February 19th, 2018
There are a couple of beliefs that travel ingrained on me.
Belief #1: Getting a tan is your best souvenir.
Fact: That's just an excuse for me always forgetting to bring sunblock. For one, I always go on a backpacking trip. Can you imagine a 10-day backpacking trip to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand with only seven kilos of carry-on? Who would care bringing a sunblock and limiting it to a 100-ml container just because I don't usually include baggage allowance on a budget trip.
Deeper Truth: For a frequent traveler, you’d stop caring about how you look and care more about the basics of life. I can't even remember the last time I combed my hair just because I read somewhere that combing your wet hair causes split ends. I let my hair air-dry and when I remember combing, it’s already time to sleep. But here's the deal, the best sunrises are caught when you forget about brushing your teeth upon waking.
Belief #2: Talking to locals makes travel easier.
Fact: Not if they talk a different language. I remember that I am always the PR person of our trips. PR as in Public Relations. I already got used with trying to blend in and combining words from a different language, mixing and matching phrases I barely have an idea about.
One morning, we ate in a hole-in-the-wall in Mui Ne, Vietnam for less than a dollar with free fast Wi-fi. Their menu has the Vietnamese language text, the Vietnamese language using English text, and the English translation. My friends started ordering in English. Just because I want to show off that I know some Vietnamese, I ordered reading out the Vietnamese language in English text, saying “Cam Go” for chicken. The restaurant owner was delighted. I said no to sweet and chili sauce but she kept bringing bowls of sweet and chili sauce. What's good is that for less than a dollar of rice meal, they gave us slices of passion fruit for free. And I blame it on me trying to speak Vietnamese.
The bad thing about it? We went to a money exchange in the evening. After the transaction, I said, “Cam Go” instead of “Cam On”. The owner might be wondering why I said chicken when I wanted to say Thank You.
Deeper Truth: The strangers you meet along your travels can be your next best friend. Now, I have been traveling with people who used to be strangers but are now the best persons I’ve ever met. Ditch out the idea of not talking to strangers. It applies to kids but not to adults.
Belief #3: Tiring out your knees with extreme activities or jumpy movements will get you arthritis later on in life.
Fact: I just have this obsession that I don't want my knees bent by more than 45 degrees. It’s just too much exertion for me just because I believe that the mitochondria or the powerhouse of our cells works like battery. They wear and tear so I make all dire efforts to save energy. Who doesn't want to conserve their mitochondria and live to a 100?
Deeper Truth: One of the best walks I did was when I rode the wrong bus and the right bus is infrequent at where the wrong bus dropped me off. Out of boredom, I checked how far the marine sanctuary is and it’s freaking 13 kilometers and a two-hour-and-57-minute walk. Just because I can't stay put, I decided to walk while waiting for the bus. There are seven marine sanctuaries in the area and I passed by two of them. There's a dog that kept barking and almost bit me. My armpit was sweaty. And I finally got my ride after walking six kilometers in more than an hour. I sometimes wonder why I pick the off-the-beaten path that almost no buses travel to. But that was the best walk of my life. I spoke to several locals along the way. I saw the great shorelines and sidewalks I won't appreciate by simply riding a bus. I observed how people in that area spend their mornings on an unassuming day. The best travels might be hidden in the most tiring adventures you try to escape from.
Belief #4: The new trend on Instagram are pictures which are minimal (there's only a hint of you in the shot) or back shots. I used to have that macro shot on my old pictures.
Fact: My face ruins the shot. Well, at least that's what my photographer friends say.
Deeper Truth: Pictures are one of the best ways to capture a moment or an experience. Facebook’s way of showing you memories from years ago won't be possible if you didn't have a post or a shot of the trip. But I have plenty of trips I didn't hold a camera but ranks as the most memorable ones. I broke my camera lens two years ago prior to a trip to Siargao. I felt so bad that the repair will be done after the trip. I didn't have high-resolution shots from that island but Siargao still ranks as one of my top three best destinations. Always strike a balance between documenting a trip and enjoying every essence of it.
Belief #5: If I work hard for money so I can save and then travel later on, why not travel now?
Fact: I used to believe that travels need to be luxurious. When I learned about DIY trips and making the most out of your budget, I realized it’s best to travel when you’re young and able and I'm pretty sure I can manage with the resources I have. I can't imagine myself trying sky diving or free diving when I’m retired at 60. To tell you, I had this college days’ dream of working ‘til 85 just because my favorite professor was that age back then. But that changed after reading the Habit Two of Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Begin with the end in mind. Ask yourself, why do you even work. Is it to travel sometime? Is it to spend time with your loved ones? Then why not now? Or maybe it’s better to ask, why do you even live?
Deeper Truth: You owe it to yourself to make the world your education. There is so much to learn about people from different cultures and from different places. It’s time to stop simply watching National Geographic or Discovery Channel. You have to see those wild whales and sharks in real life. You have to see the ruins of Angkor Wat with your own eyes. You have to see the constellations for real and figure out where the North Star is. I’m not saying quit your job or your business and travel. I’d rather emphasize that travel is a must for everybody. Find your purpose and insert traveling to learn. There are things that you can only learn when traveling. For me, it’s as simple as figuring out the north and the south of a map. I tell you, that's quite a struggle but it is life-changing. At least for me.
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