Travel Tips from the Guy Who’s Been to Over 100 Countries

Filipino film and video content producer Kit Reyes on his favorite country, under-the-radar places to visit and the number one mistake people make when they travel.  

In Morocco. Photo courtesy of Kit Reyes.

 

Depending on your reference, film and video content producer Kit Reyes has been to 112 to 117 countries. The app Been, which counts places like the Vatican as a country, calculates that Kit has been to 117; if you go by the United Nations list, Kit estimates that he has checked off 112 or 113 out of 193.

Whatever the exact number, there’s no denying that he has been to more places than most people — thanks in large part to his career. “I would say 99.99% of my assignments are always abroad,” says Kit. When he does find himself away for work, he tries to visit other places close by for leisure.

Kit, who is a dual citizen of the Philippines and Canada, is currently holed up in the Greater Toronto Area. He grew up in Manila, moved to Canada after graduating from high school and made Belgium his base when he started working. In 2012, he chose Manila as a base but was still living largely out of a suitcase – that is, until the pandemic started. “This is the longest wherein my passport hasn’t been stamped in the last 20 years!” he says with a chuckle.

We asked Kit to tell us a little about his travels, recommend off-the-beaten-path places that Filipinos should see and share some of his thoughts on travel in this day and age.

 

Q: Among all the countries you’ve visited, which one is your favorite?

Kit: My favorite country in the world is Colombia. I am absolutely in love with that country! I went there for the first time in 2003…and I actually had no expectations about the country… All I thought was it’s full of drug cartels, full of cocaine, but the women are beautiful and the coffee’s amazing. It’s one of those countries which you feel has an element of danger — it’s a little bit edgy. And when I got there, I was absolutely amazed.

 

In Colombia. Photo courtesy of Kit Reyes.

 

Colombians are in a way very similar to Filipinos. It’s a very Latin culture so they’re very open, they’re very friendly and they are just all about living the life, and that’s kind of like my motto (laughs). It is also very beautiful. It’s been blessed with the most beautiful landscapes: you have the Caribbean, you have the Atlantic, you have the Pacific. It has mountains, it has jungles, it has beautiful beaches, it has modern cities. Now it’s the hip place to go to but when I went there almost 20 years ago it was still quite dangerous in terms of its reputation. When I was there actually a building was bombed just a few blocks from my hotel! But the people were so nice, they welcomed me, they invited me to their homes… They’re very passionate people. It’s part of their tourism slogan: Colombia es pasion, Colombia is passion. And they really have that; they have a passion for life, for music, for love, for drama, for everything. It really surprised me and it’s just really a magical place and sometimes I feel like I’m a Colombian at heart.

 

Q: What are some under-the-radar, budget-friendly places that Filipinos should consider visiting?

Kit: Myanmar. That’s so close. It’s part of ASEAN, so [Filipinos] don’t need a visa. It’s beautiful. The food is a little bit underwhelming but other than that it’s got beautiful temples. It’s a country that’s been closed for decades — just 10 years ago no one could get in… It’s also dirt cheap… It’s great for backpackers but I don’t think Myanmar is great for couples on a honeymoon (laughs).

Here’s the thing: these countries are changing fast. Places like Japan, that’s it, it’s like end-of-history status. Japan now will be like what Japan is 20 years from now, it’s just going to be just a little more modern. But Myanmar is disappearing — old, faded buildings are all going to be gone so now is a good time to go… well, not now, but when the pandemic is over!

In Myanmar. Photo courtesy of Kit Reyes.

 

Other places that they can check out that are under the radar but might still be reasonably priced: Georgia and Armenia in the Caucasus. I know a lot of Filipinos go or work in Dubai so they can easily visit those countries and I think you don’t need a visa.

And one more thing and I myself am guilty of this… none of us really know anything about Indonesia outside of Bali and maybe even Jakarta. I mean this is the country that’s closest to us in terms of race. Probably the closest to us in terms of language, the closest to us in terms of the food, in terms of the culture in general, this is like what we could have been if we weren’t colonized by the Spanish. It’s the largest archipelago in the world… and there are so many places there and no one goes. But maybe because we’re also kind of similar — “Ah, might as well go to Palawan, it’s nicer, it’s closer” — but I think it’s very underrated.

And maybe Borneo as well — no one goes. When they go to Malaysia, they always go to KL but no one goes to a place like Sarawak, Kuching or Kota Kinabalu and Sabah. And I think those are very, very good destinations to go to because the food is amazing.

 

***

The biggest mistake a lot of people do is they over-plan.
I’ve had the advantage of being able to travel already way before there was Instagram, way before there was internet.
I just read a guidebook, and that’s it.

***

 

Q: What’s the biggest mistake people make when they travel?

Kit: Overthinking. Some people see travel as very utilitarian. It’s about getting from point A to point B: at 9 a.m. we have to see the Eiffel Tower, at 11 a.m. we have to go into the Louvre and then at 1 p.m. we have to go into this. The biggest mistake a lot of people do is they over-plan. I’ve had the advantage of being able to travel already way before there was Instagram, way before there was internet. I just read a guidebook, and that’s it.

 

I think people should give themselves a little bit of an element of surprise, still. Go into countries without any strong and concrete expectations because the mistake I think many can people do when they travel is they have these high expectations that leave no room for serendipitous moments or spontaneous moments. The most memorable trips for me are those wherein I had experiences which I otherwise would never had because I planned it. I just wander and then all of a sudden I find this restaurant and I enjoy it. I walk into this bar and I meet people and then we become friends. Travel is not a checklist… It [has become] a schedule and it doesn’t give you any room for other experiences. So, I think that people should take a lot of these recommendations with a grain of salt and also just follow their own sense of smell, follow their own instincts.

I think a very important point to make is not many Filipinos can travel because it’s expensive. I know many Filipinos would save five years just to have that one trip in California and then they would spend all that money to go to Disneyland and then they go to Universal Studios. I don’t want to judge the people who plan their travels. It’s up to them, it’s their money, they can do whatever they want. If they want to do that regimented, military-style schedule… that’s fine. But I think that travel should be spontaneous and unexpected and that humble curiosity is more important.

Now, a lot of people travel for the ‘Gram. Everything now looks the same when I see travel photos. It’s never an individual travel experience, it’s more like a postcard. Even the composition and even the way they’re looking at the sun is the same. Travel is not about that. Your pictures are not really what you’re going to remember. What you have to do is you really have to talk to the people, enjoy the food. I’m not a sightseer so maybe that’s why I’ll never understand the people who do these types of photos. But I think that young people now want to have that perfect picture… I think that it’s a waste of time because every minute, 10 minutes trying to get that shot or that selfie is 10 minutes in Japan that you could be doing something else, exploring.

 

Q: Your life sounds like a dream. Are there any downsides?

Kit: There’s a big price to pay for the life I choose. But keep in mind that I’m saying this based on what people think is normal, because in the general sense of the word, my life is not normal.

One of the downsides is you don’t really have a concept of a home… You lose a little bit of that grounding. I’m already 43, I’ve never owned a home, I’ve never owned a car in my life. I’m not married, I don’t have kids, I don’t have a very good retirement plan, I don’t have the healthiest credit score. All of these things (laughs) which people think you should have, I don’t, but you know what? It’s okay.

Another problem is you don’t necessarily have strong ties with people. You’re far away from your family all the time. But again, everything I just said, there’s also a positive and that’s how I see it. I can belong anywhere. I can stay anywhere and that’s one of the good things about it.

But the most difficult thing about it [is] probably… not having some sort of stability, not just in terms of what you have but also in terms of a job. I’m a freelancer and you can’t really make plans for the future… I’ve missed so many of my friends’ weddings (laughs) because I’m halfway across the world!

But don’t get me wrong, it’s still a dream job for me and I’m glad to be paid for what I really love to do and to be able to travel and see the world. I love it. But in order for me to do that I also have to realize that there are sacrifices. And I’m willing to make those sacrifices.

  

Q: Any final travel tips?

Kit: I encourage people to travel at least once a year. I feel like travel is always linked to your current state of mind. I will never travel the world the same way I did when I was 22. Part of the reason Colombia is my favorite country in the world is when I went there, I was just blown away but it was also because I was 26 and it was a country I needed to be at that exact point in my life. So, never wait — every time you travel, it’s always an amazing experience because you yourself are also changing as a person.

 

You can follow Kit on Instagram.

Written by

Tisha Alvarez

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