5 Ways to Transform and Travel: Philippines with Chantal
Guest Post by Chantal Cowie
I feel most alive when I travel. I see, smell, eat, drink, laugh, explore, and love with fervor as if I
am a child and everything is new. I crave this feeling when I don’t have it.
What is the purpose of this experience? We spend a great deal of time planning the concrete
aspects of our trip but do we ever pause to reflect on why travel brings us these feelings? What
are we doing during our travels to help us achieve this level of serendipity? Why do I come away
from my travels feeling accomplished and enlightened?
Transformation, that’s why. Travel creates endless opportunities for personal growth. Travel by
its very nature takes us out of our element and into a world of unfamiliarity. This challenges us
in unexpected ways and forces us to adapt to succeed. This is where the potential for the most
personal growth rests. This is why I travel.
My earliest memories involve traveling from Florida to visit my grandparents in Georgia. In the
20 plus years since I’ve traveled to 30 states and 26 countries and lived in America, Australia,
and South Africa. I was fortunate enough to be born into a family where travel is a highly valued
pastime. My parents explored the world when I was young and took me along with them. When I
became an adult I continued to fuel my passion for travel with my own trips.
I encourage you to take a moment before you go on your trip and think about the goals you have
for transformation during this time. Are you looking to become more independent? Would you
like to become more knowledgeable about other cultures? Are you trying to be more outgoing?
The Philippines is the perfect place for you to relax and take in the beauty of the world while on
this path of self-discovery. Decide what your goals are and consciously take action throughout
your trip to reach these goals.
My interest in the Philippines was sparked four years ago when I moved to Chicago, Illinois, and
fell in love with my partner. My partner is Filipino-American and introduced me to this
incredible country that had somehow missed my radar.
The beaches of the Philippines called to me during one of Chicago’s harsh winters and I decided to spend two months traveling this country coming up with new and exciting ways to challenge myself.
Thanks to my journey, I collected a list of five things you can do in the Philippines to encourage personal transformation during your journey.
Photo Credit: Chantal Cowie
5 Ways to Transform and Travel in Philippines
1 Go on Tours through Hostels
Hostels in the Philippines have something for everyone and are a must for individuals looking to
create transformative and memorable experiences from their travels.
When someone says hostel, the first thoughts that may come to mind are bunk beds and
affordable pricing. However, during my adventure through the Philippines, I found that these
homes away from home provide far more than a place to lay your head.
Many hostels provide an amazing environment to meet new people by hosting sightseeing
activities unique to their locations. You can sign up for these activities even if you are not
staying at the hostel. I highly recommend doing this, especially for the island hopping tours.
You will notice that the cities in the Philippines with a vibrant tourism industry have many
options for the same types of tours. I found it difficult to weed through the clutter of business
after business propositioning me for what they claimed was the best version of the tour.
This is something I found the hostels are wonderful for. The tours running through hostels are always a fair price, have a great atmosphere, and most importantly, are run by and cater to a great group of
I did tours through hostels to island-hop, go on hikes, jump off waterfalls, explore caves, snorkel,
and surf. Before every tour, my stomach was tight with anticipation. Insecurity whispered, “Am I
going to make a friend today? Will these strangers like me?”
I am an extroverted person when I’m within a group of people I know. However, like most
people, I fear rejection. This makes it hard for me to approach strangers for friendship when I’m
on my own.
One of my goals for this trip was to become more outgoing despite that fear.
I joined HOP Hostel for an island hopping tour when I was in Coron. I did not stay at HOP
hostel, I stayed at a much smaller hostel, Coron Bakawan Hostel because I wanted a cheaper
I started the day alone and a bit nervous about making friends. The van from HOP hostel picked
me up first before doubling back to get the rest of the group. People piled into the van and I
began greeting them and thought, “Here goes nothing.”
Ten minutes into the tour I met one woman from England, Abby, and one from Australia, Beth. They were friends that met the year before at a hostel in Vietnam. They introduced me to a group of friends they met at their hostel and we spent the next three days exploring Coron.
One evening we hiked to the top of the hill where the Coron sign stood watching over its
inhabitants below and watched the sunset over the island. The next night we eased our achy
muscles in the hot springs. But, best of all, every day we satisfied our appetites with chicken
adobo, pancit, and pritong talong amongst other famous Filipino dishes at restaurants around
Photo Credit: Chantal Cowie
We all came from different countries and backgrounds, but the shared activity of exploring the
island together brought us close. I realized my fear of rejection was senseless. During my time in
I found people are eager to form friendships and share experiences with you if
you are brave enough to make yourself vulnerable. Opening myself up to the friendships of
strangers brought about more laughter, conversation, and cherished memories than I could have
As you travel around the Philippines, you are going to be seeing a lot of beaches, islands, and
waterfalls. What will start to become special about these places you visit are the memories you
make with the people you experienced them with. Going with a hostel group on a tour ensures
you’ll be meeting with other people who are open to making friends.
Travel is as much about the people you meet as it is about the places you go to. Through my time
at hostels, I’ve been fortunate to make friends from dozens of countries and gain a deeper
understanding of other cultures, languages, foods, and customs. The experiences I had because of
hostels in the Philippines helped me to become a more global citizen and they can do the same