My sister once told me that she never saw me as a “traveling type” and didn’t know how I got to like such a costly activity to begin with. Truth is, I never really thought of myself as a traveler. As in writing, I prefer to say that I’m an enthusiast.
This fascination of discovering things through travels was an interest prodded by my stepdad. During his younger, more active days, he used to force us to tangential explorations at least thrice a year. We didn’t know why he fancied spontaneous travels, why he dived at forty. I only know he needed it. He enjoyed the thrill of waking us up at 3 or 4 in the morning, and shouting “You guys have to get your sleepy asses off because we are going to La Union/ Bicol/ Baguio/ Ilocos/ Batangas, and we are leaving in 5!”
My mother hated these spurs-of-the-moment. She preferred everything primly planned ahead, all those egg sandwiches packed neatly in a huge basket, together with all the plastic utensils and styro plates, the chunks of freshly cooked meat and rice, the numerous gallons of mineral water, rolls of tissue paper and some emergency meds for byahilos – all the traveling necessities. She would curse trips all the way to my stepdad’s chosen destination, dreading about being the cook and nothing else.
But I, on the other hand, enjoyed every minute of every odyssey we had.
I remember every single stop-over, every wonderful memory: Eating at Chowking in that olden Vigan complex before heading out to Pagudpud. Sumptuous omelettes in Pancake House in Laguna from a dizzying ride in an Isuzu pick-up trunk on the way to Albay. Dancing the otso-otso down the breezy Mayon Resthouse with my cousin and eight-year old brother. Wading in the itchy waters of black-sanded Iba. The recurrent thought of waking up at ’round 6am to a rocky beachfront in Sto. Domingo, Bicol, and stepping out the clashing waves of the sea, my 5 year -old brother curiously skimming through the expansive blue horizon.
Until well into my college years, my stepdad would bring us to occassional travel indulgences in Luzon. He always went for land trips, and his favorite was Iba. I suppose it’s because even if the sand was black as a cord, and the jellyfishes swarm you to death there, it was secluded, precious like a secret -where we could enjoy homemade BBQs at dusky seafront without anybody in view.
And now I find travel is not simply a form of physical transit or about where one has been. It’s about the journey itself. The things you saw and experienced along the way. The people you met. The possibilities you opened yourself to. The hurdles and little triumphs. Treading an unbeaten path. Even those little daily walks to and from work are journeys in themselves. These are the things that count, not how expensive your ala-carte meal costs, how glamorous the hotel you’ve stayed in is, or how many friends would say “Wow, you must be rich to be traveling there.”
For me, traveling has become a conduit for remembering my stepdad and going back to those days when we were all squeezed in a car, trying to find our way from X road to Z. Things you couldn’t do anymore, but can relive in another time. A time travel of some sort, I presume.
Traveling is about knowing your roots, knowing everything about where you came from. It is, in a way, giving back to the country that bore you. I’ve never been big on traveling other countries; I’ve always believed there’s more to traveling than having your passport stamped. I’ve always believed the Philippines has more than they do.Why would I fly somewhere else and risk being put under racial discrimination when everything there is too see and feel (and more) is right where I stand?
We’ve got 7,107 islands of long, serene coves. A network of falls. Century old trees and rice paddies. Brooding mystery and magic. Sea-buried shipwrecks and limestone cliffs. Giant tortoises, whale sharks and unparallelled marine biodiversity. Caved-in chapels and stalagmites. Sand dunes and surfer-friendly waves. And let’s not forget: the mouthwatering specialties of each province and city, the warm, genuine smiles of the locals, and the perennially tropical weather.
I mean, really, is there any other reason to travel somewhere else?