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We have to admit that 2016 has been a pretty shitty year for all of us. With all the wars happening throughout the globe and people getting kicked out from their own countries, it’s really easy just to give up and ask, “Ano na 2016?”

But don’t, because if there’s a silver lining to all of this, it’s that it makes #Better2017 a lot easier to achieve. But again, that isn’t going to happen if you don’t make a change for yourself.

We had the chance to talk with Jenna Katarina, self-proclaimed fitness buff (with the body to prove it), about how she thinks that changing for the better is all about changing your mindset.

So how often do we have to go to the gym to get a body like yours?
I go to the gym everyday; either during the morning or at night. It’s not like I’m forced to or anything. It’s just a part of my lifestyle. I recently discovered you can do so much while keeping fit if you just have proper time management. I answer emails and handle my social media while I’m on the treadmill!

Wow! Where do you get the motivation to exercise?
I think people prioritize things that make them happy. Whether it be participating in sports, exercising, or whatever you love doing, you’ll always be able to find time for it if you really want to do it.

Yeah, most of us have been piling on the pounds after the holiday season...
As soon as the food becomes just something to burn in the gym, that’s when you know you have a problem. I see people eat unhealthy stuff every day because they said they could burn it exercising. Gym is not about balancing your calories, it’s a lifestyle. Gym helps you keeps your body detoxify. I usually detoxify once a week by eating only fruits and vegetables. And believe me, it does get way easier once you get into it.

So what do you suggest we should be eating?
I’m from Finland, and the government promotes a GMO-free food. Our government doesn’t allow food from other countries. Healthcare is free for everyone. I think the rationale behind is it, rather than spending more on medicine to cure diseases, they just have have you lead a healthy lifestyle so you wouldn’t need the medicine in the first place. Healthcare is better than sickcare.

Finland sounds awesome. Why’d you travel all the way here to the Philippines?
My mom taught me to travel now she hates it because I’m never home. I’m a very curious person so I love exploring and experiencing things. It’s always a bit of a culture shock when I travel to another country.

And so far, how has your experience been here in the Philippines?
I’m a huge fan of warm countries. I hate winters in Finland because no one does anything. Whenever I invite my friends to go out, they always say, “Have you looked outside? It’s snowing!” But I’m like, “Girl, it’s snowing eight months a year. Get over it.” But apart from the weather, I think Manila is one of the fastest growing cities in the world. There’s a lot of potential for business here because the market here seems to be open for anything. And the fact that the people here speak really good English just amazes me.

Gee thanks! But yeah, it gets pretty busy here in Manila.
That’s so true! The first couple of weeks I was here, I couldn’t get anywhere on time. I understand why you guys say, “I’ll be there in five minutes!” then end up making others wait for 45 instead. It’s impossible to get to point A to point B without hassles. I don’t know why the government doesn’t do anything about it because it’s such a huge no-no for pollution.

You don’t get traffic in Finland?
There are only 5.5 million people in Finland so there isn’t much motor and/or human traffic there. In fact, if you stand less than two meters away from someone, you’re already invading their personal space, ha ha! I’m exaggerating but we’re very respectful of other people’s space. There are even memes of Finnish people standing ten meters apart at bus stops.

Wow, that’s so different from other places in the world. How do you handle the culture shock?
I try to make fun of stuff like that instead of getting frustrated. I don’t want to talk bad about Chinese people, but it’s really hard to get use to some of their social norms. One time I was in line at a convenience store and this old Chinese guy just cut in front of me when it was my turn. There are no cues in China! I was mind-blown! Since I was traveling alone and no one there could understand what I was saying, I started talking out loud, “Oh my god am I a ghost? Can no one see me? Ha ha!”

You travel to all these places alone?
I have travelled with friends before, but traveling by yourself is something I would recommend to everyone on this planet. It’s not easy for everyone to make friends in a foreign place but when you travel alone, you’re kind of forced to actually step out of your comfort zone. I know it’s cool to go on vacation with your friends but you won’t probably meet new people because you’ll most likely talk to your friends. They become a safety net for you when you don’t feel like interacting with new people.

How do you start conversations with strangers without looking, erm, creepy?
You need to pay attention to your surroundings. Just look for things to talk about or crack a joke. People are generally nice so just keep smiling, but try not to look like a creeper. It also helps to know the basics of the local languages, which is really funny because in Thailand you can say one word with the same spelling in different types of ways and they can mean totally different things like “Ma, mah, muh, muah!” One time, I tried complementing our host on the delicious meal we had, but I ended up saying that I found it was horrible and that my stomach hurts because of my wrong tones!

Any worldly travel wisdom you’d like to share with us? Something we won’t find on listicles and Thought Catalogue articles.
You can’t read on the Internet what traveling teaches you. What goes on inside your mind and what it makes you feel like. No one can teach you how you want to go through your journey in life. Some people might say that traveling by yourself is sort of selfish but exposing yourself to all these different cultures and perspectives, I think it’s more about getting out there and allowing yourself to become a better person.

Produced by Mary Rose A. Hogaza  Photographer Artu Nepomuceno  Stylist Bela Vitug  Makeup Janina Dizon  Hair Grachel Mande

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