EXCLUSIVE: Icelander Travel Vlogger Finn Snow Explored Over One Hundred Philippine Destinations In Just One Year!
Finn Snow might have been born in the Land of Ice and Fire, but he'll tell you that home is where the heart is.
And for this backpacker turned professional travel blogger, his heart—and now his home—lies right here in the Philippines and in its 7,107 islands, hundreds and hundreds of which he has dedicated his life to exploring and sharing with the rest of the world.
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"The Philippines chose me," Finn begins with a smile.
It's an opening statement that paves the way for the story that everyone wants to hear: how this Icelander found himself on the tropical, turquoise shores of this Southeast Asian nation and decided to lower the anchor, this time, for good.
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It takes us all the way back to when Finn was but a wee little boy who was told by his mother—an avid traveler herself—that he had learned to swim before he walked and mastered skiing before he did running. Deep inside, and even before he had the words to express what he was feeling, he knew that moving from one place to another made up the very fiber of who he was and that one day, his childish restlessness would transform into unquenchable wanderlust, an insatiable need to explore and discover.
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Fast-forward to a university-aged Finn and enter the friendship that sparked the fire.
"I had a friend in Iceland who's Filipino and from Cebu," he continues.
"I just knew that I wanted to see Kawasan Waterfalls in Cebu," Finn adds.
Now as you might have guessed, the Visayan island automatically made it to Finn's bucket list and with zero hesitation, he booked a plane ticket as a partial post-graduation gift to himself.
His choice of travels led him all around Asia—one of his many long-haul adventures as a solo backpacker—the Philippines being one of the last countries on his program, but you know what they say; you always save the best for last.
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The minute that Finn stepped foot on Philippine soil, what ensued can only be described as the work of destiny.
"From the moment I arrived in the Philippines, I've never been as much welcomed in a country before. Everyone smiles at you. Everyone says 'hi' to you. Everyone wants to start a conversation. If you are lost and need to go somewhere, they will make it their mission of the day to help you find your way. It's unbelievable," he narrates.
It's a description of a first impression that will make any and every Filipino swell up with pride. (You can almost hear the chorus of Pinoys eagerly proclaiming how Filipino hospitality is known far and wide and is indisputable).
Now, did he make it to the destinations he planned on seeing? Absolutely.
Did he have the time of his life, as we, Filipinos, hope he did? For sure. It's when he made some of the best memories of his life. (He met his girlfriend, scuba diver and fellow influencer Sherlyn Doloriel, during this time, too!)
Did he see just how hard and how fast he was going to fall for the Philippines' beauty? Never in a million years.
His regular-sized itinerary for the Pearl of the Orient soon ballooned with more and more islands, side trips, and roads less traveled added to the list, and in a blink, Finn had explored over one hundred Philippine destinations in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao all in the span of one year!
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"My dream was always to explore, and the Philippines is the perfect country for unlimited amount of adventures with its islands. That's also a big reason for why I'm staying in the Philippines. I can see myself exploring here for years. There are so many options," he tells Metro.Style.
He found himself head over heels for anything and everything Philippine travel-related, be it the virgin beaches, dreamy mountaintops, friendly locals, vibrant culture, and authentic experiences. Collectively, it was all so good that it led Finn to make the biggest decision of his life, by far: to make the permanent move to Cebu, the island-city where his love affair with the Philippines all began.
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Photos from @finn.snow
That brings us to today, less than a year since Finn officially called the Philippines his real home, and Iceland his second.
Reflecting on how much has changed over the 18 months or so since his Philippine touchdown, Finn puts into words everything he's learned about himself, the world, and life itself.
Trying to summarize all he wished to share, he says, "The Philippines taught me how to eat with my hands, drive in traffic, and [even how to use] street language! It also changed me in a lot of ways. I used to be a very closed, [reserved] person. Now, I'm much more open. People in my comment sections would tell me that from the moment I came from the Philippines to now, it's been so different. It's been like ice and fire!"
"Traveling teaches you more than any book, studies, university, or any degree in the world. Traveling teaches you the most. It changed my way of looking at life."
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The lifelong lessons have carried so much weight for Finn that they've formed a big part of his new career as a travel blogger.
Throughout this read, it's easy to have imagined Finn backpacking around exotic places hauling a complete set of equipment with him, ready to whip out a professional grade camera to capture once-in-a-lifetime moments in a flash. So we'll forgive if you, like we did, react with surprise upon learning than Finn—who boasts of 67,000 Instagram followers and almost 300,000 YouTube subscribers as of this writing—never used to take photos or videos for reasons aside from his personal viewing pleasure.
Despite his affinity with traveling—and despite having visited almost 30 countries and traveling for about seven years prior to his first Cebu trip—it was his Philippine travels that genuinely opened his passion for content creation.
Finn was always eager to share what he saw every time he visited a breathtaking location. Friends and family were at first the only ones who cared to double tap or click subscribe, but little by little, Finn grew his following, surprising even himself about how much strangers were appreciating his work.
He explains, "Prior to that, I only filmed as a hobby. I wanted to keep memories and document them, but then I saw that I was gaining a lot of followers and people enjoyed watching me. So I told myself, 'Okay. Stop making mediocre content. Let's do this full-time and see what you can do.' Ever since, that's what I've been doing, and I've been producing better content."
However, he tells his story of succes with a word of caution: it was certainly a baptism of fire before he got to where is today.
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According to Finn, there are four misconceptions he wishes to correct about travel vloggers and what it takes to be one:
1. "People think we're getting everything for free, that we're living the dream life. You do get to a point where you experience those things all the time, but then you get into a mindset that you have to film videos... You don't actually get to enjoy the experience. That's happened to me multiple times. I was in these beautiful places and I kind of forgot where [I really was]."
2. "It's also not easy in terms of financing. There a lot of expenses with traveling, equipment, and accommodations. All of these things combined together—costs, the amount of work hours—in the end, it's not that glamorous... I did this for a year and half without any income; it was all spending and expenses. You need to have a solid plan. I saved a lot of money before doing this. I made a plan too for if this wouldn't work out and how I would move on."
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3. "I'm able to see some of the most beautiful places—islands, mountains, nature, reefs, whatever the Philippines has to offer—and I've been able to live all of that sort of dream, I would say. But part of the dream is the hard work. There can be a lot of sleepless nights that come with adventuring, traveling, filming, and editing."
4. "I make sure that I'm not pointing a camera in front of someone's face if I don't know what I'm getting myself into. I ask if it's okay to film them, what they want me to say in the video, if I can talk about these issues or traditions. Be informed, and then be open-minded about a country. You might not like a culture or people, but you have to respect that when you're traveling because it's not your place; it's not your home country. You have to be an observer, and you have to be educated."
In other words, travel vlogging is like any other job as it requires dedication, attention, and a solid work ethic. Those simply in it for the OOTDs, freebies and sponsorships, and bragging rights would do best to pack their bags and see themselves home, as the essence of travel vlogging is sharing what the lens sees, and much less the person behind it.
The whole point is to inspire others to go out and experience what you have and encourage them to be respectful, responsible citizens of the world who wish to appreciate different cultures and creeds rather than focus on the inside, or on the self.
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Of course, that doesn't mean that Finn hasn't developed his own unique online persona that his fans have grown to love. Face to face, Finn maintains a soft-spokenness about him, but in his content (and most especially in his YouTube videos), it's clear just how much traveling can transform him and draw out all the quirkiness, adventurousness, and boldness you would have never known existed beneath the surface.
"There's a combination for what makes you a successful travel blogger. First, of course you're going to visit a lot of nice places, but people are going to want to see who you are, your personality, your charisma—if you're humble and authentic. These things are very important. And then you have to stand out as well. I guess that's how people came to like my travel videos!" he says.
And in case you were wondering what Finn might recommend, his top five unbeatable Philippine destinations include Batanes, Siargao, Cebu, El Nido, and Balabac, the last two of which are in Palawan, the island he considers to be the most beautiful place on earth. (And as a bonus, Finn also highly suggests looking into local hiking and trekking trails as Philippine mountains are some of the most underrated in the world—beaches get all the attention!).
All in all, we're happiest about the fact the Philippines was where Finn—and many others like him—learned some of life's most profound and enduring lessons.
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His story is one that Filipinos can pick up a thing or two from, especially during moments of nationwide political, social, cultural, and economic turbulence; despite our country's shortcomings, there are many things to love about it, including its world-famous natural wonders.
After all, sometimes, it takes an outsider to show you the wealth and beauty that surround you. It only goes to show that Finn Snow chose his path well and wisely, fulfilling his mission of showing people around the world that there are a lot of things in life worth being grateful for—especially when they're as beautiful as the Philippines.
Produced by Grace Libero-Cruz
Photography by Pat Buenaobra
Special thanks to Erika Lim
Shot on location in Soru Izakaya - Ortigas Technopoint, 1 Doña Julia Vargas Ave, Ortigas Center, Pasig City
Additional images from @finn.snow