What do you want to start this 2019? Do you want to be adventurous and travel? Will it be cool if you pick up a camera and start photography? Or show your hidden writing skills and set up a blog? What if I told you you can do all of those things? Well your 2019 will be a spectacular ride! Delighting Grace recently connected with J. P. Leo Castillo, a travel blogger of Shoestring Traveler and took time to chat about blogging, photography and travelling.
Delighting Grace: How does it feel to be always on the top travel bloggers in the Philippines?
J. P. Leo Castillo: We were on a top 40 list of travel bloggers done by another blogger – it’s not an official recognition – so it wasn’t really that big of a deal but it still felt rewarding.
Delighting Grace: Tell us when did you and your wife started travel blogging?
J. P. Leo Castillo: Around 2011 if I remember correctly.
Delighting Grace: You go travel blogging with your wife. Is there some sort of advantage of bringing some than being alone in your trip?
J. P. Leo Castillo: Two is obviously an advantage. You get to help each other, there’s someone with whom you can share the joys and difficulties of a trip and there’s more wisdom with two collective minds when you need to make difficult decisions on a trip.
Delighting Grace: Great! I notice that some travel bloggers are young and alone in backpacking. Compare to them to you and your wife with advance in age. Do still deliver some edge in blogging despite of the age? How does your blog stand out among the rest?
J. P. Leo Castillo: There are advantages and disadvantages when it comes to age in traveling – the younger ones can go to places that may be too extreme for us, for instance. Our advantage as older people is probably that we have more resources at our disposal – generally speaking – to go on those trips. For travel blogging I’m not sure if age is an advantage or disadvantage as it depends more on the writing capabilities of the blogger.
Delighting Grace: As of this date, how many places did you visited here and abroad? Which one is your favorite?
J. P. Leo Castillo: Hard to count at this stage for local places. We’ve been to all the Southeast Asian countries plus China, India, Nepal, Pakistan and some Middle East countries. Only been to Europe once – Barcelona – and lived and worked in the U.S. for almost 3 years.
Locally, it’s hard to list a single favorite but rather a group of destinations – Romblon Island, Cuatro Islas and Kalanggaman Island in Leyte, Palawan (Port Barton, Coron and El Nido), Siquijor, Catanduanes, the Caramoan Peninsula (Camarines Sur) and Dumaguete City. Internationally it’s Vietnam and the Grand Canyon, Yosemite National Park, San Diego and the destinations along California’s Highway 395 in the U.S.
Delighting Grace: Wow. Can you share one travel story that you wont ever forget for the rest of your life?
J. P. Leo Castillo: A trip to the Khyber Pass at the Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan which ended at the Afghan border in 2000, a year before the 9-11 attacks. This was an assignment from our Christian missions organization to see what we could do to reach the Afghan refugees then living inside Pakistan. I love history and the Khyber Pass is full of historical events from Alexander the Great’s time (300 B.C.) down to the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1970’s (and later the American/NATO operations in Afghanistan). Also got to meet the fierce but very hospitable Pashtun tribesmen who were cradling AK-47 assault rifles as part of their everyday life.
Delighting Grace: It feels like its taken out of a movie. Your photography is awesome. It goes well with the travel. How did you learn about photography?
J. P. Leo Castillo: My team leader back in the 1990’s for the SE Asian office of our missions organization made me the photographer of our team and gave me a film DSLR, then later a digital camera. It was then that I realized I had a knack for taking pictures. My photo compositions came out well even when I had yet to study composition. Later on I began studying digital photography seriously by going to photography web sites that offered free courses.
Delighting Grace: If someone wants to start a travel blog, what advice can you give to them?
J. P. Leo Castillo: Write from the heart. Write regularly. Use photos to draw in more interest to your story. Don’t write very long blogs.
Delighting Grace: As Christians how do we keep at awe to God as we look at His creations as we travel?
J. P. Leo Castillo: I think if you are in regular fellowship with Him you’ll appreciate His creation more.
Delighting Grace: Aside from the travel blog you are involved in outreaches, can you fill us out on that.
J. P. Leo Castillo: We start house/simple/organic churches, equipping people to disciple others in the process. Along with partners and people that we work with in the professional and business community. We support young people from needy communities with their education – providing school supplies, providing supplemental educational training and providing college scholarship. We also mentor those who want to start simple churches.
Delighting Grace: I think that goes along when you blog. As you look around and look back at what you have like talents specifically in our blogging we feel that kind of “advocacy” to help out people. Anyways, please invite them to check your blog and social media accounts for Shoestring Travelers.
Delighting Grace: Thank you Sir Leo for the opportunity. Looking forward for your next adventures!