In its basic sense, to travel is to go from point A to B. I used to see it as just that too, but after being to quite a number of point Bs, my perception of travel has gone beyond merely journeying between two places. Now, what travel is for me became the reasons in themselves why I continue doing it. In essence, the whats became the whys.
The typical. Travel because you’re young.
You’ll immerse yourself in different cultures.
It’s a good way to meet new people.
You’ll witness the beauty of the world’s wonders.
Yes, but why else?
I sifted through my personal list of travel know-why and picked out the ones that most probably haven’t realized.
For you who hasn’t seen the gem of travel yet, hopefully these will give that extra push for you to pack your bags and go.
YOU WRITE YOUR OWN STORY
As cliche puts it, everyone deserves a second chance. One of the beauties of travel is that you don’t only get a second chance, you get one every time you get out there.
It took me three or four solo travels to get this but here’s why.
I used to be conscious about looking my best. And by that I mean I’d put on makeup even when hiking or engaging myself in water activities.
I used to do a quick scan and judgment on how I should present myself to people I meet. Do I stick to my giddy self? Do I open up to them on a whim or do I hold back and be demure? It has been an SOP but some point, it became pointless. For one, why bother to do all those for someone or a group of people I meet and spend time with for not even longer than a meal? Would it matter, really? Chances are I’ll never see them anymore, anyway. More than that, it never made a difference. It was only after a while did I realize that they actually accepted me for who I was regardless of whatever. As it turned out, they couldn’t care less. They were there to explore and have an adventure, not to please or judge anyone.
When I got over the overthinking, it hit me.
Once you step foot on that unfamiliar place, who you are, what you do and have done don’t matter anymore.
When you get out there, all labels are negated, judgments are zeroed out, and even wrongs are accepted.
Because everyone accepts everyone.
Everyone takes everything as it is.
In a way, you get a clean slate! It’s your chance to escape the horrors of the past and even present reality.
You can be who you want to be. If you make a mistake, move along. Chances are you’ll never see them again. You will get a once upon a time in your next travel. Who wouldn’t want that?
IT’S NEVER TOO EARLY (OR LATE) FOR ALCOHOL
You know how people would cheat on their diets and use the “I’m on vacation!” excuse? Being out and about made me realize it goes the same for alcohol too.
Picture being on the beach…
The heat of the sun steaming out from the white sand.
You’re slowly getting drawn by the rhythm of the waves.
Then you see that perfect spot under the coconut tree.
It’s perfect as it is. But don’t you agree pairing the moment with a bottle of ice-cold beer or a glass of margarita will spike it up to paradise?
Besides, when else can you sip on alcohol in broad daylight? When on travel, whether be it at 9 in the morning or at night, it wouldn’t matter. You’re on vacation.
IT’S THE BEST QUALITY OF EDUCATION
Okay, I’m not saying school was pointless but truth be told. There are just things you don’t learn in school.
Experience is the best teacher.
I was bred to live up to the standards of the grading system. I’m not discounting the fact that it did me good and it brought me to where I am now.
But no textbook ever taught me how to be independent and get by on my own.
I figured it out while braving each solo travel.
I knew about history.
But it was different to see and be where it all happened. What were just mere questions on my test paper were brought to life. Beyond knowing the facts, I understood because I experienced it.
I was told to abide by school rules and regulations. I learned to distinguish right from wrong.
But it ended there. If I broke the rules, I was sanctioned simply because it was wrong. Being out there taught me about trial and error. When I would make a mistake, I was given the chance to figure out why and how I would do it right the next time.
Whenever I travel, I learn by doing. I get engaged in real life through real experiences, dealing with real problems. There are no right or no answers, just chances to improve for the next time.
YOU WILL MEET YOURSELF FOR THE FIRST TIME
Some call it soul searching and there is truth to that. Whether it be a solo travel or with a group, being in a different place has its effects. I can’t exactly pinpoint what it is but there’s something about immersing yourself in an unfamiliar place. Your body and soul adapts to the changes and that’s where discovery comes in. It’s precisely why they call it soul searching. You will see yourself from a different light and you’ll be surprised by what you can do.
More than discovering, you rediscover yourself too. May it be rekindled emotions or revisited skills, you’ll be reminded of anything forgotten about yourself.
New wisdom about people, place, and culture are always precious outcomes of travel. But when you see self improvement, it’s when it becomes a gem.
STRANGERS (STRANGELY) MAKE A MARK IN YOUR LIFE
You befriend strangers, have a few beers with them, even go on tours together. Though it seems like you’ve established a connection that you mutually want to sustain, chances are you will never see them again. That’s the reality of travel. People come and go.
The thing is, even a relationship that lasted for just an exchange of a word or two will make a difference in your life. You may not know how or you may not notice it but it will. I proved that when I went on a solo trip to Bali, Indonesia.
I met a guy named Steve. We had a few beers, chatted for a couple of hours, then eventually said our goodbyes. I never talked to him since. Just like that. But this stranger, Steve, made a mark in my life in so many ways I don’t think he ever knew and will probably never know. In a span of a few hours, he was able to dig deep and hit my weakness: my happiness. He reminded me why I made the right decision to do what I’m doing. I always thought I already maxed out my hunger for life and adventure but he fueled my passion for travel even more.
I think it’s safe to say I’ve met the guy version of myself.
My relationship with Steve never followed through. It ended the moment we said our goodbyes but I still carry with me everything I learned from him that night.
It’s true. People come and go. It’s the ruthless reality but the aftermath makes it worth the while.
HOME BECOMES MORE HOMEY
Everyone who’s been bitten by the travel bug itches to be as far away from home as possible. I can attest to that. I always rather be elsewhere. I think it’s because at some point, home becomes a forced choice. I just happen to have to be here. I didn’t really get a say in where I will be born and raised. It just happened to be here. So anywhere but here was always better, but that was before I started to frequently become exposed to “elsewhere”.
To be in a place that was just an image and expectation can be overwhelming. It’s a hit or miss: either it turns out exactly (or more than) what I had in mind or not like it at all. If it’s a hit, I sustain the idea of wanting to be elsewhere. If by any chance it becomes a flop, that’s when I start comparing it back home.
If the beach didn’t live up to how it looked in photos, I’d end up boasting how we have the most beautiful beaches here.
When the experience wasn’t as great as how others would write or about it, again, I’d compare it to how it is back home.
I never realized how beautiful the Philippines is until I started ticking items off my travel bucket list. Never did I see the Philippines in this light and I never did I see myself to be that person who would advocate its wonders to people I meet along the way.
I still love being elsewhere. I don’t think I will ever get that out of my system or not just yet, at least. But at the end of the day, there is something about home that will make us want to come back to it. Why? I still haven’t exactly figured out that one yet but we just need to stray away from time to time to have room for appreciation. As another cliche puts it, absence makes the heart grow fonder.
I love to travel and I will always recommend it but I do know it’s not for everyone. I’m just hoping I at least gave justice to it being a must-do.
It’s one thing to get excited and suddenly itch to travel, it’s another to actually pack your bags and go.
So, I’m hoping to see you out there.
Writer | Solo Traveler