On my very first trip outside the Philippines, I met two Scottish men (three years my junior) who traveled from England to Asia non-stop within a span of three months. In my mind, I was thinking if they are crazy? (Hmmmm… how can they afford this?… Maybe they are rich and their parents are the one spending for their trips?) After having a chat with them, they told me that all their travel money were hard earned. They worked serving in a coffee shop after classes and during school breaks. They planned on doing a long trip to know exactly what they want to do in life, to discover things and learn from this adventure. After that brief encounter, I realized that as Filipinos, our notion of travel is fairly different from the rest of the world.
I grew up dreaming of traveling, but never have I thought that it will create a huge impact to who I am now. I haven’t traveled as young as the Scottish men I met, I wish I did but my first ever flight away from the Philippines still changed my life.
Several years on the road, I have learned a lot of things and as a young Filipino, I am sharing several things we can learn from this so called adventure.
1. Learn that you don’t need to be rich to travel and survive while traveling.
I was not born in a rich family and I can say that we are still not rich (according to Forbes standards) and with this reason, I am still amazed that I have been able to travel and visited several countries in Asia, Middle East, Europe and North America. Of course my job as an OFW helps a lot but thinking about the very first time that I was preparing to travel abroad, I can say that my mind was still very closed with all the possibilities of traveling on the budget.
Whenever I started planning for a trip, I always ended up not pursuing it because I don’t have money to go for a cruise, or book a 5 star hotel. It is simply out of my budget. As Filipinos, we grew up with a perception of traveling as full leisure, therefore not practical. In fact most of us, even though you are dreaming about it or not interested at all, it is at the bottom of our priority list. The biggest factor is money. We thought that traveling equates to cruise ships, 5 star hotels, top restaurants and expensive theme parks (yes, I am talking about your dream Disneyland trip). However, the more I travel abroad and research about alternative ways of traveling, the more I discover that we can travel without blowing our savings out into oblivion.
In most of my travels, I stayed in hostels (once, I booked a hostel in Florence for only 11 euros/night), I used Air Bnb, and recently (because I met a lot of new friends on the road from different countries) I stayed at friends’ house for FREE, (Yes, free lodging and most of the time free breakfast and dinner too). In big cities, I was able to find free walking tours which are guided by locals and free bikes (I found one in Copenhagen). Also, one of the best things that happened in our generation is that low cost airlines are a thing now.
While on the road, a Filipino backpacker told me that she was able to work in hostels in exchange for accommodation and food while some worked as an English teacher or a yoga instructor in order to finance their travels.
As Filipinos, I know that we can find many things to finance our travels and keep it on a budget ( we are trained to enjoy streetfoods which is a plus already). If you are now part of the work force and dreaming of traveling, please don’t ask your parents to finance it. If you are a student, taking a part time job is a good option. Work hard and save.
2. You will discover yourself more (your talents, passion and skills).
I often wonder that if I was able to travel first and spent a few months on a backpacking trip in South East Asia or in England will I still have the same career as I have now, probably not. I have discovered that more than Architecture, I love relating to culture, learning the history of a place, capturing it in photograph and also translating it into a hand drawn sketch. I also discovered that I have the skill to be an entrepreneur.
I have a Norwegian friend who thought she wanted to be in the Military after high school and have that as a career, after traveling for 5 months around the world, she realized that what she really wanted is to be a journalist. I heard someone decided to be a chef after a trip around Italy and another gave up her corporate job for a luxury brand in Dubai and became a professional yogi after trip in Goa….and yes, they are all happy with their decisions until now.
As young Filipinos, we (normally) don’t have the privilege to take a gap year and discover what we really want as a career like what our counterparts from the west are doing. Yes they can afford it and we can’t but if there is an opportunity for us to travel and discover what makes us happy, let’s start saving and have our bags ready (and don’t forget to bring an open mind and heart).
3. Learn and embrace cultures and beliefs different from yours while discovering that everyone is still the same.
During my trips, I have stayed with several families with different cultures and beliefs as I do. Simple things as ‘beso beso’ (kiss on the cheeks) is a normal greeting for some countries while for some it is a violation of one’s personal bubble, giving your seat in the metro for a lady and an elderly can also be a very sensitive matter. These are just petty and simple examples, let’s not even go to religion and moral standards. Traveling will open your mind that the world is a collection of cultures and along with these cultures, there is one universal traits that we will discover, that is RESPECT.
Respecting one’s culture and beliefs will make you understand that this world is big enough for us to argue on what is right and wrong, what is moral and immoral yet in all cultures, LOVE, KINDNESS and RESPECT are always present (it can be in different forms as well).
After my trips, I became more open to people different from who I am. I relate more to different nationalities and found myself not judging people based on the color of their skins, their way of speaking in English, and even the type of food they are eating.
4. Learn that you are just a very small part of this world yet you can do big things
Sometimes (or maybe most of the time) we Filipinos think that we are the best in everything, deny it or not, we are all living in the #PINOYPRIDE mentality. Yes, as a nation, we are full of ourselves. What I learned from traveling is that the world doesn’t revolve around ourselves alone. We are just part of this world just as the other person next to you, or the person in a long bus trip in India. As one of the developing countries, we Filipinos should understand more on how it feels like to need something that we can’t afford, yet most of the time we play the superior card to those who are different from us.
Traveling can make one humble. You will see the world that you don’t normally see in the pages of Travel and Leisure Mag. Yes the world is beautiful but not perfect. Instead of judging people on the clothes they wear or even the way they smell, once you stepped out of your comfort zone, 100% of the time, it will touch your heart and know that we can do and contribute something to make this world a better place.
5. Your nationality is never a stumbling block
In relation to point number 4, it feels ironic that I mentioned about Pinoy pride yet often times we have an inferiority complex. We thought that because we are only Filipinos we can only do so little things and that and will never achieve anything. We thought that because of our nationality we can’t go head to head with different nationalities (especially those from the first world). We are shy to approach people who doesn’t speak Filipino or with a different hair color as ours.
What I love from staying in hostels is that you’ll get to meet new friends from different parts of the world. Although you call each other as ‘the German’, ‘the Filipino’, ‘the American’…you still treat each other the same way as you will treat the person on the other table. People who travel understands that we are all unique but we can still be friends and be part of a community.
Until now I am still connected with most of the friends I met on the road. In fact some of them even became my best friends.
6. You will appreciate being ‘kayumanggi’
The color of my skin and the shape of my nose, these are the parts of my body that I want to change during my pre-travel days. I always thought that being fair skinned and have a higher nose bridge are the only standard of beauty.
Like most of the Filipinos out there, I stocked up boxes of papaya soap in the hopes of turning my brown skin into milky white (I will definitely need a lot of that soap). Believe it or not, during college, one thing that I never forgot to bring was an umbrella, and this was not for the rain.
Meeting different nationalities and being friends with most of them made me realized that for people who travel the color of your skin (even the shape of your nose) doesn’t really matter. You are beautiful for what you are and for who you are.
We Filipinos are fixated on achieving that beautiful fair skin when in fact the rest of the world are envious on our perfectly tanned complexion.
If you think about it, most of the people (not only Filipinos), who are boxing the standard of beauty are those who are still caged in their own box.
7. You will fall in love with a lot of places yet you’ll be proud that you belong to one of the most beautiful countries around the world
I know that a lot of us are dreaming to visit Paris, New York, Brazil, Dubai, Japan and other top places in the world. I have been to a lot mega cities and beautiful country sides but I can say that one of the best places (nature and people wise) can be found in our own backyard. The Philippines is blessed with a lot of beautiful sceneries. It is a pity that some of these places (I am talking about you Manila) have been depleted/slowly depleting. We need to act immediately to save our beautiful cities (ok enough with my ranting). Aside from these, we still have a lot of places that we can be proud of. In fact, a lot of the people I met whenever they hear that I am from the Philippines always mentioned that it is one of the top places they have visited and for those who haven’t been in our country, they considered it as one of their dream destinations.
Truly we can be proud of our country and the best way to do so is to become ambassadors of our own. Show the world the beauty of our country, ironically we can effectively do that when we travel abroad and meet other world explorers.
I know that there are still a lot of things that we can all learn as Filipinos from traveling, It is a never ending list. At the end, what I want to say is that although traveling can be deemed as leisure by majority of our population but it is time for us to see traveling as a learning adventure that each one of us should experience during our early years. As we Filipinos are obsessed with investments in terms of finances and education, I think we should think of traveling as a life long investment. As one quote says, “Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer. ”