Orange and yellow hues filled the sky as the sun slowly disappeared into the horizon. Jon and I made a toast to the beautiful sunset in Lisbon, to our relationship and to my upcoming 28th birthday. It was special and I could not be any happier.
The decision to step away from my work as an engineer in order to travel for a year with my boyfriend was a turning point in my life. Most of my peers are probably building on their careers, getting married, or maybe even starting a family. After celebrating my 28th birthday, I can’t help but revisit my decision and see how things have gone for me so far.
More than three months have passed since Jon and I started our trip around the world. To date, we have been to a lot of amazing places I never thought I’d get to see in my 20’s – the Himalayas, Venice, Santorini, Amalfi coast, Sahara desert and many others.
Although at this age, I am on a different path from where society expects me to be, I am having the best time of my life! Travelling with the person I love has been one of the best decisions I have made. Every day is a breath of fresh air filled with new experiences and places to explore. Looking back after a few months of travelling, I realize how much I have grown as a person. I have learned many things and I truly encourage people to travel and see the world as much as possible.
Here are some lessons I have learned through travelling:
Cherish Each Moment
Isn’t it almost weird that people who travel often rave about the sunrise and sunsets they’ve seen during their trips overseas? It’s quite hard to explain but when you’re in a different place, everything seems like the first time. When you take the time off and let go of your busy life, you get the chance to cherish each moment as it happens. You see your surroundings with a new light. You look forward to beach sunsets and wake up earlier than usual to catch that beautiful sunrise high atop the mountains. Life is beautiful, you just have to take notice.
Adapt in Times of Difficulty
Simply carrying my 50L backpack had been a struggle for me. When I started this trip, I was always thinking of how I’d wish I had a trolley with me or maybe a porter. I tried to escape the situation instead of face it as it was.
During the first few months I admit it had been difficult for me to let go of the comfortable lifestyle I was used to. There were times when I thought I couldn’t handle it. I thought maybe there was a way out of it.
Cold showers, squatting toilets, shared bathrooms – sometimes I think to myself, “I don’t have to deal with these”. But after spending a night in the desert where there was no shower or toilet I had finally gotten over it. I realized that there are certain situations that I cannot control and I just have to learn to adapt instead of stress myself about it. Sometimes you just have to make do with what you have or in some cases, what you don’t.
About the backpack, I told Jon about it and we’ve managed to compromise. He carries the heavier backpacks while I do the other stuff like laundry or cooking (when we have a kitchen). It’s easier when you travel with someone to adjust to certain situations because then you can develop roles and make things easier for one another.
Take Care of Your Health
When you start to breathe heavily with every step uphill, and pant on your way down, you come to realize how important it is to be fit. Most of the times people try to go on fad diets and cheat their way to be beach-ready. I’m sure it works every now and then but it’s also important to recognize how our health pretty much defines how much we get to see in this lifetime. I don’t mind a lazy beach life every now and then, but I want to be fit enough to do more interesting adventures during my travels.
The 4-day Ghorepani-Poonhill-Gandhruk trek was the most physically challenging part of our trip so far but the 3-day trip to the Erg Chebbi, part of the Sahara desert was probably the most exhausting one. I am not very good with zigzag routes and I get nauseous quite easily during long winding routes. Although I had to stop the van and throw up twice during the 3-day road trip, seeing the beautiful orange sand of the desert and the gorgeous stars at night was worth all the trouble. (I’ll write a post soon about this desert trip!) I’ll definitely keep some motion sickness pills on-hand next time!
Travelling long term can be pretty exhausting, after more than three months of moving around in 12 different countries, we’ve struggled every now and then. The occasional “Are we too old for this? “ comes up and we just both laugh. I guess I’d have to add to take breaks and know your limitations as well. So we’ve planned to stay for a good three weeks on some beaches in Thailand to recover a bit before we head to New Zealand.
Know Your Roots and Respect Other Cultures
Where are you from? More than my name, the question of where I am from usually starts a casual conversation. Sometimes, it makes me feel like I’m a representative of the Filipinos to places where no one has heard of the Philippines. (I hope I’m doing a good job!) On a serious note, it’s true that some people I’ve come across travelling have not met many Filipinos. When we were in Morocco, I was greeted with “Konnichiwa!” and asked if I was Japanese so many times. I am not so sure about my features being Japanese. I guess they simply use that greeting to all Asian tourists there.
Speaking of greetings, “Namaste”! I recall how I was so worried about going to Kathmandu. I knew it would be completely different to where I have been before. I was not sure if I could handle the culture shock. Looking back now, I’m very glad that Nepal was the first stop in our trip. It was unfamiliar but it was really interesting.
Express Yourself and Try New Things
One of the reasons that got me to travel the world was my desire to be fluent in Spanish. I have always wanted to be multi-lingual and Spanish is a language which I think is better learned through immersion. The past few days we spent in the Andalusian region in Spain (Seville, Cordoba and Granada) has brought me so much enthusiasm to learning the language more. I got the chance to speak a few words (mostly restaurant conversations) but I’m really looking forward to Latin America. I hope by that time I can speak and understand better.
Travelling gives you the opportunity to see the world in a new light, and exposes you to new things. When was the last time you tried something different?
Recognize the Important People in Your Life
I miss you. I have sent this message a lot in the past few months. Being away from family and from friends made me realize how important it is to keep in touch. Communication gives us the chance to say that we care and we are still part of each other’s lives. It can be easy to forget, but a quick hello is enough to remind them I think about them even when I am not around.
I wish you were here. I remember the time when Jon first started to travel while I worked in Singapore. It had been a difficult few months, but we made it through. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, as they say. Now, we are travelling the world together and I’m glad that I get the chance to share every wonderful moment with him.
Travelling gives us the chance to step away to reflect and recognize the people who really matter in our lives. We meet a lot of people along the road, a lot of people in our lifetime, but in time we realize who are really important and worth keeping.
What lessons have you learned from travelling? Do you agree that travel is the best teacher? Let us know!