Here at TripZilla, we make it a point to share relatable stories that will inspire people to travel the way they want. One such tale is that of Irene Catiter-Gutierrez and her husband, Aaron.
You might have heard of them before — they’re the young Filipino couple who has already set foot on all the world’s seven continents, all while conquering LDR, getting married, working abroad, and holding full-time desk jobs. Get this: The newlyweds have visited 37 countries and over 100 cities around the world so far!
After reading about how they were able to pull off such a feat, here’s an added treat for that extra dose of #travelspiration. We asked Irene to share their most memorable trips and the couple travel tips she and Aaron live by. If you’re planning epic adventures with your special someone, you won’t want to miss out on this.
Note: The quotes below have been edited for grammar, clarity, and flow.
What countries have you been to so far?
“Malaysia, Singapore, China, Japan, Vietnam, Maldives. Taiwan, Macau, Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Hong Kong, France, Spain, Italy, Vatican, Greece, Germany, Czech Republic, Poland, Netherlands, South Korea, US, Mexico, Cuba, Qatar, Australia, Fiji, South Africa, UAE, India, Argentina, Chile, Antartica, Iceland, and the Philippines.
We’ve also travelled within our beloved country and have explored several of its beautiful islands like Batanes, Boracay, Palawan, Cebu, Bohol, Siargao, among others.”
What are some of the most memorable aspects or incidents from your past trips?
“We always celebrate special occasions (birthdays, anniversaries) by travelling. For our 5th anniversary as boyfriend-girlfriend, we celebrated the occasion by going to Krabi, Thailand. We didn’t have an itinerary and what we only pre-arranged before going on that trip was the anniversary dinner by the beach that we coordinated with the resort where we stayed at. On our anniversary night when we had our dinner under the stars, Aaron proposed to me. That easily became one of the most special trips ever.”
“We are very grateful to be able to travel and for that, we already feel lucky. But as if that’s not enough, we’ve been super lucky to win a contest on Instagram (the contest was organized by a clothing brand). We won a trip for two to Fiji! We couldn’t believe our luck. Before that, we had not won anything major in any raffle or contest. We really felt that God was helping us see more of the world.
When we found out that we won, we were already set with South Africa as our honeymoon destination so we just added Fiji. And since that was still part of our honeymoon, we just planned a post-wedding photo shoot while we were there.”
“The world is full of wonderful people but there are still not-so-good ones. We learned about that first hand during our trip to Paris. While walking near Opera Garnier, Aaron was taking photos around then about three to four women went near me and tried to get my signature for a cause that I didn’t understand.
So I was saying no while trying to walk away from them but they were persistent and following me and at one point, I was almost squeezed in because they were all around me. Good thing Aaron noticed and came to the rescue and the women left me alone.
Then we noticed that one of those women dropped something on the ground. My automatic reaction was to call her to say that she dropped something. But when I checked the item on the ground, it was my notebook! We then realized that those women tried to steal something from me. Maybe they were trying to get my wallet but the good thing was what they got from my bag was the notebook instead.
I couldn’t be more relieved that nothing was stolen. So here’s a reminder to always be guarded, be aware of your surroundings, and be extra careful when travelling.”
Buenos Aires, Argentina
“Buenos Aires is a colourful city with warm and friendly people. My favourite is Señor Mario. He was the one who welcomed us upon arriving in Buenos Aires as he was driving for a family-run hotel where we stayed. We also booked our airport transfer through them.
Señor Mario is a retired member of the Argentine Air Force and has been married to his wife for 50 years now. He’s a person full of knowledge and he’s very generous in sharing them. It is really the people you meet during your travels that make the journey more meaningful and memorable.”
“The expedition ship that we boarded to go to Antarctica is one of the smaller ones that are going there from Ushuaia, Argentina. Being small, we would feel the rough waves more but it has its own advantages. Few passengers (we were only 65) meant that we can go all at once during our landings and all would be able to land on all our stops. Note that in Antarctica, a maximum of 100 people can land at the same time. So for the big ships, they had to do a per batch landing.
Another advantage of being in a small expedition ship is you get to see all of the other travellers. We were informed that there were 26 different nationalities onboard the ship at that time. We were able to talk to most of them and we exchanged travel stories. That group of travellers is probably the most widely-traveled group we have ever met. Most of us there had already been to the other six continents and we were going to Antarctica as our 7th continent. That adventure was really one for the books.”
Bonus #travelspiration: Irene and Aaron also regularly take part in voluntourism, or travelling for a cause. They’ve volunteered for various organisations while on holiday such as The Oasis Foundation, Kythe Foundation, and Masicorp. Read more about their experiences here.
What advice can you give to people who are torn between saving up for their future and saving up for travel?
Divide your salary
“Saving up for your future shouldn’t be compromised by saving up for travel. When we receive our salary, we always deduct our savings and allot a portion for investment first, then we pay for our necessities (rent, utilities, food, transportation allowance, etc.) second. So even if we travel, we know that we’re still saving and investing for the future.”
When it comes to daily living, spend modestly
“We’d like to believe that we live modestly. We don’t need much in our everyday life. We’re not the ones who would buy expensive coffee every day. We don’t spend much on our ‘wants.’ When we think about it, we splurge on travel, that’s our main ‘want.’ But we make sure to save up for it after saving up for the future.”
What are hacks you can share to people who feel like having an office job is holding them back from their reaching their travel goals?
Plot long weekends and holidays
“Yes, we work full-time jobs but travel when we get time off of work. We all know that when you’re working, you get a limited number of vacation leaves but what we do is use our weekends and public holidays to increase that.”
Offset when you can
“We also voluntarily work on our days off (if they call for volunteers at work) so we can get off in lieu or additional leaves and use those for another holiday.”
Customise your itineraries according to your availability
“Also, we are flexible with our itinerary. Especially when we were just starting to travel. We visited countries around Asia first. We took a lot of shorter trips at that time. That meant less time and money involved. We would always be on the lookout for cheap flights, book them immediately then figure out the rest of the logistics later. There are countless ways to maximize travelling while having a full-time job.”
Don’t quit your full-time job if you love what you do
“This may be different for each one and it depends on the person and on his/her current reality. For us, we choose to stay in our office job because we believe and we think we have proven that you don’t have to quit what you do (unless you don’t like what you do) to be able to see the world. There’s a lot to be said about the stability of a predictable schedule, friendly co-workers, a reliable paycheck, and of course, coming home to the comfort of your own bed!”
How has being married changed the way you travel? Do you have any tips for duos like you who like to explore the world together?
“After being married, we are more conscious about how we spend our money for our trips since we are now spending our conjugal resources and we know we can’t be reckless spenders as we are also starting a family. We are wiser travellers and we also value comfort more now than before.
These days, we choose hotels instead of hostels but at the same time, we know how and where to get good deals and make the most of our money. So that’s having comfort without the hefty price tag. We try to balance both.”
Give each other space
“First, it’s okay to not always be together. Like in a relationship, give your partner room to grow as his/her own person. For us, we did solo travelling even during the time that we were already boyfriend-girlfriend. We wanted to experience how travelling alone feels like and we didn’t want our relationship to hinder us from experiencing that. We feel that it would foster trust and would make you realise a lot of things like solo travel is empowering and it’s also fun, but travelling and exploring the world with your loved one is still the best (that’s true for us).”
Stand by each other no matter what happens
“Before our first trip together, we agreed on one important thing: Whatever happens WE ARE A TEAM. When we agreed to become a team, we knew that we had to be more patient with one another and we had to go into the trip with an open mind and accept that even the best itineraries and plans will probably not go perfectly. We promised that we won’t go into the blame game and we will just enjoy every moment of our trip whatever happens. We still know that by heart until today.”
What stage of travel planning do you find most challenging or stressful and how do you tackle it efficiently?
“Most stressful part might be getting visa. We know having a Philippine passport can take us to a handful of countries without the need for a visa but let’s face it, the world is so big and beautiful and we have to go to other countries where a visa is required.
We try to get the visa as early as possible to have ample time even if there are delays (because we really wouldn’t know how long it would take for them to process the visa). This helps us avoid the anxiety (and spending more for express visa fees) of thinking if the visa will arrive in time for our intended trip.”
As seasoned travellers, what do you think is the key to making travel happen?
“We think that it is very important to allot ample time and resources. Spontaneous travel is fun but if you’re going for those big-ticket travels, planning ahead is the key. This will ensure that you’ll be able to go there when the weather/season is conducive to do the activities that you want to do. Like if you are thinking to ride a hot air balloon in Bagan, take note that it is only available in certain months of the year. Or if you’re planning to go to Antarctica, booking should be made at least a year before to make sure you get your slots since tourists can only go there during their summer. Antarctica travel season is only from November to February/March.”
Research and research some more
“The Internet is your friend. Research as much as you can and try to search for the best deals out there.”
Believe in your travel goal
“Like in all things, the first thing to do is believe. Believe that your dream is reachable and it can come true. That’s why we want to share our story as well, to let everyone know, especially those who have the same dream, that it is possible and you can make it happen. Believe, work hard for it and have faith that it will come true.”
There you have it, trips and tips from the pros themselves. It’s always great to hear from well-travelled Filipinos like Irene and Aaron — there’s definitely a lot of wisdom to pick up from them. Do you know any Pinoy adventurers who would like to inspire the travel scene? Let us know or tag us on Instagram!