Lessons Learned So Far
Oi vey, I’m about six posts behind (going on seven), which I’m hoping to get somewhat caught up on before I leave for Singapore on Wednesday, but I’ve been stuck in a few places with weak internet, so uploading pictures for the blog has been a bit difficult. I have a feeling this may be a reoccurrence for the duration of the trip, so I’m gonna have to figure something out. In the meantime, I’ll procrastinate and write something that isn’t so photo heavy.
Lessons Learned on the Road
- Having patience comes more easily when you get enough sleep. While traveling in Southeast Asia, there will be delays. You will be stuck in traffic, extending what you thought would be a 40 minute trip to two hours. The van will sit there in the parking lot and wait until it can find 15 people to fit into a 12 seater before it leaves for your dropoff point three hours away. You will have to hold your 15kg backpack in your lap the entire trip. There won’t be bathroom breaks.
- Book only one way tickets when you’re ready to leave for your next destination. You may save money booking roundtrip flights in advance, but I guarantee you will unexpectedly fall in love with a place and want to stay longer. And you’ll completely disregard that return ferry ticket. You’ll also consider throwing away your flight to Singapore not once or twice, but three times. Save yourself the money and heartache and just book one way. You’ll eat less costs in the end.
- Say yes. Unless something gives you bad vibes, say yes to uncertainty. Join the table of locals and strike up a conversation. Stay up all night talking to hostelmates and exchange contact information so you can keep in touch and hear about their travels. Jump off the boat. Drive without a destination in mind. Sit in the dark and listen to the waves crash from miles away. The best moments are the unplanned.
- The ocean is a great place for meditation. Whatever you do, just don’t forget to breathe. Feeling panicked because you’re rising too fast? Just breathe. Is your mask filled with water? Just breathe. Feeling fatigued in the middle of a dive? Just. Breathe.
- If you’re not happy working an office job, don’t work an office job. There are other ways to make a living. Know what makes you happy and work enough to achieve just that. But don’t get so wrapped up in pursuing your happiness that you lose track of living in the present.
- Have empathy. The problem in front of you might suck, but your solution might end up harming others more. Have empathy. Stop anger. Forgive. Nothing is ever black and white. We’re all swimming in the grey.
- Embrace your exotic identity. I used to get really butt hurt when people asked where I was from. My response would be, “Um, America. *glare*” In the Philippines, it’s been an interesting conversation starter. “I’m from the U.S., but my parents are both Cebuano.” “Oh, but not full Cebuano?” “No, my dad’s half Chinese.” “That’s what I was trying to figure out! You don’t look full Filipino! I thought Malaysian. Your American accent is so cool!” People don’t mean to be offensive when they ask. They’re just curious.
- Give thanks. We live in a beautiful world full of compassionate and kind people. Show gratitude and be caring towards the earth and the people around you. Don’t let the bastards get you down. Don’t let the assholes wear you out. Yes, I’m quoting Ke$ha again.
During my time in the Philippines, I never expected to connect so deeply with the people and the land (and water) around me. I thought I would come here and meet some relatives, get some culture, and continue on, but that’s not the case. Not only do I have a better understanding of who I am and where I came from, everything I was worried about back at home seems so trivial now. All of this seems really trite to say, especially since it’s the same crap that comes out of every backpacker’s mouth, but I feel more at peace with myself.
So, what’s next? Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and backpacking through Java, Indonesia. I’ll be in Thailand at the end of May. And in June I’ll take a look at my money situation and either pursue my Advanced Open Water certification or go back to the Philippines and actually go to Manila, Coron, and El Nido this time around. Or I might have a new plan. Whatever it is, I’m not ready to book my flight home yet.