Stepping on an unfamiliar land with equally unfamiliar faces is probably the greatest fear of an introvert and too-sheltered person like me. It means meeting new people and asking strangers for direction. The need to start a conversation is crippling and anxiety-inducing for someone who is too shy and reserve.
About five years ago, I would never imagine myself going out to places, exposing myself far from the shield of my comfort zone. Then fate took its usual twist and I can’t remember now what exactly instilled my passion for travel. I just kept on wanting for more.
I know I had just started on this journey, but on that short period of time, I already acquired a lot. Truly, travel is a kind of education you can invest in. How it changed my life? Let me count the ways:
Take control of my life
Travel is empowering. It’s a kind of beautiful independence.
I spent a birthday on a solo travel to the canyons of Arizona. No companion to tell me go this way or share the dilemma of deciding where and what to eat. The journey is mine in its entirety.
I looked at the vast Grand Canyon. I cried in awe as it filled my soul, not only because of its immense beauty but also because of the fact, that I had gone all the way here on my own. Embracing this moment and digesting every bit of my new found freedom. I was alone. But for the first time, it was fine.
Travel broadens one’s perspective in life, culture and most importantly, in people. Surely, there were unfortunate encounters on my travels, but I’m still amazed how kind and helpful strangers could be.
It was in Las Vegas at nine in the evening. An unknown backpacker, who noticed me staring blankly at the ticket machine in shock that it would not accept cash or international credit card, swiped his card to provide me a ticket. I could not pay him back as I do not have the exact change. He just smiled.
Those men and women helping me drag my luggage form the airport conveyor and the free walking tour guides of Oakland. Those hikers, who were strangers turned friends, offering help and support during difficult ascent. The list continues. But one thing for sure: Faith in humanity restored.
Nothing else has taught me to be grateful than travelling.
While traversing the granite stairs of San Lorenzo Ruiz steps (in Batangas) leading to the miraculous well of Sta. Lucia, a boy selling candles approached us. We bought one. Then, a bunch of other children flock around us selling the same item. One almost begging for us to buy, citing this is for her school stuffs. They accompanied us to the wishing well acting as tour guides in exchange of tips.
I realize how growing up, I never needed to work for my own school stuffs, clothes or food. How in this day, I was able to live alternately between my corporate job and my many travels.
I remember the begging children in the market of Cebu. I thought of the young teenagers building sand castles in Boracay, under the scorching heat of the sun, for a fee. I felt for the child guides I encountered on a few hikes and that smiling homeless old man I once talked to on a street in San Francisco. I looked at the burning candles. I forgot my wish list. I bowed, and whispered the only appropriate prayer. ‘Thank You’.
The art of communication
I am on a fruit stall in Chinatown, San Francisco when a Chinese vendor began talking (probably in Mandarin) to me. I don’t have any idea what he’s talking about and why he’s so happy in that busy afternoon. He motioned at the price sign and drew an ‘X’ in the air. He laughed. Somehow, it crossed through me, and I laughed too. He continued talking and I exchanged ‘Oh’ and ‘yeah’. As it turned out from my change, he gave me a good discount.
I have met a lot of locals from all over the Philippines who doesn’t have very good understanding of the Filipino language, but still managed to provide what I need usually going out of their way to assist me.
Meeting people of different origins proved that not only verbal communication brought understanding among people. A smile, a nod and those small acts of kind gestures do the trick. I don’t need to know your language to communicate with you.
I have come to know there are other means more universal. The kind, that knows no race, penetrates boundaries and recognizes human soul. As long as I have this, I know I can go anywhere.
Follow the Flow: Patience and Composure
I used to prepare a travel itinerary complete with hourly schedule of activities. I hate out-of-nowhere and unexpected stuffs.
As it turned out, not all travels are easy walk in the park. I have learned that it’s fine to be simultaneous and unplanned events could be as fun.
I had once missed my target bus and decided to walk to another stop. Passed by a park that turned out to be one of my favorite spots in San Francisco.
Even delayed flights could mean more time for rest. Reroute trips could mean opportunity for new discoveries.
I have found the peace in just following the flow. Know by faith that if it happens, it happens for a reason.
Travel can change us in subtle and drastic ways. I read once that experience can either paralyze or propel a person. So far, my travel experiences have propelled me into heights my heart truly desire.
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