The travel bug just came at me a few years ago, I didn't know what came over me when I booked my first ticket out of the country. It was to a place that was very much like the Philippines, it was nearby Kota Kinabalu. Since then I've been to different places in Asia and the Philippines, hoping to travel to another continent soon.
During my first few trips, it was just impulse and frenetic moving from place to place. Not until I learned to slow down, did I finally ask the question, does travel really change a person?
Things Aren't Always What They Seem
One of the things I learned while traveling is that things aren't always what they seem. This is true for attractions, countries and people you meet. It's always easy to fall back to stereotypes when judging something, someone or a place, because people say this and that or you read it online or saw it in the news. The best way to find out is to go there and experience it yourself.
I went to China a few days or a week right after the Hague's ruling in favor of the Philippines about the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea, depending on your reference). People were telling me not to push through with my plans, it might be dangerous and so and so. Before I traveled to China, I've been to other places where people say similar things, it could be dangerous, there's nothing to see there and the like. I was up for an adventure and if I didn't go, I really wouldn't know.
Once I was in China, it was a different story; I didn't feel threatened at all, even after I told them where I was from. I met a doctor who I just asked directions to where I wanted to go, and when she couldn't tell me in English, she decided to take me to the hostel. I met two Chinese tourists in the bus station that goes to the Stone Forest, they were nice as well. We ended up traveling together for the day, and they even treated us to dinner.
It's so easy to judge right away; however, each person you meet and the places you explore have their own stories to tell, you might miss something special because you judged immediately.
It's OK If Things Don't Go As Planned
We like to plan things, the age we get married, our careers and even the amount of days and time we spend in a particular place. It organizes chaos, it makes things more understandable, but life isn't a straight line, stuff happens (bad and good).
I used to do a lot of planning myself, but I learned how to roll with the punches and highs and lows that life throws at me. I really wanted to reach the summit of Mt. Rinjani, but I didn't. It bothered me at first, because I was (partly still am) the type of person who wants accomplishments, then I looked at the view, it was just beautiful, life is beautiful, it's a matter of perspective.
What if you're not married by 30 or have a high paying job by then or you're still not vice president? I never really thought I'd be doing this, but somehow, I ended up doing so. Life's not over, it's not a list filled with things to tick off, learning how to sit back, relax and enjoy the view has changed my perspective.
The first time I got to travel made me feel like a kid again, the sense of discovery is there whenever I went to somewhere new. However, a lot of places in Asia (I haven't left the continent yet) are the same, landscape, culture and even food. It's easy to fall into the trap of I've seen this before, it's too expensive to go there, it's similar to the place I just came from and things like that. I realized it takes a conscious effort to nurture and maintain that child-like wonder to see something new out of something old or experience something differently.
Life can be full of boring little details, making phone calls, taking long bus or train rides, walking, researching and the like or simply because you've done a certain thing before. However, all of these can be new experiences or may lead to discoveries with a different perspective or the right people. I now think of these as pieces of a puzzle and pages of a story that has yet or will not end.
There are things I could control, while there are also others beyond my control, and I've learned to accept both. I haven't traveled the world or have traveled for an unknown amount of time, but it has taught me that change is constant. Moving from one city to the next, crossing a border that speaks another language, going to places where people can hardly or don't speak English, doing something you weren't expecting to do, getting lost and meeting people you'll unlikely or never meet again.
In our own way, we're also changing constantly as well, I felt it every time I went to a place I've been to before or a new one, you see things differently, my perspective of people changed as well. We have to learn how to evolve, I learned how to roll with the punches of life's ups and downs.
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