Hey, blogosphere! I’m back! I was gone for about two weeks… and I really missed you! I got kind of busy with work for the past few days, because I went on leave last week. I had a short but well-enjoyed vacation in Hong Kong and Macau!
As I may have mentioned a couple of times in this blog, I love to travel. Traveling is a fantastic way to learn. It may get expensive at times, but hey, every peso (or whatever currency) you spend cannot compare to the experience of seeing a new place, discovering exquisite food, meeting new people, or smelling the air in an unfamiliar land. That’s why I have vowed to bring myself to a new country or town every year, and my target this year as I have written here is to travel to Malaysia soon.
It’s an exciting and indescribable feeling at the same time – landing on a country you’ve never been to before, and I admit I get nervous whenever I imagine that I have to deal with people who think differently and speak another language. But through traveling, you also realize things about your own country, your culture, and your values. You compare and find out what makes a country and its people unique and beautiful. You start to treasure though what you have at home. You feel a sense of pride when you see something in a country, say a tourist spot or a destination that we also have here in the Philippines. You are placed in awe when you unravel churches, temples, ruins of places which have been ravaged by nature. Travel has done wonders for me, because it has taught me to appreciate what we have here while at the same time, enjoy the sights and sounds of a new found place.
However, traveling is not that easy. You don’t just pack your bags and go wherever your feet take you. I wish it was that quick, but I like to mix spontaneity with a plan whenever I travel. This is because 1. I have to file for a leave at work so I have to know exactly how long I will be gone, 2. I want to ensure that I have enough resources to spend, and 3. I don’t want to waste a day in a new place doing nothing.
Before I book a flight to a destination, I check out nice travel blogs and marvel at the places that the writers have been to. I’d recommend three blogs that I check regularly:
1. The Backpack Chronicles – this is the blog site of my brother’s friend, Joanna, whom he traveled with to Sagada. He recommended that I check out her site, and I really love how she describes her trips while at the same time, giving some information about the places. I also like the title itself, primarily because I have been learning and trying to pack light. In my past two travels I did not check in any baggage! That’s an achievement for someone who likes lugging around a lot of (unnecessary) stuff while traveling.
2. Rica’s Rucksack – Rica was a colleague of mine when I was still working for an advertising company. I never thought before that she likes to travel, but I am now a follower of her blog where she chronicles her trips to places with only her rucksack (or no bag at all). Yeah, she’s my idol. I have yet to try doing that.
3. The Pinay Solo Backpacker – I am just in awe of this lady. I don’t know if I can ever get to that point when I can travel alone. The only time I did was on a trip to Singapore wherein I was alone during the flight going there and going back to Manila. But all throughout my stay there, I was with friends. You can check out schedules of activities, itineraries, and other cool and useful stuff from Gael’s blog, too.
While I mentioned that traveling is not a piece of cake, it’s still something that I have learned to love and enjoy with my family and friends. Through years of being a traveler, I have my own tips to share for those who also have a great passion for discovering new places:
1. Bring dollars with you – make sure that you enough money for your travel, especially if it’s out of the country. If possible, bring extra dollars (US) because they usually accept them. It’s one way to ensure that you can buy food, pay for your lodging (if you haven’t placed reservations and paid in advance) and buy trinkets or souvenirs. Also, make sure that you have extra money stowed in your bags and pockets, in case of emergency.
2. Pack light – I am slowly getting to the point where I can travel with only a backpack and a purse. I have watched several tutorial videos where they show how you can put as many clothes as possible in your luggage or backpack, organizing them while maximizing the space inside, and still being able to wear fresh clothes the next day. Make sure that you have extra undies, socks, and shirts though especially when you know that a lot of walking will be done. Just don’t exaggerate (like I used to do) by bringing five extras of everything. And oh, don’t forget to pack a small medicine kit. I always have one with me because I have weird allergies and vertigo.
3. Research, research, research – check out credible resources and blogs so you’ll know where to go, what to do, what to wear, when to travel. If you’re the adventurous type, it still pays to know a little something about a country or town you’re visiting. You don’t want to be bringing clothes for summer when the temperature ranges from 10-15 degrees. You don’t want to be walking around in skimpy shorts when there are temples and churches all around the area. You don’t want to be eating nothing because you didn’t know that they only serve spicy food. So just click away and bring tidbits of information about the place you’re going to explore.
4. Observe – if it’s your first time to travel, aside from researching, make sure you are observant of how people do things around you. How do you check in at the airport? Do you need to remove your shoes before entering the temple? Where do other tourists buy pasalubong? How do locals prepare the food? What time do locals usually turn in? Little observations can have a big impact on your travel. If you are vigilant, you can enjoy your trip and learn a lot while at the same time, guarantee a safe and sound journey.
5. Let go of your fears – this, for me, is the most important tip that I can give you. You have to let go of your fears when exploring a new territory. Don’t be afraid of talking to people around you. Don’t fear the unknown, dark caves. Just give in to your curiosity.
I guess to sum up the reasons why I love to travel, I’d say that I love it because it has led me to self-discovery. I never knew that I can navigate a new country with just a few dollars and a map in hand. I never knew that I am not afraid of heights despite of my vertigo attacks. I never imagined that I can conquer my fear of getting lost (which, FYI, always happens to me in our dear country). I never thought that there’s so much beauty in old churches and temples. I never considered traveling as a life-changing activity before, but now I do. I hope you have found the beauty in traveling and love it, too.