I have been traveling for almost seven years now and I have been meaning (but constantly delaying) to put up this travel blog for two years already. It took me one year of restlessness, several months of watching wedding videos online, and a thousand and one philosophical degustations with friends, until I got to realizing, well, me, traveling, and writing – we’re family. Some call this phase the Saturn Return phenomenon. I call it aging.
I do not exactly remember when this fascination for traveling started. But even as a child, I was always the active one. Often running and dancing, you can’t actually expect to see me sitting in one corner. I was always out in the streets with all the other kids in the neighborhood. Or up in the hills, climbing trees. Or wading in the water. I was always curious. I was the wandering one.
I consider the summer of 1998 pivotal to this wanderlust. I was just fifteen then and 410 days short of graduating from high school. The entire country was on a rage because of the Centennial celebrations that were going around. I was sent by my school to attend the Centennial Youth Leader’s Program in Subic, Olongapo.
With budget airlines unheard of in the country, and the internet still an abstract idea then, hearing fellow students from all over the archipelago talked about the beauty of their hometown ignited my desire to one day travel around the Philippines.
It was also during this time when the whale sharks, the world’s largest fish, had just been “discovered” in Donsol, my hometown. It didn’t help that my parents put up the Amor Farm Beach Resort, the first in the area. So, while moonlighting as a receptionist, housekeeper, and waiter for our very modest resort then, I also found myself sharing tables with some of the world’s most adventurous, exciting, and energetic travelers.
I eagerly listened to their stories, marveled at their adventures, and as they had always punctuated our conversations with the Amer-you-gotta-travel-your-country-is-so-beautiful-the-world-is-waiting-for-you line of encouragement, the more that I had hoped to one day write my own travel stories as well.
I have been thinking about it but could not quite exactly outline the reasons. You know how it is for star-crossed lovers who can’t really tell why they’re in love with their partners so they get up happy and excited everyday knowing there is so much to discover about the other person? That’s what I feel about traveling. I know it’s mushy, you can kill me now.
Seriously, more than half of the fun lies in meeting locals and fellow travelers who challenge your perspectives in life. Depending on how you choose to imbibe the energy around them, you can actually become a better person just by listening to their stories.
There’s Raffy, the boy from Boracay who taught me how to skimboard, who firmly keeps a sunny disposition in life even after becoming an orphan. Or Ate Nora, the caretaker of a resort in Port Barton in Palawan, who remains hopeful her husband will find his way back to her after abandoning their family for almost five years now.
Then there’s Alastair, the backpacker from Canada who likes to pepper his sentences with the word “gago,” who still chooses to see the good in us Filipinos even after a not-so-very-good work experience with an infamous politician. And Kharim, the most hopeless romantic person I have met, who traveled halfway around the world to find his self again after a break up.
Their stories are real, and when you take them in, you become a repository, a recorder, of their journeys. When you travel, you come across a story so wonderful it is bound to be told a countless number of times. The talks that you share with the people you’ve met in your travels, no matter how fleeting they are, linger longer than how you felt the moment your eyes feasted on the wonders that is Banaue Rice Terraces.
And then, there are the stories you share with your friends as you travel. When you go on a journey together, you see a part of them you would have not known had you just stayed in the metro. Some of them things that you do not like and test the mettle of your friendship.
When you foolishly and happily cry together in one corner of Ikea before it opens, when you laugh your worries away just by listening to your friend passionately talks about the film he wants to direct one day as you travel to your next destination sans extra clothes and money, when you hurriedly eat boodle-feast like in a plastic bag after setting up a bonfire that just wouldn’t work as the night creeps on a secluded beach, you develop more respect for your friends and the persons they want to be.
After all, you befriend your self when you go on an adventure. You tell him to be more cooperative when your travel does not turn out the way you envisioned it (believe me, it happens most of the time). You teach your self to be more hopeful, and grateful, when a typhoon’s threatening to ruin your birthday trip to El Nido only for the sun to show up minutes before your island-hopping tour. You become patient. You ask your self to be more enduring. You learn to be kind to your self, and be forgiving, and more accepting.
You derive pleasure from knowing that even when you do not understand a single word from the Vietnamese lady who takes your order for the night or you get lost in a colorful sea of people when a Philippine festival’s blazing, you discover a part of your self you never knew existed.
In each and every travel, you come back to the city poorer, but wiser. You are a changed person who delights in the discovery of a new strength and laughs at the realization of a lame, stupid mistake.
What have you got to lose when you travel? Nothing. Money, no matter how hard you work for it, is bound to be consumed and be lost anyway. What do you gain when you travel? Everything. New friends, deeper appreciation for all the things around you, a changed perspective in life, the amazement of a kid, becoming good friends with your own self, gratefulness for everything – things that money can’t buy.
So, get out of your comfort zone. Pack your bags. Dream. Travel. Love.
When you are out there, I kid you not, it’s juanderkid!
Love and light, everyone. Go, juanderlust!
- Featured image taken at Donsol, Sorsogon with a Canon 550d; Donsol mural painting taken at Donsol Municipal Tourism Office with a Canon 550d; Raffy’s pictures taken with my old Sony T90 digicam; Sagada pictures taken with my friend’s digicam; Pinatubo pictures taken with a Nikon d300, and Sony T90 digicam, respectively; Luang Prabang pictures taken with a friend’s Nikon digicam.
Tagged: around the Philippines, Banaue, Banaue Rice Terraces, beach, Bicol, blog, blogger, Boracay, butanding, Donsol, Donsol; whale sharks; butanding; Boracay; Port Barton; Palawan; Sagada; Pinatubo; Luang Prabang; Laos; Philippines; travel; backpacking; Amor; Farm; Beach; Resort, fun, joys of traveling, juan;, Olongapo, Palawan, Philippine, Philippine Festivals, Philippines, Port Barton, Sagada, Sorsogon, Subic, travel, travel blog, travel blogger, traveling, travelling, whale shark