Where have you been? | Travel World Map Generator

Ever wondered how many countries in the world have you visited so far? If you are as addicted to traveling as me, chances are you have a fair amount of numbers to share. Today I stumbled upon this travel world map generator and it made me so giddy to input and color places I have been. 

As May is about to close and soon half of the year is already over, I think it is a good time to evaluate how far I have been in my mid-twenties. I only discovered my passion to travel last year and know that I have places to catch on. As of 30th of May, Where Monica Goes has visited 20 countries in the world. I know it isn’t much and I probably covered less than 10% of the globe. Still, as Susan Sontag says, “I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.

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Where Monica Goes has been to:

Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Macao, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, United Arab Emirates.

So where have you been? Feel free to list your countries here or share a blogpost of your own travel world map! I got mine  generated for free from Matador Network.

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Top Reasons Why You Must Study Abroad

Are you considering studying abroad but uncertain whether or not to take the plunge?

If you are looking for a new challenge or simply want to make your high school or university life so much better, why not study abroad? Studying overseas is a major decision to make and it can have a huge impact on one’s life, but the fruits of this endeavor are priceless – opportunity to know yourself better, learn about the world, and transform your future, among others. Don’t believe me yet? Continue reading and check out Where Monica Goes’ Top Reasons Why You Must Study Abroad.

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GAIN NEW PERSPECTIVES

Studying and living in a foreign country and different culture give you the opportunity to see the world with a new perspective. After observing how people behave and things are done, you get to have a different way to look at things. You broaden your horizons. You become more open-minded and culturally sensitive. Your prejudices will be cleared and opinions more educated. You learn to appreciate a different outlook on daily life, social and maybe even political issues.

DEVELOP LANGUAGE SKILLS

Classroom classes, textbooks, audiobooks, and online apps can aid you in learning languages, but there is something much more helpful if you are immersed in it in a local setting. Even though you know next to nothing about German, living in the foreign country for a week could make you understand some simple words and phrases already without you realizing it. With an overseas education, you get to learn and practice the language first-hand as you go dining in a restaurant, haggling in a flea market, or making new friends.

Since you are studying abroad and somehow forced to use (and hear) foreign language everyday, you are soaked into this new world that will ultimately bring you to hone your skills conveniently.

ENHANCE EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES LOCALLY AND INTERNATIONALLY

It can start with your CV. By adding that line about your study abroad experience, you get ahead by some of your peers in the eyes of prospective employers. They would be more interested in you and perhaps let you get that dream job. Employers look for self-motivated, independent and flexible individuals who also have time management, organization, and people skills which all describe foreign students. Along with being able to go out of your comfort zone, ability to handle stressful environment, willingness to learn, and worldliness, an overseas education highlights your language skills, cultural sensitivity, and sense of adventure. You will appear and become a worldlier and more culturally aware person, something that not anyone can describe themselves in their resume.

GET IMMERSED IN A NEW CULTURE

When you study abroad, you have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to experience new culture from within. Different from being a traveler, studying overseas will ultimately give you a new perspective on the country’s culture from the inside. You observe customs and traditions that travel guides only mentioned in passing. You get to know which tourist attractions are really worth it, sample best and hidden restaurants, and the cheapest places to hangout on a Friday night, for instance. During your stay, you learn a new culture by simply living in it. In a globalized world, the best way to understand how people are is to immerse in a new culture.

GAIN LIFELONG FRIENDS

One of the most significant reasons and the second-best by-product of studying abroad is establishing international friendships. Everyone you come across in your journey can enrich your overseas experience – students in your language class, colleagues in seminars, host families, backpackers and hitchhikers you meet on the road. You get to meet complete strangers who speak in foreign tongues, believe in various religions, have different colors and races, eat with chopsticks or forks, who will become your lifelong friends and acquaintances and be treasured for a lifetime. These people who may or may not share your interests can inspire and transform you to a much better person.

LEARN MORE ABOUT YOURSELF.

Left to your own devices in a foreign land, you learn to be independent and self-reliant. You realize things that you can do by your own. Back home, you always have your family and friends to rely on, even when you are living by yourself. Staying overseas is another story. Each day is a new challenge. You get to be pushed to your boundaries, testing your limits. When you put yourself out of your comfort zone, you get to know more about yourself – strengths and weaknesses, abilities and skills. By studying abroad, you gain invaluable life skills, which will enable you to grow more. Even though the beginning may be scary and everyday is not always filled with happiness and rainbows, you will end up becoming a stronger, more confident, and more self-reliant person. This is, I believe, the best by-product of studying abroad.

TRAVEL THE WORLD

The most rewarding experience and Where Monica Goes’ top reason why you must study abroad is the chance to travel the world. Not only are you in an exotic and foreign location for at least a semester, you also get the opportunity to look around your locality and see the sights no traveler can do. When you are done learning the ins and outs of your university town, go out and explore nearby cities and countries. Even though you are just staying for a semester, you have all the weekends and holidays off to travel. Yes, go and discover the world!

Studying abroad is the ultimate opportunity for globetrotting youth. You may be traveling on a student budget, but the experience is worth it. Go backpacking for a weekend or school holiday. Book via Mein Fernbus, Euro Rail, or Ryanair. Eat tapas in Barcelona. Ride a vaporetto in Venezia. Sleep in a 16-person hostel room in Zurich. Enjoy free Mozart symphony orchestra in Vienna. Get drunk in an underground pub in Prague. Attend Oktoberfest. Cool down in Plitvice Lake. Get lost in the streets of Paris. The options are limitless. Take advantage of being an international student and benefit from discounts you can get.

Those are my top reasons why you must study abroad. May it be for a semester exchange or long-term study, I believe the opportunity to gain exciting and once-in-a-lifetime experience should not be missed. Why skip the chance to try this incredible event in your life?

Already convinced, but want to know more? Read Where Monica Goes’ 10 Tips on Preparing for your Student Exchange Program

Country Spotlight: The Philippines

The Republic of the Philippines gains the honor of being the first country to get the spotlight on Where Monica Goes. From its more than seven thousand idyllic islands, clear turquoise waters, world-class diving sites, diverse wildlife, rich culture, friendly and hospitable locals, to delicious food, the Pearl of the Orient Seas can offer so much that one cannot help but to fall in love with it. As a Filipina myself, I can proudly say that I love my country and will always encourage others to come and visit this jewel in Asia. After reading this post, please let me know if I have convinced you to travel to the Philippines!

With a total land area of 300 000 square kilometers, the archipelago lies in Southeast Asia with Taiwan directly in the north, Vietnam in the west, Brunei and Indonesia in the south, and the Pacific Ocean in the east. It is situated in the Pacific Ring of Fire and has many active volcanoes, which contribute to seismic and volcanic activities as well as abundance of mineral deposits – gold (estimated to be second largest in the world after South Africa) copper, nickel and zinc. As for its wildlife, the Philippines is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna within its numerous rainforests and marine habitat.

The Philippine culture is a beautiful combination of Eastern and Western influences. Values, beliefs, languages and other aspects are similar to its Asian neighbors, but also exhibit traces of Spanish and American conquests. Being an archipelago with thousands of islands, the country is home to 186 individual languages. The official languages are Filipino and English. Travelers have easy communication with any local as more than 90% of the population can speak and understand the lingua franca of the world. For religion, it is predominantly Christian with 82.9% of the population Catholics while Islam is the second largest with 5%.

BASIC FACTS ABOUT PHILIPPINES

Capital: Manila
Population: 100+ million
Official languages: Filipino and English
Government: Presidential Republic
Currency: Philippine Peso
Climate: Tropical
Average temperature: 26 degrees Celsius
Time zone: UTC+8
Driving: Right
Electricity: 220V/60hz

GETTING AROUND THE PHILIPPINES

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Photo from Justin James Wright: http://www.jjwrightfineart.com/philippine-street-life-in-color/

Jeepney – king of the road; runs within Manila and provinces

Metro – LRT1, LRT2, and MRT3 run within the capital

Bus – ordinary and air-conditioned run within and outside Manila

Van – locally known as FX Taxi; more comfortable than bus but cheaper than taxi

Tricycle – local auto rickshaws that are common public transportation

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Photo from Justin James Wright: http://www.jjwrightfineart.com/philippine-street-life-in-color/

Plane – with more than 7100 islands scattered in the archipelago, flying is the fastest way to get from one point to another

Boat – locally known as Bangka; best mode of transportation when island hopping

Taxi – both ordinary and cab hailing companies such as Grab and Uber cars.

Kalesa – horse drawn carriage introduced during Spanish occupation; common around Manila and Vigan

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Image Source

BEST TIME TO VISIT

The Philippines have three seasons – hot dry (March to May), rainy (June to November) and cool dry (December to February). The coolest month is January while May is the hottest. To avoid strong typhoons from July to August, traveling can be between October to May.

High season is December to April (coolest and hottest months when locals usually take holiday trips) and low season is June to September (typhoon season).

WHERE TO VISIT

To give you a glimpse of the Philippines, here are some wonderful places that I have visited around my country. These will also be featured separately here in Where Monica Goes soon, each with detailed itinerary and travel tips and guides.

I. MANILA

The Capital. Culturally and historically rich. Bustling, skyscraper-smothered city where you can eat, drink, and shop almost 24/7.

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Manila skyline. Image Source

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II. PALAWAN

The paradise of the Philippines. Home of the most beautiful island in the world according to Condé Nast Traveler’s Reader Choice Awards.

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Coron, Palawan
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El Nido, Palawan
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Kayangan lake, Palawan

III. Cebu

Queen City of the South. One-hour plane ride from Manila. Home of the whale sharks, white sand beaches, turquoise waterfalls, spectacular diving sites, among others.

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Whaleshark encounter, Oslob, Cebu. 
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Sardine run, Moalboal, Cebu. Image Source
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Kawasan Falls, Badian, Cebu. Image Source

IV. Bohol

One-hour plane ride from Manila. A short ferry-ride from Cebu. Home of the majestic Chocolate Hills, world’s smallest, bug-eyed primate called Tarsier, pristine sandy beaches, world class diving sites.

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Chocolate Hills, Bohol. Image Source
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Tarsier. Image Source
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Diving in Panglao, Bohol. Photo courtesy of Agoda.com

V. Banaue

Hidden gem in the north. Home of the 2000-year-old rice terraces carved into the mountains.

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Banaue Rice Terraces. Image Source
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Image Source

VI. Bicol

The very active, perfect cone-shaped volcano. Beautiful, surfing-friendly beaches.

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Mayon Volcano. Image Source
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Caramoan islands. Image Source

VII. Boracay

Flagship tourist destination. World-famous white, powdery sand beach. Romantic sunset.

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Boracay island. Image Source 
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Boracay sunset. Image Source 

Aside from the seven mentioned above, there are still seven thousand islands left worth mentioning and exploring. The Philippines really has varied beautiful places and activities to offer that one should simply take and enjoy.

If you are planning for your next trip, will you consider the Philippines as your next destination? If you have already traveled here, which is your most favorite part of the country? What is your most memorable experience? Let Where Monica Goes know!