I am not a seasoned traveler but I do try to see places as my budget and time allow. A few months ago, I decided to go back to the Philippines and embarked on a solo adventure for a little less than 10 weeks. I went solo primarily because my husband did not have the luxury of taking time off from work . This had been the holiday that I felt I needed most in a long time and I haven’t seen most of the Philippines so I thought it was time to witness and experience its beautiful places.
When I was planning my Philippine travel, I cannot help but to have cold feet about going alone especially with the country’s reputation for safety particularly in major cities but I thought what the heck, it’s where I was born and grew up so I should know the do’s and don’ts, not necessarily the ins and outs – these were still yet to be explored. After all, millions of foreign tourists rove the Philippines annually.
Anyway, I planned to traverse the Northernmost tip to the Southernmost part of the country with a considerable flexibility. Needless to say I did not achieve that due to a limited time and there were just so many interesting places to go to.
However going solo, I was open to socialize, meet people, learn new things, share experiences, and appreciate the diversity of culture and traditions. Mind you, Philippines might be a tiny country but peoples’ beliefs and values vary remarkably from region to region.
During the time that I was riding the rails, my experiences were anything but scary and out of sorts. However, it struck me big time when some people would assume how it must be sad to travel on my own. It stunned me more when a couple of times I was asked bluntly by strangers in separate occasions if I was looking for someone else while staring on my wedding band that I never took out from my finger. I thought what a load of crap! And to the crappiest of craps, someone actually tried to make a pass at me. This was way out of my comfort zone, let alone my interest. While it can be flattering, it was also beyond annoying to say the least.
I understand that some people take a journey on their own to contemplate and reflect. Maybe, some are really sad because of a lost or a break up and they were looking for something to lift their hearts. Perhaps, some do it with the objective of actually meeting someone and that’s perfectly okay. It could be that others do so for self-discovery. And others just want to have fun. There can be thousands of reasons.
Actually, most of the encounters I mentioned were with my fellow Filipinos. It is imaginable for a Filipino to comment how it could be lonely to travel solo because it is ingrained in our culture that travelling (and so in most aspects of our lives) involves family or friends. However, many especially the young ones are trying to explore the world on their own due to so many considerations. Beside this point, traveling solo is NOT always lonely. In fact, I got a kick out of it and it has lots of perks that one may not experience when traveling with a group. For one, I loved the flexibility of being alone. I can go anywhere I want, when I want and choose whatever activity I want. I could stay longer or shorter in a place without considering someone else’s option or decision. I could change my itineraries in the last minute. I could learn kiteboarding the whole day or two or three. I could rope swing into the water as much as I want. I could trek in a bush without someone telling me not to because this is not his/her cup of tea. I can eat anywhere and budget my own expenses. I can rest when I want to. Best of all, I don’t have to put up with someone’s idiosyncrasies and bad habits. Actually, when someone exhibits an unacceptable behavior when that person is travelling with me, the chance of going out with him/her again is zero. Drama should never be a part of an otherwise fun endeavor, right?
There were too many great things I’ve learned and experienced in this enterprise of mine. I have met good-souled, beautiful people that turned my skepticism to a belief that there are still many people out there who are cordial, tolerant and kind. From tourist guides to fellow travelers to locals, everyone had made the journey more interesting, more creative, and more exploratory. Needless to say, more safe. It was indeed an adventure.
Having traveled to some part of the Philippines from Batanes to the Cordillera region, other parts of Luzon to Visayas in barely two months made me change my perspectives about my native land and its people. I saw for myself how beautiful and impressive the country is, how its islands are extraordinarily fascinating, how people have interesting stories to share. In addition, solo travel boosted my self confidence. I know there are many people who are even globe-trotting on their own that mine was as almost trivial but I felt that this was an achievement so great as to overcome my fear and once again, do something beyond my comfort zone. It was empowering. Should I add that my husband was so proud of me 🙂
So who said traveling solo is lonely?