How Traveling Changed my Life (Hint: It Didn’t)

Marimegmeg beach in El Nido, Palawan
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Recently, there’d been rounds of stories around the theme “How Travel Changed my Life” as promoted by an online booking website. I’d like to write about my answer to this.

It didn’t.

I don’t want to sound anti-climatic, but there goes. The most that I can say about traveling is that I met some wonderful people, several of whom had become my friends. It led me to beautiful places in the Philippines thus far (and farther, I hope). It introduced me to volunteer work when friends I’d met in Calaguas decided to form an outreach organization. In our first outreach mission in Jomalig way back 2015, I met Hali.

All of these made positive changes in my life. But… my life doesn’t revolve around travel.

It’s not the main catalyst to how I moved forward. I don’t want to make a listicle of how travel changed me just for the sake of doing so. If I were to tackle about a life-changing aspect, I’d rather talk about delving into spirituality and meditation.

The more I travel around the Philippines, the more I want to get out

I can say that traveling is one of my passions in life. I can go about without a camera or phone. I don’t think I can go on for 2 or 3 months without stepping foot on a sandy shore or looking at a beautiful coastline or skyline from above a cliff.

But like I said, there’s much more to life, my life, than traveling.

Furthermore, I feel that the more I explore my home country, the more I want to get out. It started as a fleeting urge. As time goes on the pressure builds up. Obviously, I want to see what’s Out There, but it’s more than that.

My foray to travel started in 2014, when I joined a KKB trip to Palaui in Cagayan. My out-of-town trips were then intermittent, but the next year I started traveling regularly. Was it because I found a travel buddy in Hali? Probably.

Cagnipa Rolling Hills in Catanduanes

I witnessed how travel made its way into everybody’s lives, how it consumed my social media feed. A lot of you will say, That’s good, people are going out more. But it also means that local attractions are being commercialized faster than it could cope up, mountain trails are battered with a thousand foot prints every week and you can see garbage in every place where there’s a huge concentration of tourists.

I see the places I walked on changing, for better or for worse.

As I travel around, I also saw, clearer, the discrepancy between the rich and the poor. In Dinagat Islands, you can find houses and stilts and, just several boat rides away, summer houses in cliffs. Good properties are being bought by foreigners because locals couldn’t afford them. People struggling.

It’s heartbreaking.

There’s a lot of good people, good things about the Philippines. But currently this is how I feel. Stifled, being pushed away.

There are other things that helped me moved forward

There was a time when I was active in mountaineering. I usually went with my older sister or close friend Shei. If I were to face my slightly younger, more physically active self, I’d probably smile and roll my eyes at her. God, I hate climbing mountains. I wasn’t fit enough and would get tired after a few minutes. The ache in my legs burns deep in memory.

But back then, that was how I coped.

I was lost. I’d been lost for a long time. I had two failed relationships in my hand, I’d committed myself into a job in a field alien to me (software engineering for a journalism grad, go figure) — but wasn’t sure I wanted.

I wanted to feel that I was moving forward somehow.

So I walked. I walked into hills and mountains, cliffs, beach shores. I walked to foreign landscapes, to ports en route to dazzling islands.

Aguid rice terraces in Sagada
Meeting Hali.

I wish I could end this with, Traveling helped me moved on. Again, it didn’t.

My good friend Andrew told me not to travel to escape, but instead to build a life I would like to go back to. It was a wake-up call. My happiness doesn’t depend on the temporary bliss I feel when faced with nature’s beauty. It lies on building harmonious relationships with people in my life, loving myself and thus pushing myself to improve and face my fears (algorithms, no kidding).

Whereas travel was an escape, connecting with myself helped me find that seed of peace within.

My travels are bits of happiness in itself

I am not discounting the happiness I feel when I travel. Travel for me is like that wild flower that grew on a road crack or a really good coffee. It’s a wonderful moment, it’s one of the many things that make me appreciate being alive.

Red corals in Camiaran Island
Camiaran Island, pink beach in Balabac islands.

One of these days, I’d like to get a job that will allow me to move from places to places. But I’d also like to do other things that are meaningful to me… contributing and being more active in charity and social works, leveling up in my chosen healing modality, sharing my life lessons to those who would like to hear them, who are standing on where I was.

My travels are bits of happiness in itself, and I will cherish that.

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  1. “it also means that local attractions are being commercialized faster than it could cope” – this is so true on a lot of levels. ☹️ Let’s take Bora for example. When I first visited the place, it was already popular but the green icky floating things by the shore cannot be seen yet. Now, people always flock to Bora but do they know that those icky green things floating by the shore are from the dirty tanks? uggggh. To note, a lot of tourists even leave their trash anywhere they want. poor beach. ☹️

    1. I think there’s an on-going debate about the green stuff on the shores of Boracay. Some people say it’s algae and a natural occurrence, but yeah the fact that the breach has become greater over the years probably points to its association with waste management.

      1. A friend of mine who is into environmental law positively pounted out that it is from septic tanks. Eew.

  2. Good read! Real talk and unpretentious. And you tackled the question really well, how travel didn’t really change your life but simply allowed you to explore new things, places, and meet new people! Sharing this! 🙂

  3. good point on traveling not to escape. I guess one purpose of traveling is to appreciate the life that you have to return to after the travel. I am not a traveler but I do appreciate writeups like this

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