The first time I met her was in a fundraising event (Hugs for Nepal), and she talked to me like we’ve known each other forever. I was there thinking, “Who the hell is this girl? And why is she talking to me like we’re friends?” It wasn’t me being a bitch, it was me feeling weirded out. You see, when it’s my first time to talk to a person I am usually reserved, in a sense that I don’t talk a lot, shooting one-word answers to questions, keeping interactions to a minimum. But not this girl, she claims to be an introvert but in the short time that I’ve known here, I’m quite impressed by her ability to hold herself in front of strangers. In fact, she is much better at it than I do. Turns out this woman would become one of my closest friends in the world of blogging and today you are going to meet her. My lovely readers, let me introduce to you Darlene Mae Madrid, better known by her friends as “Dada,” our Travel Bug series feature, number 10.
Please introduce yourself
Hi, I’m Darlene! Without the G. Haha! You can also call me Dada, as my friends do. Born and raised in the Philippines. I work in the food industry, specifically food safety. I used to also work in the hospitality industry, so both experiences are quite beneficial to me when traveling. I’m also an introvert. Aside from traveling, food, and writing, I also love bacon and dark chocolates. I also dream of traveling the world with my own food truck someday.
When and why did you decide to put up your blog, Point and shoot + Wanderlust?
I’ve always had a blog. It started out as a tangible journal, moved to Multiply, then Tumblr. Last 2014, I finally got the courage to make a new blog via Blogspot. Then later on, I transferred it to Weebly and now finally migrated it to WordPress. Quite a journey, huh?
Cliché as it may sound, I put up a blog to document my travels, including misadventures and food finds. A lot of my friends message me about travel and that actually inspired me. I’ve always loved writing, although I don’t know if writing loves me back. Hehe. But kidding aside, I hope to inspire whoever wants to read my blog as well as give them something to learn. As they say, it’s easier to learn from the mistakes of others.
When did you catch the travel bug?
I was born to travel. Sagittarius is my zodiac sign. Hahaha…
Aside from the occasional family vacations and field trips, I traveled through reading when I was young. I loved reading NatGeo magazine and other books that transported me to other places. I used to dream of being in places like Angkor, Easter Island, the Pyramids, Paris, and Iceland. It was reignited when I worked for a well-known QSR in the country as one of their Auditors. I got the chance to travel the country, albeit for work.
Why do you travel?
No particular reason, but to go, wander and discover. I’ve always been a curious person. And traveling certainly satisfies my curiosity about a lot of things. Why we are all different, but still the same. How things work. What are the foods that they eat, and how do they do it. And so on. I like learning something new every day. I do read every day, but experiencing things real life is on another level. I also travel to escape. When I feel like the routine is getting to me, that’s when the wanderlust comes kicking in.
You went on a solo trip in Southeast Asia, what made you decide to do it? Which countries did you visit?
I wanted to try if I could do it. So I did. I’ve traveled solo so many times before in the Philippines, but not abroad. And I wanted to know if I can and want to travel long term.
My friend Kris (Monkey on a Bus) was one of the reasons why I finally did it. He quit his job and traveled for a whole year abroad before finally going back home. Talking to him and hearing about his experiences on the road made me realize that I too can do it. Another reason was because I quit my job and wasn’t sure which path to take that time – apply for another job like the last one, work abroad, or work freelance online. [Read: Travel Bug Series 6 – Kris White]
I visited Malaysia, Singapore (a last minute addition), Thailand, and Myanmar for less than 2 months.
As a solo female traveler, did you ever fear about your safety on the road?
The only time I didn’t ever fear for my safety was when I was in Singapore. Even here in the Philippines, I always fear about safety. The worst experience so far was in Melaka, getting harassed and almost attacked by a middle-aged man while searching for my bus stop. And it happened on a morning no less. Good thing Singapore proved to be a safe haven.
I’m not saying be paranoid, or think that bad things will happen. It just pays to always have a presence of mind and at least have some knowledge what you can do to defend yourself in certain situations. I always try to search online or ask people what are the usual dangers or scam in the place I’ll be visiting.
How did you prepare for that trip?
Research, research, research. I like to plan trips myself. And sometimes, I can get overboard with the planning. So for this trip, I only researched the necessities. How much money should I bring? What are the popular tourist scams in that country? What are my best choices for accommodation? What documents should I need to present in the immigration. The rest, I planned and researched as I go. I tried as much as possible not to cram so much in a day so that I can really experience the place.
Which country is your favorite and why?
That is certainly a very hard question. But if I would have to choose, it would have to be Myanmar (Burma). It was such a surprise. I knew beforehand that I will fall in love with the magic of Bagan, as I did in Angkor. But the big surprise was the experiences that I had when I was there. Experience both with the locals and my fellow travelers. As I’ve said, I’m an introvert. I don’t always want to interact with a lot of people. But Myanmar brought out the extrovert in me. One of my fondest memories there would have to be when I got to tour Mandalay together with two Austrians and a bunch of (intoxicated) locals. It was definitely a very memorable experience.
What is the most daring thing you’ve ever done while traveling?
Sleep with strangers? Hahaha… And no, not in the way you are thinking. I’ve had the luxury of always staying in private rooms when I traveled the Philippines. So during my backpacking stint, I tried sleeping in dorms and even in private rooms, with strangers. I know a lot of people who won’t ever try this because it can be quite uncomfortable and risky. But thankfully, my instinct hasn’t yet steered me wrong when it comes to gauging the people I room with. It certainly has challenged my introvert side.
Would you ever recommend solo traveling to other women? Why or why not?
Of course. I recommend it to everyone, not just women. At least once in your life, try traveling solo. Be it abroad or just a few hours from your home. It can teach you a lot of things. And whether you count it as a success or failure, is entirely up to you. The most important thing is, you’ve tried.
What are you hoping to achieve in your blog?
I don’t aspire to be famous or to get rich because of my blog. I still plan to become an entrepreneur and have lots of passive income through investments. Although my blog could also be considered an investment, I don’t see it as sustaining my lifestyle in the long-run. Who knows, I might change my mind the next day. Hahaha… jk.
I hope to aspire people to live curious and travel deeper. I hope that they’ll learn from my mistakes and misadventures on the road.
What is the biggest achievement you’ve had so far when it comes to blogging?
I consider getting readers who messaged me and thanked me as my biggest achievement. The simple thought that I’ve helped them or inspired them really makes my day and pushes me to work harder on the blog.
What is your must-have item when traveling?
Lip balm, smartphone and wet wipes. I have an attachment to those three items regardless whether I’m traveling or not. Wet wipes has really saved me a lot of times. Haha…
What is your non-negotiable term when traveling?
A decent toilet. Although I’ve had my fair share of accommodations with toilets that are less than ideal. I survived those experiences, but when searching for accommodations, I always make it a point to read the reviews regarding the toilet.
Where are you off to next?
Currently, I’m looking forward to traveling more within the country while I’m waiting for the result of my next endeavor. Beyond that, I have no fixed plans yet. Although I’m planning to try my luck with visa applications.
Any traveling tips you want to impart to our readers?
Be a responsible traveler. Whether you’re traveling DIY-style or traveling in luxury, do not ever forget to travel responsibly. Abide by the Leave No Trace principles. Dispose of waste properly, leave what you find, respect the wildlife, and be considerate of other visitors. Those are some of the things that we must always have in mind and practice.
Follow Dada’s travel adventures in her blog and social media accounts: