It’s graduation month here in the Philippines. As graduates march away from their old lives, I think not of my own college graduation but of the beliefs I left behind just less than a year ago – beliefs I knew I should give up if I were to walk the path of adventure, particularly when I decided to travel solo for almost two months. It was much like a graduation, in a way. The only difference was there was no ceremony.
1) The world is an unsafe, inhospitable place. This one is a classic, especially among women who balk at the idea of solo travel. But, as I planned my solo adventure, I knew I had to let this thinking go.
And, I’m glad I did. Approaching locals, making friends with other travelers, and trusting strangers when my intuition guided me gave me some of the most memorable experiences during my trip.
Thanks to one stranger, I was not only able to see this miraculous Simala Shrine in Sibonga, Cebu, I was also able to find a cheap accommodation when my Internet research did not turn up anything at that time.
This is not to say that I did not take precautions – as a woman traveling alone, I stayed alert and looked after my safety. But I was amazed to discover, as I listened to both logic and intuition, just how much people wanted to help me, as opposed to harming me. In fact, total strangers ensured my safety and helped me out of inconveniences, a few of which I was almost convinced were travel angels.
Yes, crimes or any untoward incident can still happen while traveling – but they can also happen where you live or almost anywhere in the world. The other side of the coin, though, is that there are still truly kind and honest people who would want to help you.
2) You need to plan everything for your trip. Prior to traveling solo, I tended to obsess on details about trips I plan. In fact, many friends had entrusted me as trip organizer, knowing how “obsessive-compulsive” I could get.
But, as I mapped out my solo adventure, I felt overwhelmed – how could I possibly plan every single day of a seven-week trip? So I only had a detailed itinerary for some days and a rough itinerary for others. But, as I went further into my adventure, I found myself planning less and less and opening myself up to surprises more. Curiously, even with me barely planning anything, my days were full of travel and adventure from the people I’ve met and their spur-of-the-moment travel invitations.
An impromptu adventure at one of Capiz’s islands, Mantalinga
Now, I’m learning to strike a balance between planning and not planning. For short trips especially, where more planning may be necessary, I plan what I can, then go with the flow.
3) “I could never do that!” (“that” meaning activities outside your comfort zone) Traveling alone kicked me out of my comfort zone. It was a well-meaning kick from the universe, though, as I was able to experience some crazy and unforgettable firsts.
I realized that I wanted my solo adventure (partly a childhood dream) to happen so much that I was willing to sacrifice some habits and comforts. Which was why even while I pumped water and carried the pail for the nth time, and while I was on a long and bumpy motorbike ride with my backpack pulling me down every time we climb up a slope, and other similar uncomfortable circumstances, I actually felt blissful – and grateful.
4) Traveling alone is no fun. Prior to my solo adventure, I wondered more than once if I would get bored or lonely during my trip. I found out that that could not be further from the truth. While my solitude indeed gave way once or twice to loneliness, it did not last. I met new people almost every day, and set off on adventures with many of them. In fact, the spontaneity of our travels, and the element of surprise, made the experience even more fun.
And, there were days when I just explored a place by myself, happy to be in my own company.
To be honest, though, if graduation means the end or something final, I don’t know if I will ever fully “graduate” from beliefs that may stop me from going off on that adventure or following my dreams.
I don’t think we ever fully get rid of our fears or limiting beliefs. But when we choose to be brave each time, eventually, transcending our fears becomes easier. At least, that was how it was for me.
But if graduation means a transition or moving forward, much like college graduates who march to new phases of their lives, then, I’d like to believe that I have indeed graduated. And that I have more graduations to look forward to.
This is my entry to the Pinoy Travel Bloggers’ Blog Carnival for March 2013
with the theme “Things I Graduated From Since I Started Traveling”
hosted by Kaiz Galang of Miss Backpacker.