Featured Traveler: Clelia Mattana of KeepCalmandTravel.com

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Clelia started her South East Asian trip on the 10th of February in 2013. For more than a year, she spent several months in Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines. As of this writing, she is currently in Italy but she is now planning for a longer backpacking trip. Learn more about Clelia by reading her interesting responses to our travel questionnaire below.

Clelia enjoying the sundown in El Nido
Clelia enjoying the sundown in El Nido

Tell us something about yourself:

I’m an Italian travel blogger but before that I was just another frustrated Italian girl who dreamed about changing her life completely. At 35 I finally realized my dream. I quit my job in the fashion Industry in London and bought a one way ticket to the world and opened my travel website Keepcalmandtravel.com.

Best decision of my life. I’m stubborn and rebel. When I really want something nothing can stop me. My motto is: If you never tried, you never lived!

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When did you start traveling, inspirations?

I started my long term trip 18 months ago but I left my home town at age 19, moving a lot first in Italy then in Europe until I was ready to conquer the world!

Lessons you learned on the road?

So many, but mostly I learned that you shouldn’t start traveling because you want to escape your own problems. They will follow you wherever you are. Just live for the moment.

Clelia with a kid in Antique
Clelia with a kid in Antique

I also learned that the world is less dangerous than what the media want us to believe. There are plenty of good, kind people in the world. Too bad they don’t make it to the news. The press tends to report only the bad news, and traveling will open your eyes, showing you that the nationality doesn’t really matter, as human beings we all want the same things: Love, acceptance and happiness. That’s all that counts.

Destinations on your Bucket List?

So many that I could fill 10 pages! On top of the list I have Central-South America and Africa. I want to discover different cultures and countries. I’ve been traveling in Asia for a very long time now and I feel at home when I’m there, so what I need now is to push myself out of my comfort zone a bit more.

Clelia in Coron Palawan
Clelia in Coron Palawan

Beach or Mountain?

Easy one. I’m from Sardinia, a beautiful Island in Italy and I don’t have blood in my veins. I have sea water! So definitely Beach.

How often do you travel by air / land?

If I can, I prefer traveling by land as I find it more adventurous and I love trains, buses and boats. The longer the better, I’m a bit masochist maybe, but I love looking out the window, see the landscape slowly changing, looking at the people working on the fields or kids playing on the streets. It’s fascinating and my favorite time to think and reflect.

Obviously to cover longer distances and whenever there is no other choice I use the plane, which isn’t bad either, depending on the airline. While I was in the Philippines I broke my personal record: 12 flights in 1 month!

Clelia in Gili Islands
Clelia in Gili Islands

What’s your favorite airport?

So far It’s Abu Dhabi, very clean, with plenty of amenities, lounges, shops and the wifi connection is excellent, but I’m really curious to see the Dubai airport. People say it’s amazing.

What is your favorite Hotel?

I can’t say I have just one favorite Hotel. During these years of travels I tried dorms and luxury hotels/ resorts. They both have something fascinating. The best Hostels for me were The Big Pinapple in Bali and the Pak up Hostel in Krabi. They were both great places for solo travelers willing to socialize.

Best Hotels, I’d say Maya Resort in Koh Lanta: It was Luxury at its purest state and The City Garden Hotel in Makati- Manila. The Rooftop bar with swimming pool and the view over Manila’s skyline by night was breath-taking.

What is your preferred Airline?

I still have to try Emirates, but the Middle East companies are really something else. Etihad impressed me big time. The staff is amazing, service on board and meals are delicious and the seats are really comfortable. I even used the onboard Wi-Fi for a ridiculous cheap price.

How do you beat jet lag / Motion sickness?

Usually I can’t sleep on the plane, so if I arrive late in the evening I eat and go straight to bed. If it’s afternoon I just sleep for a few hours, go out and back to bed after dinner time, a sleeping pill always do the trick. Many people also use melatonin which helps the body to recover from jet lag faster.
Luckily I don’t suffer motion sickness at all, so I don’t have tips to share…I guess the pills for this problem should help?

What are your favorite travel gadgets?

My E-book reader and MP3 player. I couldn’t live without some good music and books. I didn’t even mention the camera and laptop as a favorite, because it’s quite obvious, considering that photography is also an important part of my job.

Any Tips on how to travel light?

Yes, don’t follow my tips! No seriously, I have only one tip, and it’s quite effective, especially for those traveling with backpacks.

On your next trip put as much as you can on your backpack until it’s ready to explode. Make sure you reach the maximum allowed for your flight, and do the same with your carry-on. Also make sure to pack heavy stuff that you want to get rid of anyway.

Trust me, after this exercise, if your back survives, you will know exactly how to pack light! (I made that mistake, never again!)

Best Backpack Brand?

Before my long term trip I researched for the right backpack for months. I bought a Berghaus. Love it and It’s still going great.

Clelia with Filipino Kids
Clelia with Filipino Kids

Top 3 Philippine Destinations?

Wow are you kidding me? You want me to just name 3? Not that I visited all the 7000+ islands, but that’s indeed a cruel question!

I’d say El Nido first. There are no words for El Nido, so I made a video and I watched it a million times to remind myself that a place like that DOES exist and most importantly, that I was there! ?

Second: Siargao Island… well, after writing the guide on my blog, everyone knows how much I adore that place! Love at first sight. I hope it stays like it is right now. Genuine and unspoiled. (read her Siargao post)

Third: The entire Antique region, it’s so underrated! I had the time of my life in there and I tried some crazy adventures. Not a coincidence that I’m working on an article about Antique right now. Lovely place and people need to know more about it!

Things you love about the Philippines?

To say that the Philippines are a beautiful country is a big understatement. Every place I visited during the 4 months I’ve spent in there was a wow after another.

Plus, I’m in love with the Filipinos! Despite the poverty, and the many problems they had to face, they always have a smile on their face, and most importantly they are so proud about their Country.

I love the Philippines so much that I told my mother that I consider myself an adopted Filipino. Recently there was an Italian TV show to raise funds for an Organization that is helping the Philippines to recover from the Typhoon. I obviously contributed but I also put a post on my Facebook wall for all my Italian friends watching the show, asking them to contribute as well.

You always treated me like I was one of you and even without this detail I felt the urge to do something for my adoptive brothers and sisters. It worked very well! Many of my friends made the donation and I’m so proud of them. We donated a stupid amount of money, you gave me much more than that.

Clelia in El Nido Palawan
Clelia in El Nido Palawan

Things you hate about the Philippines?

There is just 1 thing I didn’t like. There isn’t a direct flight from Boracay to Palawan. They are 2 of the most touristic places and people visiting the Philippines for a few weeks will likely want to see both. Having a direct flight would be much better than going to Manila first. It doesn’t make sense to me.

What made you decide to visit the Philippines?

I wanted to visit the Philippines for a very long time. I was working in London and they assigned me a supplier with sub-contractors in the Philippines. Since then, going to the Philippines became a real obsession for me. I planned to visit just before the typhoon so I had to cancel my plans.

After a few months I was in Myanmar and had to decide my next destination. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind: I went online and bought my ticket to paradise straight away! I started with the idea of staying one month and I ended up staying 4 (crying on the plane back to Bangkok). Philippines stole my heart and four of my friends booked their next holidays there because they listened to my stories and saw how much I love this country.

Top 3 International Destinations?

I’d say Indonesia, Italy (not only because it’s my home country) and Central America (I’ve heard wonders about this area, especially the Galapagos which I want to visit one day)

Favorite Travel Quote :

We Travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.

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