By Paula Bianca Abiog

Traveling is one of my favorite things to do, and I only realized I loved it when I was already working. I wasn’t able to travel much when I was a kid, since I didn’t have the means and my family wasn’t big on trips. Fortunately I found work in an industry that allows me to travel. Initially, I only went on work trips, but soon I was also planning my trips for leisure.

Since I started working, I’ve traveled to lots of places around the country, from Batanes up north to Zamboanga down south. What I love about traveling is that it gives you the chance to discover new places, try different kinds of food, face your fears, and learn more about yourself. Some of my most memorable trips are the ones that taught me a lot about myself. Just a few months after I graduated college, I was Boracay-bound—alone. It was a work trip for my first job. On my first night in Boracay, I cried in my hotel room. It was my first time to go anywhere alone, and immediately I felt very lonely. But the experience forced me to make new friends and be responsible for myself—I had to budget my money for food, and arrange my own boat transfers. By the end of that five-day work trip, the tears have dried up and loneliness was forgotten.

Soon after that trip to Boracay, I went on assignment to Zamboanga City. I knew I was still in the Philippines, but being there felt so different. I was in a predominantly Muslim city, and it was there where I learned to appreciate and respect the differences in our religions. Not to mention they had fantastic food over there, influenced by Indonesian and Malaysian cuisine.

A trip to Batanes, the northernmost province in the Philippines, helped clear my mind after a painful breakup. Hiking up the rolling hills of Marlboro Country, and watching the crashing waves where the Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea meet helped me gain some perspective. I came back to Manila feeling refreshed and ready to move forward.

Caving in Sagada, Mountain Province and “swimming” in the deep waters of Coron in Palawan, on the other hand, forced me to face my fears. The Lumiang-Sumaguing cave connection in Sagada took me four hours to finish, and it was a struggle to crawl, slide, and jump my way through the dark, slippery cave. In those four hours I felt like I was trapped the whole time, and I was constantly feeling panicky. Despite thinking that I won’t make it out of the cave alive, I felt delighted to have crossed the entire stretch of the cave connection.

In Coron, I realized I was terrified of not being able to touch the floor of the lake while keeping my head above water. I even had a full-fledged panic attack! The trip finally pushed me to take swimming lessons.

And my four-day vacation in Bangkok, my first trip in a different time zone, taught me how to properly plan for a trip—from booking plane tickets to arranging for accommodations and hotel transfers, and everything else in between. It also taught me to just wing it—while my travel buddy and I had a detailed itinerary prepared, you have to allow yourself some time to get lost and go with the flow.

Traveling for me is more than just an escape from my busy life in Manila. It gives me fresh ideas, forces me to think things through, and teaches me things I wouldn’t have picked up while sitting in my office cube. The reasons are more than enough to get me travel bugged.

Photo by Chen Mizrach on Unsplash