Money Lessons and Pizza


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It’s been a little over a decade since I’ve lived here in the U.S. and it has been an amazing journey to say the least! Talk about getting culture shocked! As one might imagine, it was a HUGE change from my simple life in the lovely islands of the Philippines.

Something that is quite apparent right on the onset, though, is the power of your money.

UPLB Main Library and the Pegaraw. Note: The P...

The Library at UPLB where slackers like myself can hang out and not be bothered by classes, teachers or books.

You see, when I was living in the Philippines, there seemed to be plenty of time for everything compared to the United States. Life tends to be more laid back. Shops and restaurants are usually open very late, so the nightlife can get quite insane. Even when I was back in college at the country’s best university (Shout out to UPLB! Woooh!) the student’s life left a lot of time for extra-curricular activities be it productive or intoxicative.

The issue came in the form of money. It was really hard to make a living compared to the opportunities found here. Once I had arrived in Michigan, I started working the first job I could find. I was a waiter at a small family diner. Life suddenly floored the gas pedal and I was left gasping for what little time I could hustle for myself. Everybody seemed to be in a rush. People even walked faster!

But then, after earning my tips and paychecks, I discovered that I could feel my money. The dollar’s buying power stretched on further than I had imagined! In one paycheck, I bought the most coveted video games for my PC which would have cost an arm and a leg in the Philippines.

My world had turned on its head. I traded most of my time for some (pretty powerful) money.

To give you an idea of the difference in purchasing power, I like to use my favorite conversion method.

In the United States, how many hours at the rate of the federal minimum wage would you have to work in order to afford a large pizza with all your favorite toppings on it? Two, three hours? Maybe four at the most?

Česky: Pizza

A Filipino Pizza has a myriad of savory flavors that would blow your taste buds away. One bite, and everything else seems bland.

About decade ago in the Philippines, it would have taken around 400 Philippine Pesos to buy a pizza with everything on it. The National minimum wage was set to around ₱ 200… per DAY! I’m talking a *whole* day of back breaking work to earn a measly $4 (₱ 50 to $1 back in those days.) So after TWO whole days, you could buy the same pizza that an American could have bought after a couple of hours on the job.

That my friends, is how powerful the dollar felt in my hands.

While the values may have changed somewhat between now and then, fundamentally, the U.S. Dollar is still the World’s Reserve Currency. In the next few weeks, I want to share with you some of the top money lessons I’ve learned here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. I sincerely hope you can make good use of this knowledge, regardless of where you find yourself in the world today.

As a side note, let me just say that I firmly believe those of us over here have one of the best opportunities to leverage what we can potentially earn in order to live, travel, and enjoy the best things in life. And to finally cross off all those pesky lines on our bucket lists.

Bucket List


Having seen so little of the world than I had originally thought, I needed to revise my list. Voila! Now let me present to you, my Bucket List:

To join in the running of the bulls in Spain

To have tea and smoke a pipe in London, England

To have frog legs a fancy restaurant in Paris, France

To learn and train in Muay Thai in Thailand

To have a drink with a couple of German sisters

To ride an elephant in India

To pray on top of a mountain in Jerusalem, Israel

To get a lovely Irish redhead drunk

To bungee jump in New Zealand

To throw a boomerang and catch it on top of Ayer’s Rock in Australia

To fish in the canals of Venice, Italy

To go on a Safari in South Africa

To spend the day on a secluded island

To learn how I can hold 9 mugs of beer all at once during Oktoberfest

To see how far I can walk on the Great Wall of China

To bring home a piece of a pyramid from Egypt

To taste some açaí on a beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

To punch NWA in the face while at the Coliseum in Rome, Italy

To go to Houston and have a problem

      • So, funny anecdote: NWA and I were in Houston taking a connecting flight back to California when we realized that we haven’t made arrangements for someone to pick us up yet. He got on his phone and called up a friend and said “Hey, uhhh… We’re in Houston, we have a problem…

To solve a Rubik’s cube

      • Hint: There’s a formula you must follow.

To have a formal dinner with wine on a moving train in Napa

      • The Napa Valley Wine Train is my favorite locomotive restaurant. Great food, awesome sights, and a wonderful atmosphere make it an amazing experience.

To jog or cycle across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco

      • It looked a lot easier on paper than it was to actually jog across this iconic bridge.

To swim naked in the campus pool at night in Los Baños, Philippines

      • I’d been wanting to do this since my very first day in college. There’s nothing like the cool waters under the moon on a tropical night while evading from the campus security guards.

To throw something from the top of the Empire State building in New York

      • It was a penny. I hope it didn’t land on anyone’s head. If it did, then I gave them a penny for their thoughts… (Yeah, I know. I couldn’t resist…)

To drive across the USA

      • Five days and miles and miles of nothing but country.

To have sushi in Japan

      • I wonder why they looked at me strangely when I asked for a California roll… I should’ve taken that opportunity to practice my Japanese: “Hajimemashite! Menu o misete kudasai.”

To climb to the top of a mountain on some island in the Pacific Ocean

      • Mt. Makiling, Peak 2. That was one cold night… and the firewood was too wet to catch fire. Anyone who knows me knows how I react to the cold weather. One heck of an experience though.

To save someone’s life

      • You are most welcome Val. Anyone would have done the same if they had been there instead.

What Percent of the World Have You Seen?


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I remember back when MySpace was all the rage. I came across this widget on the website, Travbuddy. It shows you the percentage of the world that you’ve already seen.

I distinctly remember the pride coursing through me, like some proud general marching off with his army to conquer the enemy, as I checked off all the countries I had been to. The Philippines, Iran, India. Check. This was a point of pride for me. Japan, Malaysia. Check. I’ve always said that I was born with an insatiable wanderlust. USA, Mexico. Check and check!

When it spit out the resulting percentage I was aghast to find out that I had only seen 4% of the world. Four freakin’ percent! I couldn’t believe it!

I had been traveling around the world since I was three months old. I remember being one of the few kids in my classroom who had been on an airplane. I could speak three different languages at the time. But in reality, I had seen so very little of this wonderful blue orb.

It was then, that I resolved to travel even more! I went back and updated my Bucket List and swore not to die or settle down until I’ve seen at least 80% of the countries of the world!

UPDATE: Having gotten back from a road trip across Europe, check out my new percentage of the world seen!

Chasing Summer


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I’ve always liked the name Summer. Summers usually have the brightest smiles, the blonde hair, and the jovial personalities. But no, that’s not what Summer Chaser means. At least, it’s not what it’s all about.

I was pretty much born and raised in the tropics, right above the equator. Being in the sweltering, humid heat has always felt like home.

Then one day, my family had up and moved halfway across the world with me in tow. I found myself in the dead of winter, of all places, in Michigan. I had never seen snow up to that point in my life, so I ran outside jumping and playing and after about five minutes, I realized that snow was freakin’ cold. And that grew old REALLY quick!

Every autumn and winter thereafter was a horrid experience. What most of my friends here never really understood was that all the snow, cold weather, wind chill and freezing rains had a sedating, narcotic effect on me. I always get sluggish. Depressed. I would want nothing more than to just curl up and fall asleep.

Every winter I swear to myself that it would be my last winter. That I would travel the world and live where ever it was summer. Think about it; if animals, more rudimentary creatures than ourselves, have enough sense to hibernate or to “head south for the winter” is it so unnatural for us to have the same instincts? Thus, here we find ourselves.

I remember, somebody I really look up to once said “It doesn’t rain all the time, everywhere. The sun is always shining at some part of the world.

I intend to be right there, where the sun is shining the brightest.