Get to know your community through local travel

If you’re a serious traveler and want to know the country you are visiting then you should try to be part of the local community.

An effective way to get involved in any community is to do part-time jobs as this is a chance to truly interact with locals; plus the idea of earning while traveling is not so bad at all.

However, this will only apply if you plan on an extended stay. For travelers on a limited time, you may want to do a bit of research and find out where the not-so-mainstream art and culture reside.

The same principle applies if you want to know more about your local community. You may want to walk around your neighborhood or take a short train ride and visit the nearest coffee shop, watering hole, bookstore, or art exhibit.

Neighborhood Cafes

Have you ever tried searching for nearby coffee shops?

You might be surprised with what you can discover and it’s more fun than the usual trip to your usual mainstream cafe.

Wicked Coffee owners made use of their garage as a coffee house making it cozy with wood paneled ceiling and bar. Adding an A/C unit is definitely beneficial to all.

From my area alone in Project 2, Quezon City, I was able to discover four coffee houses – Erabika Cafe, Krel’s Bread Cafe, We Ride Coffee Bar, and Wicked Coffee.

One thing that you will experience when you drink coffee in nearby coffee houses that you will not experience in commercial cafes is that you can talk to the owners who may be the baristas themselves.

One of many artworks Wicked Coffee would feature on their walls in support of the local art scene.

You may also end up having friendly chats with the other guests, who may be your neighbors as well.

These establishments are home-based so the vibe is relaxed and intimate.

One way to keep your community is to know it by establishing positive interactions with your neighbors and hitting common ground through coffee, books, and art.

Facade of Erabika Cafe located in Project 2, Quezon City.

This is exactly the case with Wicked Coffee, owned and operated by two young baristas who got their training from industry veterans and sampled all the coffee they can get their hands on.

Visiting their garage slash cafe is refreshing as you can enjoy your cup of joe with a book, good music, and conversation.

Nearby Art Collective

Do you have an artist community in your area? Mine is the Cubao Expo. You’ll get there in ten minutes by car otherwise, it will take another ten minutes via public transport from where I live.

The unmistakable 70s modern look of Cubao Expo.

Let us go back to the early 90s when it was still called by its original name – Marikina Shoe Expo. I used to go there as a shopping hack or in the 80s with my mom to shop for shoes. Forward to 2006, it reopened as Cubao X, no longer housing shoe boutiques but it reinvented itself under new management as a hipster community. 2006 was seventeen years ago and recently, I went back to Cubao X which is now called Cubao Expo. The seventies utilitarian apartment-style units sprawling on the U-shaped property is the core characteristic of the place.

Cubao Expo amidst Araneta Center’s gentrification efforts.

The simplicity of these loft-type compartments makes it possible for one door to house two merchants or expand the product line or service area of a merchant to the second floor to accommodate more customers and still have storage if the space is designed and managed well.

Yes to Cubao Expo’s retro vibe.

The likes of Mogwai, Coast Thru Life, and Datelines Bookshop were the only establishments I can remember from Cubao X. As a side note, the now defunct bookshop was founded by this section’s editor, Iris Gonzales.

Today, new stores have joined this eclectic community although some had to close during the pandemic. A few are still about to open.

The rest of Araneta Center is seeing more construction of commercial and residential buildings, not to mention improving and expanding the existing ones.

Cubao Expo remains intact and continues to rent space for like-minded creatives amidst Araneta Center’s gentrification. The faithful community awaits its next reinvention.

It’s true what they say: the best travelers are the real locals.