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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. =)