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Influencers Who Don’t Make You Cringe | Expat Grit

Now that travel has reentered the chat and getting off Shutter Island is less of a hassle, I’ve been happily exercising my travel wings. And in doing so, I’ve been pleasantly enlightened by conversations with complete rando’s that I’ve crossed paths with along the way.

On a recent trip back to the Philippines. I found myself in two separate chats with delightful individuals whose personal stories demonstrated their true grit.

After learning of their background, it was evident they figured out the 3-step process of how to live a successful life that mirrored the advice of Andre’ De Shields. In his Tony Awards acceptance speech, Andre’ eloquently said,

1. “Surround yourself with people whose eyes light up when they see you coming.
2. Slowly is the fastest way to get to where you want to be.
3. The top of one mountain is the bottom of the next so keep climbing.”

Meet Mae (“like the month May, June, July.” She said when introducing herself) – a stranger I met on a flight to Cebu. In the first few seconds, I quickly judged Mae on how unfortunate she was to be assigned the dreaded middle seat. It was only within minutes of our conversation that I learned how very fortunate she truly is.

Usually, I’m not a big fan of striking up a (potential) stranger (danger) chat with a rando. But on this flight, the aircraft had a minor operational issue that was discovered 15 minutes after takeoff. Subsequently, we circled back to the airport where we remained seated on the plane for 2 hours. The only thing to do, to pass the time (as inflight entertainment was turned off) was to talk to each other.

As Mae and I chatted, I learned she’s a Filipina originally from Cebu. Ten years ago, she accepted a job opportunity in Dubai and has been living there since. Knowingly, she confessed to taking a low-paying job at a call center, but she knew it was the proverbial door of opportunity to improve her financial status verses staying in Cebu.

Before receiving her new expat position, her family collectively invested in her education that would provide her the chance to work abroad. After a few years of living in Dubai and establishing herself financially. Mae was able to invest in herself and continued on with her education. A few years later she saved enough money to bring her sister from the Philippines to Dubai.

It had been 5 years since Mae had seen the rest of her family, and now sitting on a delayed flight that has extended her long overdue trip even further. I was impressed by how calm she kept. It was then I noticed she started to tear up a bit when she mentioned this trip was a surprise visit to see her Mom. Enter the waterworks for me too. And if that wasn’t enough to get you going, over the years Mae had been saving up to have a house built for her mother (whose been living with her brother). Mae was going to deliver this additional surprise news in person to her mother whilst giving her the biggest of bear hugs one could ever give.

As a woman in her 40s, Mae sees her future as something she continues to sculpt. Since being in Dubai she met her now husband and both are applying to relocate to Europe (Croatia or Poland specifically) to continue their expat journey.

When we finally arrived in Cebu it was evident the beautiful but tousled island was still on the backend of the pandemic. The island heavily relies on tourism, and if the pandemic didn’t bring it to a standstill. Mother Nature certainly tried to.

Back in December, a typhoon hit so hard that it leveled the island and left the population without power for 3 months.

The heroes who sprung into action during the power outage was the older generation who knew what to exactly do. Meanwhile the younger generation rendered useless while they stood stunned clutching their out-of-power smartphones. It was the Aunties and Uncles who taught the young grasshoppers how to filter water, cook over a fire (start a fire), how to fish and other (camping) survival skills.

Karl was the one to tell us all this. A local employee of the hotel where we staying. We sat at his bar and learned about his life in Cebu; how it was during covid, the odd jobs he took when the hotels were all closed, and what happened when the typhoon hit.

Everyone on the island helped each other. Even the owners of the hotel were able to pay small stipends to their employees when they temporarily closed.

At this point, everyone was doing anything they could. During this time, Karl sold food off the side of the road and cleaned up the debris left from the typhoon.

Like Mae, Karl was also looking to advance his career in the service industry. After years of networking, getting hired by luxurious venues, and endlessly applying. He finally landed his dream job where he could travel for free. Karl had been offered a spot with a popular cruise company and starts his new position towards the end of this year.

As I watched Karl’s excitement, gratefulness, and elation rush over his face when he was telling his story. It was so clear how much he had wanted this for himself. He gestured by pointing up to the sky, saying how thankful he was for this new journey. And again, mentioning how he couldn’t wait to travel for free.

Mae and Karl are two strangers, but are similar in their perseverance and fortitude. Their continued focus and practices of improving themselves are skills that will never keep these two stagnant. Their resilience, experience, and their spirit will keep them moving forward.

All admirable qualities that merit them to be the influencers that we should be putting into the spotlight.

If you like this, read the conversations I had back in the States that stood out.

Outdoor enthusiast thriving in the expatriate traveling lifestyle. Looking to connect with your sense of adventure.

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