We all get to that point in our life when we’ve simply had enough. We need to getaway from everything and just figure things out.
Or was it just me?
Anyway, I was at that point in 2015. I was 25, struggling with getting over an ex, and rethinking life in general. Looking back now, I think I was going through quarter-life crisis. Hahaha.
So in November of 2015, I resulted to my proven effective solution in any personal crisis: SOLO TRAVELLING.
So I packed my bag
and got on a bus to Banaue, one of the mountain provinces in the Philippines.
Banaue is close to my heart. It was where I had my first ever solo travel experience back in 2013. Read more here.
And its beauty never gets old.
Every time I go to Banaue, I make sure I pay a visit to the view deck where the local aunties stay.
I had photos with them from my first trip and I showed them this.
It broke my heart when they told me two of them passed away already.
They have the best and most heart-warming smiles.
After my short visit in Banaue, I made my way to Sagada, which was an hour away from Banaue.
So I went there without any pre-booked accommodations. After 2 hours of scouting for a place to stay, I finally found one that still had an empty room. It wasn’t exactly the most convenient place to get to, but it was better than not having a place at all.
The way to this mini inn was first through this mini hill by the street
across an empty grassy lot
that stretched out for about 200m
again down the hill
and it’s only then you’ll finally see the place.
The backyard is facing the forest and from what I’ve heard, some of the hanging cemeteries.
I’m starting to feel I’m getting the “getaway” that I badly needed.
I took a nap and went out.
I had no itinerary on hand, so I just went in the first bar I found interesting.
I stayed there for a while, did some thinking,
drank and ate,
and ended up meeting this bunch.
Such a small world we have. We discovered that we all have common friends.
Again, the beauty of travelling solo: meeting people
and getting to know locals.
And out of this, Daniela, one of the girls I met, and I ended up deciding to go to Buscalan, another province in the Cordillera Central of the Philippines.
We were told that not everyone can enter the village. You will have to have a local with you or be invited by a local. Luckily, we met one in Sagada.
He guided us and told us we needed to bring gifts to the host family and the children of the tribe.
We bought notebooks for the children
and I wasn’t too comfortable with this but…
we also got a live chicken.
We were told this will be dinner when we get there. Gah.
After we got everything we needed, we got on a bus wen were on our way.
By the way, we literally got ON the bus.
In the Philippines, we called this topload. It’s when you get on the roof of the bus or the jeep as it drives along the mountain provinces.
Not exactly the safest but it does give you the best view.
It was a 3 hour bus ride and on this trip we met Benjamin.
After the windy and scenic bus ride,
we got off and rode a motorbike. I wasn’t too thrilled about it, as you can see.
It was my first motorbike ride and errrr, no helmets. The road wasn’t the safest also. It wasn’t cemented throughout.
But anyway, we all survived, and fine. It was kind of fun.
I’m charging it to experience.
I had this face to remember it all:
So from there, we had to go on foot.
It was roughly a 3-hour hike up to the village.
After the nearly 8-hour journey, we finally got to the village.
It’s a completely different world up there.
They lived a simple and basic life.
and they welcomed us to stay in their home.
It’s moments like this when you start realising a lot of things.
These children were in awe seeing my iPad.
According to them, it was their first time to see and touch one.
Makes you think… Are they really missing out?
I don’t think so.
Buscalan is getting more and more popular. One reason is Kalinga tribe’s famous traditional tattoo artist Whang Od.
And no, I didn’t get one. I wanted to, but I chickened out. Hahaha.
Last agenda for the day was to catch the sunset. It was still a bit early for that and we were all exhausted so we rested for a bit.
And a little past 5, we made our way through the village to get to our spot.
And the view was breathtaking.
Life seemed so simple up there. How and why did it seemed so complicated back home?
I didn’t get the answers then, but I did get the breather I needed and wanted.
I only had a night there ’cause it going to Buscalan was never a part of the plan.
Nonetheless, I’m glad I made that YOLO decision.
The rest of the night was spent just hanging out
and being entertained with tricks by the locals.
The next morning, we got up early
to have breakfast
and start our journey back.
A lot has happened in that one week that I was up there.
I went on that trip half-broken and confused.
I ended the trip refreshed and different. In a good way.
Even if I wasn’t any better at hiking. Hahaha.
I met friends along the way and kept the memories up until this day.
(I didn’t mean for that to rhyme.)
It was one of the most memorable trips I’ve had.
I wanted a getaway and I got it.
I was away from the hustle and bustle.
The unanswered questions.
I dreaded going back, thinking I will go back to a messed up life.
I was wrong.
The moment I got back, I received an email about a job opportunity. Things started to line up for me.
Three months after that trip, I moved to Singapore.
And the rest was history.
© SAMANTHA ARELLANO
Please ask permission if you wish to copy / save the photos and use for personal use.
All the photos are taken by me and for those with me in it, I’ve asked locals or fellow tourists.
Cameras used: Samsung Galaxy Note 5, GoPro Hero5
Writer | Solo Traveler