7 Crazy and Fun Firsts in My 7 Weeks of Backpacking

I just arrived in Manila yesterday, and as I look back at my adventures in my seven weeks around Visayas, I am filled with awe and gratitude. There are so many things I am grateful for, though here are some of my firsts which took me out of my comfort zone and sounded crazy to me at first but turned out to be fun.

1) First time to top load a jeepney. It was a spur-of-the moment adventure when my caving guide in Samar suggested we ride the top of the jeepney back to town. The wind on my face, the curving mountain roads, and the tricycles and other vehicles viewed from the top was a joyful adrenaline rush.

Riding on top – an exhilarating experience

2) First time to ride a boat – with kids as my boatmen! In a coastal community in Samar, I found myself in a baluto (local name for a small boat) with four kids, two of them paddling. Their boating skills left something to be desired, though – our boat hit or got entangled in nipa palms every minute. We screamed and laughed ourselves silly every time the baluto almost tipped over.  No worries though – the water beneath us was shallow. It was one of the simplest yet happiest moments in my seven-week travel.

The kids posed briefly for a photo before we bumped into the next nipa ^_^

3) First time to regularly drink water from whatever source locals claim is potable. “Poso” (water pump), faucet, deep well, spring – you name it. Whatever water the locals drank, I drank. And my stomach was perfectly fine. Which was something, considering I was used to commercially purified water, or at least filtered water, prior to my trip.

Getting water from a spring in Banquel, Villareal, Samar

4) First time to camp in a farm where the farm is also the toilet. I am not the typical happy camper – the longest I had camped before was overnight. But a new friend and co-volunteer invited me to his farm and told me I could stay as long as I liked. The fresh air, trees, the stream just a few meters away from the hut, and the fireflies at night more than compensated for the lack of conveniences like running water and toilet. I stayed two nights and would have stayed longer if not for the fact that I had to be at Panay Island at a certain day.

My friend’s farm in Talisay, Negros Occidental had limited modern conveniences but most of nature’s blessings.

5) First time to accept a tour invitation from a stranger. We met at oyster night, one of the regular social events at Harold’s Mansion, where I stayed in Dumaguete, Negros Oriental. I had no plans, no travel itinerary, and was just going with the flow, so when he invited me to join him and his friends for a forest tour the next day, I unhesitatingly said yes. Traveling alone has allowed me to practice my intuition when dealing with people, and surprisingly, happily, I found that almost all the people I encountered were kind and would do me no harm. This Dumaguete local I met, whom I later found out was a gifted artist and a staunch environmentalist, was no exception.

Amazing people I met at Liptong Woodland, Valencia, Negros Oriental

6) First time to take a bath while being “cooked.” I had watched calamay being cooked in a kawa at Jagna, Bohol, and at Tibiao, Antique, it was my turn to be cooked. Or not. The water in the kawa I bathed in was heated, but not boiled. It felt like a hot spring. I swear, though, that there was the distinct smell of cooking which I also smelled that time I watched calamay being cooked. Perhaps it was just the wood fire. In any case, after being cooked – er, heated – I felt rejuvenated, as though I just had a spa treatment.

It felt a bit like being cooked, but was actually relaxing.

7) First time to do storytelling for preschool kids. Not all my adventures were strictly connected to travel. My host in Roxas, Capiz runs a progressive preschool with a spiritual approach and, on the spur of the moment, she invited me to tell a story for the kids. Now, I had no prior teaching or storytelling experience with preschool kids, save for my brothers perhaps when they were younger. I do not usually do storytelling, period. I was worried at first, but when I relaxed, the story about an eagle by Anthony de Mello came to me. My storytelling was not perfect, but it went well enough.

Doing the flying motion of a chicken for my storytelling

I had so many other firsts during my seven weeks of adventure, but these were some of the ones that part of me thought was crazy but I ended up doing them anyway and having fun. Any firsts that took you out of your comfort zone while traveling that you would like to share?  Feel free to leave a comment. =)

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19 thoughts on “7 Crazy and Fun Firsts in My 7 Weeks of Backpacking

  1. Being cooked is perhaps the “craziest” one in this seven. But the “First time to accept a tour invitation from a stranger” and the “First time to camp in a farm where the farm is also the toilet” is also something really crazy and fun. Well, “crazy” experiences of a traveler is a thing that one can behold.

  2. nice firsts! happy to be reading stories like this. thanks for sharing claire!
    saw nick on your photo and i miss the kawa bath. hope you met my friend there- si kuya edwin yung kayak guide

    • Thanks, James! That means a lot, coming from you. =) Nope, I don’t think I met Kuya Edwin, though Nicky became my tour guide for most of my stay in Negros Oriental. =)

  3. A very inspiring blog for a solo traveller…hope i can also face my fear to travel that far “alone”…I envy to those solo traveller who’s at their young age have the guts to conquer our country…But i hope its not too late for me since i only started a month ago to push-on my long long dream make come true….”to travel and share what i saw and experience to other people…” May your journey be always safe and fun….

    • Thanks for the kind words! =) I don’t think it’s too late for anyone to travel. Please share once you go off in that adventure!

  4. Claire! Sobrang nakakaaliw itong entry na ‘to! I’ve always wanted to try to topload and you beat me into it. Being cooked looked weird but I’d take your word for it for being relaxing. Sana ma-try ko rin.

    I love your tan!!!

  5. have just come across your blog and find it very refreshing and interesting. I travelled in Visayas alot last winter when i was there. Still lots more to see though and you have given me new ideas. Keep enjoying the open road…………

    • Thanks, Dave! Here’s to more travels! And yes, there are definitely a lot of great places to explore in Visayas and the rest of the Philippines. =) I will be writing more about the places I’ve been to and will be going to. =)

  6. Hi claire, happy to hear all the first in your recent adventure. My father is from Antique and it was years since I visited my lolo’s place. My mother used to tease my father na kelangan niya lang ng walis to travel. May connection kaya iyon sa kawa? hehehe..theles, would like to try the kawa bath pa rin.

    One of my first was when I went to wawa dam by myself. Did some meditation there just sitting at the edge of the dam. It was an awesome experience and since then I gained the courage to climb more mountains alone.

  7. Thanks for sharing all your first in your recent adventure. My dad is from Antique, though it has been quite awhile since I visited my lolo’s place. My mom used to tease my dad that he need not ride the plane to go to manila, he can use the broom. May connection din kaya ito sa kawa? hehehe…Anyways, would like to try the kawa bath next year.

    shortly after college, I went to Wawa dam in Montalban by myself. I had my meditation near the edge of the dam. It was an awesome experience and since then I had the courage to climb more mountains alone because I felt I was never really alone cause my spirit guides are always with me.

    • Your dad is from Antique – cool! =) To me, Antique is one of the not-so-usual but very beautiful travel destinations.

      Haven’t been to Wawa Dam yet. Will try next time. =)

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