Stylist Meg Manzano and photographer Artu Nepomuceno have perfected the art of traveling together

By Eric Nicole Salta | Photos courtesy of Artu Nepomuceno

Traveling as a couple requires more than patience to reach your destination. Start with a spontaneous spirit and a little taste for delicious discomforts as in the case of stylist Meg Manzano, 26, and photographer Artu Nepomuceno, 27.

Whether navigating  off-road locations for the New York-based non-profit organization Waves for Water or deliberately letting bowel movements cruise them into separate directions, pliable and playful impulses bolster the two-year-old couple’s off-kilter explorations.

Each unexpected twist and turn unfolds into its own, playing nicely with the couple’s virtually complementary, if at times funny, travel structure. “If he tells you we make it a point to have alone time, he’s most probably just talking about his bowel movement schedule—lord knows I’m not staying for that (literal) shit,” says Manzano

But their eagerness at getting away—to bigger and wider worlds beyond their Southern enclaves—makes the two inescapably charming. A joy to travel with from start to finish. Why? They treat everything as a complex part of travel. Manzano and Nepomuceno step into roles Filipinos, whether couples or not, rarely see.

“It’s experiencing discomfort together when you learn how to not make enemies of each other,” says Nepomuceno.

Cliff hanger shot taken by Artu in Benguet

During the Philippine Hobie Challenge where we spent eight days going around Central Visayas giving water filters with Waves for Water to local communities 

What’s your travel style? How would you describe it?

Meg Manzano (MM:) We try to be as organized as we can (keyword here of course is ‘try’). We look at where we’re going, I go through books and magazines to figure out what we can do there while Artu takes the helm when it comes to social media stalking—Instagram’s location offering helps a lot when you want to see a more raw version of the places travel websites post online. The best thing about traveling with him is we’re both pretty flexible when it comes to schedule. Spontaneity is something we’re always open to when a plan goes south.

Artu Nepomuceno (AN): I do not enjoy tourist plans nor do I enjoy going to tourist spots no matter how iconic they are. Whenever I travel, I like setting my schedule to general areas per day/half day to explore; rather than choosing specific spots to go to at specific times, I would more likely schedule the first half of the day exploring a particular district, then moving to another after lunch. In other words, I’m not fond of traveling to an itinerary that isn’t flexible.

How do you manage alone time? Do you still feel the need for it even when you travel as a couple?

AN: If I am traveling with Meg, I’m there to travel with her and be with her, and experience things together. If one of us wants alone time to travel, then she and I would travel on our own and it would be completely understood that it’s more about personal exploration.

“We were sunrise driving with friends one early morning around Baler and on the way back for breakfast, we saw the prettiest little pocket of pink blooms on the side of the road fronting the sea and just decided to stop”

MM: I don’t know if we set aside time for being alone. The great thing about traveling together so far has been each other’s company and really seeing him in a different light and discovering the strangest things together. If he tells you we make it a point to have alone time, he’s most probably just talking about his bowel movement schedule—lord knows I’m not staying for that (literal) shit.

The best and worst parts of traveling as a couple?

MM: Best part is we’re somehow challenged to get resourceful together or figure out problems we encounter along the way.

AN: Best part for sure is sharing stories and really maturing together as a couple. I can say with 100 percent certainty that if it weren’t for all the travels we’ve done together, we wouldn’t be as trusting and as transparent with each other as we are now.

“Whenever we’re in Coron, Artu and I always make it a point to head out to these fields near the airport (roughly about 20 or 30 minutes motorbike ride from the town proper) we’ve dubbed it our real life Moo Moo Meadows after one of the courses in Mario Kart”

“The boyfriend in his natural habitat. I’ve come to terms with the fact that photo walks will always inevitably be part of the itinerary whenever we travel and it’s something I’ve begun to look forward to myself “

MM: Another thing I love about traveling is how I learn more about him as we go along. Traveling for Waves for Water has been a dream. To meet so many people from around the world who we hope to one day visit and to be able to exchange stories with them and be exposed to their ways of life really opens our eyes as a couple.

We’ve been annoyingly #blessed when it comes to opportunities to travel together and it’s perfect because we have a working storybook collection of the craziest rides we’ve been on (he once got the worst motion sickness aboard a boat while we took part in the Philippine Hobie Challenge and sad to say, he vomited on a sea turtle who innocently surfaced while Artu was on the side of a boat throwing up in the sea) to what I feel like is the most cinematic (one afternoon we found ourselves in the back of a pickup truck to give water filters to a school and as the spell of afternoon sunshine worked its magic, there were rows and rows of school kids running beside our truck welcoming us as we made our way through the dirt road—we looked at each other and realized we both had that insane moment of goosebumps).

“Me on a motorbike literally two minutes before I fell in a ditch. I had to learn how to ride one so Artu would get to take shots while I drive. It’s probably the best mode of transportation if you plan on exploring whenever you’re in a certain province.”

AN: Worst part would be what we prioritize primarily when we do go somewhere—to her food is one of the biggest determiners of how great a place is, as for me it’s 100 percent on how the culture and environment speaks to my eyes and camera. Over our time together though she’s really developed a really good eye, while I’ve gotten a much more experienced palate.

MM: The worst part is when I’m hungry. At any point in time he forgets that I need my daily serving of rice, we get into little fights—thankfully easily remedied by lunch or dinner and a damn good dessert.

What is one piece of advice you have for couples who are planning to backpack,  travel or embark on a journey together?

MM: One advice is to not be too strict when it comes to schedule. It’s good to have a working idea of where you want to go and what you want to do but always make sure you’re both open to running around someplace else if the opportunity presents itself. It always makes sense for us to pack our stuff together so I know that let’s say that the first aid kit is with him or the fancy toiletries are with me. Another advice is to make sure all your travel documents are photocopied and you have copies of each other’s important stuff saved on your phone—plus points also if you can steal a couple of jackets or coats he’ll be bringing on the trip, which means more luggage space for you (and more leeway for shopping).

AN: When you want to go on a damn good experience, travel somewhere uncomfortable. If you want to take a break from all the shit your city gives you, spoil yourself to comfort. Of course there are times where you get to have the best of both worlds, but in my opinion, it’s experiencing discomfort together when you learn how to not make enemies of each other.

Bamboo forest in Japan

On board a TAO Philippines boat with captain Harry—they have Jack Russells aboard almost every ship and it’s the most adorable thing because they run around the boat when the anchor is about to drop, swim with the guides (his trusty best friend was Jimboy whose back he would just ride on whenever Jimboy would swim close enough)