What’s in a Travel Journal?

I didn’t realize I’ve been documenting in this format for three years now (wow, talk about commitment). Ever since I got myself a Traveler’s Factory notebook in 2016, the way I journaled about my trips has drastically changed.

If you’ve known me from way back, you’d know I do travel illustration on my journals as well (I still do, but that is an entirely different entry). Over time I had started to dabble into this “collage journaling” style which sort of combines scrapbooking, writing, and collage work all in one. I found it to be the most resourceful way to not just keep memories intact in a journal, but also to make use of the ephemera I usually take home from my travels.

And since it’s been such an easy format to use, I thought I’d share my go-to materials for travel journaling for you to try.

Blank Journal: The size of this journal is something I’m particular with (4.25×8.25″). I frequently use my Traveler’s Factory refills, but I also have a stash of Sketchnotes with me (the paper is thicker and I like it better imho). My good friend CH of Everyday Explorers also recently released TN-sized journals with prompts depending on your preferences.

I like to rotate between blank and grid—but mostly blank for my travels.

Printer: I’ve been obsessed with instant prints since I first got my Instax 7s nine (!) years ago. Amazing how technology seems to innovate so much, no? Now I’m using an Instax SP-3 which has square (!) prints, perfect for capturing adventures on-the-go.

I usually bring this in my handcarry for trips (because I journal while in transit) since it’s pretty lightweight.

Washi Tape: If some travelers collect Starbucks mugs or magnets, I collect washi tape from my travels (mostly from Japan, really). These rolls are essential for decorating my spreads and over time I’ve learned to appreciate the designs I love the most—usually in muted colors and in minimalist patterns such as lines and grids.

(You can check out my stationery haul here featuring some washi tapes I got from Shopee in the Philippines!)

Also: PSA that I have washi tapes up on my shop for both local and international orders!

Ephemera: What’s a travel journal without ephemera? I find that (apart from stickers, of course—a MUST) putting these elements into your travel journal make it uniquely yours. From cutting out maps to sticking your train tickets on each spread, these things you’ve collected from your trip signify a memory that you only can keep and remember.

I also find that each trip has different collectibles—from postcards to receipts to calling cards, really. (So far, my top contenders for best cities to keep ephemera are Barcelona, Tokyo, Seoul, Berlin and New York lol).

Check out my “What’s in a Travel Journal?” video below for more.

How about you? What’s in your travel journal?

A (Love) Letter to New York

Dearest New York,

Let’s get one thing straight: it wasn’t you. It was me.

I arrived in JFK at the first of September, played “Welcome to New York” by Taylor Swift as I glanced a peek of the city through the plane window, and finally arriving at Queens. This is it, I told myself. This is the moment I was waiting for since the day I left in October 2017.

I was smitten; you showed me how wonderful Manhattan looked—under the bright lights in Times Square, past the sea of people in Bryant Park, and as I hurriedly made my way around the city. It was good. But it also wasn’t. I knew something was up. It was too good to be true.

Then it hit me—what did I do to deserve ending up here? To get to take a few months off work? It should have meant I would be planning my life for the next few years now. In fact, I went as far as saying I wanted to live here.

But months passed and I was dreading every part of you—the long commutes. The crowds. The overpriced coffee. I could easily point out every flaw of New York as I walked—no, brisk walked to every part of the city. The hustle gave me so much anxiety, to the point that I micromanaged myself to make sure I survived each day successfully. I saw the darkness and my demons slowly come up to me, and I trapped myself in the process.

Then school came into the picture. I had been waiting for this! I loved the idea of learning. But you made me realize the importance of never settling; so I didn’t. I dropped two classes because they weren’t helping me become better—they did the opposite. And I wasn’t going to waste my time doing things that do not serve me. I stayed with design because it made me appreciate my way of doing things, and how it’s being perceived.

In the weeks before I started writing this, it finally hit me—why did I hate you so much? Almost everyone I knew had this “New York dream” wired in their heads, a glimpse of hope and possibility because people said “anyone can make it in New York”. I, too, held onto that hope, feeling uncontented with the successes I’ve achieved in Manila. I wanted to start from square one here, expecting opportunities to swing by here and there.

Of course, again, I was wrong. I was too judgmental. I judged you because you couldn’t give me what I wanted, and what I expected.

And I’m sorry.

You’ve probably seen my crying episodes as I walked to the Brooklyn Bridge, or as I walked past 8th Avenue after feeling guilty over taking short breaks. And let’s not forget sleepless nights in Queens on my first month, thinking about the future and how much I hate myself for not keeping up with my own expectations.

The thing is, New York, you’ve become a testament to my growth—and that in itself scared me so much. I became weak, and I also became strong. You taught me how to become tough, as I always sport a resting bitch face on the 7 train to Manhattan. You reminded me of how important it was to trust my own instincts, and take no shit from others. You gave me more reason to look closer—and look deep into myself to find answers. You made me see darkness and helped me realize that being vulnerable is okay.

In the past few months I’ve been here, friends and family had come visit. I’d tell them, “You’re lucky you’re on vacation. Living in a city like this just takes out all the energy out of you.” I’d talk about how every day here was a struggle, how getting from point A to point B required a lot of energy. How sometimes, you just want to get away from it all and take comfort in silence.

I left you for a few weeks when I went to Germany. I couldn’t help but compare everything—Berlin was better in so many ways. You disappointed me so much. I didn’t want to go back; I was in tears as I rode the U-bahn heading to Tegel airport.

But when I was back here, it was a bit better. I started to see you in a better light. I stopped putting you on a pedestal and embraced your imperfections. I became less worried about my daily survival. And most of all, I’ve been more appreciative of who I am, what I am doing here and what I’ll be doing when I fly back home.

I’ll miss you, New York. I’m currently on the Q train writing this, heading to Brooklyn (one of the rare weekends I’m free), my favorite borough (sorry, Manhattan). I’m trying to hold back my tears because locals might think I had a bad breakup of some sort. Nope, we’re not breaking up! Not for now.

I keep thinking it was mostly made up of bad days, but I keep forgetting that there were actually good ones: the quiet days spent in Queens writing, making art, and working all day—just like in Manila. Walking to SVA and walking home after Editorial Design class feeling refreshed and inspired. The people I’ve met by chance, who have made my stay here an amazing one. Impromptu sleepovers and experiencing a dive bar for the first time in East Village. That Monday I took a day off and went to Chelsea, and finally picked up my pen and started drawing again. A weekend well-spent in Bed-Stuy exploring Brooklyn. Partying like a true 25-year-old at West Village because who cares?

I’m wrapping this up on my last Monday in the city, with a cup of my favorite Carolina Honey tea on hand at Argo, writing an “NYC Things I’ll Remember” list. Earlier today I worked at the New York Public Library for the last time—I couldn’t believe it. In September 2017 I was in the same library, writing down “I will study in New York” on my notebook and flew back home, and now, that part of me is done. I turned around and walked away from 42nd street without looking back, because I didn’t want to face the fact that I won’t be here again anytime soon.

Sorry I judged you. Sorry I loved you too much. Sorry I’m leaving you, but I know you have more people to take in your city. May they find what they’re looking for and make the most out of their journey here.

As I make my exit and go back home, I will always keep you in my heart. I can go on and on about the things I’ve learned from staying in your city, and no other city can attest to that. Who would have thought some introverted 25 year old would actually do this? Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I’d be able to pull this adventure off. Ever. Things might not have turned out the way I planned, but I keep forgetting it’s these surprises that made this experience even more memorable. You made me feel alive for the first time in 25 years, and that in itself is the best thing that ever happened to me. I guess it’s true that cities change you; I’ve always wondered about this fact, and now I can attest to it.

You will always be a part of me—a part that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

I’ll see you soon.

All my love,


En Route: Berlin, Germany

October 25, 2018 | 9:08AM | Seestrasse U6 en route to Alt Tegel

You know you’re in love with a city when you get on the U-bahn for the last time, say goodbye, watch the doors close, and realize you have never felt more alive in the last few days as some tears make its way down your cheek.

I never put Germany on my bucket list because traveling to Europe always seemed impossible. Growing up I have always taken trips that show you merely tourist spots that all look the same: old towns, churches, photo op sites. That was it. As much as I didn’t like it, it did give me a sampler of what being in Europe would be like. I always thought it was intimidating, but I guess it took a good dose of courage and “what if” questions to make me take this trip.

I boldly plot all the possibilities as if they were limitless—maybe I could do this, maybe I could do that. For months I was surrounded with maybes and slept uncomfortably at the thought of “too good to be true”. I have never flew to Europe alone or took the trains here on my own. It didn’t help that I didn’t know anyone in Germany (back then) so there wasn’t any reason to go (until now).


9:24AM | Bus 128 en route to Flughafen Tegel (Berlin TXL airport)

You know how you see someone for the first time, get smitten, and immediately fall head over heels with the person? (Oooh, familiar!) Then you realize this person is not all that. That’s how New York feels to me. I think things started okay between me and New York, as I saw it unfold right in front of me as I landed with a view of beautiful city lights right before my eyes. Two weeks of exploring such a place was convincing enough for me to say I could go back and try out what living is like in New York. I held back my tears as I flew out of JFK in 2017, promising myself to go back and make my dreams come true.

But I’m quite aware some expectations don’t really keep up with reality. I liked school, but I suffered with anxiety every day, especially when I decided to drop a class and pick out ones that will really test my abilities. Every few weeks I’d be okay, then the cycle repeats itself. It’s like the past few months has made me more vulnerable and I’ve never felt this weak in my life.

But Germany just washed out everything for me. I landed at noon, was greeted with a pleasant view of trees and a clear sky. It wasn’t much, but it was nice. I panicked for a bit as I got out of the Tegel airport and booked a bus ticket to HBF. I entered this huge building that had Berlin Hauptbahnhof written on it and I was in awe. I made it! Well, almost.

After what felt like minutes of walking around the huge train station with two heavy luggages, I just wanted to hop on my train to Nürnberg and call it a day. My friend picked up my stuff (huuu thank you, Lorenz!) and I ended up carrying just one bag as I boarded the train and spent the next four hours staring out the window, waiting for what’s ahead.

My week in Nürnberg was amazing—from meeting the people behind Faber-Castell to spending every day learning something new, exploring the city, and getting a glimpse of what Germany looked like, I was in awe. I liked it. I was blown away. (You can read more about it here)

I left Nürnberg after four days feeling sad and longing to be back (how could I even leave such a beautiful city?)—but I was surprised to have spent the train ride to Berlin with a newfound friend from the workshop I held at Faber-Castell (hi, Emily!). On the four hour ride to Berlin, Emily told me about Berlin, and told me I’d love it in the city. That was a good sign, I guess?

I arrived at night, half past ten, at the same HBF, now freezing as I carried my things out of the train and met up with Lorenz and headed home. I was tired. I’m just grateful he had lavender oil and I could just shut myself off after a busy couple of days (my jet lag has been really bad). Life had been so busy that I didn’t even bother plotting out a set itinerary for my five days in Berlin.

Exploring the city fully wasn’t on my mind. I knew I’d be back, but I did manage to see quite a few things during my short stay there. Apart from seeing the sights, I was keen on seeing how this city worked—how everything operated. Mind you, I was amazed. Here’s a photo diary of my trip. Maybe some commentaries here and there, but mostly observations as I made my way into this city that unexpectedly caught me off guard.

Brunch at Distrikt Coffee. I look so happy??? I love brunch!

We were on our way to our walking tour and found a Photoautomat (photo booth)! Our first attempt was a fail. I think I was more shookt when the flash suddenly came out of nowhere, lol

BTS of Lorenz taking this photo of my artwork (now his). Also gave him a crash course on making content lololol

I’ve known Lorenz for maybe 5ish years already? But we only became friends after coincidentally wearing the same outfit on New Year’s Eve in Hungary last year…and finding out we both love Abstract (yes, the Netflix series). He’s a scientist currently taking up his PhD and residing in Berlin (ikr, he’s cool), so it was a no-brainer that I visit.

Berlin’s transportation system is SO EFFICIENT. A train comes in every few minutes, and you’ll manage to get to your destination in no time. I’m so amazed! It took maybe only less than 20 minutes getting to the city center from where we were.

There’s the U-bahn (underground), the S-bahn (older trains that are still in use), and the buses and trams that are around the city. I love that you can check Google Maps for the time and not be late—which meant we had a lot of running to catch our tram heading to Mitte. Lol. #cardio

A piece of history right behind me, the Berlin Wall.

A very touristy photo of me behind the Brandenburg Gate (please don’t mind the tourists behind me). We booked this walking tour (it’s free, you leave a tip at the end of the tour) around Mitte and it was really informative! I learned so much about Berlin’s history in an entire afternoon.

We walked to the Jewish Memorial and Checkpoint Charlie, as well as the underground bunker where Hitler killed himself. So surreal to be in this place! I was just writing about wanting to go to Berlin during my trip to Eastern Europe last year.

Lorenz introduced me to Currywurst—”You’ll like it!” I did. We had it twice at the same currywurst spot because it was the cheapest (and the best).

Went to this neighborhood called Schöneberg which was brimming with beautiful architecture and this ice cream place called Jones. Who eats ice cream in cold weather??? *raises hand*

I did mention I didn’t do much research, did I? I think the spontaneity made it easier for me to not worry about most things, and just take each day as it comes.

Lunch at Umami was sooo good. I haven’t really had a bad meal in Berlin, tbh.

Sunday was spent at the East Side Gallery. This part of the Berlin Wall boasts of mural artworks by different artists and continues to attract tourists and locals alike. It’s a long stretch and there are quite popular ones we did manage to take photos of.

A fellow tourist was nice enough to take our photo (the framing was A+ too!).

We went to another Photoautomat (because it’s so pretty? I mean, yellow!) to take more photobooth pictures. Each photo took around five minutes so we were basically just bored…so…*takes more photos*

Picked up some autumn leaves (and lavender stalks??? because they’re free) in Tiergarten, a huge park right smack in the middle of the city. We were tired already but if I had more energy, I would have walked the whole stretch and explored more.


The next day was rainy, but I made my way around the city. I went to art stores and walked around the small neighborhoods. I love how quiet it is during the daytime. 

Modulor has been on my go-to list for the longest time, and I spent a good two hours going crazy over everything, lol. It really is “art heaven”.

Bits of color here and there.

Dropped by Do You Read Me?!, an independent bookstore housing various titles and magazines.

Polly Paper was another hidden gem, just a few steps away from Do You Read Me?!.

The next day was still rainy. *sigh* I ended up leaving for Museuminsel early, because I told myself to pick at least one gallery I’ll like. I picked Altenationalgalerie, which houses a lot of classical art.

Obviously, I made the right choice. I learned about German painters and how they paved the way for impressionism to take shape in Europe. It was nice listening to the audio guide with explanations of notable artworks and what their purpose is.

Some Monet spotting because he is an all-time favorite.

I met up with Emily and she took me around some of her favorite art and stationery shops in the city. I was surprised to find myself buying a few things I’ve never seen in my life—from cute notebooks to autumn-colored highlighters (!!!) to fountain pens. Fountain pens! Omg. Hahaha.

Thanks so much Emily for the fun afternoon despite the rain~

On my last day, I took a train ride up north to Pankow—and ran to the next tram that I missed (I told you, trams here are really on time). I went to an art institute to check out the facilities and was in awe. I was probably out of breath when I got back to the city center because of all the running…and panicking…and navigating with my phone battery on 1% (I hate myself sometimes, you know?). Anyway, that’s why this photo (above) is so memorable to me. I was just staring out the window for a good few minutes taking in the view.

10/10 will live in Berlin for scenic routes, tbh

Just some evidence of how messy my desk was. It wasn’t even my desk, technically. LOL. *hides*

My last night in Berlin involved a good serving of Turkish cuisine (I finally tried the döner!) and some People Watching IRL. I’ll never forget it.

I’m in the New York Public Library as I wrap up this post for the last time and queue up all my videos on my channel. I keep revisiting this and figuring out what to still say, but again, I’d like to think not having a plan helped me love this city so much more. The spontaneity opened me up to the beauty of finding happy accidents in between. Maybe that’s how life should be, you know? I’m so tired at having to make sure everything goes according to plan.

I’ll just leave it at this: it’s not yet over, Berlin. I’ll see you in 2019.


PS: Germany playlist below~


My Faber-Castell Experience

Last October, I was sent to Nuremberg, Germany to visit the Faber-Castell headquarters. Initially I had wanted to just see the castle and maybe take a tour—that was what I had planned on doing—but I extended my stay and managed to make the most out of this quaint city. It’s been a few weeks since I took a detour to Germany, and it’s only now that I’ve gotten the time and energy to sit and write about this once in a lifetime experience.

A little backstory: so, early this year while I was planning my schooling schedule and fixing my trip to New York, I had an event for Faber-Castell in Manila. And then a wild idea came through: what if I visit the headquarters in Germany? I did hear there was a castle and looked up their website for possible tours of the factory, museum and castle. I could document it and show it to you, my readers. That was a long shot, I told myself. Tricie and I pitched the idea and I kept my fingers crossed for months, up until I had received a call (I remember this was March and I was out of Manila) saying it was approved. I was going to Germany! OMG. It took me awhile to say that out loud. I couldn’t sleep for weeks!

This was also my first time flying alone to Europe (and taking the train), so I was kind of nervous. What would Germany be like? I have briefly visited Heidelberg a few years back and I had no memory of this country. I can’t speak German, and I look 100% Asian. I was scared but also so excited. Surprisingly things went well and I managed to arrive in Nuremberg at sunset, just in time to catch the last few moments of daylight as I walked to my hostel in Nuremberg. I realized I forgot my universal adaptor (yay, me) so I rushed to get one after checking in. Then, I was greeted with a nice dinner from Sandra and Kirsten from Faber-Castell (sushi, no less!).

Can you tell how amused I am? Wes Anderson approved train machine (and branding, tbh).

The next day, I took the underground train and bus to Schloss Faber-Castell in Stein—and was in awe as I stepped out of the bus and made my way inside the complex.

But since I’m such a good navigator, I got lost (lol). The front part of the complex was under renovation, so I had to pass through the back entrance and luckily found my way inside. First, Emelia (my tour guide) took me to the pencil factory where Faber-Castell’s world famous pencils are produced every day.

I have long been a fan of Faber-Castell—I remember saving up my allowance to get a set of Classic Color Pencils in fifth grade. So imagine how overjoyed I was to be able to work with them now that I’m an artist?

The factory windows are painted in primary colors (quite apt, if you ask me), and each floor is dedicated to each department for production. I got to know more about how a pencil is made—from sourcing the right type of wood (the wood used for the pencils are from the forests they manage in several parts of the world—particularly in Brazil, because Germany is generally cold), cutting out the wood chunks into pencils (did you know that Faber-Castell is famous for its tri-grip pencil shape?), to coating each pencil with the right amount of paint (exactly six color coats, and two clear coats), to seeing it foil stamped at the pencil printing department, up until it is time to dry each batch and pack for distribution out in the market.

It’s quite amazing to see all this happening all in a day’s work in several rooms here at the factory—and I’m always amazed at how things work from start to finish.

Before they are left to dry, the pencils are sent to the printing department where each pencil is foil stamped according to its type (colored pencil, pencil, etc).

The pencils take around a full day to dry. They are kept in a fixed temperature to make sure each pencil batch dries at the same time.

It’s so satisfying to be able to see these pencils in the drying room all sorted out by pencil type and color. (I may be geeking out too much, but come on, I love pencils!)

After drying, they are packed in boxes for distribution out in the market.

That’s my giddy “I can’t believe I’m in a factory” face right there ^

After lunch, Emelia took me inside the Faber-Castell Castle, where Count Alexander and Countess Ottilie and their family used to live. Emelia told me all about the family history and how the oldest pencil was created. I also found out Vincent Van Gogh used Faber-Castell pencils, because I’m a true VVG fan (lol). The castle is huge—especially the bathrooms (wow). There was also a clinic and home school inside to make sure all their children lived in comfort. Imagine living in luxury and having a house in the form of a castle?

Loved the light coming in at this area of the castle, where the history of Faber-Castell was explained through photos, ephemera, and…vintage packaging! *heart eyes*

I particularly loved this Polychromos packaging they used from way back. Can you believe most of the packaging in the old days were hand-drawn? I love it.

Mirror selfie at Countess Ottilie’s waiting room. This was where she’d ask visitors to stay in before meeting with them (reminds me of Versailles in France!).

Fanciest staircase ever. Did you know people book this castle for weddings, too? I actually saw a newlywed couple taking photos as I made my way out this castle, lol.

In historical facts, the castle was also used during the Nuremberg Trials as a place for refuge for artists and writers. They would organize parties and events inside the castle to keep them busy and entertained.

The next day was spent at the Faber-Castell Academy, just a few blocks away from the Faber-Castell complex. I was assigned to a printmaking class with Clemens Lang, who has been doing printmaking since the 80s and has been teaching at the academy for quite some time.

Inside the printmaking studio. That’s a monotype printing machine on the right.

I honestly had no idea what printmaking was, so when I was tasked to experiment on different materials, I was terrified. As someone who’s always been very concise about her process, the spontaneity of printmaking was so eye-opening. I loved it!

By lunchtime I was glued to my work area and was working on bigger and bigger canvases, until Clemens eventually told me to work on my final piece (which I managed to take home). I love how printmaking made me rethink making art—and that while planning is also important, it’s also good to just keep experimenting and seeing how things go.

After the printmaking class, Kirsten took me out to see Nuremberg’s Old Town.

We went to Albrecht Durer’s house (fun fact: Faber-Castell watercolor pencils are aptly named “Albrecht Durer” to pay homage to the same artist!) and got to know more about his work.

There was also a castle and we crossed one of the oldest chain bridges in the world. Nuremberg feels very medieval compared to other European cities, and that’s what sets it apart so much. I had some beer and schnitzel for dinner like a true German (it was good!).

My last day at the Faber-Castell HQ was spent teaching a hand lettering workshop to fellow artists.

Never did I imagine getting to teach in Germany! That was such a nice way to end my stay in Stein.

Apart from getting to see this side of the world, I loved meeting new people and exploring an unfamiliar city that I unexpectedly loved. Nuremberg is low key but also quite hip, and the food is so good (I spent all my dinners tasting all the good food in Nuremberg—drinks included). Most of all, this experience is something I’ll never forget. Sometimes I still pinch myself to see if this all really happened. 

Kirsten took care of everything during my visit to Faber-Castell. Thank you, Kirsten!

Thank you so much to Faber-Castell Philippines, and to Faber-Castell Global (especially to Kirsten, Sandra, Annika, Joel, and everyone I met from the Faber-Castell team) for this amazing opportunity!

Halfway There

October 31, 2018 | 3:48PM | E train to Port Authority Bus Terminal (uptown) | New York City

This week marks my two month stay in New York. It’s been surreal. I realize the person I was in September 1st is no longer the person I am now.

Last week I was in Germany on a work trip (and vacation), and it took that trip to make me appreciate New York a bit more. I always take it for granted that I’m studying here, because if you peel off the layers, the daily anxiety I have to get by with here has really put me to my maximum.


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The past few days have been exhausting. I haven’t gotten around to rest from my trip as my family is here to visit (I picked them up from the airport hours after I arrived from Berlin). I’ve been lucky to have been seeing some people that remind me of home in recent weeks—from the first week of October (my kabarkada, Alyssa, visited New York) to my quick trip to Texas (where I met my godmother’s family), to Germany (one of my good friends lives in Berlin) to now, as I took my mom and brother around the city.

Growing up, I have remained distant with my family. Ever since my father passed when I was nine, I have become independent and more self-reliant. Which, of course, is a good thing—but also, it isn’t. I grew apart from my mother and siblings. I preferred spending my weekends with friends because they seemed to care more about me. It went on for maybe three years (ever since I started my career, basically). It wasn’t until I had to face the fact that I had to tell my family I had no more plans to settle in Manila, and maybe New York would be where I was meant to be (spoiler alert: nope, I am not living here, no doubt) that we became more open to communicate as a family.

So getting to take them around the city this week was really fun. I found out my mom liked museums (we went to Guggenheim and she spent more time looking at artworks than I did), and my brother is pretty cultured for a 17-year-old (he picked up a book at Strand which is an anthology of stories in North Korea, and reads George Orwell’s 1984 during downtime) who happens to take good pictures (hahaha). I found out my brother and I are stingy AF and are quick decision makers when it comes to shopping (finally, I have someone exactly like me!). These are things I never really took time to discover about them since I mostly work when I’m in Manila.

I seem to be fumbling here and there about how things are because honestly, I have not had enough time to digest everything and be in a state of calm for the longest time. Being here just makes your thinking even more fuzzy with all the distractions and overwhelming things you encounter on a regular basis.


4:36PM | 42nd St, Bryant Park

For a time, I have always asked myself the same question: why suffer when you can just live comfortably and settle in Manila? Why keep going? Trust me, I can’t find the answers either. I just keep pushing myself to my limits despite the fear, because I honestly have nothing to lose—maybe time, but that I have already factored in.

I look back early this year as I started plotting out this “New York adventure”. I had planned on living here. I had planned on “making it” here, but after awhile those dreams slowly faded away into the distance. Did I really want to make it? What does success look like now, for me? I can’t quite figure it out either. So I think in hindsight (also because I’m a Capricorn who likes planning waaaay ahead), knowing these are out of the picture both scares and relieves me.

Back then I have always wanted to keep writing books, to keep making art for the rest of my life. But how can I keep going when I am in a crossroads? I felt like the Abbey Sy persona I have become online has evolved into someone new. Someone I am not quite sure I know, either. I’m scared of this new thing unfolding. I always have been generally scared about so many things—crippling with fear as I consciously make decisions that could make or break my own journey. It’s always been that way.


October in New York was hazy. I flew to Texas on the first weekend, finally getting to see Taylor Swift do her thing on stage. I was amazed. I was inspired. Also, for a twenty five year old, wow I was tired after the show. LOL. Then, I had idle time on most days wandering around the city, and I managed to break in a pair of heeled boots I got (#priorities). I also toured a few friends around Chelsea and SoHo.

Sometimes it’s nice to be able to speak in Filipino or Mandarin and feel so comfortable, right? That’s how it’s been seeing friends tbh.

I went to Brooklyn with Carly on a Sunday—the week before I left for Germany. The temperature suddenly dropped and I wasn’t ready. Three layers of sleepwear? The sudden gush of wind breezing through my hair as I walk out the door? Those were uncalled for. Fall is finally here, I realized.

I wasn’t in my best state, leaving for Germany. I knew I had a lot of issues to sort out before flying to another country. So I addressed them one by one because who else will? And if I don’t, who will suffer the consequences?

Case in point: I dropped one of my classes because I couldn’t help it. My professor was so judgmental. Initially I assumed I could be wrong, but I wasn’t. She shamed the brands of watercolors I used. When I’d call her attention for instructions, she’d do her best to speak less to me and move to the next student. It’s been 5 classes and I have not finished a single painting. 5 classes! That’s fifteen hours!

I impulsively e-mailed the school and asked to drop courses (they issued a refund, fortunately). I can’t believe that I’m still being treated this way—she reminded me so much of my 5 year old self, who was told that she wasn’t equipped to paint acrylic because she wasn’t good enough. I realized I’m not defenseless—I will always, ALWAYS fight for myself, if that is the least I could do. I can’t bear to endure things that no longer serve me.

I keep saying I’ve been negatively going through life because that’s how I’ve always seen life through my own eyes. Fighting little battles and facing my demons bit by bit as my own story unfolds. It’s crazy, isn’t it? I wish I looked at life from a brighter scale. I’m trying, I really am.

But it’s not like I dislike New York a lot. I love and hate it at the same time. This week I got to explore the city like a tourist, but with a bit of judgment because I feel more like a local now (choosing to walk instead of taking the subway, skipping the overpriced coffee and leeching internet everywhere).

The Upper East Side was nice. So was Central Park. But I realize it’s too posh for me. Today we went to East Village and explored downtown Manhattan—my favorite part of Manhattan, tbh. Lowkey and just the right amount of people.

I’m currently in Bryant Park (my favorite park for many reasons, Project Runway included) with a few minutes to spare before I head to class. They started to open the skating rink here, and there are an array of shops surrounding the lawn, making it festive in time for the holidays. Oh, right, the holidays are coming up. I’ll be home in a few weeks. I’m actually looking forward to it.

I still don’t know where home is, but I know it will not be in New York. Manila is a default, but where else could I be? I have another year to figure it out ‘til then.

And this time, maybe it’s best to not plan everything out and let nature take its course. Sounds exciting. And scary. Two things I always feel, anyway.

My First Month in New York: Managing Expectations

Being fragile and vulnerable to address my issues these past few weeks have given me enough clarity to figure out the things that matter to me at this point in time. I’m writing this and it’s been seven days of no app checking and maybe just once a day checking of Facebook (mostly just to chat with friends and family). I love the quiet. I forgot I craved this for the longest time.

The silence and freedom has helped me focus on myself more. Is it a good thing? I guess. I only assume I know myself to a certain level, but now that I’m older, I really do know my limits. It’s just been roughly a month since I arrived here in New York and I’ve changed a lot. Interesting how a place can just…change you in that way.

Did I mention how nice it is to not have to be updating my Instagram 24/7??? Here’s how life has been so far. Of course, I still document everything for the memz ~

Painting on a quiet Saturday afternoon is my new favorite me-time

Went to the NY Art Book Fair with Amber. We had Thai food after! I was so happy. Lol.

New tote I got from the book fair…because I can totes (ooh) imagine myself saying that in a very sarcastic tone.

(Thanks for the mail, Koko and Chinggay!)

Last weekend I was out and about even if the G train was down, lol. Had brunch with Adam and Mitchell, two lovely people. I met Adam in Graphika Manila last February and he’s an amazing artist and author based in Brooklyn (he has cool books out in the market and you should definitely get a copy for yourself).

I had a bad episode of…idk what to call it (mental breakdown? severe burnout? almost giving up on my career?) last week (as indicated in this post). The cure? A night well-spent with Hank and John Green (also, eep, signed copy of AART!). I finally met John Green IRL! Did you know the first artwork I hand lettered was from Looking for Alaska?

I had ramyun earlier that day coupled with some tears. TBH, I still can’t poach an egg. :<

Fall colors! I totally copped this Madewell top because it was on sale (ugh, excuses) and my school outfit is always a shirt, jeans, and jacket. That’s it. Also, there’s a nearby Japanese grocery called Sunrise Mart in SoHo—so guess where my weekly lunch go-to place is? *cries*

I needed to get a tripod for plein air class (ugh, bye money) but I also needed one to film my videos, so yay, more stuff coming soon. I updated my channel with some of my current NYC journaling things (yes, I got a basket and some organizers like a true OC person lol):

Decided to run at noon because it was freezing cold last Friday. This is my “I’m tired but I can’t believe I’m actually running” face.

Running has been teaching me a lot of things, particularly the importance of keeping a steady pace, and not to rush things too much (applies to all aspects in life, if you’ve noticed). Still a work in progress!

Explored Chinatown with Carly! Carly is one of Kaila’s friends and I’m so glad we got to meet up. I’m a very selective person when it comes to friends and I am just so grateful for the people I’ve been meeting in this city. 🙂 Just goes to show that having the same values and mindsets really help establish how I get to build relationships with people.

Goosebumps seeing this banner this year. Last year I was here touring the campus and telling myself, “I’ll make a way to be back here to study”.

This late brunch photo deserves to be posted here because it was this day that I had a light bulb moment for one of the projects I’ve been brewing…and it’s so far out from what I’ve done so far. I can’t wait to share it with you all but it has to be kept secret for now. 😛

I met one of my heroes, David Levithan, and I AM NOT OVER IT. I am not. This is so surreal and I am so grateful this happened.

If you’ve read my blog / Tumblr since 2013 you have probably seen me hand-letter his quotes or talk about how much I love Every Day, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares, and so much more. Here’s the thing; David Levithan opened up my world to beautifully written and heartfelt stories—I remember I was in tears reading Every Day. I still reread most of his books especially The Lover’s Dictionary (I love his Twitter account by the way) and I have always, always said I would want to meet him someday. Well, that someday finally came!

Some notes from my first month in New York:

  • Hoodies feel like a warm hug. Like, they really do. I just put on a shirt, a hoodie, jeans, sneakers and run off to do errands. I’ve never been this happy over a piece of clothing, tbh. (And if you know me, I never liked hoodies!)
  • I have two art classes and design classes (four in total). I’m quite surprised I like design classes better—they make me think beyond the usual. Art class is giving me so much insecurity; I now realize how grateful I am I didn’t take up art as a degree. I’d probably drop out first thing.
  • Sometimes all you have to do is ask. Ask specifically, and people will respond. People are nice, you have to smile more often and make them feel important to you. Case in point: I’m really terrified of post office people so last week I was nice and asked questions. And the clerk didn’t get mad. Achievement? Yay!
  • How wonderful it is to be in this chaos of people in the subway, and realizing you are just a tiny dot in this universe? That your problems are little things that don’t really matter in the big picture of life. It’s a crazy analogy, but I have always felt like this. It’s nice to remember that feeling here.
  • But also tbh seeing so many people every day is just exhausting. I never end the day here not feeling tired unless I stay home. New York is that overwhelming, coupled with lots of walking.
  • An economically correct decision: choosing a $6.40 brunch meal (eggs, sausage, toast + $1 coffee) over a $5 oat milk latte plus tax. I now know where to dine if I’m lazy to cook at home. Also: preparing sandwiches for school dinners save so much money. This is college all over again, tbh.
  • Living in New York is not the same as visiting it. I haven’t even explored most of the go-to places here and I’m too caught up getting my daily sh*t together, you know? It’s crazy.

Since we’re here, thought I’d share about some things I’ve been consuming lately…

Books on my desk:

  • You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero (done and loved it)
  • Goodbye to All That, edited by Sari Botton (halfway!)
  • An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green
  • What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami (I’ve been running so it’s apt to be reading this memoir, which I find very insightful.)
  • Someday by David Levithan

Podcasts I’ve been listening to:

Music on my current playlist:

I’ll be honest and say that I did not see all of this coming. I expected my stay here to be…ermm…I can’t describe it. Okay? I did know I was not going to see the city the same way again, from the starry-eyed self I was last year. I don’t hate that fact. It actually grounds me—you’d think New York is this glamorous place and it’s been romanticized that way…but when you look at how days go, you realize how mundane it is, how simple it is. But also, at the same time, very complex. It’s like this hodge podge of different people, different places, and you just have to keep up with the pace. I walk faster now, not because I’m rushing, but it’s what I picked up from a month of living in NYC.

I still have three months and I’ve felt a bit homesick the past few weeks. But I’m not one to give up easily; I’ll stick it out. October’s another story; I’ll let it unfold as I take my next flight to one of my dream destinations. If there’s one thing I’m sure of, it’s that choosing to take this time off is one of the better decisions I’ve made so far this year. That’s something I’d attest to for the rest of my life.

Until then!


Hello from NYC!

I can’t believe I’m here. I can’t believe I’m really doing this. I can’t believe it’s actually happening.

These words have been in my head for the past two weeks now—because all of this is still new to me. Independent living? Doing errands on my own? Actually taking the subway? Thinking about what to get for dinner? Figuring out how to actually chill on weekends? Wow. Never in a million years did I assume I’d wind up here in New York City doing those things. And of course—going to school, which is the main reason I’ve taken time off for a few months.

I don’t think I’ve reached any level of peak independence until recently. Being alone 90% of the time makes me more self-aware about simple things like deciding on the spot, taking care of myself, managing to ask for help, and realizing that I have certain qualities I like and dislike about myself. Of course, the ones I dislike I end up giving myself pep talks and strive to be better. It’s a process I’m still working on.

To be honest, I had initially wanted to do this trial run of living in another city (at this point in my life) in the hopes of getting to work from anywhere when I get older and to eventually settle in a city that I would love to call home (I have a list. New York is one of them, but I have more which I’ve yet to find out soon). Manila is my default home because of the people, but in terms of location, I’m still in the works of figuring out where I fit best. I don’t think New York (in the long run) for me is ideal; but it’s just been three weeks. Let’s see how things will transpire from here on out.

As introverted as this may sound, I barely talk to people. I like spending most of my time in silence, mostly reading or doing mundane things. In the subway I always have a book with me as I take the train to Manhattan or Brooklyn. I’m never human without my earphones and commute playlist. I used to be this person who likes to explore a lot in a day but now, I’m more concerned with managing my energy on a daily basis and opt to spread it out in days instead. It’s nice; I like the silence. Count the fact that the time zone here is -12 hours from Manila—I have alllll the quiet time I need.

So far, I have gone to some of my favorite places in Manhattan: spend time at the New York Public Library, have lunch at Bryant Park, do some drawing on location at Central Park, and go art supplies shopping (now for school!) at Blick, among other things. Lately I’ve been more fixated on creating a routine (I’m such a Capricorn, I realize) for school and my workouts (running, mainly). It just feels relatively amazing and overwhelming to know I can do anything here in a city I barely know.

It’s been a rollercoaster of feelings, tbh—from leaving Manila to arriving at JFK (Welcome To New York by Taylor Swift was on loop, of course) to adjusting my body clock and eventually preparing for school. Here’s a little roundup and photo diary of how things are so far, and a vlog at the end of this post. 🙂

Got a Rachel Chu upgrade on my flight (yes, that was totes a Crazy Rich Asians reference) and omg, white wine and mimosas, please!

Started reading You Are A Badass on my first week. The tough love I never knew I needed (and probably the best self-help book I’ve read thus far)!

Hello from my room—wall in progress!

Welcome presents: this NYC ABC book from Koko (huuu thanks!) and the pair of Van Gogh sneakers I ordered from Vans. In my favorite yellow color!

Honestly got so overwhelmed with the USA orders of my book; but nonetheless, I’m very grateful! I’ve been sorting orders on weekends and mornings where I don’t have to head to Manhattan early. I’ve also been binge watching The Bold Type, which is now a new favorite (if you know me, I’m super picky with my series choices)!
My good friend from high school Nicole (who lives in Toronto) was in New York! So glad we got to catch up after so long.

The first week here was mainly spent on shopping for “essentials” (lol) and exploring Manhattan at a slower pace. I went here last year rushing everything and it’s nice to actually just walk and not panic about time, you know?

I entered Madewell not expecting I’d get a pair of jeans (they were on sale, okay) as I headed out. No regrets; it’s an investment! Also, fun fact: my trusty brown crossbody tote is from here (yes, the one I wear on all of my photos).

Random snaps: thrifted at L Train Vintage in Brooklyn, went all peak touristy a day before my DC trip, and a nice cup of almond milk latte at SoHo during a rainy Monday.

Another thing I hope to do is to explore Brooklyn more—I recently met Amber (who studies and lives in Brooklyn) and she took me around the area a few days ago. It was fun! I love how laid back Brooklyn is compared to the busy streets of Manhattan. Let’s add to that the fact that there are so many coffee shops in the neighborhood. I should head there more often now. Hello from Central Park!

Was surprised to find all my three books at Strand—the new one, Hand Lettering A to Z Workbook, is set to be out this October, but you can pre-order a copy here.


A dose of color on a Monday: met up with CH who was in town (yay!) and spent our morning inside Color Factory at Spring Street. So much fun!

Me to me: GANDA KA? Omygod. Hahahaha

There were designated photo booths in each room (as in, there was a built-in SLR omg) and it was just so cool. I’m amazed. Moreso when there was a room showcasing different colors and their origins. *Obviously geeked out*

Coincidentally, it was also my first day of school! I headed straight to the New York Academy of Art campus for my 2PM class. It was fun! I made friends! What an achievement. Two days later, we had an on location class at Washington Square Park. I still have a lot of work to do for that (especially since I have my own style already) but it’s interesting. Our teacher is a pro; and I’m looking forward to learn more in the next sessions.

Looked up and saw this view at Greenwich Village right after plein air class. Yup, it’s NYU! (NYC is so photogenic)

Day off essentials: a good book (this is my second book now!) and a creamy cup of oat milk latte (this dairy-free alternative is my new obsession). I had a little crisis earlier this week so I sprinted to a nearby cafe after doing post office errands and did some free writing. I keep forgetting how journaling is so efficient, therapeutic, and ultimately clears the mind. It’s such a good reminder that so many thoughts can just cloud the mind and letting it out is always, always, ALWAYS the best solution.

As for the book, I’m reading an anthology of stories about writers on loving and leaving New York and it’s so insightful. It’s rare for me to get pulled in a book so it’s that good. I didn’t want to read it continuously so that the momentum won’t feel so fast; each story is so fascinating and I found myself resonating with some of them.

I don’t eat out a lot because I’m stingy. But sometimes my cravings for Asian food and smoked salmon push me to do so. I mean…beef noodle soup? Smoked salmon on an everything bagel? UwU I’ve been eating mostly Asian fare these days (rice included) and it’s so funny. To think I don’t like rice that much! That is my peak Asian lowkey showing itself, tbh. I had corned beef, egg, and brown rice earlier for lunch and I WAS SO HAPPY. I mean, LOL.

Earlier today I finally did something I have been wanting to do since forever—run. I mean, run in an actual neighborhood with pavements and trees and things like that, complete with running shoes (that propel your feet to move forward). Growing up I was not physically fit, but in recent years I have learned to love working out (spinning and yoga are on the top of my list) and I have always, always told myself I will be able to run (10KM? haha) and make it part of my lifestyle somehow. So this is a big feat for me! Of course I just ran 2KM earlier but it’s a start. I’ve started compiling my playlists and picking out which apps I’m using. I always say I am not fit to do these things but what the hell, I don’t care. I know what I’m capable of and I’m finally doing it for myself.

There’s something about New York that feels different—the kind that I know I’m about to uncover parts of myself I have otherwise may have not seen or have ignored while I was working my a** off the past few years. But you know what the weird thing is? I miss working. Like a true Capricorn, lol. But I keep forgetting I am here to learn, and I am here to experiment. There’s no pressure. There’s only freedom; lots of it.

I’m looking forward to more morning runs, the coming of autumn (next week!), my digital classes (which also start next week), meeting up some friends (my family is coming too, I’m excited for that), going to Germany next month (for work AND vacation omg), and many many things. It’s been well. I think. It’s just that sometimes I need a hard slap in my face to remember that I worked hard to get here (fun fact: the income I earned from teaching workshops has been incurred for my tuition—so thank you to my students!). I always neglect this and I need to keep it in mind more.

Here’s a compilation of clips from this month…I recently got a new tripod (lol) so my chatty vlogs will be out soon. 🙂

Always be creating,


Osaka Roundup: Art, Coffee, & Culture

Okay, a disclaimer before you start reading: I’ve been to Osaka thrice. But it’s only this recent trip that I got to spend a week navigating my way through different neighborhoods and wards in Osaka—so this list isn’t really a comprehensive one (unlike the roundup for Tokyo, which was derived from 5 trips lol). My friends and I opted out some tourist spots (like Osaka Castle and Tennoji temple) since we were short on time and wanted to explore more cafes and do some shopping.

Here’s a little roundup of places in Osaka—no bookstores too, because I only passed by Tsutaya a few times and I didn’t want to get any books for this trip! Mostly art places, touristy non-negotiables, and a rather long list of coffee shops you can check out in case you find yourself in Osaka soon. Enjoy!

Art Stores


If you’re looking for art supplies in Osaka, Kawachi is your best bet. Visited the Dotonbori branch (8F of Tokyu Hands building) and was surprised to find all the materials I needed in one floor. I’d like to think this is Sekaido’s counterpart in Osaka.


The best place to shop for stationery, anywhere in Japan, hands down. Went to the Dotonbori branch (2 floors of Loft shared with Tower Records and Muji) and the stationery section was extensive, as usual. Pro tip: check out the sale pile and you might be able to score some good finds (I got paper bags!) for only 100JPY.


By default, Daiso has been widely popular for its 100JPY price—but to be fair, you can get anything here at a very affordable price. From pillowcases to washi tapes to kitchenware to cosmetics (lol I forgot to draw my eyebrows and bought a pencil here), and of course, to snacks, you can never go wrong with Daiso. So glad the branches we visited (in Nara and Shinsaibashi) weren’t too crowded. More reason to shop, I guess?

Tokyu Hands

It’s either you go to Loft or Tokyu Hands, really, if you need to stock up on your stationery. My recommendation is going to Tokyu Hands first if you need tools like folders, pencil cases (I got my Delfonics utility pouch here!), and pens. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, or need more options (ha!), head to Loft to see if they’re available.

Don Quijote

Putting this here because I’ve been asked several times about my disposable film cameras. Don Quijote’s prices are the cheapest I’ve seen so far (tax-free) so if you want to stock up on your gear, definitely drop by Donki.

Touristy places


I’m such an anti-tourist for the primary reason that I hate crowded places. Buuuut Dotonbori is a no-brainer, must-visit if you’re exploring Osaka. The array of shops and restaurants in Shinsaibashi are great for leisurely shopping and eating—I mean, there’s GU, Uniqlo, Daiso, etc. on the same strip! Ichiran ramen is also around the corner, and so are my fave fast food places (Sukiya, Matsuya, Yoshinoya).

We booked an airbnb near Dotonbori (5 minutes walk) and it was super efficient especially since we spent most of our trip exploring cafes near the area.

Umeda Sky Building

I always have a soft spot for architecture, and visiting Umeda Sky Building ultimately felt like entering a space facility (lol, it did help that I was wearing a NASA shirt). I’m scared of escalators but for some reason, this one wasn’t as scary? Didn’t go up to the topmost part anymore because we were 100% satisfied with the escalators (LOL) and ended up doing six round trips like true tourists. #sorrynotsorry

Universal Studios Japan: Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Obviously went here for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and of course we lined up for the 4D ride (Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey)—WORTH EVERY PENNY. Also, if you’re a huge fan of Harry Potter (raise your hand!), definitely try the Butterbeer drink and ice cream (!). Pro tip: Take it with you while you line up so you won’t get bored, lol. The Hippogriff roller coaster was meh, tbh. If you’re planning to take home some goodies, check out Honeydukes or Owl Post for souvenirs. I was super stingy (always am, really) so I just got a Ravenclaw enamel pin (my house!) to take home (price wasn’t as expensive lol). I bought a Gryffindor scarf during my first visit so I brought it out (of course) and wore it that day (it’s still available at the shops).

In other parts of USJ, I really enjoyed the Spiderman 4D ride (by default, this is one of the OG 4D rides!) and the Minion Mayhem 4D ride (soooo cute). We went on a Tuesday and surprisingly, it wasn’t super crowded. I recommend going on weekdays and not on weekends and holidays, unless you want to line up longer.


The cafes in Osaka are incomparable to that of Tokyo’s—most of the cafes here are spacious and perfect for chilling (in Tokyo, most are just small stalls).

Saturdays NYC

Always been curious about Saturdays NYC after seeing it on most people’s posts in Osaka (and New York). You’d be surprised that this is actually a lifestyle and clothing store. I was skeptical at first but omg, their clothing is tdf. But of course, so is their coffee. The clean aesthetic of this establishment sets it apart from the skyscrapers surrounding the area.

Also, a PSA: in one of the roads nearby, look up and you will spot Roy Lichtenstein’s art on one of the buildings. You’re welcome.

Brothers Cafe

Come here for the pancakes, stay for the interiors. Brothers’ pancakes didn’t disappoint, of course—it was my first time trying souffle pancakes (those fluffy ones you see on IG) and they were soooo good. A relatively nice place to just chill and unwind before doing (more) walking, lol.

Lilo Coffee Roasters

Don’t let this cafe’s small space fool you—it’s as cozy as it can get. Nevermind that the chairs are all bar stools, there are outlets and the ambiance is quaint and quiet, perfect for introverts. The coffee is another story—I got the East Timor blend and it was probably one of the best coffees I’ve had in my life.

Brooklyn Roasting Company

New York City lowkey manifesting itself to me (lol) with this NY-based cafe near Umeda. Apart from the good coffee and chill vibes of this roastery and cafe, the view by the river is quite impeccable. Go here during golden hour and you’ll definitely be pleased with what you’ll see.

Pablo Coffee

Not entirely sure what the difference is between Pablo and Pablo Coffee but regardless, the cafe serves Pablo’s signature cheese tarts and soft serve ice cream. Probably the coffee selection is more extensive here? Located a few blocks away from Shinsaibashi, this is a nice, spacious place to spend an afternoon after long walks in the area.

Elk’s Pancakes

Located beside LiLo Coffee Roasters, Elk’s serves quite a delight—with its wide range of pancakes, desserts, and brunch food. NGL, still thinking about the tiramisu pancakes we had!

West Wood Bakers

I’m not going to line up for breakfast, but for some reason, we waited in the heat for more than twenty minutes to get ourselves a table at West Wood Bakers in Orange Street. The food was okay, I guess? American style dining in the middle of hipster Orange Street. I loved the pancakes—they weren’t fluffy but they were so good.

Furniture Shops

Orange Street’s stretch of furniture shops inspired me so much to decorate my own room. I was quite surprised to find this hidden gem of a street as I made my way through each furniture store, taking home their flyers and calling cards (I am a paper hoarder, in case you haven’t noticed) and took photos for inspiration. Here are some of the furniture shops we dropped by:

Asoko | Onoe Furniture | Acme Furniture | Biotop Nurseries

Kyoto & Nara

We spent a day in Kyoto and another in Nara, but I regret staying for ONLY a day in Kyoto. I mean? I could live there! *sobs*

I’ve never been to most of the scenic places in Kyoto (my last visit was also just a daytrip) so I’m glad we visited most places this time.


Obviously went heart eyes emoji all over this attraction, mostly because of the beautifully lined tori gates, the impeccably cold weather (but not freezing), and the lovely sketching session I had during golden hour (below). It felt nice to do nothing but just draw and observe people. 

Fushimi-Inari at dusk! So pretty. Obviously brought home a tori gate for the ~memz~.

I’m not sure if I really dressed up in this color scheme because I was going to Kyoto. But I diiid save this outfit for this specific Osaka trip! LOL, priorities.

Gion District

Found myself getting lost in another time period as I walked down the streets of Gion District. Authentic matcha soft serve, beautiful traditional architecture (don’t miss the old-fashioned Starbucks right smack in the middle of Gion), people in kimonos and yukatas…it was a sight to see. Except the crowd was crazy. But I can’t help but oooh and aahhh as I was taking in everything that was right in front of me.

(And yes I match the place apparently LOL)

I wish I could’ve stayed longer in Kyoto but we were short on time. We spent the night chilling at Drip & Drop coffee supply (loooove this place) before taking the train back to Dohtonbori (which was quite a long journey). We were just famished and bought konbini food for dinner at our airbnb.

Going to Nara didn’t excite me much, because I have been here on my first time in Tokyo in 2007. It was okay. Deers are okay. It was also HOT the day we took the train to Nara, so there’s that. What I did like was the train ride and spending more time than usual exploring Nara station.

We had lunch outside of the Nara station exit before heading to the deer park. I was shookt, these deers are adorable (and smelly). And cute, fine. Hahaha.

We also managed to visit the Kokifuji 5-storied pagoda, among others. We spent a good few hours walking around the area; something you can do if you want to forget about shopping and eating for a bit. 😛

And of course, what’s a trip without a vlog? Here are some snippets from Osaka. Keep watching until the end for my journal flip through. Said I wasn’t going to document my trip but who am I kidding, it’s part of my DNA by default. Lol.

Have you visited this part of Japan? Let me know in the comments below. 🙂

Ways to Document Your Travels

Documenting has been an essential part of my adventures every time I travel. I know, I know—it’s been said so many times, we should really focus on what’s in front of us rather than snapping away on our smartphones and cameras. For me, though, it’s quite different. Every time I see something that piques my interest, I draw and write about it. I document it. As much as a reporter or journalist gathers information about what they see or about a story they need to write and eventually compile, I find that I do the same with my own experiences in transit. By nature, I might have gotten this habit thanks to my job (especially the book writing bit, really), which requires a lot of research before I start implementing it in my process and as I proceed with an output that will reach my standards.

I have a problem with sticking to one style of documenting. Some trips, I end up drawing all the buildings and structures—while others, I simply print photos and stick ephemera with some writing in between. On self-imposed escapes to places I’ve been to so many times (ahem, Singapore), I end up filling several pages of notebooks with my thoughts and musings. My creative preferences vary because I can’t stand doing the same things in different places. It just doesn’t make sense to me to do the same thing over and over again. I can’t even use the same journal twice, and I don’t know if it’s just me, or I’m just not one to do repetitive things.Over the years, I’ve traveled extensively to places I never would have thought possible—especially in parts of Southeast Asia (apart from Japan and Singapore, I loved Cambodia and Penang), Europe (Hungary and Sweden are still on my mind), and the US (fell in love with NYC for obvious reasons). I also have had my fair share of going to La Union regularly, a staple for when I just need to get away from the city. It’s been my nature to bring at least a notebook to all of my trips, and make sense of whatever tools I end up bring (sometimes I leave my paint at home and challenge myself to just use ink, lol). But I know not everyone is interested to whip out a notebook and start journaling. So in this post, I’m sharing more ways to document your travels, both digital and analog style.


Collage-style journaling

Materials: journal, photo printer, film, glue, ephemera (brochures, cards, etc), stationery (stickers, sticky notes, post its) and pens

This is as easy as it gets—any notebook is fit for this activity. I like starting out with printing my photos (I use an Instax Share SP-2) and sticking them to wherever I want on the page. Usually, I do this in color schemes for easier referencing. You can also try doing this per location (e.g. per city or per country) as it’s more organized that way. Stick on your ephemera and make fun collages out of it, depending on what you want to achieve.

Simple, no-frills and instant documenting done!


Materials: postcards, stamps

I’m not sure where I got the idea of sending myself postcards, but it’s always something I’ve been regularly doing in my trips. It serves as a reminder of where I am and what I am doing at that point in time. I buy postcards in the country I am exploring, search for the nearest post office for stamps (some countries have stamps available at convenience stores, like in Stockholm), and drop off postcards at the post boxes (which are usually in street corners). I like the idea of these cards traveling and making its way to where I live—and despite it taking longer than usual (Philippine post office, sigh), the fact that it arrives excites me.

Paper Trail

Materials: ephemera, plastic containers or folders (for filing)

I’m a true blue paper hoarder—not because I like making a mess in my own room, but because I have a fascination for layouts and good design in general. I like keeping brochures, maps, cards, and posters for inspiration. My stationery corner in the HQ is filled with ephemera that I’ve filed and segregated per country. If you don’t know where to store yours, I suggest getting a clearbook to file them per country. I’ve found it the most efficient way to keep my things (especially since I take them out sometimes for flatlay purposes) intact and for easier referencing the next time I plan to revisit a certain place again soon.



Software: Whatever Photobook application you’re using

I started doing photobooks when I backpacked to Southeast Asia with Tricie. We made an A-Z account of places we visited during our 30-day trip, and decided to create a book out of it for personal documentation (in case you’re curious, here is the PDF version). That was 2014, and years later, I left this out of my documenting activities because I found it time consuming.

Recently though, I’ve been getting back to it mainly because Photobook Philippines offers discounts every now and then. I also love exercising my non-existent layout design skills, so this is the perfect excuse for that. So far, I’ve finished my Singapore and Japan photobooks, and managed to collate a “Color Story” photobook featuring my travel and daily photos sorted out by color scheme (yep, ROYGBIV and some pinks, browns, and greys). I add in my lettering and scanned ephemera because I always love playing around with collages and photos with my layouts. I also write a lot (if it isn’t any obvious, my blog posts are lengthy!) so I make sure to incorporate text into my photobooks. Technically, it ends up being a book or magazine of sorts that I produced on my own.

Blog entries

Software/s: Evernote or Notes, Photoshop/Lightroom, and your website

There is always a slim chance I never get to write a full blog post when I travel. Sometimes, if my energy permits, I do some writing on the plane. But most times, my eyes just give up on me and I end up sleeping for the whole duration. So I’ve came up with a solution: I jot down places and notes on my phone (or sometimes on my pocket notebook) for future blog entries about my trip, and then revisit those when I get back.

The whole idea of En Route dates back to 2015, on my 14-day trip to Central Europe. However, I’ve been playing around with different writing styles for my travel blog posts depending on location. I knew that while I liked writing in transit, most times, I can’t. So there are occasional roundups here on the blog in case I want to inform people about places to see in a certain country that most of you visit (ahem, Japan). Funny enough, I have a lot of unfinished entries in my Evernote that have started out as drafts from downtime in between trips. So let me try to resurrect them and make something out of them for my future posts…

Here’s a video to sum up some of the ways I document. Enjoy! And don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel.


PSA: The ABC Travel Journal is available at bookstores and stationery stores nationwide!


En Route: Drifting

I’m not sure how to start this post. If you’ve been reading my blog since 2014/2015, you’d know I always go to La Union for some specific reason.

But for the first time (ever), I didn’t have any particular agenda when I booked a trip to LU last month, complete with my laptop (I was expecting to write, but the universe had other plans) and a book (which I have not finished), plus a trusty journal for some life analyzing (as if I needed more of it).

I’ve been meaning to book my own out of town trip because sometimes, taking yourself out to “retreats” is a good way to reconnect with yourself. At least, for me. Living in a busy city where everything is 24/7 calling for your attention (ahem, work) is not exactly as pleasing as it sounds. So there, I took the bus (biyaheroes.com is so efficient!), met up with my LU friends, caught the sunset, did some writing, had a mental breakdown, and finally learned to stay put for the first time in 2018.

(Above: Particularly amused with my friend Maka’s office because of the library of books, which I obviously went crazy over. Spent a good few hours after lunch reading and dissecting a few titles while waiting for check-in at Vessel.)

I’ve been eyeing Vessel Hostel since it opened a few years ago. Something about the architecture made me want to book a bunk bed; and I was right. It was amazing. It felt like you were back in time with the simple and straightforward interiors. Obviously an old soul and a sucker for anything wood, so I easily enjoyed my two nights here (except for my noisy roommate who snored the whole time I was there on the second night. Horrible!).

As someone who travels alone a lot, I’ve always been at peace with myself (not necessarily with my thoughts). But being in La Union was hard. I tried to shut off parts of myself, tried to make sense of my thoughts, pulled tarot cards, did some work. But nothing was going as planned (especially if you count the part where my InDesign software crashed and my files got deleted). My brain had its own internal crisis. I started to realize it just dawned on me how pathetic I was for not realizing that 1) I’m so tired (no, more like fatigued) with the rate I’m going, work-wise, and 2) I’m so frustrated for only acknowledging this as a weakness, when in fact, it was the strength I needed to act accordingly (and make decisions that would help solve this problem).

You’re probably going to read this and say, “OMG, what is she even trying to say here?” Lol. Here’s the thing. I’ve been suffering with quarter life crisis since this summer started. I’ve been so fixated on leaving and figuring out where to go next (and what to do) that this “breeding period” aka my last few months here has always been a blur to me. I just know I was going to work and get all my deadlines done before I board that plane to New York. (And for the record, I’m going to be back in December, and eventually decide on where to take things from there.)

But little did I know that several factors were at stake here. First off, my physical health has been deteriorating lately. Then, there’s my mental health. There’s also the part where I become lethargic / I get migraines every day / I end up asking myself why am I still forcing work if my brain is just giving up on me. So right now, as I type this out, I’m slowly trying to pick up the pieces and watch over myself more. Obviously, this trip was square one of “road to self-improvement”. Let’s just say that’s my ongoing project for the rest of the year.

I’ve always liked La Union. From the first time Mikka brought me here in 2014, to unexpectedly meeting a set of friends (now my LU barkada) last year. It’s always been a place I like revisiting for the same reasons that I always visit Singapore and Japan: I see self-growth in places where I used to wander. Is it weird that I like doing this? It’s also why I send myself postcards every year at the same countries…I write a bit about how things are and see how one thing leads to another.

So yeah, that’s how LU’s been for me. I even told myself I won’t be back because of how things ended up last year, but the universe is I guess pretty tricky with these things.


My favorite part is always the morning. There is a silence I can’t comprehend, a silence that keeps me in tune with the present. I read a few pages of The Art of Thinking Clearly and went up and down the stairs to take in some more of the quiet ambiance, the morning sun, and do a bit of writing.

The sunlight is nice, the quiet is nice, everything is nice. I like it that way. Nice and quiet.

How ironic is it that when you are away, you think of home? You also think of other places, places that you’d rather be in. Sometimes I find myself drifting away from where I am at this moment, daydreaming about the next trip, the near future, the unlimited possibilities, the reality of it all happening…and then it all goes back to the present in a snap.

That’s been me lately with life. I’ve been so stressed that I’m often looking past this struggle and go straight to the other side, to the part where things are making sense, where I get to go away for a short time. For when I don’t have to worry about work, about trying to prove something, about trying to be who I am for others. But I’m slowly learning that maybe looking too far ahead won’t give me the answers I’m looking for. It helps to ultimately focus on what’s right in front of me for now and get my sh*t together, because as much as I get tough love and good advice from friends and family, I’m still responsible to act on my own choices and make decisions that truly matter. And for now, that involves making a conscious choice to stand up for myself, address current concerns, and most importantly–take good care of myself, while I can.

I don’t want to sulk in and feel shitty about these last few months just because I’m still here. The problem comes with the drifting: drifting of thoughts, drifting of dreams, drifting of the totality that is me. I’ve lost touch with who I am and what I really want in life because I’ve been finding ways to escape. But as they say, really, the only way out of this crisis is through.



Photos from my iPhone and disposable camera