I can still remember the anxious feeling I had when I decided to move to Denmark when I was only 21, freshly graduated from my most awaited Bachelor’s degree. Three months after my graduation, I was able to get a job right away. Three months after I started working, I submitted my resignation letter and moved to Denmark.
I was torn between the fact that it might be the stupidest idea and the coolest decision. My mother was right; I was too young to move to a country where I knew no one. I was right; it was the bravest decision I’ve made. However, I’ve learned one thing: I am holding the wheel of my life and it’s my job to decide where and how to steer it.
I was simply escaping that time. I hated my job and I didn’t want to be a jobless fresh graduate. It was a lot of pressure for a young adult. I was not even thinking about the money that I would make or the chance that I would get to travel and live in Europe. It sounded like a dream to a lot of young Filipinos my age, but it was not what I had in mind. I was not born with a lust for travel; I was simply escaping the whole society, its system, and its expectations. So I did.
The first three months were scary. I put myself to sleep by crying. I was very homesick and it was not the feeling I was expecting. The thought of going home occurred to me for a long time, but I never stirred it. I never mentioned it to my family or my friends because I felt like I would be a failure if I said anything. I decided I had to make it work, so I did.
After two years of freezing in the cold North of Europe, I was a different person. I knew I didn’t want to go home. I made amazing friends with different backgrounds. I became a new person, I learned to be independent. It felt like I could be someone else – a new version of me, perhaps a better one. All of this contributed to the changes in me. What affected me most, though, was when I lost my mother whilst living abroad. There was yet another reason to escape, another reason not to go back to the Philippines; therefore, I didn’t.
So I decided to travel full-time. I didn’t have the money to do it, but I was eager to make it work. I was worried about visas and being on my own in new places. I was anxious about living in dorm rooms with strangers. I wondered if I could actually fit my whole life in one backpack or two, and it did.
First, I moved to Vietnam, where I planned to teach English and save money before moving again. That didn’t happen. Teaching was not for me nor was staying in one place. I was in Southeast Asia for almost seven months, in and out of Vietnam. I travelled through Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos. I worked in a hostel, I did freelance content writing, and I taught English part-time to support the decision that I made.
After that, I went back to Denmark for three months. I was still working as a freelance writer, but I also decided to put up my own blog and tried to support my travels through it. I managed to travel to Turkey, Georgia, Sweden, and eventually, I moved to Israel where I volunteered at a hostel for another three months. I was mainly supported by my blog, hitchhiking, and couchsurfing.
I experienced a lot of depressing situations, too. The visa issues always sat next to me everytime I needed to enter a new country, I was able to support my basic travelling need, but I was not saving any money. I started to panic. Still, the last thing I wanted was to go home. I had to make it work, so I did.
As expected, things will not work the way you want to – not all the time. Despite having the greatest control over it, there is only much that you can do. I was broke and too exhausted to keep proving to every immigration officer that I would not work illegally. I needed to go home, so I did.
Being back in the Philippines after three years was different in a lot of ways. I had lost a lot of friends. My mind was already thinking differently. I came home to the place where I was used to seeing my mother by the door or cooking something in the kitchen, but it was not like that anymore. Catching up with everyone was amazing; but after a month, I knew I had to get out. Yet I didn’t. I was undecided between finding a job and staying in the Philippines or working on my blog more and making a decent living, then taking off again. I tried the first option. My heart was not keen on the idea, and I guess that’s why it didn’t work.
I went for the second option after two months. I was ready to leave. I booked my flight to Malaysia, although I didn’t know how far my budget would take me. I did it anyway. A one-way ticket and my blog are all I had in my name when I took that flight. I was worried that the immigration officer wouldn’t let me leave the country knowing that I didn’t have a real job. Fortunately, with all of the visa stamps I had collected on my passport, things slid easily.
I was back on the road travelling and I never felt more free with this small win. I was able to leave again, stirring my life in my own way. I travelled to Malaysia, Thailand, and Cambodia, plus a quick stop in Singapore. Although it was fun, I knew I had to make some grown-up decisions, so I did.
I moved back to Vietnam with the idea of staying for a few months, I was broke, but I knew I had to invest my money in the right place. I decided to upgrade my blog, work on it for longer hours, and learn new skills.
At this stage, I was not confused anymore. Surely, I might still change my mind eventually. The feeling that I get to escape the expectations of the Filipino society from me and the fact that I get to decide who I want to be are some of the most fulfilling and satisfying decisions I have ever made. I’m not here to tell you what is best for you or that travelling is the answer or that you should ditch your job to travel or that you should carry all the worry in your heart alone.
I’m simply here to tell you that no matter what it is that you decide on pouring your life into, make sure that the decision you will make will bring you happiness because at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.
If I didn’t leave my bubble and take the leap, I would forever wonder, “What if I did it?” Through this journey, I learned that it’s not about leaving everything behind for travelling because it’s not the answer to finding my own happiness. It’s about trusting that we are powerful enough to turn our life upside down, to steer our own wheel in the direction we want to. You can be anyone and everything, but you have to believe in your own capability, especially when no one else does.