THE ‘MARCO POLO’ OF MODERN TIMES

How millennial travelers save up and enjoy the world

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Millennials—this generation’s 18 to 34 years of age—may not be as gung-ho as renowned traveler of the Old World Marco Polo, but they are definitely miles ahead compared to their parents and grandparents when it comes to traveling.

The advent of technology, especially social media, have made travelers out of millennials who desire to experience first hand what they see on the Internet. From going to popular destinations to trekking uncharted courses.

Industry intelligence platform Skift Research—which provides media, insights and marketing to key sectors of travel—stated that understanding millennial habits in general is a challenge as this age group does not adhere to consistent standards. That is, what they say often doesn’t match their actions.

“This disconnect has led many travel marketers to implement millennial strategies that while effective in theory, ultimately don’t work out in practice,” Skift said.


On the other hand, a travel marketing agency executive said that it was important to bust a marketing myth that millennials (numbering more than 100 million around the world and one-third of the total 102 million population in the Philippines) are all “backpacking, no shower-taking world travellers.” The executive further stated, “Not all millennials are created equal.”

Given these, The Sunday Times Magazine talked and engaged with four millennials who put premium on travel as against hoarding material possessions. By sharing their insights and experiences, they reinforce the dictum that “not all millennials are created equal” indeed.

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Mark Joseph Ubalde, 31

Information Architect at the Department of Information and Communications Technology. Former Asian Development Bank consultant, online journalist and TV5 weathercaster.

Mark Joseph Ubalde chows down in Melbourne, Australia

Seph, as he is fondly called, believes that millennials are more fearless now having been brought up by Gen X parents who always encouraged them to venture out into the world and be themselves.

“The Internet Age also made the world smaller and with the dawn of cheaper fares. Traveling to other countries has become a status symbol especially for those active on social media,” he told The Sunday Times Magazine.

While he has had few work-related travels thus far, this University of the Philippines AB Journalism graduate from Quezon City revealed how he satisfies his wanderlust.

“Most of my travels are self-sponsored while a few are work-related. I have a revolving fund for all expenses that is separate from my savings account. As a general rule, I do not touch my life’s savings to fund my travels,” he disclosed.

Although he has traveled alone and enjoys it, he also yearns company, especially with close friends.

“When I went to Europe on my own for a fellowship, I was able to get a raw experience out of each of the countries I visited. While having friends around can be a bit of distraction sometimes, most of the time I prefer to be with a few close friends. Nothing beats creating new memories with people you love,” he said.

Most unforgettable was his first travel abroad to Berlin, Germany in 2010, as well as his most recent ones.

“I was 24 when I went to Berlin and it was my first time to experience winter. For someone who is from a tropical country, seeing [and touching]snow is always magical. But I could also never forget my recent travels to Myanmar and Indonesia where I went with close friends.”

Ubalde, who also enjoys and conducts hip-hop dance training, lists a laptop, good hair product and a long string of patience as the essentials he always carries with him on his travels. Nevertheless, he does not discount the possibility of going on an adventure devoid of technology and other amenities of urban life too.

In fact, he joined a last minute trip in 2016 with 12 others to Apo Island off the coast of Mindoro.

“It was surreal! We swam with turtles and chased dolphins! But we also shared stories of heartbreak and kilig moments that rainy night under tents that we brought. We didn’t have electricity most of the time and no fresh water for bathing. It was splendid experience,” he shared.

Next in his agenda are trips to Thailand in November for a two-day lecture series on social media, and Japan with friends early next year. But on top of his bucket list is his dream destination.

“An ideal travel is always with family especially with my mom who sadly passed away in 2012 before she could even ride a commercial flight abroad. If she were alive now, I would take her with me to my dream destination, which is Norway. I’d love to see the Northern Lights!”

He added that he has an unwritten rule of trying to visit more countries and places than go to the same destination over and over.

“I also collect souvenir refrigerator magnets and other trinkets so I must always be somewhere new and different to keep my collection up,” he finally noted.

* * *

Kevin del Prado, 24

Business Analyst at Infor. Formerly with Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Services as SAP technology consultant.

University of Santo Tomas (UST) engineering graduate Kevin del Prado is one millennial who uses traveling to combat the daily stresses of city living.

Kevin del Prado (second from right) relishing the outdoors of Real, Quezon with his gang

“It feels good waking up to a different scenery and environment, and getting to breathe in fresh air every once in a while. Going to new and nice places guarantees nice photos that we can share on different social media platforms too,” he told The Sunday Times Magazine.

A new blogger, Prado shares his travel experiences in “The Outcast Journey,” and has not had any sponsored travels yet, saying that he funds his trips from his own wallet.

“Every payout I make sure to save for my travel expenses. I opened a separate bank account solely for this to monitor my budget and expenses. I limit myself to only three to four flights either international or domestic a year,” he shared.

His choices are diverse, but most of the time it’s the countryside or the beach.

“My friends and I enjoy trekking and hiking. It’s true what they say—the harder climb really pays off when you see the view from the peak. We also like swimming, feeling the sand, sea and sun on our skin. The most important thing is it should be somewhere away from the city stress,” the young engineer-newbie blogger said.

Del Prado does not travel only for self-gratification. He also does it to give back to the communities he visits, like the most recent one in La Union.

“Traveling is more fun when the memories are communal and you share them with the local people, like when we launched the ‘Color Your Life’ project in La Union. It was to provide start-up kits for children, which can be helpful to continue their interest in the arts,” he said.

He considers Iceland as his dream destination to see the spectacular Aurora Borealis display but he insists again that he loves local, putting a premium on the country’s tourist spots.

“Our country has a lot of very beautiful spots to visit. Aside from those that are already popular, we also have a lot of virgin islands that a serious traveller should visit—though I hope they remain untouched as they are right now. The unique geographical feature of the Philippine Islands, which are divided by the sea, has a great impact on the Filipinos’ way of life,” he shared.

Even to his next destination, which is Singapore, his must-carry essentials are his cameras to capture sceneries, which he can then share with others, sunglasses, insect repellent as protection from disease-carrying mosquitoes and mites, and wipes or tissue paired with alcohol to freshen up from dirt and dust.

 

* * *

Anthony Shieh, 31

Assistant Director for Digital Executive Office of the CEO, FILA Philippines. Former Employee Relations manager at Genpact and customer service representative at Convergys Philippines.

For this Centro Escolar University BS Tourism graduate, millennials like him travel for the purpose of discovering new things in life and embracing other cultures and influences.

“We think fast. We put much life into things that we are passionate about, save for a future that is in no way guaranteed, and when we notice posts on social media that spark interest, then we deem it worth trying or experiencing,” the Filipino-Taiwanese told The Sunday Times Magazine.

He sets aside at least 25 percent of his monthly salary three to six months prior to a travel schedule. His basis in choosing a destination are food, coffee and colors.

“I have an appetite for trying all things new when it comes to food and coffee. It’s something that satisfies my inner soul, or should I say, the kid in me. Colors have shaped every history and belief of numerous cultures through the ages, and witnessing the colors of every culture is worth every penny,” he said.

Shieh is not one of those who believe that they have to be familiar first with what their home country offers before visiting remarkable places abroad.

“People nowadays are open-minded and very keen about new discoveries. Traveling outside the Philippines [before being able to visit all the major spots]wouldn’t hurt, right?”

He said he fell in love with Hanoi, Vietnam discovering magnificent places as he roamed around the capital.
“Hanoi thrives with diversity and energy that truly made a lasting impact in my mind and heart. Plus ca phe da [Vietnamese ice milk coffee] was incredible. It was truly memories made with tastes,” he said.

When travelling—he is off to Holland in 2018 until he gets to his dream destination which is Paris, France—the chinito millennial said he plans ahead of time and can’t leave without his phone, money, itinerary, eyewear, IDs, super-hard hair wax, wardrobe and an open mind.

Barring any unavoidable circumstances, he said he deserves to travel and be away from city stress soonest.

* * *

Paula Solmerano, 24

Licensed real estate broker. Former news anchor-reporter at Global News Network.

Millennials are also called the “Social Media Savvy Generation,” according to UST Communication Arts Cum Laude Paula Solmerano. Their exposure to posts and articles about traveling has greatly inspired this age group to go and discover different places, especially those that cause “all the hype” online.

“We unconsciously allow almost everything in the digital world to influence our likes, dislikes and activities in real life. The current generation has become more adventurous, and I think it is because social media contents is easily accessed nowadays, coupled with affordable promos on airfare. Who would dare miss going to Cebu or Cambodia for a whopping one-peso fare anyway? Local and international airlines’ uber cheap promos are always calling out us. We love seat sales and that’s beautiful!” Solmerano told The Sunday Times Magazine.

Funding her own travels through savings from work as an employee, it is a given to the young broker to schedule her journey based on the cheapest ticket price available, but considers most importantly the destination’s popularity, tourist attractions, affordability, culture and friendliness of locals.

With no sponsored travels at all, Solmerano prefers to travel with friends, although she tried traveling alone once.

“If I want to feel more independent or discover things on my own, I would go for traveling alone. But if the place or country has too many things and activities to offer, in that case, memories are best shared.”

She also believes that visiting local destinations first before going abroad gives one a point of comparison to see how cultures, peoples and places vary.

“Going out of the country, while knowing a lot about your own, gives you the chance to share great stories with other nationalities. Who knows, with your Siargao or Cebu stories, you might be convincing foreigners to visit the Philippines,” she said, adding that Filipinos in general are embracing the hashtag-travel-goals-culture.

Although she is setting her sights on Santorini, Greece as her dream destination, she swears El Nido, Palawan is even better than going out of the country. Besides the breathtaking rock and coral formations, seeing and hearing foreigners appreciate the place that is always voted the best beach or island in the world reminds Filipinos how blessed they are to live in a country as beautiful as the Philippines.

Her next travel could either be to South Korea or Canada before the year ends, but she is sure to carry her essentials – mobile phone, money and wallet, hand sanitizer, make-up kit, tissue paper or baby wipes, bottled water and camera.

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