Travel Junkie of the Month: Jonathan Yabut

Jonathan Yabut explains the difference of working hard from working smart during his TEDx Talks last November 2013 at UP Diliman, "Working hard and not working smart is going from point A to point B of EDSA and taking pride that you've gone 30 or 1 hour to traverse the entire thing when you could've downloaded Waze app."

The man has a point and then I realized that hey, I do work smart. I always outsmart Metro Manila traffic with the help of Waze. ;) Anyway, I met Jonathan late last year when Air Asia announced their partnership with Zest Air. Prior to that, I knew him as the first winner of The Apprentice Asia.

To be honest, I haven't seen a single episode of The Apprentice franchise but I do know what the show is about. Btw, happy anniversary Jonathan! Can't believe it's been a year! I remember trending ng bongga ang #AAJon last year while waiting for the announcement of the winner! ;) Congrats again!

Moving on, I've spent a few short moments with this guy. He's nice, friendly and very down to earth. Walang ere ng kayabangan. The way he speaks, very engaging. Makikinig ka talaga. He's probably one of the best inspirational speakers of our generation. ;)

Apart from being Air Asia's Chief of Staff, he's also a weekly columnist for Yahoo! Philippines where he writes articles for his blog: From Grit To Great. To make this long introduction short, this man is a GENIUS. Period. Need I say more? Let's move on to our Q&A!
  • In In one word, define travel. -- Hirap nito ah! Ok, here's a boring and corny answer :p Travel = fun 
  • Could you describe the importance of travel? -- I always say to people that whenever you buy a plane/car/train/etc ticket, you just don't buy the transportation service, you purchase an experience or a memory that will forever change and be part of who you are.

Jonathan with the other contestants of The Apprentice Asia.
  • How often do you fly, and on what airline? -- Weekly. Can I say the obvious? :p Of course, AirAsia. I like Middle Eastern Airlines like Etihad and Emirates too as they're very generous and they spoil even their cabin class passengers.
  • Do you have a preferred day or time when traveling? -- Day. Specifically the 4pm-8pm window time because this is the time when I'm most unproductive so it's better to spend it in transit. Hate red eye flights but I do take them too when I don't have a choice!
  • Who books your plane tickets and lodging? Are they personal or through a travel agency? -- This question sounds like a thesis is being cooked, lol. Anyway, I usually book mine if personal. If business, like most companies, we have a system that books for employees. 
  • What’s the weirdest question you got from an immigration officer? -- "Are you that guy who won The Voice Asia?" (well, there's no such thing as The Voice Asia)
  • Window or Aisle? -- Aisle. I dont wanna disturb people whenever I take a leak...and i always do! Plus, faster to get out of the plane. 
  • Are you a light or heavy packer? -- Light. I rarely check-in my baggage. Saves a lot of time and effort. Saves you from the chance of losing all your personal stuff especially for a leisure trip. 

Jonathan enjoying the pool with friends at Pico de Loro. Friends pala kayo ni Farrah, classmate ko siya nung grade 5 sa St. Paul! ;)
  • How do you pass the time on a flight? -- Work of course! I make sure my laptop and phone are always fully charged. When work gets too much of me, I watch TV series or play games (recently, I've been hooked again with Dungeon Keeper 2! Classic!!). When all batteries are gone, I read a paperback. These days, I'm happily reading Dan Ariely's "The Honest Truth About Dishonesty". 
  • In what country or region do you enjoy spending your favorite travel season, and why? -- Summer in Europe. Sun rises very early, and sets only by 9pm or 10pm so your time and money is worth it because you have more time to go around (sunlight is the best light for photos!)
  • Tell us about your most recent journey? -- I've been to Penang (Malaysia) a few weeks back and it blew my mind! The city is bustling with street art and food. It has a World Heritage Site full of colonial decrepit houses that have been preserved (and are still being used) for centuries now. I'm surprised it's not much as heard as other Southeast Asian cities but it will get traction soon. I will be back in that city for the Georgetown Festival in August. 

Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic gives life to century old walls by creating beautiful murals around Penang's capital, Georgetown.
  • Where have you traveled and where do you plan to go next? -- Been to all continents except Africa and The Americas. My favorites so far are Barcelona, Bali and Beijing---those 3 places have changed me in one way or another. Never been to Japan and India so I'm crossing that out this year! 
  • What is your ultimate travel destination? -- (Summoning the voice of Alicia Keys).... New York!!!
  • Travel Tip -- Always prepare for a trip so you maximize the destination. Some folks do it cowboy style and just travel where the winds blows them, but it really pays to research and identify the must see, must eat, and must experience places. I'll give you an example---I can't believe that I've met Western tourists who visit Manila and never visit Intramuros because "they didn't hear" about it. Most likely, those people didn't research at all and I pity that!
I am truly inspired by the achievements of Jonathan. He is a living example of his favorite word, GRIT. Kitang-kita mo yung passion and perseverance at such a young age! This guy has got a long way to go. Who knows, maybe he'll be the next president of the Philippines by 2040? :)

U P D A T E S ! ! !

Jonathan finally launched his latest book From Grit to Great which shares his life journey to becoming Asia's first Apprentice! :)

Written in a casual and funny style that Jonathan is known for, From Grit to Great is a delightful treat for aspiring students, rockstar yuppies, and budding entrepreneurs looking for inspiration and motivation on "making it big". It’s the book where business meets wit.

From August to September 2014, all books sold in Indiegogo will come in limited edition paperback with Jonathan's personally handwritten signature and whatever dedication you want him to write on the book. ;)

They will donate proceeds from the book sales to organizations in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Vietnam. These partners cater to their mission of improving the quality of teaching or providing financial assistance to less-privileged but promising students of Southeast Asia. So what are you waiting for?


  1. He was such a nice guy.During the Apprentice Asia presscon,I knew that he's gonna win it. :)

    1. Hi ate. :) Yes, he's really nice! Sobrang inspiring.