Travel Archives

One Year After My Tropical MBA Internship

Has it really been one year already?

One year ago today, I landed in Bali for the Tropical MBA Semester #3.

I am amazed at how quickly my life has moved in the past year:

When I went home to visit Pennsylvania in December, things were more or less the same as when I left. However, I had changed dramatically.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

“If you are an aspiring entrepreneur, travel is a dangerous (but seductive) choice”Dan A.

I sure had a blast going on travel adventures in 2011, but it wasn’t long before I realized that it was unsustainable in the long-term. If I wanted to make my location independent lifestyle last I needed to make some big changes.

When I returned to the Philippines in January until now I have made a concerted effort to baseline – cutting my expenses and distractions by moving to Tagum City with my girlfriend (about 1.5 hours outside Davao City).

Don’t let anyone ever tell you that building a lifestyle business is easy.

If you aren’t willing to sacrifice and put in a lot of hard work up front to build a solid base to support your lifestyle, it won’t be long before you end up like most backpackers who have to go home to work.

Sometimes you have to work on a Saturday night to meet a deadline for a client. Get used to it.

And in order to complete your work, you will have to put up with a lot of bullshit and distractions that you might not have back home including (but not limited to): power outages, parties, slow wifi, time zone differences, and landlords refusing to refund your apartment deposit because they stole it and never gave it to the owner.

3rd world countries don’t always operate smoothly. Get used to it.

It’s easy to get frustrated when you are grinding work out day by day and lose sight of the bigger picture. But you have to remember that…

“Shit takes forever”Ian S.

Finally now I am starting to see real results from the concentrated effort to build up my consulting work on the side for Adwords and Conversion Optimization. I’ve gotten several one-off projects, but now I’m trying to build up longer term relationships with my clients.

Sidenote: Check out my Conversion Optimization and Adwords Management services on the awesome
Tropical Workforce Job Site.

And actually if you count since I started my first online business in April 2010 (which got me sued)… I’ve been hacking at this online business / location independence thing for 2 years… and now I finally feel like it’s almost sustainable.

Its been 730 Days since I started. Sounds like I’m right on track for my 1000 Days.

So what’s in store for the next year?

Tropical MBA Businesses – I want to help take them to the next level. Despite a setback from the latest Google update, I am really pumped about what we can do this year to break $2 million in annual revenue.

Travel – I am not expecting to travel as much this year, but I want to visit Vietnam and Cambodia. I also want to head to Bangkok, Thailand in October for the Dynamite Circle meetup. Dropping by Bali at some point would be great if possible.

Personal Finances – If I want the freedom to invest in new businesses and travel more, than I first need to get my financial house in order. Eliminate my credit card debt and build up $10k in savings.

Freelance – I enjoy doing Conversion Optimization work and get great results for my clients so I want to build longer term relationships that lead to $1500 per month in recurring revenue.

This Blog – I’ve neglected the blog while keeping my head down to work hard, but I want to get more involved again and post once a week. I also want to reach out to other bloggers and have at least 5 guest posts and create a free 7 day crash course to building a 4hww muse business.

If you had asked me when I landed in Bali a year ago what I thought would happen over the next year – I couldn’t have predicted 90% of it.

I know my life will change again over this next year in ways I don’t expect – but the persistence to follow my dreams remains the same through the ups and downs.

I know I am moving in the right direction, and although I’m not quite there yet… success is inevitable.



“I’m sorry sir but your scheduled flight was actually yesterday.”

Wait what?

But my flight was scheduled for 12:10pm today and right now it is 9:30am… what happened?

“No sir your flight was scheduled for 12:10am today and check-in was yesterday.”

Welcome to travel hell.


But let’s start from the beginning to understand the full extent of my 55 hour travel adventure to get from Tagum City, Philippines to my home near New York City.

Image credits: Google Maps

At 10pm Philippines time I took a bus from Tagum to Davao and it took around 2 hours.

Because my flight from Davao to Manila was scheduled at 6:30am I decided to not sleep and just went to the airport around 5:30am. I fell asleep as soon as I got on the Airphil Express plane for the whole 2 hour flight and woke up as the plane landed in Manila around 8:30am.

I had plenty of time to spare before my noon flight, but once there I soon realized that my departing flight on Asiana Airlines was in a completely different terminal.

Unlike most airports which have a fast and free shuttle or tram between terminals, in Manila you have to pay a taxi to drive you between terminals and it takes 30 minutes or more with the insane traffic. This is probably why Manila has been rated the worst airport in the world (link).

So now it was 9:30am when I finally arrived to the right Terminal and I was excited to check-in with Asiana Airlines. I get up to the counter and present a printout of my itinerary and my passport.

That’s when my world came crashing down around me.

“I’m sorry sir but your scheduled flight was actually yesterday.”

My flight was scheduled for December 16 at 12:10 AM not 12:10 PM.


I spent the next hour asking every single airline ticketing desk if they had any availability on flights to New York City later in the day. The answer was consistently “not until tomorrow” or “pay us $2000”.

I finally made it back to the Asiana Airlines ticketing desk and found out that they had availability on the midnight flight that same night for only $970 (the same flight but a day after the one I missed). I told them I’ll take it and handed over my credit card and passport. Asiana airlines was super helpful with the whole process. Exhausted from lack of sleep and stress I put my head down on their office desk and took a nap while they processed everything.

Now it was almost noon and my flight check in wasn’t until 9:30pm. So I had to figure out what to do for the next 10 hours. I was hungry and quickly realized that the only food before the security gates in the entire terminal was just one crappy convenience stand. Once again I understood why Manila is rated the worst airport in the world.

After eating a disgusting hot dog I found a set of four empty seats and sprawled out to take a nap. Luckily I was so exhausted that I just slept for most of the 10 hours.

Now it was 9:30pm and I checked in for my flight, excited to get the hell home. Of course it wasn’t that easy though. There was a huge line at immigration and when I finally got to the counter the immigration officer told me that my visa had expired yesterday. So then I had to go over to the Cashier and pay 3000 pesos ($70) because my visa was one day over. Then I had to go to the back of the immigration line again and wait forever. Finally I made it through immigration and security by 11pm and soon after boarded my 5 hour flight from Manila, Philippines to Seoul, South Korea.

I slept for about half the flight and arrived in Incheon airport in Seoul, South Korea at 4am but my flight wasn’t until 10am. I found a set of three seats in the boarding gate, sprawled out, and took a nap for my 5 hour layover.

On a side note I haven’t visited South Korea, but based on just the airport, Korea seems like a crazy place and unique cultural experience worth checking out in the future.

They seem really uptight about bathroom cleanliness in Korea. I was halfway through washing my face in the sink when the bathroom janitor yelled at me in Korean to wipe up the water droplets around the sink with a paper towel. I obliged because I don’t know what the cultural expectations are, but I’m pretty sure the janitor is hired to clean the bathroom, not me. Definitely a 180 shift from the Philippines where a bathroom attendant would clean up the few water droplets with a smile and say “thank you sir” for patronizing their bathroom.

So now it was 9:30am and I was finally on a plane headed to New York City. But the plane was delayed, sitting an extra hour on the runway due to a faulty check-in system. I think my only saving grace in this hellish travel experience was that I was so exhausted it was easy to sleep and the time passed quickly. After an extra hour we finally took off and I slept for about 70% of the 14 hours flight and read on my kindle the rest of the time.

I landed in New York at 10:30am local time and scrambled because I had to get to the Port Authority Bus Terminal to catch a bus home. So I took the Airtram to Jamaica Station and then the Long Island Railroad to Penn Station. It was already 11:30am and I had to walk from Penn Station on 34th street to the Port Authority Bus Terminal at 42nd street. I got to the ticket counter just before noon and was disappointed to find out that there was no noon bus at all. The next bus left at 4pm!

Now I had 4 hours to wait for the bus so I grabbed some food and then wandered around Times Square and found my way into the Wired Magazine store (cool place to check out). At 3:30pm I headed back to the Bus Terminal, got on the bus and was finally headed home. After 2 hours the bus stopped and I had to transfer to the bus going home. Another 2 hours later and I was at the bus stop meeting my family. I was home. Finally.

So what was my total time in travel hell from Tagum City, Philippines to New York?

2 hrs – Bus From Tagum to Davao
5 hrs – Hang out in Davao, go to airport
1 hrs – In Davao airport
2 hrs – Flight Davao to Manila
13 hrs – In Manila airport
4 hrs – Flight Manila to Incheon (Seoul)
5 hrs – In Incheon airport
14 hrs – Flight from Incheon to New York City
5 hrs – In New York City
4 hrs – Bus home
55 hrs Total Time in Travel Hell

I started on Thursday at 10pm local time (9am Thursday US East Coast time) and finally arrived home 55 hours later at 8pm Saturday US East Coast time.

Travel is not always fun.


Chasing Waterfalls

philippines panas waterfalls

One of the best parts of the Philippines is the natural beauty found throughout the country. There really is some world class scenery, much of which is undiscovered by foreign tourists. Once you get out of the big cities and get some help from the locals you can find a little piece of non-commercialized paradise.

Like most remote parts of the Philippines, getting to your destination is usually quite an adventure. From Davao City we took a bus 1.5 hrs to get to Tagum City. From Tagum City we took a Jeepney for 30 minutes to get to Panas. And from Panas we rode on the back of a motorbike for 40 minutes through small Filipino villages, bumpy dirt roads, and steep mountain trails to get to the Panas waterfalls.


My legs were really sore from riding 40 minutes on the back of a motorbike with 3 (!) other people in the traditional Filipino style. Once I saw the waterfalls though, I knew the temporary discomfort was well worth it.

me at the philippines panas waterfalls


As per the usual in the Philippines the air temperature was really hot and humid. However, the water pouring down over the rocks was ice cold and it wasn’t long before I was shivering.

me at the philippines panas waterfalls


We spent the whole afternoon playing and relaxing in the falls. Before we knew it the time was getting late and we drove back over the mountainside to a nearby market to grab a snack. The fruit in the picture is Durian (which I think is gross). I just had some bananas instead (which are way more delicious than bananas in the US).

fruit market durian

fruit market philippines panas


We got back on the motorbike and rode off into the sunset knowing that we still had many adventures to come.

philippines motorbike sunset

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