My 2016 year of travel

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Hafa adai from Guam, USA!

As you all know, I can never sit still. Not only do I move around at least once a month because of medical school, but I also have the bad case of the travel bug.

2016 has taken me to many new places, places I never thought I’d ever be able to see. Places I never had even imagined, meeting new friends for a lifetime and making of course unforgettable memories. I thought 2015 was going to be hard to beat, but 2016 raised the bar even higher. 2017, where will you take me this year?

Click here to see My 2015 year of travel.

All photos are from my Instagram.

1. Ended 2015 singing for the Pope at the Vatican, and so began 2016

 

2. Exploring the cold, cold Chicago with my newly-met relatives

If you plant this bean, would Chicago grow out? Hohoho #Chicago #bean #giantbean #mileniumpark

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3. Started my new life in a new medical school in a new city, Linköping, Sweden

 

4. Weekend escapade with friends to Tallinn, Estonia

 

5. As usual, I always seem to come back to Hong Kong

During my aimless walk around Hong Kong central, I notice a cute blonde guy holding a map doing the same in front of me. I continue walking and end up at Man Mo Temple. While exploring the temple, I notice the same guy taking photos in a corner. Now curious, on his way out, I decided to follow him a bit to see where he was going. I pass him and continue walking on the other side of the street. After a while, I look at the other side of the street and notice him walking directly parallel to me. I smiled, and turned to a side street of antiques. I reach a crossing by a main road and as I stop to turn around, I notice that he was directly behind me. We exchange smiles but unfortunately our eyes met for a final time, as the business of Hong Kong beckons one to always continue… If only I had the courage to say hi, perhaps I wouldn't be sitting all alone in Starbucks right now. I have 2h left here, maybe I'll see him again. But in a busy city like Hong Kong, one can only dream right? #solotravelatitsbest #manmotemple #hongkong #hk #solottravel #temple #samcation

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6. Explored the country of my birth Philippines solo for the first time in my life

 

7. Oh, and I also learned how to surf in Baler, Philippines

 

8. …and celebrated 20+ years of friendship with my childhood best friend Chy in Bohol, Philippines 🙂

 

9. Celebrated my sister’s 25th birthday in Iceland

Midnight swimming at the Blue Lagoon ❤️

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10. Met the Pope together with 2 million other Catholic youths during the World Youth Days in Krakow, Poland

11. …and met the Pope again during the Swedish Papal visit in Malmö

 

12. Getting lost in translation in Tokyo, Japan

 

13. Living the tropical paradise dream in Guam, USA

Looking out into infinity 🇬🇺🌊 #disviewdoe #dispooldoe #whenyoureasurgeonintheUSA #guam

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14. Where I really did make memories and connections worth a lifetime

 

I knew 2015 was going to be hard to beat, but 2016 delivered. But now comes 2017, my final year in medical school (if all goes as planned). Even though I know I’ll have a tough final year ahead, I have a feeling I’ll still end up getting lost in translation in a new city or on another beach in another tropical paradise. Or well, I hope so anyway.

To kickstart my 2017 year of travel, New York, see you in less than two weeks! 😀

TRAVEL VLOG: Guam 2016

 

It has been a week since I left the tropical paradise of Guam… and I miss it so much already! For the past three weeks, I was fortunate to have been able to do my orthopaedic placement in Guam with my granduncle, approved by my medical school here in Sweden. I made the most amazing memories, together with the most amazing people who really made me feel at home there. Here is video a compilation of my adventures from Guam – take me back already?! 😦

Thank you for the adventures Guam, until next time! ❤

The concept of health insurance in the US

I’m now back in Sweden after an amazing three weeks in Guam and currently am suffering from a severe Guam hangover. From sunny tropical weather to darkness and snow on my face for the next couple of months, yes there is a difference. Ah well, at least winter is kinda pretty and Christmas is just around the corner.

During my time working as “Dr. Sam” at the clinics and hospitals in Guam, I got to experience what is really alien to most of us here in Europe, which is the novelty of health insurance.

It’s true. All treatments are based on the insurance of the individual.

Let me explain it a bit more. Before going to a doctor, to be sure that the insurance will cover it, you need to apply for what you will be going to the doctor for. Because of this, some people are forced to wait, which sometimes leads to the worsening of their condition. Sometimes, it gets too late. This is mainly the case of patients who cannot pay for it first, or those who don’t want to risk the ability of not getting reimbursed by their insurance.

Secondly, there are different types of insurances. Depending on the type of insurance you have, doctors will treat you differently. Most health insurances are costly and privately owned, but some patients get free health insurance from the government as they are earning below a certain amount. Because of this, some greedy doctors (I’ve heard) do not prioritise these patients, as they barely will get money from them from their health insurance. In contrast to the patients with expensive health insurances, they will profit a lot from them.

To those who do not receive free health insurance and cannot afford the privately owned one, they’re in trouble. Going to a doctor then becomes very expensive, and a trip to the emergency room alone would cost several thousands of dollars. I wish I was exaggerating. Even the medicines are expensive.

For example, during my time in the US I managed to get an external otitis, aka swimmer’s ear. For this I needed anti-bacterial ear drops for. I got a prescription from my uncle, went to a pharmacy, and got my ear drops for $57.60. This is about 550kr. In comparison, I had a surgery in my arm in Stockholm in May, and that cost 350kr. Crazy isn’t it. I guess in this way, in one way or another, it is good to be home.

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Hafa adai from orthopedics in Guam, USA!

“Tito (uncle), that man has a limp on his left foot, what do you think is the possible cause?”

And so starts our lecture over lunch at the Hilton hotel, about different causes of asymmetrical limb lengths, ending with the classification of the different types of scoliosis and how to treat it.

Right now, I’m in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on a tropical island called Guam, which is a territory of the United States. (I know you were wondering where Guam is). I’m here for a three-week external orthopaedic placement with my granduncle-in-law, who is the local orthopedic surgeon in the region. I’m currently staying with him and my grandaunt (my grandmother’s youngest sister) at their house and am following my granduncle whenever he goes to work. It’s basically a mixture of vacation with work which I like to call, workcation. There is no better kind.

Since I was younger, I’ve grown up knowing of the many great things my granduncle has achieved throughout his career. I cannot even begin to describe how honoured and fortunate I feel to now be a part of it as his pupil. The generations of doctors in my medical family are now meeting. From breakfast lectures and handouts to clinic and surgeries, and finally ending the day with yet another dinner lecture. Everyday here in Guam has been countless learning opportunities in orthopaedics, and no time has gone to waste. Even the short car drives.

So you may be asking, how am I liking it so far? Well, I’m loving every bit of it, and somehow studying actually became fun now. I’m getting more and more tanned, bigger (no student diet here no) but definitely learning. I often reflect on how I ended up to be so fortunate with such amazing opportunities in life, but all I can do is be grateful.

This week I will be with Dr. Landström (yes, he is Swedish – what are the chances!) the local hand surgeon of the island, to have a greater diversity of cases within orthopaedics. Hand surgery cases that is. Tomorrow, I’ll be seeing my first hand surgery with him, and I better be on top with my anatomy. Like my granduncle, he is a very well-respected and experienced doctor too, who even has worked in Afghanistan. So to be on his good side, I better get back to studying, my break is over.

Hafa adai (the local greeting here which is pronounced half-a-day) from Guam! I promise to be back to write more about medicine and life here on the island. Until next time! 🙂

Just another day with me and my knee (model) at Guam Orthopedic Clinic 🏥

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TRAVEL VLOG: World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow

Indescribable but definitely unforgettable. Who knew I’d be missing the crammed trains with singing French youth, the long queues to eat and the long walks in the sun/rain with millions of other pilgrims from around the world. Exhausted physically and mentally, but it was worth every moment of it. Yes, I’m definitely still experiencing the “World Youth Day hangover.” I wish you all were with me to share the same experiences I had in Krakow, but I’m hoping that you all can get a glimpse at least through this video 🙂 

See you in Panama in 2019! 😀

Footage, background music and editing by me.

TRAVEL VLOG: Iceland 2016

I’ve realised that the best way for people to join me on my travels, is by showing how it really was for me there. What better way than through a video – so I have decided to start travel vlogging! Much easier to show than to describe through writing 🙂

This is a glimpse of our trip to Iceland July 18-22, 2016. Iceland, you have been amazing but we haven’t had enough of you. Until next time! For now, thank you for the adventure 🙂

Here are the places included in the video in order of appearance:
Harpa, Reykjavik harbour, the Sun voyager, Þufa, Perlan, Hallgrimskirkja, Fridheimar farm, Geysir, Gullfoss, Thingvellir national park (where we snorkeled in Silfra!), the Bridge Between Two Continents in Sandvik and last but not least, Blue Lagoon.

All footage taken by me or my mom/sister, edited in iMovie by me and background music produced in GrageBand by me. Cameras used: Nikon D3100, iPhone 6s, iCreation action camera and Nikon AW 110.

20+ years of friendship in Cebu/Bohol

Since I was a baby until we moved to Sweden, we lived in an apartment within the campus of the University of the Philippines Diliman. My sister and I weren’t the only babies and children in the area, two floors above us for example lived two girls our age, the youngest only being 3 months younger than I was. As we were around the same age and lived so close to each other, we became best friends when we were babies until we were children, and remained so until I moved to Sweden.

After a few years in Sweden, we unfortunately lost contact. However after over ten years later, we reconnected again a few years ago. It’s funny how life turns out sometimes, as everyone were surprised at how alike we still are despite growing up apart. Some things just never change.

To celebrate our over 20+ years of friendship, why not go on our first vacation together to somewhere we have never been to before? Bohol it is.

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As the goal of my trip was to see as much of the country as I can, I was excited to visit a new place. I have heard a lot of positive things about Bohol, especially about its snorkeling on Panglao island. But before that, we decided to pass by Cebu because why not!

We had no plans when we were in Cebu, but somehow, we managed to see all the must-sees. Sto Nino church, Sto Nino’s mom’s church, Magellan’s cross, eat lechon and buy a ukulele. We just walked around with our suitcases and somehow we managed to do everything we wanted to do. Even if it included walking through basically ghetto with people lying in the streets to get my ukulele. It was worth it nevertheless. We were happy with our short few hours trip to Cebu, and all the friendly locals greeting us as sole two female young travellers. Short but sweet, enough to make us want to come back to see more! But now time for Bohol.

Maayong adlaw from Cebu! 👋🏽😁 #Cebu #Philippines #ilovecebu #bisaya

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In Bohol, we stayed with my mom’s friend on Panglao island, who slowly but surely became like a grandfather to us both. He picked us up from the ferry in Cebu and took us first to Alona beach in Panglao for dinner. Let our Bohol adventures continue.

On the first day, we went island hopping on “grandfather’s” boat, with our boatman Joel. You know those National Geographic programs talking about fishermen who can dive deep in the ocean and shoot spears underwater? Basically that’s what Joel did for a living. Joel took us to Balicasag island where we – tried – to snorkel, but unfortunately owing to the strong waves, he ended up just pulling us all the time on our life buoy… But we saw a sea turtle at least! Afterwards he took us to the Sand Bar on Virgin Island, where basically they sell food in the middle of the sea on a little beach area. Really random, but interesting nonetheless! Lastly, he took us to Islo Francesco which is part of Virgin Island, a religious island dedicated to Padre Pio (who happens to be my favourite saint!). I’ve never thought I would kneel down to a shrine and pray while wearing only my swimsuit…

 

On the next day, we did our land tour of Bohol. We ticked off all the must-sees such as the Chocolate Hills and the tarsiers. To be honest though, the other places like the Butterfly House and the cave were more fun. Mainly because of the guides that we had. Nevertheless, they are must-sees for a reason, and those Chocolate Hills are pretty cute in the end. Tired owing to the heat and all that walking touring around, we came back beached and napped, preparing ourselves for our night out in Alona. Which we did well, because as it turned out, Alona nightlife delivers.

 

While doing shisha, two Australian-Chinese sisters joined us where we bonded over being international. We decided to continue up to the bar, and there we met a group of medical students from Leeds in the year below me in medical school. You know it’s a small world when people you meet on the other side of the world are friends with your friends in the UK. Yup, they knew my medic friends in the UK. They even went in the same class as an acquaintance of mine. Crazy isn’t it?! It was a fun night being with international people, and I guess that’s the type of crowd this place attracts 🙂

 

On our final day, our “grandfather’s” niece decided to join us, and together we went to the mall to buy souvenirs and finally got to try snorkeling again. This time we were lucky with the winds, and managed to properly snorkeling. Wow, it really is this beautiful and calming under the sea. We ended the day by checking in to Bohol Plaza hotel, with a beautiful view of Bohol. We jumped in the pool, sat in the jacuzzi and just reminisced of the days past. What an amazing trip it has been.

 

Bohol you have truly been amazing, and we are in love with your beautiful waters and even more wonderful people. What an amazing way to celebrate our over 20+ years of friendship. We promise to return, but until then, stay beautiful. Until next time! ❤

It’s pretty chill in La Union

Last year, and all the times in the past, I’ve always been staying in the same areas: Manila, Iloilo, Subic… basically where I have family. I told my family this year that I want to see more of my country and so they decided to take me to places I haven’t been to. Somehow, my family had a feeling that I would be a surfing person, and luckily they were right.

Earlier in the week I visited one of the Philippine’s famous surfing spots, Baler. This weekend, my Titos and Tita decided to take me to another of the famous surfing spots in the Philippines – La Union.

We stayed at San Juan Surf Resort, a small hotel founded by, owned and run by a Filipino-Australian surfer, who now resides in the area. Already upon arrival, you could get the feeling of the sea, the sun and the warm summer breeze. I quickly changed to my surfing attire and went to the surfing school. I’m gonna work on what I learnt from Baler I thought, here we go!

I met my surfing instructor Ronnie from San Juan Surf School and hit the waves. Or well, what we could call waves at the time. Yup, as it turns out, there was no swell when we were there… Dang.

 

Nevertheless, I found new surfing buddies. The next day, my Titos and Tita joined us surfing and Ronnie grabbed his surfing instructor friend Jeff. Again no waves, so I decided to just be a cheerleader for my Titos and Tita as they were learning. I made my surfing instructor buddies promise to teach me tomorrow morning instead when there are hopefully waves.

In the evening, we tried the hotel’s salo-salo, and we were hooked. A mix of four dishes good for four, with different combinations everyday. In the end it was so good, we ate all our meals there… yum. Trying different combination of traditional Filipino dishes everyday. Like what my mom says, soon she will be able to just push me down a hill and I’d roll. Unfortunately, she’s not very far from the truth…

After dinner, we’d have drinks by the beach at a local bar, with live music. Did my Titos make me sing? Why yes of course they did. Because that’s what family do, always find the chance to embarrass you.

 

The next day, I woke up again early in the morning to meet my surfing instructors by the beach after breakfast. To my disappointment upon looking at the water… it was as calm as a cradled baby sleeping. Again dang. So instead, we chilled by the beach chatting, swam and Jeff even let me try his paddle board. Oh well, next time! 🙂

Owing to my constantly changing and fast-paced lifestyle, I’m starting to appreciate the peace of being out in the province. Especially by the sea. Meeting new people, and chilling with a drink at hand eating good food. Surfing or no surfing, I had an amazing time due to the people I was with.

Thank you Titos and Tita for bringing me to San Juan in La Union, and thank you to Ronnie and Jeff for being awesome! Until next time. Bawi sa waves. For now, let my adventures by the beautiful waters of the Philippines continue!

I fell in love with Baler and surfing

As the Philippines is surrounded by water, surfing is a relatively common sport to pursue here. My dad, as it turns out, grew up an area with perfect waves for surfing. At the end of my stay with dad, they took me to Baler in Aurora where I discovered my new found love for surfing.

 

Baler is a magical place. So magical I can even see myself staying here for a long period of time. Filled with relaxed, friendly, welcoming locals, who are really there to make sure you will have a good time. You’d see people of all ages on surfboards, from children doing crazy tricks on the waves (yeah, I felt super self-conscious with them around as a first-time surfer), to grandparents still rocking their surfboards in the water. If they’re not on their surfboards in the water, you’d see the locals on their bikes or longboards, cruising down the long boardwalk by the surfing beach. Their lifestyle really is sleep, eat, surf, party, repeat. Surfing 6am in the morning and again in the afternoon, eating and napping in between until you end your day with a beer. Surfers are my new favourite type of people. If medschool fails, I’ll retire to the beach with a surfboard and spread love to the world with my ukulele. Sounds like the dream to me.

It’s hard to describe the exhilarating feeling when you’re surfing a wave on a surfboard. The adrenaline kick of cruising on top of a wave, taking you to shore. Kuya Doods my surfing instructor from Baler Surf School was very patient but supportive. He was so good that he already managed to get me surfing on my third wave during my first lesson. By the end of my one hour session, I was already longing for my next lesson the next day. Really, I couldn’t sleep because of my excitement and even watched Lilo & Stitch in true surfing spirit. Nevertheless, I managed to sleep 4h and woke up at 7am again to go surfing. You can say I am now hooked.

 

The next day came and after the end of my second one-hour session with Kuya Doods, I am now ready to take on waves by myself. Bring it on!

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Thank you Kuya Doods for introducing me to my new-found love for surfing, and my family for bringing me to Baler. I’ll definitely be back. Next time I’ll bring more people and definitely stay for longer than just overnight. Next time I’m back, you’ll see me cruising the big waves, I swear!