EVERY time I travel to a new place, I learn something fresh. Not only do I get a closer brush with its history, or taste the gustatory delights, I also pick a thing or two about its people and their way of life. And while I traverse an unfamiliar road, a fresh idea would pop every now and then – something useful to everyday living or relevant in the future. Sometimes, I gain a new friend along the way. These are the prizes I get out of traveling.
Traveling has rewarded me with wonderful memories and exciting experiences that helped shape my perspective towards things. But the best way to enjoy traveling is when you do it for free! With my recent trip to India, I realized how many times I was blessed with free travel as a prize from a contest or raffle.
1. Hong Kong, 2007
It was our Christmas party in Stratworks, at the time when I was working there. During the raffle draw, my name was picked for the first prize – a free trip to Hong Kong. My sister and I made our trip on a hot April day, wherein we packed light clothes and wore flip-flops, only to be greeted by a chilly, cloudy day as we touched down at Lantau Island. For three days, the sun never came out. Yet the weather made the trip more memorable and was a welcome respite from the Manila heat. Still, it was one lesson I took note: it is always better to check the weather before embarking on a journey.
2. Thailand, 2010
It was quite a surprise when I received an e-mail informing me that I was one of the 12 finalists in the Medical Tourism Blog Contest (MedBlog Contest) of the Tourism Authority of Thailand. Along with another Filipino and other bloggers from Vietnam, USA, UK, Sweden, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, we were deployed in pairs to six different destinations in the country. This trip has allowed me to explore Chiang Mai and understand the various facets and benefits of medical tourism in a place.
3. Thailand, 2014
I tend to believe that my participation in the MedBlog Contest was instrumental in invitation by the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) for me to join a familiarization trip composed of four bloggers and four journalists around Asia. It was for their campaign “Thailand Connect: Hip & Heritage Business Events” that focused on the Mice (meetings, incentives, conferences, events) industry. Fresh from my Manila Hotel stint, it was another eye-opening return to Chiang Mai as we visited the various venues and facilities that are appropriate for Mice activities.
4. New Zealand, 2016
I joined Globe’s #Wonderful Blog Contest because of the attractive prize – an all-expense paid trip to Auckland, New Zealand. But I never expected I would be one of the three bloggers, along with three Instagrammers, to win this contest. Only four of us traveled together. We squeezed in for four days the beautiful sights from Auckland to Rotorua. The trip made me appreciate the need to protect the environment, heritage and culture as how their government did to their forests, domains, old structures and indigenous people.
5. India, 2017
This year, my trip to India was a result of my joining the Kerala Blog Express Season 4 where I was selected as one of the 30 blogger-winners, based on online voting, blog content, and social media engagement. The trip has brought me new friends that I will treasure for life. With them, I came to enjoy the rich history, flavorful cuisine, colorful culture and amazing sights of the state of Kerala, India.
With my return, my heart leaps for a new adventure in the future. The question is, where to next?
All photos are by this author. Claire Marie Algarme blogs at http://firsttimetravels.com. Follow her as @firsttimetravel on Twitter and Instagram and like her Facebook page First-time Travels.
Published in the SunStar Bacolod newspaper on May 05, 2017.
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