April 20, 2017

#TravelokaPH: How Travel Changed My Life

I'm not gonna lie; I had a nice childhood. I was raised in a middle-class family, the second of three children. My grandparents from my father's side were immigrants in the US; I had a chance to visit them and tour the country as a bonus. It was during summer break of '94; I was twelve that time. Admittedly, I didn't remember much of that trip, because I was just tagging along my mom and my sister; nevertheless that was my first taste of travel and I enjoyed it.

Left: San Diego, California
Right: Manhattan Skyline (Pre-9/11)

Fast forward to my college years, when I realized how sheltered my childhood was. One day, my friends and I passed by a street vendor selling ice scramble, then they began to talk about their favorite childhood street foods... and I had no idea what they were talking about (I didn't even know what iskrambol was). I was almost eighteen that time, and I would still make my parents bring me to/from school. I had close to zero commuting experience, and all I knew about the world was through my parents' eyes. That was when I decided to live life's adventures on my own.

By learning how to travel, you also learn how to live your life.

Throughout college I was living in a dorm, as travel time from my house to the university takes at least two hours (I was studying in Los Baños). Because of this, I had to learn how to survive on my own, away from the protection of my parents. I learned how to ride a jeepney--specifically, to choose which routes will quickly take me to where I need to be--, how to cook for myself (even if it is just instant noodles and egg, but I did learn how to cook adobo!), and how to get along with people having different backgrounds--not everyone is as sheltered as I. I learned a lot from them, and they from me, and even though this four-year experience is trivial compared to others' gap year in India or in Tibet, I still consider it a life-changing travel experience.

Left: Pahiyas Festival at Lucban, Quezon (c.2001) 
Right: Peak Two, Makiling Rainforest Park, UPLB (c.2004) 

When you travel alone, you learn how to trust in other people.

When I started work, I made sure to get into a company with travel opportunities. I did get into one, and they did send me off to different countries, but what I didn't expect is that they would send me alone. My first onsite assignment lasted for only three months, but within that span of time I learned that you don't have to rely on yourself all the time. There will always be people who are willing to lend a hand, extend an arm, and even go out of their way to make you feel at home, even when you're in a different country.

Left: Perth, Australia (c.2009)
Right: Auschwitz Concentration Camp, Oświęcim, Poland (c.2011)

Left: Tower of Pisa, Pisa, Italy (c.2011)
Right: Muscat, Oman (c.2016)

In Australia, I met a Filipino family while I was sending out post cards. During the course of our small talk, I mentioned that I was having a hard time finding alternative vegetables for making sinigang, and because of this, they invited me to have dinner in their home. In Poland, a friendly elderly cashier taught me how to pronounce jajko, which is Polish for eggs. In Italy, locals helped me squeeze out a crowded train so I won't miss my stop to the Leaning Tower of Pisa (I still did, but had fun in the process). Helping goes both ways, too; while in Oman, I assisted my tour guide in finding the hostel of another guest before heading out to Wahiba Sands.

Travel makes you realize how you are just like everybody else.

It was during my two-week stint in Oman, when I had a chat with a colleague while waiting for our taxi to bring us back to the hotel. He was from India, now living in Dubai, and a converted Muslim. I was asking him about The Qur'an and the teachings of Islam, as I have read a bit of the book in the hotel room (in Muscat, hotel rooms have The Qur'an instead of The Bible). It really fascinated me that some of the stories in Islam are almost exactly the same as the ones in Christianity--from the story of Adam and Eve, up to the story of Jesus Christ. Then he told me that the fundamental basics of Islam and Christianity (and perhaps even in other religions) are just the same: be at peace with God and with the world. And in that moment, I learned that despite the differences in race, religion, and culture, everyone is basically cut from the same cloth (of the fabric of humanity).

Left: Merlion Park, Singapore (c.2011)
Right: Eiffel Tower, Paris, France (c.2011)

Left: Golconda Fort, Hyderabad, India (c.2016)
Right: Fukuoka, Japan (c.2016)

We all have read about travel nightmares; I'm sure we have a couple of our own, but at the end of the day we are all but travelers making our way through the journey of life. The workaholics in Singapore who seem to have no time to enjoy themselves could just be saving up for an upcoming trip or payment for their mortgage. France and its labor strikes greatly affect tourism, but perhaps it just means that people value their personal time and are willing to fight for it. India's "bad" traffic is no different from ours, in fact both of our countries are having the same experiences towards a progressive society. The locals of Japan may know little of the English language, but they still welcome foreign tourists with open arms. This is perhaps the greatest realization I had, observing locals and fellow travelers alike.

This is my official entry to Traveloka's contest: How Travel Changed My Life.


No comments:

Post a Comment