and Vins Carlos are the bloggers behind The Poor Traveler, on which they document their misadventures and share tips on travel planning and budgeting. The goal is to build FREE travel guides for the poor travelers out there — the first-timers, the shy and awkward, the navigationally-challenged, and those who can’t afford to make costly mistakes.