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I NEVER WANTED TO LEAVE

My first travel experience.

Before all these travel stamps, I have no passport and I haven’t even stepped outside Luzon.

It was in March. 2013. I thought I was happy. I got everything that I needed. A job that I love. Friends that makes life more interesting. The family comfort and home cooked meals. And someone who makes my heart skip a beat. I felt complete. I knew I had it all. Or so I thought… No one really prepares you for unexpected things. No training. No heads-up. One week before my business trip, I got my heart broken. I thought, the universe works in the funniest of ways. A work-filled getaway and a heavy heart. I thought, great.

I never wanted to leave.

I would sob quietly— at work, while eating, on my commute, even while I pee! Sometimes, it would feel too heavy, I would just cry. I don’t care who sees, what people thinks, how I look; I was devastated and crying somehow makes me feel lighter. And when crying myself to sleep started to feel like a chore. I stopped. I had to give myself a deadline. Crying, getting wasted and going to work the next day is no fun. I’m an adult, I said. The next day, I popped into a salon, had my hair chopped and stepped out like I’m Beyonce. But who am I joking? Any love song would send me down, crying. But still, I stood up with all my might, from all the sobbing and tried so hard to maintain my chill. I pretty much succeeded.

I was set to leave.

I was supposed to go back, just in time for our anniversary.But since the relationship is non-existent anymore, my friend / boss extended my stay for a full month, said, it will help me forget and heal. I thought he was just trying to make me feel a little ~better~, as if offering me vodka on vulnerable days wasn’t enough. Truth is, he just wanted to bury me with work; I would be so tired to even think about anything, I even got sick, but man, going away and being busy indeed helped.

I got offloaded.

How. Why. I don’t know. I even made a poem out of it! Spoken poetry, nor ”hugots”, wasn’t even a thing back then. And there I was, doing all that already. I would write when a thought would come up, I would write the chronicles of my pain and adventure. A friend even thought of sending some to Thought Catlaog, but I shrugged the idea. Writing helped me pour out excess emotional baggage I don’t need. I’m just glad that I journaled my whole journey, because I have something to look back, which allows me to appreciate how far I’ve come, since then.

I tried once more.

I needed to go for work, for myself. By this time, I was already very eager to leave. I felt like it was an escape. An escape that I badly needed.

I made it to Jakarta. Safe and sound.

First out of the country trip. First plane ride. I made it. I’m alone. And it felt rebellious.

That was the first of many flights. I started collecting stamps.

That business trip changed me in so many ways, I never even thought about. It shaped me and stitched my heart back. It’s pretty evident, I fell in love with traveling. It is during my stay in Jakarta that I started to see the world in a different way. I figured that there is life outside Manila, outside my comfort zone.

I had my first plate of Nasi Goreng and Krupuk.

Even in food choices, I am boring. I would eat the same dish. Order the same Starbucks drink. I do that, not because I don’t want to try new things, more like I don’t want to waste anything, trying something I am not sure about. I always make safe choices. But then, I was handed a foreign menu. Dishes, my palate has never met. I ordered dishes I can’t even pronounce. I eagerly tried all their local dishes, even local beers. I learned to appreciate different cuisines. I became eager to eat, which explains all these bulging fats.

I took thousands of photos.

I learned to become observant and more appreciative. I look at my surroundings differently. Now, with love, passion and itch for adventure. I would click, and click, and click. I look at those photographs now, and I would see the desire to go and explore. Each photo reflects my story. It reminds me of how I coped up, how I fought, and how I survived. The photos simply take me back to the moment, I first felt the freedom and happiness of going to places I’ve never been. Photographs tell stories and it’s just nice to be able to freeze the moment and take it away as a keepsake.

I look at things with glittering eyes.

I would stare in disbelief, at times. I remember, I was out with my new-found Indonesian friends, I met through my boss. We were at this pub, drinking and eating steak, while enjoying the city’s vista and flickering city lights, I would shift out of conversations a little and look out; it is during this quiet, in the zone moments, that I would realize all that has been, and all that has happened to me, since the day I first hopped on a plane. If I decided not to leave, I wouldn’t experience all these.

Unlimited learnings. Unlimited experiences.

I learned to speak basic Bahasa, which I think was cool. I successfully made it to my destination and back to my apartment without getting lost. I found cool co-working spaces and met cool and creative people. I made new friends. I can order food and not worry about it being spicy. I learned how to do a bank transaction; this was the major one, with their currency being millions! I learned how to ask for help and appreciate locals who do gladly helps. I was able to live alone without having to starve; I made it alive. For someone who has her whole life managed by parents and elders, being abroad alone introduced me to the independent life. With Jakarta’s standards of traffic, I learned to become patient. And most of all, I learned that there is life outside Manila.

I want to see the world. I never wanted to stop traveling.

The trip went beyond work and nursing a broken heart. I was lost, but the trip lead me back home, to where my heart was set to— exploring the world. It opened my eyes to things unknown. I learned to appreciate a foreign culture, the first bite of authentic cuisine, the local people and the breathe of foreign air. I must say, traveling introduced me to a new me; if that makes sense. It was amazing! I never want to stop traveling. I want to keep on traveling, so I would always have stories to share. And now, I have been living overseas for 4 years now. 4000 miles away from home. With friends I made along the way. With a family that sends me comfort, albeit virtually. A job and a passion side-hustle. And someone who doesn’t have to take my heart away, but did.  And I’ve never been this happy! I want to keep on traveling, may it be local or international, so I would always have stories to share.

Have you ever had that magical ~travel~ moment where you got to know yourself better? I want to hear your first trip story? How was it to explore the first time? I hope you don’t have to nurse a broken heart, like I did! 😀

 

10 Comments
  • Sasa Bacani

    Reply

    For me it was Cebu 2009 where I got to witness my first Philippine festival 🙂 I was the only Tagalog speaking in a slew of Cebuanos and Ilonggos! But it was fun learning new words and they were the best people to take me around and experience Cebu like a local. That was a turning point for me where I promised myself I will explore more our beautiful country.

    • Jean

      I always like the idea of exploring like a local. It’s become more than just a tour, but being at home in a stranger’s city, and I guess that makes the whole experience more special. I also like that you promise to explore PH more. It’s a bit shame, I haven’t even explored PH outside Luzon! But soon, soon.

  • Kat

    Reply

    I love this! Funny how our most painful moments can sometimes lead to the most amazing ones. Mine is a bit similar – first time away from home, longish term assignment, I had to learn to iron my own clothes HAHAHA… and thank goodness for the washing machine in my flat! You go home a little older, a little wiser, and somehow you shine more brightly for having gone through the fire.

    • Jean

      Thinking about it, the way things turned out were a mix of funny and awesome. Traveling is more than exploring the place, it is also exploring thy self. You’ll get to know yourself better through the way you deal with things independently, in a place that is stranger to you. And I agree, you come home stronger and wiser. Experiences is indeed the best teacher!

  • Anna

    Reply

    I feel like I’m in this bubble right now. This is a great little push to get me traveling again!

    • Jean

      It is one thing to want to see the world, and it’s another thing to actually get out there. See, I’ve always looked at traveling as a waste of money as it is most of the time hella expensive, but I realized that a mere trip at your city’s museum is actually considered as traveling. Go out and explore. You’ll never know, maybe your next great big idea or the inspiration you’re looking for will be found in one of your trips. Plus, traveling is the best therapy!

  • Lauren

    Reply

    Travel can open your heart and eyes in ways you never expect! Love this story!

    • Jean

      Hi, Lauren! That’s so true. I didn’t expect that traveling will get into me this much. Most of my learning are picked up from trips and travel experiences. It is also where I discover my passion for photography. <3

  • Bianca

    Reply

    Yes <3 This happened to me when I went to Canada for the first time and all by myself back in 2014…It was the scariest thing but it was the best! It was the time I got to realise my own dreams, goals, my passion. It's funny how you're able to do things you never thought you'd be capable of! Here's to more beautiful travels, Jean! <3

    • Jean

      Hi, Bianca! Right? We are so afraid to go alone, but new things and learning usually unfold when you’re alone. Cheers to more adventures! ♥

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