A Dream come true. And more.
Europe as your first travel destination abroad? Touring a place where the language is completely foreign to you? An international runway?
It all started with a dream that turned into a goal; a goal that materialized into a plan fuelled by faith and motivation.
When I was appointed by the national director of the Top International Model of the World to represent our country in Bulgaria, I was in awe. At first, honestly, I could not believe that I was actually going to wear the Philippine sash! And to think that the competition will be held in Europe? Fate got to be kidding me, yeah?
Little by little, the fact that I was really the country’s representative finally sank in. I felt the pressure, the need to continuously learn and improve myself, and the support that I never thought I would receive.
Days went fast and before I knew it, I was on my way to Bulgaria. It was my first travel abroad so everything was new to me. I felt nervous, excited, and giddy at the same time.
Excited to start my adventure!
After an almost twenty- hour flight, I finally reached Sofia, the capital city of Bulgaria. While I was waiting for my luggage, my mind started to wander— on how would it feel to step on a new country, how the sun and air would feel on my skin, and the list went on.
Bulgaria, Ashley Palma has arrived!
First things first, I made my way to the hotel. I stayed in Sofia before heading to the venue of the competition. I took the opportunity to get used to the vibe of the place, to explore its wonders, and to visit the places I imagined myself being in. My energy is still on peak despite the long travel time so after a few hours, I decided to start my adventure!
I walked my way through the streets of Sofia to the City Center. Honestly, I had no idea on which street to take! I don’t even know if I am on the right track but who cares? Sometimes, not knowing where to go makes the ride more exciting, right?
Here are some of the snapshots of my first stroll in the city.
I was so amazed on how the city has maintained its heritage. I felt like I was transported a few centuries back! It somehow reminded me of the ambiance in Vigan City.
I totally enjoyed the place that I didn’t notice the time. And when the night came, the lights added to the magical effect of the city center.
The city lights were so mesmerizing! Time flew by as I appreciated the amazing atmosphere.
The second day of my adventure.
I started my second day at Paradise Mall—to buy sports shoes because I left mine at home. Yes, I needed that for the event and yet I forgot to bring it with me. Well, things like that happen. I was just thankful that I noticed it before I even head to the venue. When I got a nice pair, I decided to eat and choose a restaurant with a menu that has no English translation in it.
Even if I didn’t know what it was called this dish was delicious.
In the late afternoon, I went to Vitosha Boulevard—the one that they call the Heart of Sofia. This main commercial street is named after the Vitosha mountain- the mountain just next to the city. If only I have more time, I would have climbed that mountain. On the brighter side, I had the chance to roam around the whole street. There are lots of posh stores, bazaars, souvenir shops, restaurants, bars, and cafes. I loved how light the ambiance was even though it is full of people who are busy minding their own business. There are those who are shopping, riding a bicycle, do skateboarding, playing an instrument while singing, and there were also those who looked content just by watching other people.
Walking the fashionable streets of Vitosha
As I have mentioned, there are lots of restaurants and cafes in that place which made it hard for me to locate the Vitosha Street Café. I personally wanted to try their food and coffee because of the good reviews online. It took me about half an hour to find it but it was worth the hassle.
My short stay in Sofia has brought me memories that I will surely treasure. I fell in love with the city and its people. English is not their language but whenever I asked for directions, they were very eager to help. There were times when we totally cannot understand each other but through gestures, we were able to communicate. Overall, the experience was awesome. I found the vibe of the city as historic and romantic.
The experience of ‘Top International Model of the World’ begins
On the third day, I took the first trip of the bus, which is at nine in the morning, to Burgas. The trip took about six hours and when I reached the station, someone picked me up and brought me to the venue: DIT Majestic Beach Resort, Sunny Beach.
The “Majestic” venue for the competition
Back then, I never knew that this day is going to change my heart forever.
The first day was set for the arrival of the candidates. I was feeling nervous, because I don’t know what to expect, and excited, for the activities and people that I would meet.
Receiving my pass and sash!
The moment that I stepped in the hotel, all my worries went away. They welcomed us wholeheartedly and that made me feel at home.
After the tour we ran to the beach for a little fun!
Our week had been full of activities, trainings, and fun.
Even though we just met we it feels like we’ve been friends for a long time
The whole event never felt like a competition to me. It was more like a holiday spent with friends that I’ve known for years. The management and production was very professional yet enjoyable to work with.
Awesome time with everyone!
Our simple walks on the beach and city tours meant more than just the view and the stroll. It was a meaningful time to get to know my co-models more and to talk about things out of nowhere.
Friendship at it’s funnest! The best way to break the ice or in this case the sand!
Our photo sessions brought out the best in each of us. They pushed us to be as natural as possible thus allowing our personalities to reflect in our photos. I still remember hearing them, “We’ll have a photo shoot! Just make them look natural. We are on the beach! Not too much makeup.” And then I proved that I really love this team. We are all models representing our countries yet everyone shows humility and simplicity. They never ceased to amaze me how gorgeous everyone looks just by being natural.
We also had our catwalk training. Our instructor has been so patient with us. I admire on how they can point out what we can develop in our attitude on stage, walk, and projection without making us feel bad. They were very objective and considerate. The way they trained us motivated us more to give our best for the event.
And who would forget our late night walks and cocktails on the beach, clubbing and shisha, and even our simple talks during our free time? Those are one of the best moments in my life—ones that I would never forget.
Time for a little play time after a long day’s work.
This event, as I have said, has changed my life forever. The awards and recognitions that I have received are just bonuses. If you were in my place, believe me, you would not think about the competition itself. The memories that I had, the new family that I now belong in, the friends that I know will stay with me, and the whole experience are more than enough to make me feel like a winner. Our reign will last for a year, our titles will be forever attached to our names; but what you know what is the greatest thing that I have won in this event? It is the special place in my heart to where I will keep this family in.
And of course, I will never have this chance to live my dream if not for the people who have stood by me before, during, and even after this competition. My family, friends, colleagues, and everyone who felt my pressure but never failed to make me feel that I can do it. There were times when I wanted to give up and to back out from the competition. There were times when I don’t feel beautiful or capable enough to carry our flag. That is quite normal, right? But then again, these people managed to believe in me when I couldn’t believe in myself.
All smiles while representing the Philippines in Bulgaria
So if you happen to read this and have a dream in your heart, just go for it! Nothing is impossible. If you are capable of dreaming, you have it in you to make it happen. Just have faith and pray really hard! Pray for what is in your heart. And, never forget to be grateful for the people who have always been there. Always give credit.