When I was younger, my dad used to tell me that I’ll go places. I didn’t believe him, mainly because we weren’t raised having everything we wanted. I mean, we couldn’t even afford to go on an out-of-town trip—all the six of us.
When my dad was forced to retire early, our spending capacity dropped significantly, so much that we had to put every plan of indulging ourselves on hold. He had to work double time being a tricycle driver to make sure we finished our degrees, grappling with occasional sick spells and vision impairment. So when we all finished schooling and my siblings have started working, they each gave back by treating my parents to some luxuries like gadgets and of course, travels.
I haven’t been anywhere in a long while. The farthest I’ve been to was Tagaytay in the South, with two of my college best friends. Even then, we had to take into consideration our meager budget: they’ve coined the term “budget meal” to refer to any expenditure that suited our allocated funds. We had to forego local restos and some recreation. So I can’t really say that I’m well-traveled. But I do have a way of experiencing wanderlust: through vicarious thrills.
Ate Awin, my sister, is a certified traveler. Her work as a nurse enabled her to go to places in and outside of the country. She has been to so many key local cities, as well as top tourist destinations in Asia. She would make it a point to take home a piece of the places she’s been to. She would buy souvenirs and delectable goods as pasalubong. When she went to Bacolod, she took home two boxes of baked goods. I remember eating all of Bongbong’s toasted garlic breads in one sitting. She would tell me how the Masskara Festival was so fun and even brought home an authentic festival mask from the place. When she went to Davao, she took home a kilo or two of durian. The disgusting smell filled the house for two days, until we finally decided to try it. It’s delicious, and so were the durian candies she bought along with the actual fruit.
Ate Awin would take endless photos of her journeys. She’s been to caves, rivers, beaches, islands…the list goes on. I would simply imagine myself being in her photos; it was enough to make me happy. When she came home from a tri-city trip to Hong Kong, Macau and Shenzhen, she gave me brochures of the places she went to: Disneyland, Venetian Macau, and other landmarks I couldn’t name.
I’m so proud my sister got to experience a taste of the other countries. Each place she went to is being remembered through the refrigerator magnets she took home as souvenirs. Her anecdotes and food reviews would come to life and I would feel delighted as if I’ve experienced them myself.
I have another friend who’s living the dream abroad. His name is Jerome, my high school buddy. We communicate with each other over the internet on a daily basis, exchanging experiences, and whereabouts. He would tell me about the Asian countries he’d been to so far: Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia—the list just keeps on expanding.
He would tell me what a halal food tastes like, which hotel has the most affordable lodging, and where to shop for pasalubong. He would share photos in real-time so I always feel like I’m with him throughout his trip. He would encourage me to visit him in Singapore.
I applied for a passport in late 2016, hoping my grandma would tag me along when she went to Singapore to visit family. It is, until now, just sitting in the drawer, unstamped, and waiting to be presented to immigration officials.
I’m not rushing things, though. Yes, I wish I could experience traveling by air and water. But I think I’d be satisfied with vicarious thrills for the meantime. I want to fulfill my father’s vision of me—I know being a traveler is something written in the stars. I am a Sagittarian, after all. So I think I’ll just hope and pray that my maiden voyage across the seas would come soon.
My advice to young people: Invest on travel. Instead of spending on gadgets, why not try exploring the world beyond your own little space and gain experience in return? Travel while you’re young, and most especially, travel when you can. I can’t explain enough how traveling helps shape your identity. It will make you realize how things are on the other side of the world, gain understanding of different cultures and realize what beauty lies in them.
It doesn’t matter where you are in life right now. Whatever you seek, you can find in travel. That’s for sure. I’ve heard tales of how travel helped my friends find themselves—the “self” they’ve been missing all along while being stuck in the same old place.
When my turn has come, would you want to accompany me? Let’s make memories together and satiate our wanderlust. I will be five hours early at the airport, I promise.