TravelerBy Maxine Maia R. Ang
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Why travel? Look at you. You’re young. You’re sheltered. You’ve lived a life of having people tell you what to do. Get up, wake up. Just grab your backpack and go. Where? Anywhere but here, anywhere but the here and now. Travel. Lose yourself to new places, new faces, and realize that life is an adventure waiting to happen.
But why travel?
Travel is crowded trains and sleepy buses. It’s falling asleep, tucked into yourself, and waking up in an entirely new place than where you started. It’s the feeling of coming home to a city you’ve never been to before. You will get lost, and you will get lost often. That’s a given. But it’s a privilege only a few people will get to experience in their lives—that deliberate choice of foregoing a map and deciding to go down an unfamiliar side street or hopping off a bus just because you liked how the tree in the distance kissed the sun. It’s not so much the absence of fear as the warm embrace of risks and the lure of the unknown.
Stripped of your name, your long-ago past, where you studied, where you came from, you are nothing but a passenger of the bus driver who stops for you. You are a passerby in the night to the sleepy hostel keeper who’ll collect your euros and promptly forget about you in the morning. So far away from everyone you know, from everything your parents ever told you, you will have no one to depend on but yourself. At 4 in the morning, weaving drunkenly home to your dormitory, you will feel an invincibility borne partly of alcohol and partly of the independence raging through your blood. This is right before you pass out on your doorstep and your landlady has to grumpily heave you into bed.
You will amaze yourself with your sudden ability to create feasts out of Spam and scrambled eggs. Travel is, after all, developing the ability to adapt, and to appreciate the luxury of food whenever you can get it. Sitting in a nipa hut, eating freshly caught fish roasted to perfection, will make you feel as at home as eating a five-course dinner in Hong Kong. Travel is taking home pats of butter from restaurants so you’ll have something to wipe on your bread in the morning. Travel is eating warm pandesal with sweet coffee and feeling like a king. Travel is being hungry all the time—for something more than food.
Travel is an intoxication you feel from the top of your head to the soles of your feet, all the way into your bones. Each new place is a heady concoction of sights, sounds, and smells, and you will swear every city tastes better than the last. And it never leaves you. You stay in any city long enough, and you can feel it taking root inside you. There was Amsterdam, the shadowy mistress from your college years, which wrapped her night cloak around you and whispered her secrets into your ear. Paris, that flighty, fickle creature, where sunrise and sunset collided into an explosion of color every day, weaving you into her city of light and dreams. There were the sun-warmed streets and drowsy cantinas of Madrid, the syllables rolling off her tongue like warm caramel. And you, falling in love with each place you’ve been to and each place you’ve yet to go.
Travel is people. Travel is opening the door to friends you have yet to meet, and feeling like you’re missing them already. Travel is breakfast in Prague and teaching Filipino swear words to George, the British bartender who left home at 18 and never looked back. It’s eating dinner cooked by Guillame, who taught you how to drag on a cigarette and inhale the smoke, and burst out laughing when you exploded in a fit of coughs. Travel is Beatriz, Ana, Marianne, and all the other Spanish girls whose names were too long to pronounce or to remember, drinking and crying on the dance floor that you would be best friends forever and ever. It’s creating makeshift families out of people thrown together by time, circumstance, and serendipity. It’s realizing that the words “thank you,” spoken in whatever language, bring the same warmth to people’s faces anywhere you go.
Travel changes you from the inside out. Travel is realizing the luxury of hot water in the shower, of lights in the night, of having soft blankets to sleep on. It’s an appreciation of things you have that others can only dream of. It’s realizing that the world is big and small at the same time. That you change someone’s life just by being you, and just by being there. That you can leave a bit of yourself in each place you’ve been to, and still be tied to other wondrous places you visit.
Why travel? Because I wouldn’t be who I am if you, my younger self, didn’t. So stop being apprehensive. Stop worrying about tomorrow’s realities. Travel now, travel while you can. There are cars and buses and trains and boats and planes leaving for wherever you want to go. The choice is yours, and your time starts now.
Maxine Maia R. Ang, 23, is the junior product manager of Maybelline Philippines.
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