I originally wanted my title to be “How Travel Made Me the Richest Person in the World.” I thought that would be a bit of an exaggeration, though. Or maybe not. Because in truth, during my seven-week adventure around Visayas, I felt like the richest – and most blessed – person in the world. Why?
1) All my needs were taken care of. From food to a place to sleep in – and, of course, tours – everything was taken care of. Friends, friends of friends, relatives of friends, and even people I just met warmly welcomed me into their homes. I am humbled and overwhelmed by their hospitality and caring. I daresay that the simple meals lovingly prepared by my hosts beats five-star dining.
And, what made me happiest was that in many homes, I arrived a stranger and left as family. These strangers-turned-family regularly stay in touch with me and sometimes ask me when I plan to go back. With new homes to welcome me aside from my usual address, how can I not feel rich?
One of my new families
Even in places where I had no hosts, I found myself being looked after by strangers who offered to tour me around their beautiful provinces, which gives truth to the saying “Strangers are friends you have yet to meet.”
2) I lived with nature every day. The trees, mountains, sea, and fresh air were constant companions in my journey. I ate the freshest fruits and seafood – fruits just picked from trees and seafood just caught a few hours ago. I had occasional treats like watching fireflies for hours, swimming with colorful fish – and yes, one whale shark, – bathing in cold waterfalls after long, hot treks, and making mandalas from shells and pebbles in beautiful beaches. I watched the sun rise and set over different horizons – many times over treetops and sometimes over mountains and seas.
3) I met the most amazing people who inspire me. Each person I encountered in my journey taught me something, but those who left the deepest impression on me are two extremely different but essentially the same kind of people – people who are deeply rooted where they are and people who have wings and travel around.
I was honored to meet some people who lived in remote islands or rural areas all their lives. They did not have much financially, but are overwhelmingly blessed with nature’s gifts and with the love of their families and communities. And because of this, they had so much to give. I humbly accepted the food and the stories they shared.
I was also honored to meet people who are traveling the world and who are not letting the issue of financial stability stop them. They have a fire, an almost palpable energy that makes them look so much alive.
I noticed that what is common with these two kinds of amazing people is their characteristic of being fully present with every person and situation. With almost every island local or world traveler I talked to for some time, I felt that they were truly present, truly “there” with me. Maybe because they have come to embrace and treasure the temporary, with the knowing that this moment may not happen again.
Feeling rich, blessed, and grateful, I could not think of a better way to acknowledge all the people who were part of my journey than to include them in my intentions and my artwork. The reason why I promptly went back to Manila after seven weeks of traveling was because of my prior commitment to take part in an art exhibit organized by a friend. The theme was “In God We Art,” and yes, the artworks were the artists’ interpretations of God, or lack thereof. While I cannot speak of a God as a Supreme Being, what I do know for sure is that if God is an energy that resides and moves, then God was fully alive and present in every moment of my trip.
So, to all the people I’ve met in my adventure, thank you for making me feel like the richest and most blessed person in the world. May you find God – or the divine, happiness, or whatever name you have for it – in every moment like I found it in you. This artwork is for you. ^_^
My ready-for-framing artwork “Lakbay” (can be translated as either “journey” or “travel”) is tribute to all the people and experiences in my journey. The characters here, written in the ancient Filipino syllabary baybayin, mean “Bathala” (God). (Click and zoom in for the full-size artwork.)
And to all travelers and aspiring travelers out there, may you also have experiences that will make you feel like the richest and most blessed person on earth. And may you also find God – or whatever divinity is for you – in your travels!