Jowe Esguerra: April 2014’s Lady Away

jowe

Jowe has been traveling and exploring new lands for as long as she can remember.

A native Filipino, her mother took a job in Nigeria shortly after Jowe was born, moving the entire family (Jowe, her parents and older sisters) to the North African nation. “The inquisitive traveler in me started during those years living in Africa,” Jowe recalls, “in the absence of my parents and siblings whilst doing their daily routine, I grew up with locals, adapting their ways effortlessly just like any other toddler would.” Her mother recalls a time when Jowe , aged 5, walked herself home from school and was found hanging out with a group of old men in front of their compound. “I was happily talking to them as if I was one of the elders too. Ever since then, I was named ‘LOLA,’ a Tagalog word meaning Grandma.” Decidedly an old soul, Jowe finds that she enjoys the company of older generations. She appreciates their stories, conversations and view of the world.

Jowe explores Santorini, Greece.
Jowe explores Santorini, Greece.

Befriending locals is something that comes very easily for Jowe. “Living in Africa taught me to be one with the earthy surrounds and the passion for life of the locals,” Jowe explains, “at an early age, I developed a hunger to understand people around me, asking the question: Why?” Her ability to relate to and form relationships with local people is one of the first things I noticed about Jowe when we met in Nairobi in 2006. We were both volunteering through VICDA, a Kenyan NGO, and I so admired the way in which Jowe was able to connect with the residents of the Kibera slum where we worked. It was something that came so naturally for her, even in an environment so foreign.

Jowe’s Nigerian childhood was full of exploration, adventure and opportunities to learn more about the world around her. “Weekends were busy with exploring the nearby States or going on a road trip to a far-away meat market, mango or crocodile farm. Dad was an explorer himself, and as a Civil Engineer, this enabled him to travel around the country on highway projects.” Jowe’s father even introduced his three daughters to the astronomy by using his surveying equipment to gaze at the heavens.

Visiting with friend, Alf, in the UK.
Visiting with friend, Alf, in the UK.

In 1985 Jowe and her family returned to the Philippines and Jowe became reacquainted with her native culture, tongue and land. It is also where she was able to nurture her other great love: music. “It wasn’t difficult for me to develop my love for music, being born into a family of musicians. Everyone knew how to play the piano and guitar.” By the age of 23 Jowe was writing songs on her guitar, her instrument of choice.

Professionally, Jowe ended up in the field of Information Technology as a junior programmer – just in time for the IT boom, where work was sent to the Philippine offshore model. “This became my passport to everything and everywhere,” Jowe explains. To date, she has been in this field for 14 years and has had the opportunity to work all over the world including the United States, Singapore, New Zealand and Australia.

In Canada with new friends.
In Canada, with new friends after a thunderstorm. 

While all of her travels have been special and have contributed to the wonderfulness of Jowe, it was her time in New Zealand that affected her the most. “Now, the thing is, New Zealand (Aotearoa in Maori) has something special. Of all the places I’ve been before, it was the only country that really called out to me.” Jowe made the most of her time in the country, taking regular weekend road trips, camping trips and hikes, meeting locals soaking up the beauty and becoming comfortable traveling solo. “That’s where I had the aha moment,” Jowe recalls, “knowing for sure that backpacking, traveling, exploring would be one of my greatest passion besides music. And here I am, saying with conviction, that there’s nothing wrong with traveling alone, regardless if you’re a girl or boy.” While her past travel experiences had been in the company of friends, her time traveling solo in New Zealand liberated her from this notion.

Open Mic Night in Montreal.
Open Mic Night in Montreal.

In addition to furthering Jowe’s love for travel it nurtured her natural musical talent. She found that the country inspired in her a greater need to write as well as an outlet to share her art. “I slowly penetrated the Open Mic scene, a new concept for me that didn’t exist back then in Asia.” Now Jowe is no stranger to Open Mic Nights and makes it a point to attend and participate in them regularly – no matter where she happens to be at the time.

Through careful planning and saving Jowe was able to take an entire year off of work recently in order to travel. WWOOfing and Helpex helped to make her year of travel possible, she worked at a farm and a hostel while in Canada and on an island and at a pub while in Europe. Working in exchange for food and accommodation, Jowe spent her free time exploring with her camera and participating in Open Mic Nights. This kind of travel also allowed Jowe to meet and spend time with other travelers. “My travels not only extended my knowledge and life experiences it also rewarded me with the opportunity to meet so many great people who I still keep in contact with. I find through life that you just tend to meet people and it’s something you don’t need to force.” Anyone who has ever stayed in a hostel solo knows how open and welcoming this culture can be, how it can feel like you’ve known a new friend for years. Jowe uses social media in order to keep in touch with these new friends when their paths continue in different directions.

Hiking with new friends in Canada.
Hiking with friends in Poland.

Jowe recently finished up a 6 month contract in Melbourne and plans to travel a bit around Australia before she goes back to the Philippines where she will participate in a 2 month volunteer program. “After that, I’d like to travel to Laos, Vietnam, Mongolia, Tibet, Bhutan before I go homeward bound to Aoteroa, New Zealand where I’d love to settle down, for a while, until the travel bug hits me again.” The desire to travel and explore is within Jowe and one thing’s for certain: she has no intention of ignoring it.

Songwriting has enabled Jowe to marry her love of travel and music. Freein’ My Mind On The Road is a song that Jowe wrote during her time in Canada.

To learn more about Jowe, check out her blog Nomad Enroute, take a look at her photography and take a listen to more of her music.

 

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