It was not until December 2013 when I finally gathered enough courage to pack my bags and travel on my own. I felt anxious, thrilled, weak, strong, and agitated all a once.
There was no other way to do it but to just do it! So I got on the bus and braved my first solo travel.
Being the noob backpacker that I was, I had no fixed itinerary, no prior reservations and bookings (a practice I carried over to all my solo travels thereafter), but the plan was to go to Sagada via the Banaue route then make my way to Baguio before going back to Manila.
Again. I had no fixed itinerary. No nothing. So from the penciled plan of just passing by Banaue before heading to Sagada, I ended up staying there for a night.
Little did I know that that detour will change my life. Here’s what happened.
This was me at the Banaue Rice Terraces in 2013.
WAIT. I almost forgot to mention one important detail.
Let me do that again.
This was me at the Banaue Rice Terraces in 2013. The 200 lbs me.
Yeahp. I dragged my 200 lbs fat self to hike the famous Batad rice terraces. To date, I still have no idea how I was able to power through.
It was the first and only time in my life when I wanted to give up. No bull, I shamelessly asked my tour guide if they could send over a helicopter to pick us up in the middle of the rice terraces.
It was breathtaking. Literally. I was out of breath. I was exhausted. My legs were numb.
But seeing the view along the way made it all worth it.
That and the mere fact it was when I first realized how beautiful the Philippines is. I realized we don’t need to go out of the country to see wonders. We all have it here. The most beautiful beaches, scenic mountain provinces, the unique local delicacies in each province, and the rich Filipino culture. There’s so much to see and experience, really!
It was when I vowed to see the Philippines’ wonders first before exploring outside the country.
It was when I found genuine happiness and discovered a new passion—traveling.
I wanted to do that more often. To hike more mountains.
To sunbathe in white sand beaches.
To tick off every item on my must-see destinations here and outside the Philippines.
To get lost in an unfamiliar place.
To immerse myself in different cultures.
To taste unique dishes.
To meet and befriend strangers.
Then it hit me. How the hell can I do that if I weighed 200 lbs? There was no way I could get the full experience. At that moment, I decided I needed to lose weight. To travel easier. Better. And happier.
My new found passion became my motivation.
I survived hiking Batad.
I had to drag myself and power through.
At some point I nearly gave up.
But hell yeah, I survived!
I told myself that it was the last time my weight will compromise my travel experience.
That one day, I will go back to the exact same place and redeem myself.
One day, I will go back to Batad and tell myself and everyone I effortlessly conquered the hike.
So I worked hard, sacrificed social gatherings, and had to resist giving in to temptation—all to travel better.
I started to lose weight little by little and I started to travel more too. Before I knew it, I’ve already had around 10 solo travels, and it was already a year after my first solo travel in Banaue.
It was December 2014 and it was time to go back and redeem myself.
Exactly a year after, I went back to Banaue and retraced my steps.
I got on the bus bound for Banaue, the same way I did before but it was nothing like the first time. I was confident, eager, but I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t intimidated and worried like how I was. After a year of losing weight and traveling along the way, I was everything but those.
The agenda for that trip was to hike Batad again but it’ll have to wait until the next day.
On my first day, I visited places I failed to on my first time there.
I dropped by all the viewpoints of the Banaue Rice Terraces.
I had the most fun chatting with the Ifugao natives.
And I visited another rice terraces, the Hapao rice terraces.
It was fun and as expected, the view left me in awe.
While it was a day well spent, I couldn’t help but look more forward to the following day. I slept that night too excited to wake up.
And the day finally came! Gaaahhhhhh! One year of hard work and sacrifice.
No landslide and rain stopped me from fulfilling and accomplishing my one year of hard work!
FINALLY. I got to retrace my steps.
I can’t gather the right words to describe how overwhelmed I was then to be at the exact same places with a better version of myself physically, emotionally, and mentally.
As expected, it was a relatively easier hike in spite of the rain and the muddy trail!
My main goal was to recreate that photo I had at the end of the hike by Tappiyah Falls.
Finally. There I was. One year later. 52 lbs lighter. HAPPIER.
Right there. The moment I knew all the hard work, sacrifices, and missed opportunities paid off.
I remember standing there one year after, looking back at everything I had to go through. It wasn’t easy but definitely worth it.
Now, I can travel better, LIGHTER, and happier. Now, I can get the full experience.
I’m looking forward to seeing more of the world’s beauty.
I’m eager to learn more.
I’m excited to see what else traveling can do to shape who I am.
I completed a whole circle. I accomplished my mission. I proved passion was more than enough to keep me motivated. It was finally done but it doesn’t end there. I am still in the process of losing more pounds and I am still working on ticking off items on my travel bucket list.
Thinking about it now, I was fulfilled. And with that, I am happy.
Here’s to more travels!
(Banaue, Ifugao, Philippines | December 2013 & December 2014)
Writer | Solo Traveler