Do what you love. Do it often.

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Five years ago (more or less), someone gave me a printout of The Holstee Manifesto. ¬†I’ve lived by this manifesto even before it became popularized and commoditized, but it did eloquently express how I think passion should be brought to life and how life should be well-lived.

I’ve always been a believer of following one’s dreams. I wear my passion on my sleeves and I wear it proudly.

So despite my work frenzy, I painstakingly allot time and effort to do things I’m passionate about, no matter how inundated I get, courtesy of my 9-9 job.

Passion and purpose are things that we should all live for. I don’t think I will ever stop pursuing mine.

Whatever yours is, it’s never too late to run after it. If you don’t know just yet, perhaps it’s time to figure it out. ūüôā

Embracing Change

Bella Expatria turned a year old this month. Although I wish I could have written more or I could have shared more, time will always be my adversary in terms of priorities and my long list of to-dos. That’s a given life truth for me.

I wish I had the luxury of even half a day’s worth of just being in a quiet, relaxing corner, armed with a cup of piping hot brew, while in the zone typing away my ideas and everything that I want to say. Truth is, I have to steal these moments.

This Bella made it to a year of writing and blogging. I have to be okay in celebrating this minuscule milestone, because finding the time to do it is already a feat in itself, let alone sustaining it for a year!

Celebrating this anniversary also made me look back and reflect on what has happened. It seemed like a lot has changed, but at the same time, it also somehow feels that nothing did. Quite the paradox, isn’t it?

For the past year, I’ve experienced a whirlwind of changes in my career, my life and my friendships that spun me in a frenzy. I forced myself to keep track and keep up, sometimes at the expense of my health and my sanity.

After everything has been said and done, it was as if I’ve traveled so far and I’ve accomplished so much only to go back to where I started a year ago.

In my head, I’m actually asking this question: “Universe, are you fuckin’ kidding me?

So is there are lesson to take from a year’s worth of journey?

I’ve been an expat for an accumulated total of 4 years now and I’ve been in Jakarta this time around for almost 2 years, yet I feel like I’m still in the beginning of things. ¬†I’ve experienced highs and lows and once again, highs of expat living. Just like any other chosen lifestyle, it has formed its own cycle that just needs riding through.

If there are lessons to be had for me in embracing change, or wading through it for the most part, I can summarize them in 5 learnings that I wanted to share. You don’t even need to be an expat to have these realizations. Personally, they were just more weighted for me because these reminders anchored me in moments of doubt:

1. Let passion and purpose become your truth north.¬†I will change roles, I will change companies and I will most likely change countries in a few years’ time but my passion and purpose as to why I do the things I do are very clear to me.

Perhaps this also comes with age and maturity. Being an aimless wanderer sounded cool in your twenties, but too careless and directionless in your thirties. At some point in time, everyone has to do some adulting.

My family and my career are the two main reasons why I’m an expat. Arshad and I pretty much carved our lives the way we did because we want to pursue our careers without compromising our marriage and our time together.

This is also the reason why we both chose to be in Southeast Asia. We want to be near Manila and KL, so we can pretty much fly in and out to see our family. The choice was driven by our priority: family.

2. People and relationships should be on top of the chain in terms of priorities.¬†Sometimes, we get side-tracked by long hours at work or we’ve got one project too many that we take our relationships and friendships for granted.

I’ve been guilty of the same thing. There were those long days that made me skip my phone calls to Manila or made me take a rain check when I’m just too exhausted to see friends.I assess myself every now and then when I’m becoming a repeat offender. I make it a point to keep in touch with friends and when I’m back in Manila or in KL, no matter how tired I feel, I go out of my way to see the people who matter.

The family and friends in your life will keep you sane when a tide of change hits you. ¬†In all the relocations I’ve made in my life, keeping a consistent and reliable circle of friends kept me grounded and made me feel rock-steady. Here’s the thing though: if you want to have reliable friends who will tide you over the changes in your life, you have to be a reliable friend yourself.

Even if you are far away, make sure you are present in your family and friends’ lives. Remember birthdays and special occasions. Pick the phone up and just make that damn phone call! IDD rates have severely gone down. Hell, we barely need IDD since we’ve got all the OTT platforms to make that video call.

3. Prioritize.¬†Which takes me to my next lesson learned: prioritize the people and things that matter. An expat’s life often requires a lot of traveling and being away from family and friends. This distance also means limited time, and limited time will require you to carefully select and schedule the circle of friends you get to meet every time you come home and visit.

This situation also makes you take a closer look on your relationships and compels you to shortlist the people who really matter. Although it may sound limiting at first, it becomes a filter on who really are your valued relationships.

At the same time, it matters to spend time with people who you become friends with in your host country, because you never know when things will change again – either for them or for you. Likely, you also keep an expat circle who have similar circumstances like yours. Most of the expat stints are within a 2-year range that comes with a renewable contract.

I’ve seen friends come and go, move from our host country to the next one. I’ve attended their send-off parties or at some point in time, they threw mine. The friends we’ve made will come and go – literally. If keeping friendships and valued relationships is a priority for you, make time while they’re still there.

4. Have a grateful heart. ¬†A life of gratitude is a life well-lived, for gratitude’s prerequisite is a positive life perspective. Being in a high-pressure industry and job,¬†I feel a lot of stress and I certainly get a lot of frustrations. What helps me get through long days is counting the accomplishments and blessings that I have – big or small.

I will never have everything. No one’s supposed to. It shouldn’t stop you from being grateful. Admittedly, I forget this because I’m always too eager to accomplish things. I get frustrated when things don’t turn out the way I expected it to because I worked hard for them.

Arshad is better in doing this and he is my constant reminder that hey, you cannot imagine how many other people think how awesome your life is and here you are, sulking because you experienced a setback.

Every time I feel that I’m wallowing too much on my frustrations, I begin counting my blessings. I have yet to perfect this, but I’m learning.

5. Emotional resilience.¬†There are certain things that are just beyond my control, no matter how hard I try. ¬†What sucks is sometimes, although you’ve done everything you can, there’s still a lot of external forces beyond you and things just don’t work out the way you want it to.

An expat’s life will always be a sea of change – career, relationships, location. There will always be a curve ball. Grit and emotional resilience help me stay the course even in the toughest days. And emotional resilience doesn’t just mean being tough. It means managing the way you feel about frustrations, failures, unexpected changes and how you cope with them. Emotional resilience is about having that ability to keep your feelings in check so you can adjust swiftly, or even change your plans again.

Expat living is not easy, but at the same time, I can say it’s one of the best decisions that I’ve made: to leave my country and forge my career path somewhere else.¬†Life, whether you are an expat or not, will always be a trail mix of the good and the bad. I choose to see what’s beautiful, to focus on the potentials and the opportunities, instead of revel in minuscule defeat and setbacks.

In a way, my learnings about embracing change in the context of expat living is to keep an open mind and to always be positive. As clich√© as it may sound, the only thing that’s constant in an expat’s life is the one thing that most of us are either averse to or uncomfortable with: change.

 

OMG: The Great Jakarta Sale is here!

A public service announcement to shopaholics like moi in Jakartown: the much-awaited Great Jakarta Sale is here!

The 9th Great Jakarta Sale (GJS) kicked off last June 2 (Friday) throughout the city. ¬†Scheduled to last until the 12th of July, we’ve got more than a month to shop ’til we drop. Take note that brands discount up to 70%!

One of the most exciting parts of the GJS is the midnight sale, which will be conducted alternately by malls. Here’s the schedule all over the city:

The Great Jakarta Sale map

Central Jakarta

  • ¬†¬†¬† Grand Indonesia Shopping Town, June 16-17
  • ¬†¬†¬† Plaza Atrium, June 17
  • ¬†¬†¬† Senayan City, June 16-18
  • ¬†¬†¬† Plaza Indonesia, June 16-17

South Jakarta

  • ¬†¬†¬† Transmart Cilandak, June 10-11 and June 23-24
  • ¬†¬†¬† Gandaria City, June 10
  • ¬†¬†¬† Kalibata City Square, June 10
  • ¬†¬†¬† Pejaten Village, June 10 and 17
  • ¬†¬†¬† Lippo Mall Kemang, June 10
  • ¬†¬†¬† Plaza Semanggi, June 16-17
  • ¬†¬†¬† Plaza Blok M, June 17
  • ¬†¬†¬† Kota Kasablanka, June 17
  • ¬†¬†¬† Lotte Shopping Avenue, June 17-18

West Jakarta

  • ¬†¬†¬† Central Park Neo Soho, June 10-11
  • ¬†¬†¬† Mal Taman Anggrek, June 17
  • ¬†¬†¬† Mal Taman Palem, June 17
  • ¬†¬†¬† Lippo Mall Puri, June 10

North Jakarta

  • ¬†¬†¬† Mall Kelapa Gading, June 10 and 17
  • ¬†¬†¬† Baywalk Mall, Sabtu, June 10
  • ¬†¬†¬† Mall Of Indonesia, June 10
  • ¬†¬†¬† PIK Avenue, June 10 and 17
  • ¬†¬†¬† Emporium Pluit Mall, June 17-18
  • ¬†¬†¬† Mal Artha Gading, June 17

East Jakarta

  • ¬†¬†¬† Lippo Plaza Kramat Jati, June 10 and 17
  • ¬†¬†¬† Cibubur Junction, June 16-17
  • ¬† ¬†¬†Arion Mall, June 17
  • ¬†¬†¬† Lippo Plaza Kramat Jati, June 17
  • ¬†¬†¬† Mall Bassura, June 17

Aside from the malls, another one of my much-awaited event is the pre-loved luxury brands sale in Kemang. This year, Colony 6 Kemang is hosting it from the 13th until the 17th of June. Guaranteed authentic luxury bags including Hermes, Chanel, Goyard, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Gucci, Christian Dior, Givenchy, YSL, etc. can be had during this event. I just saw that some of the reputable Instagram sellers selling mint to excellent condition bags that I follow and consign my bags to will be participating in this event. This is definitely in my to-do list this week.

Colony 6 Kemang Brand Sale

Aside from shopping, there is also a blood donation drive in the malls during this time. And while the shopaholics spend, they can also win shopping vouchers, motorbikes and TV sets totaling Rp400 million worth.

For more information, visit the official site The Great Jakarta Sale.

Colette & Lola: Of Sweet Endings and Easy Weekends

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Colette & Lola’s small cakes

Manila has spoiled me with a plethora of good cake shops and dessert places. Like I said in my previous blog post, I wasn’t really a dessert person, but I know how to appreciate a macaron or a sliver of cake…or two.

Back home, I never clamored for cakes since cake shops were just everywhere! There were even pastry chefs who didn’t have their own shops but they have their own Facebook and Instagram accounts. You can just order from them and they can deliver right at your doorstep.

It was a struggle to find a decent cake shop – dessert place in Jakarta. The cakes that I’ve tried in the past were either too sweet, too dry or too hard that you can throw it like a block and it won’t even disintegrate. Even the desserts in the usual hotel lounges and restaurants were blah.

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Rainbow Cake

So I never really bothered for cakes in Jakartown anymore, until Tita Liza, our UP Alumni President here, brought us a Colette & Lola rainbow cake and a red velvet cake for two of our UP meetings. The rainbow cake looked so pretty I didn’t want to slice it. It was light and not too sweet, but it wasn’t a favorite of mine.

In our Induction of Officers at the Philippine Embassy, Tita Liza brought a red velvet cake (see my last blog post). I was hooked from there!

The red velvet cake was light and the frosting was creamy and flavorful, but not too sweet. Yep, I did the unthinkable: I had a second serving!

Both cakes have piqued my interest so one fine Sunday afternoon, after a soccer event, I asked ze Hubs to take me to Colette & Lola in Senopati since it was nearby. The shop looked very dainty and colorful, which reminded me of my daughter Abby. She will love this shop!

It wasn’t big but it was cozy – the chairs and tables were designed to make you stay, enjoy every bite of your cake while sipping a mug of their creamy latte’ and reading your latest novel. They also had merchandise for sale: book bags, notebooks, pillow cases and aprons.

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Arshad & I at Colette & Lola, Senopati

Arshad and I tried two of their small cakes and they didn’t disappoint. I tried their Operaccino while Arshad had the tiny version of the Lola Bar.

Both cakes were moist with just the right amount of sweetness. The Lola Bar had peanut butter in it too, which can be perfectly paired with an espressso or a tall Americano.

The Operaccino had the right amount of chocolate and caffeine. It was good, but red velvet remains to be my favorite. I wanted to order the red velvet cake again but only the big version was available.

The staff told us that we should try the Ovo Milo next time, since this is one of their bestsellers. I intend to try their macarons, too.

Their big cakes are beautiful, to say the least. Now I know where to get pretty and tasty cakes for my friends’ birthday celebrations.

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Colette & Lola’s big cakes, but no hearts for me, please!

Colette & Lola delivers in the Jakarta area and it even has an online shop! For their hotline, you can call +621-2900-7997. They deliver for free if the purchase is above Rp350k.

Colette & Lola is definitely a 5 stars experience that is a must-try!

5-out-of-5

Bandung on my mind: the old and the new

When my friends back in Manila ask me about Bandung, I usually say: “Bandung is like our version of Tagaytay here.” Although this may not be 100% accurate and it doesn’t do justice to Bandung, I need something to anchor Bandung on so that my friends can visualize how it’s like.

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For the longer version of it though:

Bandung is the capital of West Java, roughly 140 kilometers away from southeast of Jakarta. Again, in Manila reference, the distance is like 3 times of Tagaytay, one way.  In terms of population, it;s the third largest city by population in Indonesia.

Whole year round, it has a cooler temperature compared to other parts of Indonesia (thus, my Tagaytay metaphor). The city lies on a river basin, surrounded by volcanoes and tea plantation. In the olden days, the Dutch immigrants planned to move the colonial capital from Jakarta (formerly Batavia) to Bandung (formerly Bandoeng). With this plan came the blossoming of restaurants, cafes, hotels and European-inspired shops. With this, the Dutch nicknamed Bandung as Paris Van Java (The Paris of Java).

I dare not romanticize Bandung this way, because like it or not, what used to be an idyllic place surrounded by lush greenery and flora has become a nightmare of traffic gridlock.

This is not to say though, that I have stopped loving Bandung. There is a workaround to the traffic. For me, I go to Bandung for 3 main reasons:

  1. Factory outlet shopping 
  2. Culinary exploration 
  3. Relax amidst nature and fresh air 

Last weekend’s trip to Bandung was a combination of business and pleasure. I had to do a market visit and an on-ground activation in Paris Van Java mall. I took that as an opportunity to spend the weekend there as well and check out what’s new. Since I had limited time, I mainly wanted to just do a quick R&R and check out the new restaurants. Based on this very recent visit, here are my ¬†recommendations and new finds:

1.   Padma Hotel Bandung Рconsistent in their service and always reliable. If you are looking for a place that has everything because you just want to hibernate, then Padma Hotel it is. Situated right in the middle of lush greenery  and colorful flora, Padma Hotel is the perfect getaway.

 

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The Padma Hotel Bandung Lobby

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View of the playground at Padma Hotel

Complete with amenities, it has a massive gym, sprawling gardens, pools, a hiking trail, a playground for children with a small petting zoo, spa and several hidden corners where you can just sit and read a book.

They have yoga sessions by the pool side at 7am during the weekends and activities for children.

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I particularly liked that the gardens and the yards are well-maintained. Every morning, I saw gardeners cutting and watering the plants.

The restaurant’s view is spectacular. It’s located above the green valley, overlooking trees and bright flowers, giving you a whiff of open, fresh air. The buffet spread has a lof of selections, I don’t even know where to begin! I fixated on the local fare, and I liked their lontong, mie goreng and local pancake.

2. The Valley Cafe and Restaurant – has an amazing view of Bandung. I read about an Indonesian blogger rave about it so it made my list of new places to visit this time around. The place is massive in terms of seating capacity and its come-hither factor is its unobstructed view of the city.

When it comes to food, The Valley offers a wide range of cuisines: Japanese, Thai, Italian, American and Indonesian. The exhaustiveness of the menu sacrificed the authenticity, though. I ordered unagi with rice and salad and although the eel was very fresh and tasty, it didn’t taste “Japanese enough” for me. I was so hungry that time (it was 5pm) and it was my first decent meal of the day so I couldn’t care less.

The Valley made it up for its beautiful view and surprisingly – cheap wine! They also didn’t have an exhaustive list of alcoholic drinks, but Jacobs Creek (a safe choice) can be had for Rp285k! Cheap, in Indonesia standards.

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3. Sierra Cafe’ and Lounge – not far from The Valley is the Sierra Cafe’ lunch, also with an idyllic view of the Bandung hills. Again, another massive restaurant in Dago Pakar. The restaurant is massive! It can accommodate 700 clients.

The menu looks interesting but I was too full by then that I only had space for coffee and dessert. The latte and mascarpone with cream as a combination was perfect for me! I’m definitely bookmarking Sierra Cafe’ to try their mains the next time I visit the Dago Pakar area.

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Mascarpone at Sierra Cafe’

4. Yoforia Yogurt Studio – I’m a sucker for ads (What a paradox for a marketing executive, I know!)

yoforia_wmI saw Yoforia’s¬†Coffee Meets Yogurt¬†add inside Paris Van Java mall and I immediately hunted it down.

I ordered their Yofoccino at Rp35k a cup. It’s a delicious combination of plain yogurt + espresso + caramel. Not bad if you are looking for a cold drink with a slight caffeine kick.

5.¬†Pop-up markets and local hipster brands –¬†last but not least, and in fact my most favorite discovery in Bandung, is the proliferation of local, hipster brands that sell unique, beautifully crafted items. I’m a sucker for pop-up markets. They offer a lot of things that you can’t buy from the big brands in malls. Although I like designer shoes, bags and watches, I also like wearing items that can’t be had from the popular brands. In my last trip, I discovered 3 brands that hail from Bandung: Suvit.id, Chillax Friday and Fawn and Luna.

I bought a pair of Bohemian sandals from Suvit.id and some weekend book bags from Chillax Friday. I bookmarked Fawn and Luna as supplier for quality notebooks and sketch books for my artist friends because I love notebooks with great quality leather and acid-free paper where I can draw, sketch and write smoothly!

Overall, I have to say that Bandung is still very much worth the trip and the traffic. Given a 3-day weekend, I don’t mind doing a road trip to smell the fresh air, try local food and discover more local brands! That for me is a perfect Bandung weekend.

Chinese New Year in Malaysia

Happy Chinese new year 2017 with golden rooster , animal symbol of new year 2017

Happy Chinese new year 2017 with golden rooster , animal symbol of new year 2017

Late last night, I flew in to KL, Malaysia to celebrate Chinese New Year here with family and friends. ¬†It will be 3 days of food and drinks… and more food and drinks (Good luck to me losing the additional pounds from last Christmas!).

Tonight, we will be having the family reunion dinner at an Uncle’s home. It will be my first time to meet some of the cousins, too. The rest of the weekend will be spent with friends who I haven’t seen since November and a Sunday brunch with Mum and Dad (in-laws).

Malaysia is my 3rd most frequently visited country every year, as we come back to visit family and friends in Kuala Lumpur (KL) and Petaling Jaya (PJ). Our family and friends are mostly in PJ, so much of the activities this weekend will be here.

Aside from the CNY celebration and catching up, my one and only shopping mission for this trip is to visit BMS Organics, a restaurant cum grocery where I buy my organic supplements and organic make-up. Yes, they have organic make-up, since BMS is one of the official distributors of Benecos.

One thing I love about KL and PJ is that both cities are a haven for organic stores, produce and cosmetics! I will write about this later on, but for now, time to hit the road for a BMS lunch and splurge on my lipsticks!

Happy Year of the Rooster, everyone! Love and light this coming year!

Batik love

tjut-in-batik-dressFine. I admit it. I have batik envy. I’m very jealous that Indonesians have this fashion heritage that they can wear on a daily basis, for almost any occasion. The culture highly encourages it, too.

Every Monday, my office requires us to wear batik clothes – a requirement that I’m more than happy to comply with. Like what I said in one of my previous posts, my batik addiction is quite infamous in my circle of friends.

Batik is one of Indonesia’s highly developed art forms. The word was probably derived from the Javanese language:¬†amba ¬†(to write) and¬†titik¬†(dot).

Batik is a designed fabric wherein the colors of the textiles are dyed and wax is applied to the parts that are left undyed. Drawings and embellishments are added by hand or by stamping patterns on them.

There are also different kinds of batik. When an Indonesian looks at a batik print, they would know whether it came from Solo, Yogyakarta, Java, Madura and so on.

If you are a foreigner visiting or living in Indonesia, you will definitely come across batik and experience it, as the fabric is used for almost everything: clothes, scarves, bags, slippers, table runners, bed covers, bookmarks, etc. Name it – batik design and fabric are both integrated into Indonesians’ lifestyle and fashion. It’s a pleasing sensory assault, as the multitude of designs can be visually overwhelming.

Indonesians wear batik for almost any occasion: daily wear, office clothes, for cocktails,
weddings and other special events. I tend to do the same thing, although I prefer the modern prints. I even packed my batik pants and dresses and brought them back with me to Manila for the holidays. I wore all my batik culottes and aladdin pants over the Christmas season. It gave me that nice feeling that I will never come across anyone wearing the same thing.

At the same time, most of the Christmas presents I distributed to my Manila friends were made of batik: scarves, bags and wallets. The prints are just too beautiful not to share.

Batik is one of Indonesia’s art and heritage. Indonesians wear and use their batik with pride. The lesson learned here is that they managed to make it mainstream so much so that it’s part of their daily lives.

Yes, jealous, I’m very jealous because how I wish Filipino fabrics and textile are not just used during Miss Universe. I wish Mindanao’s T’nalak and Yakan can be more mainstream and sold as RTWs. I also wish us Pinoys can be more proud of our clothes and heritage and that there’s a local designer who can take it into our department stores or partner with local brands to sell them.

But I’m also very glad that I get to wear my colorful batik garb in the office, at parties and events. Hell yeah, I’m buying some more (much to the chagrin of my househelp who complains that I don’t have enough hangers already!).

Buying batik also helps the local industry. I go to both big brands (which are also local, by the way) and online sellers. For the big brands in malls:

  1. Bateeq – available in most malls in Jakarta. I usually visit the one in Kuningan City and Plaza Indonesia.
  2. Batik Keris – available in major Jakarta malls. They have batik clothes, scarves, bags, and home furnishings.

For the online sellers, my favorites include:

nan-elok

  1. Nan Elok – allows me to customize my colors and my cut. Plus, her pre-orders arrive fast!
  2. MyBatiq – is reasonably priced with a very friendly seller. She has a lot of variety when it comes to culottes and aladdin pants.
  3. Batik Amarillis – has quirky designs with a hint of Dutch influence. They don’t have shops in the malls but they have a studio in Tangerang and they have pop-up stores all around Jakarta.

The rest of my everyday wear come from Bellagio Mall and other pop-up markets I frequently visit during the weekend.

This year, I’d like to get to know the batik heritage some more, to the point that I know the difference between a Pekalongan batik and a Palembang batik. I’m sure my Indonesian friends won’t mind teaching me, or better yet, shopping with me for these!

Here are more links about batik as Indonesia’s heritage, its types and variations:

 

 

What’s in a name?

bellaexpatria_fb-photoToday, I finally decided to nail down the official name for my blog.

For bloggers who’ve been around for a long time, I’m sure they can relate to this debacle. Truth is, ¬†nothing is original in the blog sphere anymore. Most of the good names are taken and the domain names (especially the .com and .net) are already long booked.

It all seems so simple and shallow, but everything is dependent on the blog name. EVERYTHING. The domain name you will buy, your site’s SEO, your profiles and Gravatar.

I have not started integrating my profiles and accounts, for this very simple yet complicated reason. I haven’t promoted my blog either, nor have I created a Facebook page until this afternoon, until I was finally sure about my blog name.

So here it goes.

Bella Expatria. For all the women travelers. For all my fellow expats. For us, glorified OFWs. For all my fellow lakwatcheros and lakwatcheras. I want to share my stories: the fun, the adventure and the sometimes awkward and embarrassing moments of trying to assimilate to different cultures.

Hope you guys continue to read on.  =)

For my fellow bloggers, blogger wannabes and to those who are just starting, I found these tips quite helpful:

  1. Creative Blog Names
  2. How to come up with a perfect blog name
  3. Finding inspiration for your blog name