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! 😀