Traveling, say mostly solo on a monthly basis, is not always as gratifying as it looks like on social media. The life from behind the scenes is tough, exhausting, and requires a lot of courage and strength.
I was 21 then—young, able, and free—when I started the life of travel. I braved the Philippines at my own pace. The universe even conspired and led me to the freelancing world. I had all the time and the world became my office, so I went to Bulacan, Batanes, Batangas, Banaue, Pangasinan, Cagayan Valley, Baguio, La Union, Zambales, Iloilo, Guimaras, Bacolod, Cebu, Bohol, Boracay, Dumaguete, Siquijor, Zamboanga, Ozamiz, and South Cotabato.
I went out of the comforts of my home, I laid off my fashion vices, I endured sunburns and pimple breakouts, I got scarred under the sea, I got helplessly sick, I walked through steep rice terraces to reach a waterfall, I stayed on a remote island in time for my monthly period, I encountered rude people, I fell and broke for every man I met on the road, I slept in bus rides and in the airport when I ran out of funds along the way, I experienced a 5.2-magnitude earthquake at 2 AM while everyone else was asleep, I mentally transported myself to the places I’ve been to because I can’t come back yet, I lost sleep over articles that I had to submit the next day even when I was tucked in the middle of a coastal town, and I battled word wars with my parents when they disagreed on the day hike I paid for two months ago.
But why do I still travel? What do I get from it?
Because though uneasy, traveling allows me to grow and learn. Who would ignore that chance? Definitely not me.
I learned to let go of my fashion vices when I started traveling. I used to save up for new clothes and shoes when I was younger just so I could don what’s on my favorite fashion blogger’s new outfit post, but my lavishness eventually faded when I found out on AirAsia, Skyjet Airlines, Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines, and Traveloka that a 400-peso blouse could take two persons to Bohol, an 800-peso sandals could take me to Cebu, and a 1,300-peso skirt could take me to Zamboanga. Every money I wanted to spend led me to the thought, “This amount could take me to this place.” Traveling made me realize that I could live with wearing the same set of clothes in a month or a year, that it’s okay to not always look well-put together, and that needs should always win over wants. The next time you say you can’t afford to travel, count all the money you spent on the clothes, shoes, and gadgets that you don’t even need, and think of where it could have taken you instead.
I learned to drench under the fiery sun. I won’t forget Tita Dita’s face when she saw how red I was after my high-noon swim on Sta. Cruz Island. I also won’t forget how happy I was when I swung the wrecking ball out of the hammock on Bolubadiang Island. So much awaits, and I won’t discover them if I stayed in the hostel just because I was afraid to get five times darker. Remember: tan lines don’t last forever, but memories do.
I learned how petty my problems were through the mountains. Whenever I hike, I always ask, “Kuya, malapit na ba? [Kuya, are we there yet?]” and kuya would be quick to answer, “Five minutes nalang [Just five more minutes].” It happens to everyone who hikes. We catch our breaths, get impatient on the distance, get toasted under the sun, and even good-humoredly curse who initiated the climb. But come to think of it: the locals who live in the mountains hike every waking day just to bring and sell crops in town, children brave heights and depths just to attend classes, and here we are being impatient and petty on the tolerable challenges ahead of us.
I learned that traveling won’t resolve my heartbreaks. In fact, it caused me more pain. When my dearest grandfather died in March 2016, I thought that running away from our home was the key to getting over his death. But I found more pain as I went around places. I fell for every man I met along the way. I met someone in Zambales, in Banaue, in Ozamiz, in La Union, and in Baguio, to name a few. Every place gave me fleeting moments in its full isolation of time, and leaving them meant moving on not only from the place but also from the person who caught my fragile heart. And the cycle won’t end, the baggage gets heavier, but I become stronger.
I learned that it doesn’t matter if I get to explore all the 81 provinces of the Philippines or not. The challenge for me now is to build a good relationship with the locals, to linger longer, to understand by immersing, to grow through the heartbreaks and breakthroughs, and to revisit all the places I’ve felt a connection with such as Batanes, Zamboanga, Baguio, and Cebu.
Above all, we must live in the world to know the world.
World in my words,
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