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Travel Buddies, Part 1: Danna and Terence

by Marla Miniano-Umali
February 13, 2020

In this new DG Traveler series, we unpack stories from couples, friends, families, and even strangers who go places together. The result is an ongoing exploration of how to make traveling with companions more harmonious, as well as a reminder that the company we keep and the people we call home are just as important as the destinations we set out to discover.


The Boracay parties were in full swing that night in April 2011, when the steady pulsing of the music and the warm glow of the moon brought Danna and Terence together. They’d both arrived in the tropical paradise with their respective friends, wide-eyed and fresh out of high school, eager to experience the infamous “batch Bora” at one of the most beautiful beaches in the country. Way before Viber and Telegram made it a cinch to locate one’s crew, Danna and her barkada approached Terence’s group outside a popular bar to ask for help in finding one of their friends. Hours later, after combing the shore and shouting the friend’s name in between peals of laughter, the missing friend was safe and sound, and Terence was absolutely smitten. Danna and Terence hung out the rest of the nights on the island, then kept in touch and started dating shortly after they arrived back in Manila. They’ve been a couple for eight years.

These days, they love exploring sprawling cities and charming towns together, film camera in hand and fueled by their shared sense of adventure. Whether they’re watching the setting sun dip into the glistening ocean or peeling back the layers of a metropolis through its narrow alleys and secret nooks, they know any place is better when they navigate it together.

We sit down with the pair to talk about beach trips, their obsession with Tokyo, and how to compromise when you and your partner have different planning styles.


Can you tell us about the first trip you went on together?

Danna: Our first out-of-town trip together was in Laiya, Batangas. I remember being so thrilled to go on a road trip for the very first time—him in the driver’s seat and me in the passenger’s, in charge of the playlist. What I remember most about the trip was going stargazing; it was honestly one of the most breathtaking night skies I’ve seen. I got choked up when I saw it.

Terence: I think that was the first time I experienced a night sky full of countless stars. And I’m glad it happened when I was alone with Danna, while sipping our beer, sitting on sun beds on the beach, listening to the sound of the waves, and talking about the majesty of it all.

What was your most memorable trip together?


D: Our trip to Tokyo! We had been to Japan separately during previous family vacations and both fell in love with the country. It was Terence’s first time in Tokyo, so it was nice to revisit my favorite spots like Harajuku and Shibuya with him. We didn’t take any tours—it was just us, the Tokyo subway station, and Google Maps. Needless to say, our Steps trackers were well-fed! We must have walked an average of 20,000 steps per day just by exploring different districts.

T: Definitely Tokyo. The city is an incredibly safe space and everywhere you go seems to hold a picturesque adventure waiting to happen. We went to so many small stores, museums, parks, and shopping streets that are rarely mentioned by popular itineraries. We had quiet conversations on park benches while eating take-out tempura. We ate a ton of ramen!

We also went home to a cozy house in Nakano, which we shared with our hosts and their two friendly dogs, a toy poodle and a schnauzer. It was our first time traveling abroad as a couple, but I know it’s going to be tough to beat as our most memorable trip together.


How do you plan your trips as a couple?

D: When I travel with Terence, I usually research the spots and destinations we go to.

T: I usually have little contribution in creating the itinerary because I tend not to have any particular place in mind. I just want to go on an adventure with Danna and experience whatever there is to experience. Since she’s in charge of most of the planning, I’m usually focused on things that help carry out her plans, like rearranging conflicting schedules, making the necessary reservations, remembering routes, and other logistics.


I have never planned a trip without Danna, and honestly, I don’t think I can ever do it without her! Our planning styles are so different—hers is focused on what to do and where to go, while mine is focused on how to make it work. I believe that our styles complement each other, such that we fill each other's gaps and make the trip planning experience enjoyable for the both of us.

What are your priorities when you travel?


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D: It depends on where we go. For city travels, we look for restaurants, museums, galleries, bookstores, vintage clothing shops, and parks—we have an affinity for well-designed, creative, and relaxing spaces. For more rural areas, we look for nature spots and historical sites. Oh, and we love spending time at the beach!

T: When we travel, my priorities are mostly spending quality time with Danna and being able to experience what the destination has to offer. As Danna mentioned, we love to look for nature spots, beaches, and artistic spaces. It really relaxes us to be amidst these places, and personally, it makes me feel like I’m living life on film for the duration of our trip.

Is there anything you disagree on when it comes to travel? How do you work around it?


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T: When we were new to traveling together, one of the major sources of conflict between us was that I was not exerting a lot of effort in planning. I tried planning more trips myself, but in the end, we realized that I’m just not very good at selecting destinations, probably because I am generally happy with any destination you put me in. So in the end, we decided that Danna does most of the planning regarding date and destination (unless there’s some place I’m adamant to visit), while I handle the logistics of getting there and making it work, which I believe is a win-win for both of us.

D: Over the years, I definitely think we’ve learned how to play to our strengths and work on our weaknesses. Another thing we used to disagree on was our body clocks! I’m a morning person and would prefer to be in bed before 12 AM on most days. Terence, on the other hand, is the opposite. A compromise that we agreed upon is that we don’t have to do everything together while traveling.

T: So for example, when Danna wants to sit back, open a book, and relax, I’d take the time exploring nearby areas alone to feed my restlessness.

D: And when I would much rather lie down on the sand to sunbathe, Terence would go ahead and play beach volleyball. It’s totally okay to travel together without having to be joined at the hip all the time!

How has traveling together impacted your relationship and/or changed you individually?


T: Because Danna is so explorative, traveling with her allowed me to see places that I would have never thought of going to myself. Our travels within the country gave me an immense appreciation of nature and of the locals who have worked to keep it beautiful.

D: I feel like travel helped both of us break out of our shells. You can’t be timid when you’re lost on foreign ground and trying to get somewhere on a schedule. We’ve also become more open-minded and empathetic toward people who come from different backgrounds.

Why do you think it’s important for couples to travel together?


T: Traveling together allowed us to learn things about each other that we couldn’t have learned within our comfort zone in Manila. I feel like the shared experience we had outside of Manila added a layer of depth to our relationship. It strengthened our confidence in one another as partners, and it feels like we can do anything together.

D: Sharing new experiences with someone is one of the best, if not the best, way to bond. It recharges and strengthens relationships, and helps you relate more to one another. It’s also a great way to hone teamwork. Making your way through unexplored territories builds bonds unlike anything else! You feel like you can conquer anything together.

Due for a trip with your significant other? Check out our dreamy Romantic Retreats to find your next enchanting destination.

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About Marla
Marla Miniano-Umali is the former editor in chief of Cosmopolitan Philippines, Candy Magazine, and Summit Books. She has written four YA novels and two short story collections, and co-authored two poetry anthologies—including the travel-inspired The Maps that Contain Us. She likes long drives, snack pit stops, and adventures on and off the page.

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