And Bitterness Ensues

There have been many articles circulating around the internet about traveling while working, being location-independent while earning a living. I follow a lot of travel blogs and travel pages on Facebook so I see a lot of these articles everyday. Sometimes, they inspire me to do the same and follow my dreams of traveling the world. But most of the time, these stories just leave a bitter taste in my mouth. I curse the high heavens for having been born on the wrong side of the planet! It sucks to be issued a powerless maroon passport instead of the almighty blue one.

PRESUMED GUILTY

An article from The Guardian lists people who work wherever they want and somehow make enough money to sustain this kind of lifestyle. But what the article does not mention are these people’s citizenship. Judging from their pictures and stories they are all First World Passport citizens. It’s full of statements like “we moved to the UK,” “we lived in Paris,” “I was working in New York,” etc. These people CAN work anywhere they want because their passports allow them to. They don’t need visas when they decide to pack up and move to Costa Rica or Berlin or wherever else they want. They just need to book a ticket and that’s it. No questions asked. If they happen to need a working visa, it’s just some kind of formality.

“Ooh, look at me with my Macbook and luggage, working in a random park in the middle of nowhere, la la la… I love my life!” #blessed

Being Filipinos, we are sometimes even asked to show immigration officers at NAIA our return flight tickets to the Philippines before they let us pass through. We always need to show proof that we won’t overstay in the country we will be traveling to. And the time-consuming, nerve-wracking process of getting a tourist visa can really be stressful. Most visa requirements are documents that prove we have every right to go traveling and that we won’t “jump ship” and seek greener pastures. We are guilty until we prove ourselves innocent.

I have personally applied for a UK Visa back in 2012 for a 10-day holiday. It was a lengthy application form (105 items!) and had questions like:

Are you a threat to humanity?

“Are you a threat to humanity!?”

They granted my UK Visa after two weeks of stressful waiting. After having been to London (my favorite city, so far) all that trouble was worth it. But why must they ask such silly/scary (depends on your sense of humor, I guess) questions?

 “DIGITAL NOMADS”

Most articles about working while traveling are stories about writers/bloggers who, with the help of the Internet, can earn money while on the road. Again, most of them are First World Passport holders. There are a few Asians in the mix but their travels are not as far and wide as their American/European counterparts.

I don’t know how these bloggers do it. I don’t think Google Adsense earnings are enough to fund your next trip to the Galápagos. I want to know what the big secret is, dammit!

Oh wait, I already know. Their passports.

If these people used to live in the US or Europe and they’ve decided to go gallivanting in the streets of Bangkok or New Delhi to “blog about their travels”, the worth of their dollars and Euros could stretch for months, maybe even years. But if you are a Filipino blogger (your blog being your only means of income and not just a hobby) and you want to spend 3-6 months in the US or Europe, what kind of Certificate of Employment would you even show the Embassy when you apply for a Visa? Do PayPal payouts count as “payslips”?

Some articles enumerate the different ways you can earn money while traveling, like teaching English, working odd jobs, and being an au pair. These are not applicable to us Third Worlders. If we get granted a tourist visa, it is specifically stated that we are not allowed to work and earn money in the country we will be traveling to. To quote from the UK Visa, “no work or recourse to public funds.” If you happen to be offered a part-time job at a hostel or pub while traveling, it would have to be on the sly (“under the table” so to speak). And if you get caught, you will surely be deported. Bye bye, holiday. Who would want to risk that?

6. NO WORK OR RECOURSE TO PUBLIC FUNDS 😦

As for teaching English, the schools do not say this explicitly, but they prefer their English teachers to be white, preferably American. It doesn’t matter if English is our second language and we’ve been speaking it fluently since we were kids. It won’t even matter if you have a Masters degree in English Literature. If you are not blonde-haired or blue-eyed, you will still be overlooked.

WHERE DO YOU GET ALL THAT MONEY?!

This article from The Daily Mail tells of a 24-year-old British traveler who was able to travel ALL the countries in the world, including places that you won’t normally consider for a vacation: Iraq, Afghanistan, and North Korea. He did this in five years for a total of £125,000 (about Php 9 million). He must have been 19 when he started traveling, and he “funded his travels through part-time jobs he’s had since the age of 16. He also picked up work along the way in bars and hostels.”

I want to know what kind of part-time jobs help you save £125,000 in five years. And as a teenager/student, what the hell kind of school allows you to take time off from your studies to travel for 3-6 months at a time? I am inclined to think that his money (at least part of it) came from the Bank of Mum and Dad.

I love you, Mum and Dad!

PASSPORT > HARD WORK

No matter how much discipline and hard work you put into working while traveling, as what this article suggests, it won’t be an easy task. Sure, we Filipinos can come and go as we please to most countries in South East Asia, but there is still a limit to the number of days we are allowed to stay in those countries. I know a Filipina who has been traveling for more than a year already and it seems like she has no plans of returning to the Philippines just yet, but her travel options are limited to Asia only. The easiest way I can see this “working while traveling indefinitely” setup happening is if you will be traveling across your own country only, something like three months in Cebu, two months in Davao, one month in Baguio, etc.

I know that life is not meant to be fair and that there will always be things like visa processing that we cannot avoid, but it just irks me to read all these smug, idealistic travel advice that make everything seem as easy as pie. Not everyone has the luxury to just pack their bags, leave and earn money in the process. We do not have the same privileges as they do.

Obtaining a tourist or any other kind of visa can be daunting. Some people don’t even bother trying because of all the horror stories that come with it. And don’t you think this entire visa approval/denial process is just a mild form of racism? I know that Filipinos don’t exactly have the greatest track record when it comes to these things. We even coined the term “TNT” (Tago Nang Tago – in hiding) because of people looking for jobs abroad without the proper visa. But why must all Filipino travelers suffer the consequences? WHY?!

***

If you are a Third World Passport holder and you have managed to travel indefinitely, how do you do it? It doesn’t count if you are already a permanent resident of a country other than the one you were born into, Filipino permanent residents in Singapore/Denmark/Australia, for example. Of course you guys will have it easier. If you are a true blue, Philippine Passport holding citizen and you are able to manage the kind of lifestyle stated in the articles I showed here, please let me know how because I’d like to be enlightened.

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44 thoughts on “And Bitterness Ensues

  1. Like you, I belong to the “Full-time Dancing Monkey, Part-time Traveler” camp. I think the only “easy” way to escape this special form of hell is to either win the lottery or find a creepy old man to foot the bills :/

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ugh. I know. It’s not fucking fair. I need to start betting on lotteries. I am not fond of creepy old men haha!

      Like

  2. Ooooh you spat right out what has always been festering in my heart!
    I’ve been traveling a lot recently because of work, and because I’m no longer based in the Philippines. But while I may have a bit more money, the visa application process kills me.
    My students don’t even have passports yet but they were able to book their plane tickets, because of their red passports. And the teacher who will be accompanying them was sitting on pins and needles for her Visa. Not. Fair.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Even if you have the money, you have the white guy, you have the education, you have the looks and the sexay body to boot, as long as you are a maroon passport holder, they will make it hardest for you – i.e. me! They simply don’t like immigrants and to make matters worse, we’re up there on top of the illegal immigrants list. True about teaching English, but it’s their mother tongue so fair enough for me. having said that, i totally relate to the whole frustration of holding a third world passport, and more than once i’d seriously thought of staging a one-woman rally infront of a belgian municipal hall. or stripping my clothes off as i twerk my way into the immigration officer’s booth to collect my long-overdue visa. ahhh, regrets…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Some tips that might help you fulfill that dream of traveling despite your Philippines passport: (1) Learn French or Spanish. Or better yet (for now at least) Arabic. (2) Apply for work in French- or Spanish-speaking countries where the job also requires English language fluency; this doesn’t have to be a full-time job, and it is more likely that you will get the job if it means working in another developing country; (3) What kind of job? This one really depends on where you are in your academic, professional or skill-based life; writing/researching and combining that with field work (in your field in your own country or nearby, in your case, Southeast Asia, where you won’t need a visa for short periods of field research) helps (4) Going to graduate school – usually in the developed world and with a scholarship – may sound like an alternative and for many people it is; but if you’re in the academe, you would know this already and this isn’t exactly an alternative for many Filipinos. (5) Soak in the experience of working in other developing countries: this experience is your advantage over the predominantly white, global North passport-holders who can’t suffer the third-world problems they encounter in the actual third world. You, on the other hand, can use your experience, your upbringing and your own insights to compete against them for jobs elsewhere, including other countries where you want to go.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. wow, i think very few people can relate to what you wrote the way i did. it’s like you read my mind and i read all my frustrations all over again. i dont think others can comprehend how important travel is to us, that having the possibility of being denied of it could be devastating.

    i guess we were just unlucky to be born with a philippine passport (and government lol). you don’t have to look too far to find better passports. the following asian passports are almost at par with western ones: japan, singapore, brunei, HK, macau, malaysia. each could visit at least around 150 countries. the reason we are suffering is because our country’s main export is manpower/OFWs, so we can’t blame other nations if they generalize us as a country of maids. in addition, there are filipinos in every corner of the globe which would increase the chances of TNT by being adopted by them.

    but consider yourself lucky! after all, you’ve been approved for both UK and schengen visas. i guess it could be a while before we could spontaneously book a trip to korea or new york or paris. but we could just make do with what we have access to in the meantime. it could be worse; we could have a crappier passport like china or iraq or pakistan or something. i’m here if you wanna discuss further, or maybe even come up with a solution for this problem we have. just tweet me 🙂

    cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi! Thanks for your input! 🙂 It really sucks that we have to deal with the wrongdoings of other Filipinos. I know we are still luckier than other nations in terms of visa-free privileges, but I can’t help but get frustrated whenever I hear stories of people who are “living the dream” just because they have the passports to support those dreams. And here I am stuck in Manila, when I know I can do so much better! Haha!!

      Like

  6. Hello Nina,

    Let me start by telling you that it is definitely hard to travel if you are holding a Philippine passport. But this does not stop me from traveling. I have been working online for the past 4 years so my income is pretty stable already. I started traveling since Jan. 2013. My husband and I sold everything we owned and left the Philippines with just a bag full of clothes.

    We were supposed to go to US but visa was denied. This didn’t stop us so we decided to just travel around SEA. We lived in Bangkok, Malaysia, Vietnam and Bali. Then we went to Africa (Kenya and Tanzania). We traveled for 16 straight months outside the Philippines. We are currently in the Philippines (still traveling, no permanent place). For the past 4 months here, we have been to Naga, Bacacay, Legazpi and now in Manila.

    During these times is SEA and Africa, we have tried to apply for an Australian visa (twice) and Canadian Visa. And denied. I am telling you, this will not stop us.

    Now in the Philippines, we applied for a Mexican visa and got approved. Yey!! Now the major hurdle is how to get to Mexico because most flights have to pass through Canada and/or US. Since the Canadian transit visa is free, we again tried to apply for a Canadian Visa (transit). We got denied three times!!! We are numb already hahaha! This won’t stop us!

    So, I found a straight flight to Mexico coming from Japan. We just passed our application for transit to Japan and hoping to get the visa next week. But if not, then we will think of another way.

    I had to tell you my story because, no matter how difficult it has been for us we still kept on moving. Travelling is truly addicting. It is a lifestyle change. Definitely not easy. If it were easy, everyone would be traveling right? It is always heart breaking if you get a visa refusal, not to mention degrading. But you know, you shouldn’t let your passport be a hindrance to your dream of traveling. We didn’t. It takes a lot of research and hard work.

    My advice, get a stable online job. If traveling is your priority, then set aside at least 200 USD a month/person for airfare. For accommodations, research is the key. Look for countries that would allow you to get a visa upon arrival or that would allow you to apply for a visa even if you are not in your home country.

    I hope this gives you a little bit of hope that you can have your dream of traveling.

    All the best!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I would like to throw my two cents into the topic. I am a third world passport holder but have travelled to 50+ countries already. There’s no easy way to do it but you have to build your travel history first by visiting visa-free countries (ie southeast asia). After that, applying for visa for other countries will be way easier as consular information is shared globally now. To make your peso go far while travelling, you have to learn how to literally live like a nomad – cook your own meals, sleep in airports, pitch a tent, bring your bike, couchsurf, bargain, work for food/accomodation. It can be done but not like a first world traveller.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Ramil! I know a lot of First World citizens who are living like a nomad. They do what you just listed. You forgot staying in hostels, and other hospitality exchange methods. 🙂

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  8. Like you, I also love to travel and I wanted to fulfill my dreams to travel the world.
    after college, I worked on a multi-national company and luckily, employees have the privilege to be sent to the head office in Switzerland.
    because of my passion to travel, i believe that you have a higher chance of visa approvals if you are a business owner.
    after years of working, I have saved enough amount of money to put up a business.
    and YES It worked. I was able to get to a US Visa and traveled Hawaii and the west coast.
    I quit my job when my business went smoothly. Then I attended some photography workshop.
    I went back to the US and traveled south america(visa free countries) i have lived in belize, colombia, ecuador, brazil, and peru for more than a month each country. i was able to sustain myself through photography(events and wedding) and through my business.
    then and i was also granted a visa by australia and japan.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi Nina! I’ve always been inspired by people like you with a passion for travel, and I must agree with your sentiments, it’s so daunting to get visas for the places I want to go to! I remember clearly the almost-panic attack I had just waiting for my South Korean visa (which got approved thank God).

    Anyway, you might find this blog helpful, she’s a friend of a friend and she’s currently traveling across South America for almost two years (?) now doing voluntourism (not sure if that was an actual term) and online work. http://www.trishavelarmino.com/

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Do you like to cook? Just found about this Turkish traveler from Wandering Earl:

    https://www.facebook.com/foodiebackpacker

    He supports his nomadic lifestyle by cooking traditional Turkish meals. He organizes meet-ups in different cities, cooks the meal, and charges a small fee for it. Pretty creative way to support his traveling lifestyle I think.

    With the increasing popularity of Filipino food, this might be worth exploring if you like to cook. 🙂

    http://www.sushibytes.com

    Liked by 1 person

  11. So true. This is what I’ve been telling my friends for years and years, you hit the nail right on the head!

    As others have mentioned, it gets a bit easier if you have a rich travel history already. I was lucky enough to have attended a student conference in the USA some time ago, which made it easier for me to get visas for Australia and Japan later on.

    I just wish our visa-free rights would keep up with the pace of the opening up of direct flights. So what if budget airlines now fly from Manila to Tokyo or Sydney when visa applications are such a pain!

    On another note, the European Union is looking to grant visa-free access to almost 20 other Third World countries – including Timor-Leste, Peru, Colombia and several countries in Oceania the average Filipino has never heard of (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/europe/European-Union-opens-doors-to-16-island-nations/articleshow/31133600.cms). Maybe we will be next? Hah, if only!

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  12. I have been travelling and working on a Filipino passport since 2002. I work and teach at the same time but, unlike everyone, I do not teach English as I realised that teaching English is very competitive due to the gazillion native English speakers who wants to travel and teach, not because they are qualified but, because they want to supplement their incomes. The idea of holding a Filipino passport and not being able to work and travel is true but misplaced.

    My previous UK employers processed my work permit and I moved employment three times. It was during this time that I was fortunate enough to travel around Europe extensively. Realising that UK/Europe is not for me, despite good friends around, I moved to the Middle East and travel the region with no problem, visa wise, apart from the usual casual-look from the Arabs. I shrugged off my shoulders and never really cared until I realised they treat Filipino workers like dirt. Though I have been fortunate enough, again, not be treated as such, I decided I can no longer travel, live and work in that region simply because I refused to be part of the charade of the Filipino community and Arab’s mentality. So I packed up my bag and I moved to Africa.

    Working, living and travelling around the continent has been truly rewarding and I met so many amazing people and to be honest, it is in Africa that I made a “small family” of friends where we all travel together (I am the butt of the joke because of the visa issue but they are the same people who will help me with anything). One year ago, I got two job offers, one in Central Asia and the other one was in South America, I declined. I am not yet done with Africa so I will stay put but my Filipino passport was never a hindrance or a problem. I applied for a Schenzen visa two years ago and the embassy gave me a 4-year visa without any interviews or personal appearance.

    Word of advice, if you really want to travel and work, find your own niche. Do not start teaching English as there’s over a million of English-native speaker for that post. If you want to be able to acquire visa with ease, just the previous posters before, make sure you have a passport that has been stamped million times, no matter if it is a travel to Bangkok, Hong Kong, Malaysia and other Asian countries for the nth time. The last 10 years, I have to change my passport four times because I always ran out of pages.

    As a teacher, I have almost 17 weeks of holiday each year which allows me to travel anywhere and everywhere. The rest, I live and work. I can understand the frustration and I do empathise with the red tape and bureaucracy. Just hang in there. The more that you apply for a visa, the more that the embassy would see you as a genuine tourist. If you have been denied, do not insist on applying as it will get rejected again especially if it is for tourism purposes.

    If there’s one thing I learnt from the visa application process is that, paperworks need to be in order and on the spot. I remember applying for my first overseas visa (and I did not even travel outside of the country then). I have more than fifty documents and they were only asking for ten (The number is an exaggeration of course). Of these documents, I put those colourful little tag reminder that corresponds to my table of content. Yes, I had table of content based on their requirements but it did worked. I know it sounds over the top but after 2 weeks, I got the visa and the British Embassy never asked me to show-up for a personal interview. From there, I never looked back.

    Visa officials of these MEDC countries have been trained to deny visa especially if you are from an LEDC or LDC countries, even if you come from an NIC. I remember one secretary that works for the Dutch Embassy, she flatly stated that to be able for a Rwandese or NIgerian to get a Schengen visa, the entire EU members (that is the embassies and consulates) need to be consulted as opposed to just the country you are applying for the visa. We are still lucky as Filipino passport holders that they do not do that. Of course, who can blame them when they have been trained that these people, just like some few Filipinos, will become an illegal immigrant who will use the tourism route to become part of their underground economy.

    Good luck everyone!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Miguel,

      May I know what kind of stuff do you teach? Aside from teaching do you have other source of fund for your travels?

      I was based in Central Asia for a year, particularly in Tajikistan. It’s a beautiful country and the people are amazing! Not your typical country to be visited: the food, the view and culture is amazing. Plus its visa-free for Philippine passport too 🙂

      Like

  13. I am an Indian and my passport entitles me to even fewer countries (I believe it’s 54 or 55) for visa-free travel. Then there’s the racism issue. No matter how long I’ve lived in other countries, people mistakenly assume that India is my home. I was once interrogated by an arse-hole, Arabic-looking Lufthansa agent in Frankfurt who asked me pointless questions about my Canadian immigration papers (never mind that I had been living in Canada for 10 years and it was my 20th plane trip back HOME to Canada). Then he had the audacity to question the relationship with my European wife (not that it was any of his business – a clear privacy violation under both German law and Canadian law). This treatment by people has made me accept the reality that I have no HOME in this world, and no group of people I can relate to.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Aside from a passport that will allow them to travel anywhere, most of them also only support themselves. (Compared to, say, a typical Asian who has to support other family members/relatives.)

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Everything you wrote in this entry is SO true! I love travelling so much but share the same predicament. The only solution I could think of was to become an international flight attendant, and its serving its purpose lol! Still, its not the same as travelling on your own time and with the people you’d wanna travel with. Love you blog! 🙂

    Like

  16. ha ha … spot on, I just started searching about 3rd world passport stories after another frustrating visa application to a first world country. Having Sri Lankan passport is not fun, most foreign embassy staff starting from the security guard to the staff at the visa counter treat you like a criminal. Having PR in a first world country does not help much in this regard, the problem is the skin colour and the passport, changing the passport helps, but its not very easy to change the skin colour (and I don’t want to:-) ). So I think I will always be stopped at the airport security for additional checks even if I change my passport.

    I have been lucky enough to travel a bit through work and internships, of cause every time I had to go through a painful and expensive visa process.

    Like

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