Traveling solo, surfing and getting lost in a mountain with no phone and wallet in Tokyo, where people don’t speak English, sounds dreadful. However, the terrifying story of Traveling Petite Girl does not stop there.
In addition to the series of unfortunate events, she was afraid of the mere possibility that her tour bus would leave her due to her absence, not mentioning that she was six hours away from her hotel – all in the dead of winter.
Jojo Aquino is a blogger who had been to 18 countries, and she shares guides and tips that encourage women to travel, live on the go, and step outside their comfort zones on her blog and YouTube channel.
The 27-year-old studied at Dominican Child Development Center, went to Bishop Baumgartner Memorial Catholic School, grew up in Manila, and attended college in Seattle and San Francisco.
“I first got into blogging when I was 13 years old, back when Xanga was the platform. It just seemed like the popular thing to do so I did it,” she said.
Since then, Aquino switched between different topics from personal to beauty to lifestyle to photography to travel. When she was certain of her niche, she started Traveling Petite Girl when she was 25 years old.
“Before I began my travel blog, I had accumulated quite a bit of traveling experience. Due to that, family and friends would come to me for travel advice,” Aquino said. “I’m a photographer and have a love for writing so I started a blog which served as an outlet for creating, connecting with others and traveling.”
This summer, she traveled to Italy, Switzerland and France. Next month, she will travel to Manila, Pampanga and Siargao in Philippines. Her ideal working environment is sitting next to a window, on a comfy chair with a sturdy desk, a powerful laptop, a bottomless mug of tea, and a blanket across her lap.
“I got hired as a TV host who travels in and around the Philippines. A Guam-based TV station was looking for someone with travel experience to host the show, and they came across my Instagram page when someone they knew, who followed me, recommended me,” the vagabond stated.
Right now, the 101.9FM is currently taking the next steps to air what Aquino filmed. So far, they had featured Pampanga, Iloilo and a cruise from Manila to Vietnam and China with Star Cruises.
Running a blog is definitely the kind of work that requires patience, and Aquino is really glad she continually worked on it since the establishment of Traveling Petite Girl. According to her, the messages and emails she receives from her readers and viewers motivate her to continue her blog.
“It tells me I’m headed in the right direction, toward the goals that I have in mind for my blog.”
As a traveler, Aquino’s special talent is packing her whole life into a suitcase and a backpack in 30 minutes, leaving without a trace. She adds, “I can also pack myself into a luggage.”
According to Traveling Petite Girl, she took the initiative in creating her platform because there seemed to be a demand for travel advice with wanting to live a lifestyle that was inspiring to others. In her blogging journey, she had met interesting and famous people when she took the role as a TV host.
“I’ve met well-known people, like mayors and other interesting personalities. What they all have in common is their positivity and freedom to be weird like me!”
Being a travel blogger has its own perks — from the free flights and accommodations, according to Aquino. But unless she makes connections or impact people, it’s not fulfilling.
"I’m one of those people who highly value deep conversations and connections over anything," she said.
As a wanderer, there seems to be no end in moving from bed to another one every destination. Just like most people, Aquino prefers to sleep on her own bed, despite her fondness of swimming in hotel bedsheets.
“Hotel beds don’t have the homey flavor my own bed has. I don’t really have concerns about sleeping in beds outside of my own,” Aquino stated. “I just discovered I can sleep on a mat in a matter of a few minutes. What I don’t like is sleeping in the middle seat of an airplane. That’s tricky.”
An adventurous woman who is keen on a variety of beaches, Aquino stated that what makes a beach more beautiful than the other is the experience attached to it — claiming that the most attractive beach to her was in Cape Hedo.
“It wasn’t a sexy beach with powdery sand, coconut trees and calm water. The water was rough, there were no coconut trees and it was rocky everywhere,” the blogger said.
It was her first time to visit Okinawa, and her boyfriend took her out for snorkeling. The water ended up being too cold and too rough so they ended up hiking into the more secluded parts of the cape.
“It was amazing because it was just me, him and nature. Then, we later professed our love to each other.”
The most enlightening lesson she learned from travel was how we’re all the same people. It doesn’t matter where we are from around the world because we all have the same problems.
“We can actually have vulnerable talks with each other even though we’ve just met. One way or another, we’ve all gone through the same thing and we can talk about it.”
Still aiming for Sardinia, an island in Italy, she imagines herself learning how to make fresh seafood and traditional Italian food from an Italian grandma as part of her vacation.
In terms of traveling to repeated destinations, Aquino fell in love with Siargao — a popular island for surfing in the Philippines.
“Siargao is a simple island, and it’s one of the best places in the world to surf,” Aquino stated. “It also has everything I like in a travel destination — friendly people, great food and most importantly, safety.”
Aquino also mentioned her mom’s experiences in New Zealand. Since bungee jumping came from that country, her mom just had to try it twice because it was unique.
“Some people like to think I’m their spirit animal. I disagree, my mom should be their spirit animal!”
The Traveling Petite Girl finishes with advice for those who would love to wander to different destinations.
“Talk to as many locals as you can. Do something new every day. Eat the local delicacies, even if you’re afraid to. Do what you can to learn the most about the history and culture.”