In our group of friends, we have a mother figure as cute as a button, but as fierce and protective like a lion. Hence, we call her “mommy,” and she treats us like we were her kids. She is one of the sweetest persons you will ever know, like a justification to her name that is after everyone’s favorite breakfast. She is a mother, a seasoned traveler, a successful businesswoman, and a psoriasis warrior. Meet our latest Travel Bug feature, Mary Jane Pancake Villamater.
Tell us some things about you.
I’m a traveling entrepreneur and a mother of 3 beautiful kids. I’m working hard to achieve my goals and dreams, which include traveling around the world. My name is Mary Jane Pancake, a Psoriasis Warrior, Yes! I am a Psoriasis patient. It developed when I was 15 years old, but I have learned to deal with it.
How many countries have you been already?
I’ve visited 17 countries already.
You travel on your own many times, do you prefer it this way over traveling with companions?
Some people like to travel with a companion, but I like traveling on my own. Even so, I like traveling with my family, and I admit that traveling with friends is way more fun.
Which place do you think is underrated and should be visited by people?
Places that I think should be visited by people are the following:
- museum – to know the history
- market – to know the trading and to learn to deal the local money
- temple/churches – to learn or know about religion
- local community – to practice their local language and to discover the local lifestyle
- restaurant/street food bazaar – to taste the different kinds of local food
- souvenir shop/local factory – to learn about their handicrafts and economies
- post office – to buy or check out stamps
- historical sites
When you go to a place, are you looking for anything in particular?
When I go to a place, I feel like I’m searching for something that I do not know. It is like finding yourself by establishing connection with the locals and learning their cultures, behavior, or even religion.
Where do you usually stay?
I usually stay in suburb places; hostel or a small room for rent.
Have you ever experienced anything bad while traveling?
Yes, in Hongkong. I took the train and saw an available seat. As soon as I sat, a Hongkonger yelled “Ayu ayu” to me. The person acted like I accidentally sat on her finger and hurt her, when in fact she moved across the seat so I wouldn’t be able to sit. I think they mistook me for a domestic helper, whom I heard suffer from discrimination in Hong Kong. So I told them that I am a tourist. Then she wouldn’t stop making all sorts of noise and everybody in the train were looking at me like I’m a criminal. It saddens me to be discriminated and I hope the Hongkongers would recognize and do something about racism in their country.
What is the best thing that you love about traveling?
It develops skills that I didn’t even know I had. It helps me to learn new languages and it gives me a feeling of accomplishment. Meeting new people is the best, as well as pushing myself to the limit. Of course I like being a walking Encyclopedia. Oh yeah, I like tasting the best coffee in every country.
Do you have a favorite destination? Which one is it and why?
My fave destination as of now is Saigon City in Vietnam, the city that never sleeps. Coffee shop is open 24hrs and there are lots of bookshops, restos, and street food. I love it!
You mentioned you have a psoriasis, can you give us a little background about this?
Psoriasis is a long-term disease of the skin; some people can develop psoriatic arthritis. Psoriasis is not contagious. It’s a chronic condition with no cure, but it can be controlled or go into remission. Not all patients have the same experience, doctors will class the condition as mild, moderate, or severe.
Persons with psoriasis face challenges in the workplace. Very few will be given a chance for employment. Once employed, they face a constant threat of losing their jobs once they flare up. I hope more chances will be given to people with psoriasis especially in getting jobs. Because of the negative impact this disease has on patients’ quality of life, 83% of psoriasis patients feel the need to hide their condition. So most of them are scared to travel.
he exact cause of psoriasis is unknown, although it is known that your genetic makeup plays a significant part. It is also known that psoriasis is the result of something going wrong with the immune system, which can be set off by certain trigger factors.
How do you manage your condition when you travel?
Even when I flare up, it doesn’t stop me from traveling. I just cover up my psoriasis by wearing long-sleeves shirts, pants, or leggings. It never bothers me, maybe because I’m used to it. Sometimes, when I feel uncomfortable, I just avoid swimming on beaches or when I do I go night swimming. I also choose a spot with less crowd. I put on sunblock and I never forget to put on ointment and moisturize my skin. I use moisturizer, ointment, soap, shampoo, and conditioner that are not harsh for my skin.
I bring my medical certificate always. Sometimes I can’t avoid food or drinks that can trigger my psoriasis, because as a traveler, I like pushing myself to the limit so I can have more fun. That’s me though, and I’m not saying that everyone with my condition shouldn’t mind about their diet. But basically, it’s never been a problem for me. Traveling with psoriasis is possible as long as you know how to manage it.
Is there any tips or advice you can give to people with psoriasis who may also want to travel?
Don’t forget the emergency outfit; long-sleeves and pants and scarf especially when you’re going somewhere cold. If your psoriasis gets triggered, take your meds (bring your medicine kit and medical certificates) and always wear sunblock lotion.
No one knows exactly what psoriasis is. It isn’t an infection or an allergic reaction, nor is it contagious. So learn to observe your body, know the psoriasis-triggering chemicals or toxic food before you travel.
Keep your skin moist, try not to scratch or pick your skin. Go easy on yourself, don’t worry, avoid the stress, smoking and drinking alcohol, and bring vitamins. Go and visit your dermatologist first and of course learn the style, the color of the outfit that suits you and for girls with psoriasis, never ever forget your concealer.
Remember to moisturize. Applying a moisturizing lotion can help relieve a mild case of psoriasis, especially one that’s associated with dry skin or low humidity.
You love sharing trivia, can you share with us tidbits about some countries?
Most Sheep Per Capita – Falkland Islands (UK): With only about 3,000 people, the Falkland Islands are home to approximately half a million sheep. Understandably, wool is their major export.
Most Languages Spoken – Papua New Guinea: Although English is its official language, only 1-2% of the population actually speak it. As the most linguistically diverse country in the world, over 820 – youth languages are spoken in Papua New Guinea or 12% of the world’s total. You thought it’s the Philippines? You’re wrong hehe…
Roads Made of Coral or country that has no sands? – Guam: Because Guam doesn’t have any natural sand, the island nation makes its asphalt using a mix of ground coral and oil rather than importing sand from abroad.
Largest Country with No Farms? Singapore: Although there are a number of small nations in the world that show no hint of having an agriculture-based economy, (take Vatican City for example) Singapore is the largest of these urban city-states.
Is there any place where you were culture-shocked? Can you tell us about it?
In China, the babies are really adorable but you will notice something different. The infants wear split pants or open-crotch pants. It’s basically a hole in their pants, their cute bottoms are exposed. You may not know, but diapers are rather expensive in China so Chinese will dress their children in these pants so it’s easier for the kids to use the restroom when they need to. In some places, you may even witness children with a shirt but no bottom pants because it’s easier for the parents to clean them up after the kids do their business.
What is the most adventurous thing you’ve done while traveling?
Getting lost in the middle of the night in Panglao, Bohol while riding my motorbike. I left the bar around 10pm, I reached the hostel around 4-5am.
Any smart travel tips you’d like to share with our readers especially to solo female travelers?
To avoid getting lost in a new city, recognize the landmarks, take pictures of every zebra crossing, check the signboards on any public transport, or follow the people. If there are no people because it’s late, go back to the place where you’re staying, or go to the station or terminals, resto or shops, and ask for directions. Always bring maps because most of the time our smartphones get battery drained. Get the contact number of the accommodation where you are staying before you leave. Use GPS always. Lastly, and if there’s no other choice, turn your shirt inside out hahaha…
Author’s Note: In the Philippines, there’s a superstition that people get lost because of elementals. The solution for this they say is to turn your shirt inside out