When 2016 came in, I promised myself that I’m going to travel in my motherland, the Philippines. I want to bloom where I am planted. I want to know my roots. I want to let this seedling of curiosity grow like a forest vesting through the wild. I want my vines to crawl and cling on to places. I want to be watered and be drenched in the sun.
I was firm, eager, and impulsive. I booked flights to General Santos, Batanes, Boracay, and Cebu; joined trips to Bulacan, Ilocos, Pangasinan, Batangas, and Zambales with my family and my friends; and booked more flights to Antique, Tuguegarao, Bacolod, Zamboanga, Bohol, and Dumaguete.
I told myself that I’m going to trace all of the Philippines’ curves and edges. I’m going to have a passionate relationship with its wonders. I’m going to learn its cultures and traditions that I only used to hear in classes and search in Google. I’m going to know its people—no matter which tribe, religion, gender, belief, language, political view, and status they swear by. I’m going to experience all of these for myself, with money or none, alone or not, and mother-approved or not.
“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” -Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky
And I did. I’m starting the life of travel.
Am I scared? Of course, I will always be. Fear is a natural feeling that we all endure. Fear of being alone, fear of heights, fear of motorcycles, fear of waves, fear of depth, fear of breakouts, fear of the maddening crowd, and fear of getting lost, among others, are all normal. We are just people. Fear is the benchmark of what we think we cannot do, and know that fear is also the gateway to the greatness that’s long been waiting for us. Once you surpass this moment of fear, the breath of fulfillment will come out in to you and you will get the high of doing it all over again. You will get scared again, and you will overcome this again. You can overcome this. Trust that you can. Believe me. Believe in yourself. Every time I overcome my fears, I always close my eyes and say, “Wala na akong hindi kayang gawin.”
“Travel is never a matter of money, but of courage.” -Paulo Coelho
Before and during my recent trip to South Cotabato, my family and friends were freaking out: “Mag-ingat ka please,” “Mag-isa ka lang? Abnoy ka talaga,” “Sana buhay kang makauwi,” “Wag mo nang ituloy yan,” “Bilib na ako sayo pag nakauwi ka ng Manila,” “Ha? Bakit ka pupunta doon?” and “Huling gala mo na yan ha. Wala kang katakot-takot,” are some of the many eye-rolling messages I got from my family and my friends. To be honest, I worry for my mother’s welfare more than mine whenever I leave. Like any other mothers or women out there, my mother overthinks a lot. She is always afraid for my safety, for my things, for my skin. I am too, but I don’t want to let fear win over me. I don’t want to get limited because of my fears. I don’t want to regret not doing something just because I’m scared. I have prepared for this. I have been persistently filling in my courage bank for this. You, mommy, raised me well. Your strength runs strong in my blood. I can do this because your greatness taught me how.
Do I have enough money? I don’t, but I earn and save up hard for it. I used to live the life of shopping where clothes, shoes, and bags rule my life. I don’t eat that much to save up for something I’d only wear once. I buy the same kind in different colors. I sell old stuff to buy new ones. I don’t repeat outfits because I’m on that ‘artista’ level when I was younger. But as I get older, I realized that I have had enough of these blinding glitz and glamour. I have to invest on something that doesn’t die, that lives on until my last breath, that makes my senses grow, that widens my horizon, and that changes my perspective for the better: travel and experience. Material things won’t fill in your wisdom bank. Invest on what will make your soul richer. When I was saving up for my Batanes trip, I told myself, “If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere,” and I made it in Batanes. Now, I’m off to anywhere my guts take me to.
“Material things won’t fill in your wisdom bank. Invest on what will make your soul richer.”
Am I ready for this? I’m not, but the best time to start is now—now that you are young, able, and free. Unlike money, time and energy lost cannot be redeemed. Remember when we were kids and rushing to adulthood like hell? Don’t do it again in your youth. We are only young once. While you still have the time and energy to do things at your own pace, please do yourself a favor and do it now. We have so much beauty to see, things to learn and relearn, people to connect and reconnect with, food to devour in, and happenings to let our blood rush. Don’t wait until you are ready. Don’t wait until you have kids. Don’t wait until you have enough money. Don’t wait until you find your better half. Don’t wait until you are older and less invigorated. Don’t let your work eat up your time and space. Don’t let the lack of having a travel buddy hinder your dire need to explore. Don’t just exist, live your life now. Now is always the perfect time to book that flight, to plant trees in places you visit, to adopt that dog by the beach, to turn a stranger to a best friend, to eat that one thing you hate, to take that leap of faith, and to allow what God has prepared for you. When I was in General Santos, a family I met at the airport offered me a ride and hunted an accommodation for me to spend the night in. We were all happily exchanging stories on our way until the father asked how young I am, “21 po,” I said. “Oh grabe, ang galing mo! Nung 21 ako di ko kaya yung ganyan tapos magisa ka pa!” he laughed while nodding his head. Til then, I realized that I am on right track. I knew that this is what I want to do, the life I want to live in, the world I love to wake up to every day.
“If you’re twenty-two, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel—as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them—wherever you go.” -Anthony Bourdain, Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook
I want to start the life of travel in the Philippines first. It holds so much beauty and uniqueness that would make you sing “These are the moments, I thank God that I’m alive,” or “What a wonderful world.”
It wouldn’t be easy. I’m not good in handling post-travel depression. I easily get separation anxiety. I always want to linger longer. I’m not an expert, but I know that this is what I want. When I have established a stronghold relationship with my country, I can then confidently brave the rest of the world. For now, let me be in a love-hate relationship with Pilipinas kong mahal.
“Ang buhay ay isang mahabang kumusta at paalam.” -Ebe Dancel
World in my words,