There is a prevailing culture nowadays to leave everything behind to travel. Amid the burgeoning ranks of employees-turned-full-time-travelers who are advising us to follow their lead and drop all other commitments in favor of seeing the world; bucketlists, discoveries, and everything remotely associated with travel become trite concepts that lose luster and meaning by the day.
Nowadays, travel isn’t the exception. It’s the norm.
For the average Filipino, the question of selling every material possession to fund travels – a popular Western theme – is not just a question of what to sell, but also if there is anything to sell at all.
As dwellers in a developing country, most of us are bound by a restrictive economical climate. The average salary, even for an esteemed manager, is barely sufficient to rent or own a home, pay bills, and eat. That’s considering that the average Filipino does not even own a car or have student loans to pay as they do in the west. The cost of living in the Philippines compared to what employees earn is relatively high, even with supplementary jobs to survive oneself. Many of us can barely even afford life insurance or to save P50 a day.
“But why are you saving for the future when you aren’t even sure what is in store for the future?”
Many travelers who advocate spending all you have on long-term travel argue that people should live in the now. While I agree with that, I think it’s also self-destructive and dangerous to insist that it’s futile to work for the future, especially for those who don’t have the security of well-off parents. What happens if you get sick or get into an accident? What if you fall in love and decide you want a family of your own? What happens if you get too old and frail that you can’t even manage to check in a hotel, much less create means to supplement a dwindling bank account?
I have met people who say they envy my life, simply based on what they see on my Instagram and Facebook feeds. Some of them are mothers – mothers who have great husbands, amazing kids to come home to, jobs that they are passionate about.
This is not an isolated case. There is growing malcontent in the society about life in general despite one’s accomplishments and happy relationships, all thanks to the pressure of everyone telling everybody they SHOULD travel. Because if they aren’t, there is, unknown to them, a lonely gap to fill, a lack in what they perceive is an already good life.
Who makes the rules for happiness? And when did the number of passport stamps, miles traveled, or mountains conquered become a gold standard in judging how well one lived his life? Numbers will always be mere numbers, unless they become a medium for learning something beyond counting.
Here is the reality, one that I often reiterate on my blog and social media accounts: I am just like the rest of you. I am a mother above anything else, and I work very hard for whatever adventures I choose to share online. Part of that job are occasional sponsored trips or travel assignments, but that also means working all the time with a laptop and a camera, not sipping cocktails by the beach while waiting for sundown or hopping from one tropical island to the next, commitment-free.
|My life most days. Minus the Danish pastry.|
I work 12 hours or more on weekdays, weekdays that sometimes end with my head on the keyboard and drool on my arm. I deal with dirty dishes, smelly pets, toilet grime, soiled clothes, and a universe of messed-up toys on a regular basis. I don’t go tramping around the Philippines, burning away savings. In fact, I spend more time trying to build my daughter’s savings. Much of my trips are done as a weekend warrior, the cheapest way possible.
And even then, not all my weekends are booked. Sometimes, there will be four, six, eight home-bound weekends. And that’s okay.
Because travel in itself is not the entirety of life. Life is a series of rooms and travel is only one room. There are people who would rather stay in other rooms, like a 9-to-5 job that feeds their family and which they are happy with.
There are those who are deeply rooted in their homes, content with being anchored to one place. There are those who are happier dedicating their days to fighting for a cause, serving customers, teaching in a classroom, curing the sick, designing video games, baking cakes, or tending to kids or a herbarium. Who are we to say they are not getting the best out of life? That they are not as cultured or as complete just because they want to remain still? That they have opened only one page and missed a hundred more?
There is nothing wrong with these people. But there is something seriously wrong with us thinking travel is the be-all and end-all of all things.
Travel is personal. It is subjective. It is also easy to romanticize and overglorify. That certain madness, the rush of blood through the vein in getting whisked away to the unknown, in leaving what our eyes were trained to see, is something you don’t get making eggs in the morning. But it is not feasible to pursue only that and nothing else for the remainder of one’s life.
We have to live, too. Live for other things, other people, other passions. To insist that everyone should and must travel at all cost defies the universal truth that we are all entitled to and inherently gifted with unique interests and passions.
There’s an age-old travel quote that says, “Do more of what makes you happy”. Question is, will you allow others to dictate what that is or will you create your own road to happiness?