What The Philippines Taught Me About Life (With Pictures!)

I make a point to take one trip overseas each year.

Travel has a way of expanding you in a way that nothing else can. As you discover other cultures and other languages, you also discover yourself in a brand new light. In a way, I don’t think you can really discover yourself or the world until you begin to travel.

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For years, I have wanted to go to Thailand… I have dreamt about it, fantasized about it, and planned it. This year, the opportunity finally presented itself, and I excitedly booked a four-week trip to Turkey and Thailand.

At the last minute, I decided to make a change… 

(When you call your own shots, your schedule is completely in your control…)

At the last minute, I decided to add a week in the Philippines to my itinerary. I had long been curious about the Philippines ever since I started hiring people there; Filipinos often speak perfect English, they are extremely polite, and the cost of living is extremely low. I decided that as long as I was “in the area,” (in Southeast Asia) I might as well check out that country…

What I didn’t know was that a week in the Philippines would rock my world…

Yes, the time in Turkey and Thailand was incredible – I saw the riots in Tasmin Square while political forces clashed in Istanbul, Turkey. I rode elephants and relaxed on beaches and ate far too much curry over the three weeks in Thailand. I experienced a Full Moon Party and had my biases challenged when I interacted with people whose gender was a mystery.

And of course, I rented a motor bike that I called “The Pink Flash.”

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But the biggest breakthroughs and the greatest experiences occurred when I arrived in Cebu City, Philippines.

The reason I went to Cebu was because it came highly recommended by my customer service manager, Kirk, who lives there. Kirk has been a faithful member of Freedom Publishing Group for well over a year now, and I had the privilege of meeting him and spending time with him once I arrived.

Yes, I flew to the Philippines and met my employees that live there!

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What struck me immediately about the Philippines was the extremes of rich and poor. On one end of the island, there would be a beautiful resort with beach views and breathtaking sunsets. And on the other end were slums, with half-dressed kids and alleys that you’d dare not pass through.

Yet no one seemed bothered by this. In fact, everyone was quite content with what they had.

The people that lived there felt no lack – they simply acknowledged what they had and did the best they could with the opportunities in front of them. In fact, when I asked them if they envied the rich or wished that they were like them, they responded it had simply never crossed their mind.

How refreshing. And how enlightening… to appreciate what you have.

They often lived in big families – sometimes eight to a small house – and they enjoyed this. Their sense of community and appreciation for life made them extremely happy. In America, we get so caught up… scratch that… *I* get so caught up in “getting more” that I often fail to stop and realize all that I have. And then I hear the voice of my two year old nephew, and I remember all that really matters.

But I digress…

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My world was further rocked when I checked into the hotel in Cebu.

Within seconds of my arrival, I was treated like a celebrity.

Girls blushed when I made eye contact with them. Hotel employees asked for my picture. Locals stopped at stared at me on the street. Female attendants would act professional to my face, and when I would turn, I’d see them giggling or high fiving a coworker.

I had NO IDEA what was going on, but I sure enjoyed it when the hotel employees would blush and get flustered every time that I would walk by!

It really hit me when, while on an island hopping tour, a group of eight beautiful Filipino models lined up to talk to me… something that would never happen in the states.

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No man should ever be subjected to THAT MUCH of an ego boost!

WHY was I so popular in the Philippines?

Simply put: I was different.

In the same way that we love British accents in America, I was popular because I had a beard and white skin. In fact, many people asked me if I was a celebrity… and when I said no, they encouraged me to move to the Philippines, because I would become one.

In fact, one very sweet hotel attendant posted a picture of me on her Facebook, and within hours had over a hundred likes and dozens and comments from other Filipinos.

And while I certainly enjoyed the temporary ego boost and the feeling of being a local celebrity for a short time… I learned an extremely valuable lesson.

I’m not sure when I realized it, but it hit me like a ton of bricks…

Being in that environment taught me that everything is relative.

In America, I am a simple man. I own very little, I make a decent living, and I experience as much of life as is humanly possible. And although I live a pretty unique life,  no one looks up to see who just walked by.

But in the Philippines, I was a king. A celebrity. An honored guest. And very rich.

I didn’t understand this… until I boarded the plane to leave the Philippines. A woman who had lived in America for five years sat next to me, and I explained the situation. She agreed that I indeed looked like a celebrity and that I indeed was very handsome. But I asked her, “But no one reacts like this in America.”

Her answer blew me away.

She said, “Well, everyone is that way in America.”

All our brains know how to do is compare. We FORGET how blessed we are because all we know how to do is compare to those around us. We forget that half the world lives on $2 per day or less, because all we see is wealth and abundance. We whine about our problems because we are comparing ourselves to our neighbors, who are comparing THEMselves to another neighbor.

We think our problems are devastating because we compare our problems to our peers’. If we compare our problems to the parents who lost their children at Sandy Hook, our problems are non-existent. When we compare our incomes to those who have nothing, we suddenly realize how blessed we are… until we forget, and then return to comparing ourselves to what we see on TV.

Tony Robbins did a regular series for awhile in which he interviewed people who had gone through tragic experiences, but had remained happy and successful. At the end, Tony concluded that those of us who are average “have no problems.” We have no excuse to be unhappy. He is right. The only problems that we have are those that we create in our mind.

Upon making this realization in the Philippines, I whipped out my trusty journal, and I wrote this:

“Everything is relative. My wealth, my problems, and my emotions are all comparisons. Set it up to win.”

I realized that I am constantly comparing myself – my problems to other people’s, my wealth to others’, and even my emotions are comparisons to previous emotions (“This is better than I expected, therefore I am happy!”). Now I simply ask the question, “Who am I comparing myself to, and how can I set it up so that I can feel good now, be thankful now, and be excited now?”

Once I started asking that question, I felt myself expand. All of a sudden, I always have something to give. And when I live in that place, my work is better, I am kinder to my neighbor, I am more confident, and I share more.

Recently, I decided that the focus of my business would change from one that was always trying to GET, and instead focus on always trying to GIVE. This realization was part of that shift.

While I hope you get to experience the Philippines one day, my hope for you is that you don’t need to travel overseas to appreciate what you have.

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  • Kris

    Wow. I rarely read the “here are my vacation pics” from bloggers or IMers. They tend to be so indulgent. With a sales message at the end. But for some reason I decided to read this and was blown away. What a great message.

    “Tony concluded that those of us who are average “have no problems.” We have no excuse to be unhappy.” And I would add that we have so little perspective to be truly happy. Sad. But true. So today I’m going to be be happy, because I now have a little more perspective. “…they simply acknowledged what they had and did the best they could with the opportunities in front of them.”

    Thanks. Really.

    • Thanks Kris, that means a lot. One thing that I like to remind myself is that it is easy to be happy, and hard to get depressed. If I feel down, I’m focusing on the wrong thing and comparing myself to something that doesn’t serve me.

  • Aurora Valish

    Ryan, thanks for sharing with us your wonderful experience in the Philippines. We were there a year ago for two months and island hopped from Corregidor to Boracay to Antique, Iloilo, Davao City,
    Palawan, Baguio, Vigan, San Fernando and of course, Manila. ( We bypassed Cebu) Oh yes, we indeed had a wonderful time of our life

    I would like to quote Marcel Proust: let us be grateful to people who make us happy. They are the charming gardeners who make our soul blossom.

    Another daily inspiration by Arundhati Roy:
    To love. To be loved. To never forget your own significance. To never get used to unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue
    beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power Above all to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget.

    Kind regards and have a wonderful summer.

    • Great post, thanks Aurora. And I like what you said about never forgetting your significance. When you remember your inherent significance, you no longer have to seek it from others. Beautiful.

  • Scott

    HI Ryan!

    I live in the Philippines and have been a fan of your work ever since E-Tycoon. I am actually an American who decided to live full time in the Philippines. Everything you say about the Philippines is completely true, this is the reality that I live in.

    To some Americans who can’t appreciate the cultural differences, the poorness and dirtiness of the numerous slum areas, the frequent power outages and the lack of quality customer service from most companies, this country is a living hell.

    But to some Americans who can forgo the setbacks, this country is utter heaven. Beautiful women will easily pay attention to you, people will treat you special head and shoulders above the rest, (and the people here are so friendly and laidback by nature), and if you act gracious people do indeed treat you like a king.

    People here really are so very poor, but they take it easily and learn to laugh even when they have so little – a concept foreign to most westerners who base their happiness on material wealth.

    As someone who does IM for a living (and lives a stone’s throw away from where you went as well), I think it’s sad I couldn’t have at least shook your hand. But I’m glad that you’ve found a great realization here in the place which I call my home. Most people live their lives not knowing what you’ve just found out. Your experience is my everyday life, which is why I consider myself extremely lucky.


    • Awesome Scott. I’ll see you there when I return!

  • Ron

    Hey Ryan,

    Very Awesome eye opening post, and I couldn’t agree more with the things you said.

    Most people put the most value on things that can be replaced like cars houses etc. but
    priceless things like Salvation, Family, Great Health, roof over your head, food on the table etc.
    seem very insignificant a lot of times without even consciously being aware of it, I believe.

    Giving Thanks Everyday,


  • Carlos

    Hi Ryan,

    First of all I’ve been a subscriber on your list for quite a while now, and haven’t made a dime yet on the internet, which has everything to do with me not being able to focus on one thing,and jumping from one thing to another. Everytime when things get a little bumpy, I catch myself hoping that another program will give me a much easier way to earn money on the net. And there I go buying another program.But that’s not what I wanted to talk about, I’m already working on that.
    I live in Holland and I’ve been reading books about improving your life through the workings of the mind and stuff like that since I was a young boy of about 13 years old.
    I know that you are quite young( I am 43 years old) , but i think that you are an extraordinary human being, with extraordinary insights for your age.
    Without calling myself extraordinary, you remind me of myself at that age( with the difference that I was broke and could only dream of travelling like you do )
    What I wanted to say is this: A couple weeks ago I got a book from my sister, with the title “the magic”.
    It’s from Rhonda Byrne, the same person that wrote “the secret”.
    You must know before I continue, that I didn’t even give books like the secret a second look anymore, because I thought it was far beneath my level, and more for the “general public” who needed a little boost in their thinking.Not for people at an “advanced level’ like me.
    So when my sister put the book in my hands, and told me that I should give it a try, I was being polite, and said that I would. But I was not planning on reading it at all because I considered all these books a major money-making business, and nothing more than that.
    So I took the book home, and for some strange reason I opened it anyway.
    And I started reading. And as I started reading, it sucked me in. It teached me about being thankfull, in a way that I had never seen it anywhere else before.I began to understand the importance of being thankfull, and how starting to be thankfull consciously, changes your life completely and for the better in ways you can’t even start to imagine.
    I never thought that I would say this, but the book changed my life.
    And it tought me another thing: Don’t ever think that you know everything about anything, and never be cocky about it when you think you do.
    I salute you on being so honest and opening up to us as your subscribers.

    Thank you!

  • Todd Bonner

    Just wanted to say thanks for sharing these thoughts with us, Ryan. I have been struggling to fully bring this same reality into my own life over the past few months, and this was a great refocus opportunity.

    (As a side note, I think part of the reason you got so much attention over there was because of that remarkable smell of yours. Just sayin’.)

    Glad to have you back here in Austin…even if you may not be glad to be back yet.

  • Wow Ryan!

    Traveling is definitely one of the most enriching experiences any person can engage in, so YES we have to be grateful for the opportunity we have of being able to experience it.

    When we live with gratitude the doors to abundance open widely.

    I liked this story very much and now you wet my appetite for visiting The Philippines as well.

    Kind regards!

    • “When we live with gratitude the doors to abundance open widely.”

      How true is that. Well said! Thanks for your input!

  • I’m happy to know you had a transforming experience in my country. Your experience was really true. I attributed it to the kindness and hospitality of my countrymen/women. It is my wish that we continue to possess such magnificent attitude but I also pray that we start seeing the celebrity, rich and beauty within us. If you learn from us, I do hope Filipinos would also learn from you. The Filipinos are gifted people. We are all over the world. In fact, they say that if all Filipinos will go home the world economy will be affected especially in countries where we are many and are holding key responsibilities. We should look at you as an inspiration to draw out the best in us. But more importantly, we should be inspired by our own giftedness and richness.

  • Thanks for sharing this… I have always believed that everything is relative, and tell others that despite problems, we should realize we are lucky compared to others… also proud to be Filipino! 🙂

  • Robert

    Now you know why I chose to court a Filipino as opposed to a Canadian woman, substantially different mindset. Once we get outside of North America we see the real world, not this material illusion were caught in.

    As the saying goes, you come into the world with nothing, you leave the world with nothing. The more you meditate on that simple saying, the more you realize how little material possessions really are.

    Filipinos are a much more balanced people and therefore they live much more fulfilling lives as opposed to the the stress filled lives of North Americans who are more stressed because they have more ‘stuff’.

    Never forget the humble people you meet in your travels, they will forever change you.

    • Totally agree, Robert. What does it say in the book of Job? Naked I came from my mothers womb, and naked I will depart? All that matters is what we do in between those two moments.

  • Robert

    Well quoted, Job 1:21 – “Naked I came out of my mothers belly, and naked I shall return there”.

    Quite a man he was, no matter how many troubles were beset on him, he never cursed God.

    Did you know though that Job was not aware that it was Satan casting the turmoil upon him, not God?

    An important lesson for us today when we want to blame God for the mess we’re in!

  • Thank you Ryan for sharing your experiences in our beloved country. All you have observed and said were true. Hope you can come back again for the second time, for the third time and so on. Thank you and God Bless you.

  • Hello Ryan,

    As a first time reader of your blog, (which is something I am sorry to have missed) I was drawn into the picture you painted. I know it to be true, because although I have never been further than Australia from my Country New Zealand, I have several friends who live here in New Zealand.

    They personaly chose to come and live here because NZ is “So Rich” and this way they could earn so much more than at home, and it gave them the ability to put their family members through various training like nursing and other important areas.

    their greatest gift to me was their beautiful loving nature, both Men and Women. They are tremendous. Our first Philpino friends were in Australia, and we thought they had so little, yet they were adamant they were rich. They never “compared” themselves to Australians or other nations, they just remembered how little they had had in the Phillipines because they had lived in the more slum type ares.

    The husband had been granted a way of coming to Australia to live and work, and that was thier beginning. He married a girl from the Phillipines while he was back there tending to his family, then they began sending half their income back back to their home country each month.

    They had 3 children during those years, bought a house and set up a business, Bought another house to rent out and bring in more funds, all the while sending half their income back “home” each month.

    I still look back at them in awe! Plus my friends here in NZ, also Philipino, the warmth of their hearts towards others, never ceases to amaze me.

    I thank you very much Ryan, not only for the wealth in this blog post, but also the richness it brings back into my being. Being 75 now I wonder sometimes how I got this far, but I believe some of it was because one of my own personal habits over the years has been, whne I see a negastive in someone’s life, I try to look deeper and see what I call a “sunny spot” in that persons life. I do not believe we can can get by without everyday giving thanks for how blessed we are, or without helping our brothers and sisters as it were.

    My children used to ask me, “Mum, why do we have to say “grace” before we eat? My answer was “have you ever been without food on the table, and of course their answer was No, so I was showing them that in all our years of being materially in poverty, we had never been without a emal on our table!!
    Thank you again Ryan, for warming my old heart, and especially form someone so much younger than me. May your blessings in life be rich and abundant.
    God Bless you mightily young man.

  • I’m a Filipino. Can’t help but say thank you for writing good things about my country. 🙂

  • Great blog! Do you have any tips and hints for aspiring writers?
    I’m hoping to start my own website soon but I’m a little
    lost on everything. Would you recommend starting with a free platform like
    Wordpress or go for a paid option? There are so many options
    out there that I’m totally overwhelmed .. Any suggestions? Thanks a lot!

  • Thank you for some other great article. The place else may just anybody get that type of info in such a perfect manner of writing? I have a presentation next week, and I am on the search for such information.

  • Jennifer

    Hi Ryan,

    I’m forced to be at home today so can spend time to compose a response to your post which really struck a nerve.

    Part of the reason I love it online so much is the ability it gives to virtually “rub shoulders” with people around the world. I can still remember being a kid growing up in Jamaica and not really liking tourists who visited because it seemed to me that they had opportunity to come back and forth to Jamaica regularly while I was stuck there. I’d read so many books with vivid descriptions of places around the world. I too wanted the opportunity to come and go to other places as I pleased.

    I now live in New Jersey and have a great blogging buddy in the Philippines. For the last 2+ years I’ve been suffering a series of downturns/setbacks ending with my going to a temporary job I’ve been doing for the past approximately 6 weeks and being sent back home today (July 17) because I injured my arm on the job and now am not ‘good enough’ to do other tasks because of my injury.

    These setbacks have really hampered my online business which I’ve been working at for some time now. I was at the end of my tether which is why I resorted to the particular job. I had written to my friend in the Philippines about the terrible conditions and cheap pay, but that I was hanging in there and managing to save a little with which I intended to invest in my online business to get it moving. Below is part of his response to me”

    “I am happy that you still save even your job is cheap. You know what,
    my job is cheap too! I am only getting 301 Pesos daily from my day job,
    it would be equal to $7.17 if the exchange rate is 42 pesos every $1. I
    cannot able to save, I have my sister and niece, and I have Juvy. I need
    to work harder. And online gigs can help a lot, but last week, it was a
    different story.”

    That’s $7.17 per day. And here I was complaining to him about $7.25/hourly minimum wage rate. Now I know the two economies and cost of living are vastly different but it does put things into some perspective… doesn’t it?

    It’s not a great feeling being sent home from a job, but I’m not gonna let it get me down… heck, no. Today is my birthday. God has spared my life for another year, for all these years (ladies still don’t tell how many). Now if that’s not a reason to be grateful, and celebrate then I don’t know what is. Furthermore I’ll probably get some golden nuggets from your training tomorrow that will give my business the kick it needs. What’s not to be thankful for.

    BTW I’ve always felt that success or not is by each individual’s definition. Thanks for sharing your visit.


  • roman


    Thank you for that wonderful experience here in our country…
    Indeed, Filipino hospitality is supreme..I think i,ve finally found my mentor to teach me IM. One, who appreciates the simple pleasures of life, without being a so-called”GURU”. Most importantly, one who doesn’t compare. A cool dude, who enjoys “life to the fullest.”

    Indeed, this country is poverty-stricken. But, our people are relentless, coping with the struggles of daily life. They have beautiful smiles, notwithstanding, personal/ family problems.

    I just wish and hope that the second time you visit our country, drop me an email or update your subscribers, maybe we could see you in person and shake your hand, too. Also, you could tag-along buddies or friends when you visit the next time around. Paging Mr. Travis Sago annd Jason Drohn…lol.

    Thanks for promoting our country…

    God Bless…

  • Yasmin

    I really enjoyed reading this post Ryan! Glad to know that you loved the Philippines and our culture. Made me proud being a Filipino.Hope you will visit Davao soon!

    • Thanks Yasmin! Great to hear from you!

  • A very helpful post. Keep it up pal!

  • Love2Observe

    This was a great share and really appreciate it. I am here also in Cebu City and have traveled several other islands as well. Philippines culture has so many wonderful endearing qualities.

    But also it can be a very judgmental, materialistic, racist, uninformed gossipy culture. They know it and anyone here longer than a few weeks will know it as well.

    Placing values on how light your skin is if you are a province girl or not..I mean some of the most silly things I have ever observed. Skin whitening products on the shelves.

    And yes if you are handsome you will get attention but so will an old ugly man because of MONEY. Make no mistake about it that it motivates alot of people here.

    Walking down the street picking your nose or anywhere for that matter? How can they not know that is perceived nasty?

    If you went to establishment wait for a person to put their chair back to the table once they leave? ZERO.

    So many little things lacking in manners. And just basic sex education? Forget it. I will not even mention what most the women here think would get them pregnant.

    So that is my little rant but at the end of this Rant sandwich I will end on positive note as I began.

    I have seen a Filipino actually loan a foreigner money in need!

    Filipinos are the most accommodating people even if they have very little….now sometimes if they pay for a bottle of rum they do expect you to buy the next one but that is just small things.

    The many negative stereotypes that American Hollywood goes out its way to portray minorities does work…especially here.

    If a person goes around expecting to be slighted….it will happen…so just suck it up and try to be positive.

    Yes people will cut in line and act like you are invisible and give you a special foreigner rate over a local but its all still worth it to me to be in a place where you see such hardworking people that remain positive no matter what they have to endure.

    Force yourself to smile here for no reason and this country will give you a great big hug.

    OK just like to keep it real…I am here for a reason…I love it..its not perfect but the closest to it I can find.

    God Bless.

  • hi ryan…great insight…i am very appreciative of how you have presented your trip in my country…i used to be your member in the club, wanting to start a home based work since i wanted to stop for my 13 year long work onboard the cruise ship…i stopped being active in your club for a while coz internet access is verrryy expensive onboard cruise ships…now that finally i am going home and starting a new life in my country, hopefully you can help me how to start from scratch with the kind of work that you do…where and how to start…i know it will take a lot of hard work and learning…i just want to ask you to be my mentor….from the blogs that i read from you, i know you are a kind hearted person, i hope you can read this and give me some advise…i don’t know where to start…thank you and God bless…..

  • hi I love your site a lot, please keep up this!

  • Enjoyed reading through this, very good stuff, thankyou.

  • Naturalny link

    Awesome. Keep writing.

  • stron katalog

    To be honest that is one of the best blogs I’ve read.

  • Rudy Venn

    Many thanks so much! Which is really pleasant to hear!