traveling solo, devirginized!
When people ask us why we travel together, our answer is plain and simple. We travel together because we complement each other in a lot of ways.
We tell stories in our own styles, we crave different adventures stretching wide across the id-anal continuum; one has a hunger for exotic food adventure while the other is contented with a quaint quiet time on the dinner table; one gravitates toward extreme activities and the other will fall silent in a cozy corner with a good book at hand. It is a good equilibrium from both ends, having a check and balance of some sort and someone to knock each other off to reality whenever the other loses track of the limitations.
What will make us travel separately will only be of two reasons:
1. Our work schedules. One works in Manila and the other in Singapore. A travel buddy once quoted Brook Silva Braga, “(T)ime and money are commodities with an inverse relationship; you need to spend one to have the other. And traveling cheap makes you realize that time is more valuable than money.” As much as we applaud the concept, we still have to work our asses out because we need the effing paycheck. And our jobs require a lot of nose bleeding and sleepless nights, not those types of jobs that an employee can just sit, stare stupid on the desk and fart rainbows the entire shift.
Filing for a vacation leave equates to a 1000-word email to the boss, followed by a head to head battle for work endorsement to avoid annoying calls while we scratch the beach sand out of our butts.
2. The rare moments that we just want to wander aimlessly without the presence of Monette whining about the spicy breakfast we had two days ago, and Ron complaining non-stop about the long waiting time for the bus to arrive. The need to travel alone is a healthy catharsis for us. Don’t get us wrong, we love traveling together and we see each other doing it from time to time when Monette is on her late stage of Alzheimer’s and Ron popping pills like MnM’s for his hypertension and diabetes.
Way before our solo stints in China and Indonesia, we started trying out flying solo in our very own third world paradise.
It was another hot summer in my home province of Rizal. I, for the love of Tony Braxton, woke up one late morning and doesn’t know what to do with my life. Another emo-shit moment when I refused to jump off my bed to start my pre-determined monotonous day, locking myself under my post-juvenile bedroom drowning myself with self pity: I hate my course in college; I don’t know where to go after graduation; I am tired of chasing after a failing relationship; and I do not know who I am (and no, I did not sing “Reflections” in front of the bathroom mirror). That was the lowest point of my life as a Homo sapiens.
I am LOST…
Then it hit me. Why not get really lost? Literally!
So I grabbed my primordial Canon film camera, slipped it in my jansport backpack, with some randomly grabbed clothes, pager, PLDT phone cards and some cash I saved from my school allowance. Then I punched in the dark.
HERE GOES NOTHING… I hitched on the first jeepney that passed by without looking at the destination signboard, the driver asked me where am I heading and I demi-confidently shouted back “SA DULO PO!” (to the last terminal). I did this routine terminal after terminal. After 6 jeepney transfers, an overnight bus ride and 20 hours of solitary guessing game of the towns I passed through, I found myself staring up from the foot of Mount Mayon.
The Church of Penafrancia in Naga, Camarines Sur
I never felt so independent, all my sphincters pump wild every time I encounter new things. There is a good feeling of liberation and delectable fear. I spent several days exploring the region, from Daet to Virac, Naga to Legaspi, Tabacco to Sorsogon. I stop whenever I feel like stopping, I reached places I never intended seeing.
Long before the age of digital SLR’s and Laptops, I never had a slightest digging in taking pictures, I don’t have the emotional quotient lest the simplest form of patience waiting for the films to be developed. So I only keep my handy dandy notebook and sketchpad and I only take pictures (of myself) when necessary, budgeting two rolls of 32 shot films is not easy, hits and misses were all counted.
Me inside the Hoyop hoyopan cave in Camalig, Albay.
It was the happiest time of my life, I walked around day in and day out. But the highlight of the trip was that one night in the wilderness of Gubat Sorsogon.
After my late siesta doze along the shores of Rizal beach, I finally stood up to go back to my hostel. It skipped me that 5PM was the last trip back to the city. So I walked towards the main road. It was rough, dark and en-caved with lush acacia trees, I was praying for a private vehicle to pass by so that I can hitch back to civilization, but to no avail. Until I came across a man wearing shorts, plaid shirt, rambo flip flops and he was carrying a riffle. I initially thought he’s from the armed forces, but soldiers would not carry guns if they are off duty. I think I know what or who he is. My joints lost hold, I was in a verge of bursting in to tears. He asked me if I am lost but I don’t want to answer his question, we were the only two human beings on sight, and there might be bloodshed if I brush him off. So I reluctantly answered –YES!
He told me that he can accompany me to the nearest parish church, and at the same time, offered his hut for the night in exchange of the canned goods in my bag. I was so horrified for my life that my knees were wildly trembling. But after walking several hundred meters I saw kindness and sincerity reflecting in his eyes. I know it was a crazy decision to have chosen to stay in an outpost looking shack. But it turned out to be the night when I finally made a pivotal turn in my life. He cooked a native chicken and my can of spam for dinner. We downed a bottle of nasty tasting cheap tepid gin, but his stories of adventure kept us up all night. It was the conversation that inspired me to get out of the box and try new things.
After two weeks on the road, I finally decided to go back home.
I sworn to travel once I start earning my own money.
Travel only manifested itsef in my later years. It makes me sad because I could’ve covered a lot more ground had I started traveling earlier. But at the same time, I feel happy because I have means to leave whenever I want to and wherever I want to, because now I have an account that mysteriously gets filled with goblin money every 15th and 30th of the month.
My experiences in traveling alone are pretty much the same everywhere I go. It seemed like I was an entirely different specie of woman when people found out I was traveling without anybody with me. Excuse me for not being so needy… But this is not to stop anybody, especially girls, from diving like a cannonball into the world. I always look them in the eye. In my mind, I have more balls than they do for braving the unknown.
I just look like a lonely freak, but what the hell…
Vigan, Ilocos Sur: After a whole day of answering questions from strangers “why are you alone?”
I remember a few years ago when I was overworked for 16 hours a day for four consecutive days. Aside from that, I was in a state where I wasn’t sure of what I want, if I was happy where I was, and if I was still contented in what I was doing. It was then that I decided to leave everything behind, including Ron who actually suggested I go to Banaue and Sagada.
And so I did. I got hold of a tourist guide and hopped on his motorcycle to go around. It was the most unrestricted feeling I’ve ever felt. I got stares every now and then, but it did not matter. All I know was I was out to find myself. And although I traveled with a conpanion when I got to Sagada, the feeling of being amongst strangers is the same as being a little girl lost in a big world. I felt empowered. I realized I can do solo travel more. Now, I don’t get the jitters. I just have to overcome going to the gym alone, then I’m good.
I think everybody needs to travel solo. Like writing, the hardest part is just drafting the first two paragraphs. Everything else follows after; like a stack of dominos set, there won’t be anything to stop you. It’s like a favor to yourself. Wait, no… you owe it to yourself to be able to spend sometime with your ghost and come to terms with yourself.
I saw mine, she wasn’t a pretty sight, but we were one at the end of the day.
So although Ron loves challenging himself to a one-man Amazing Race show, and I still value my alone time so I can curl up in fetal position and finish my book; Fliptravels shall continue to travel together… That is if we don’t get to each other’s nerves and kill each other.