For Swiss development engineer Fabian Dietschi, taking half a year off to travel outside of Switzerland was a matter of “now or more or less never”—and we’re glad he ended up including the Philippines and Junction in his itinerary.

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“I’ve taken vacations every year, but I’ve always wanted to travel for a long period of time and I figured now was really the right time,” he shares. “When I looked around, I saw people often doing the Golden Triangle tours—Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam—but I wanted to do something different which is why I decided to start my trip in Taiwan.”

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A self-proclaimed nature lover, Fabian’s stay at a hostel in Ilha Formosa eventually led to an encounter with a fellow traveler who spent six months going around the Philippines. Hearing about the stunning rice terraces of Batad and Banaue in Northern Luzon got this traveler interested enough to make the Philippines his next stop.

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“I’ve been in the Philippines for 25 days now, and so far what I’ve seen has really impressed me,” Fabian tells us, green eyes smiling as he recalls his recent visit to Batad, where he made trekking the steep, 200-year-old coliseum-like rice terraces look easy peasy. “I love exploring mountains and communing with nature—I spent some time checking out the hiking trails while in Taiwan, and when I came to the Philippines I knew I had to check out a mountain or two. Northern Luzon was definitely number one on my priority,” he shares.

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First-time travelers to the Philippines often make a beeline for blockbuster beach destinations like Boracay, but Fabian clearly moves to a different rhythm. “If you had to make me choose between mountains and beaches, I’d pick mountains any day. Beaches look more or less the same to me—I mean, you can say that about mountains, too, but there’s a lot of elements that go into a trek. There’s the landscape, the effort demanded in the hike, and just trekking the nature and really appreciating the outdoors,” he says.

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Mountains may trump beaches for Junction’s resident hottie, but he also squeezed in an island-hopping trip to El Nido, Palawan. “It was a good decision to go to El Nido. I really liked the town, the warmth of the people, and seeing the islands,” Fabian says, adding he got the idea from another guest at Junction. “That’s the fun part about staying in a hostel instead of a hotel. You don’t just save a lot when you’re on a budget—you meet people you can travel with and sometimes your plans end up taking detours.”

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What’s next for Fabian? “I’m off to Bangkok, then Northern Thailand, and then I fly back to Switzerland to start studying again. ”