A few years ago after I graduated from college at the age of twenty (20), I honestly did not know where I want to go and what I want to do with my life, apart from one thing – to travel.
My family wants me to take up law, but my heart says otherwise, all I wanted to do was to get a job that would give me the chance to see the world, a really fun one that would feed me physically and fill my soul with the life I have been craving for since birth.
But of course, I did what my family wants; I enrolled at the nearest law school which is about forty (40) kilometers away from home. I was also able to get a job at the Local Government Unit in our City, which is very nice but it gets boring in the long run, really far from what I was dreaming of. My job is mainly political and governmental, but I did not want to resign, not because of I was already enjoying it but because of one reason – to save up as much as I could for my dream to see the world. And so I did.
Every month, I save up to fifty percent (50%) of my salary for my travels, and I was able to go to some countries of my hard-earned money. I remember clearly that my father asked me before of what graduation gift would I like to receive from him, I told him that I want an all expense paid trip to Thailand, but then he did not give it to me, instead he gave me a very nice book with a note on it saying, “Get a nice job and save up as much as you can for your dreams, nothing feels better than spending the money you worked hard for… Love, Papa”.
Every time I open my social networking accounts, I see my friends’ photos in different places, with other friends, families, lovers, and some alone. I cannot help but to be envious of them, I was stuck in my boring job and drowning myself with law books, struggling to keep my sanity, and then I felt the worst feeling ever – I was not living my life! And I pitied myself for it.
My family was not supportive of my travel plans, so I did what I have to do, I browsed the internet and saved links and photos of my travel goals. I changed my perspective and tried my best to love my job since I get paid nicely, I also encouraged myself to study harder in law school, because if one day I end up to be a lawyer, I will have more money to travel.
At an early age, I was already able to travel by road the whole Luzon, apparently having a grandfather who is always on the road (he still travels ‘til today) is great, you get to see different places for free! But my very first out of the country experience was with my family; we went to Hong Kong and Shen Zhen, China. It was a nice experience. However, I promised myself that for my next trip, I would ditch the tour guides and discover the place on my own, and so I did.
It was on February 14, 2014, having no dates or whatsoever, I just did something really out of nowhere, I booked a cheap flight to Dubai City, United Arab Emirates. I have cousins in Dubai, so I will not be completely alone when I go there. The flight was for nine (9) hours, and no-stop overs (dreadful but intense experience) and the whole adventure was good for two (2) weeks, from June 7 to 21, not enough to explore the country, but I have a job and school to finish, I cannot afford any other trips if I stay out for long and lose my job.
When I got to the airport for my very first travel alone, I felt very giddy and excited; it was ecstatic, my heart was beating louder as I was also nervous about doing something crazy on that foreign land. So that was how it felt like, walking alone, smiling to strangers and hearing them talk in the language you do not even understand (I was wondering if they were talking and thinking about me, talk about being paranoid lol). I can still feel the Goosebumps until today.
Before, I want to know what made the travelers pack all their things and leave everything behind just to try their luck to live somewhere they have never been to and hop on to another, but after my Dubai experience, I finally understood it, I have been bitten by the travel bug!
Traveling changed me. When I was younger, I used to spend money on clothes, shoes, bags, accessories, jewelry, and other material possessions. We make foolish decisions so we can learn from them, but I was lucky enough that the day which made me realize that there is more to life than just posting stuff on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, knocked on my door at still young age. I finally learned that money should be spent wisely to things which it cannot buy, quite ironic right? Trust me; it feels a lot better and prouder to share stories of travels than showing-off your new gadget!
There is something about traveling that keeps me craving for more. It is like feeding your soul with more wisdom and memories; it keeps you grounded and excited all the time, especially when planning for your next trip.
I am also a bookworm, and I used to believe that books cure ignorance (it still does to a certain extent) and that they open your mind and heart to the world, but what I realized that what a book does is to give you just a sneak-peek of the better things not written, it activates your imagination and tickles your mind (still a good thing). But with traveling, you do not need your imagination, because everything is presented right in front of you – like reality slapping you in the nicest way possible, no photoshopped photos, you can feel the real thing, taste the real foods, and experience everything first-hand. And what you read in books are the experiences and perspective of the writers, not yours! So, why not try it and play with your own words?
Whenever I travel, I always eat the specialty/traditional food of that country, and I can honestly say that the Shawarmas in the Philippines taste nothing close to the authentic Shawarmas in the Middle East (Lebanese Shawarmas have Cheese and Fries in them, heavenly!), the Spicy Pad Thai is far way better in the streets of Bangkok than in the malls in the Philippines, and the Peking Duck, so tasty and earthly in China compared to Binondo (I still love Binondo though). Food holds the culture and tradition of the place, it is the best and so far, my favorite part of traveling, eating!
I also learned that the best way to learn a foreign language is not through books and the four corners of a room, but to live with the people in such country and interact with them. You learn with books, but the feeling you get with how the locals touch you and show you their home is incomparable. You get to see a glimpse of how they live their lives, and they get to teach you something different from your other trips. The people hold the most important part of your trip, they play the biggest role in making you feel at home, and if you are lucky enough, you also get to keep them as friends.
Every trip is different from others, as one country is different from another, each has a different culture and tradition. These places are like gems just sitting there and waiting to be discovered and experienced. And with every end of the trip, it leaves you wanting for more; it is a never-ending process of learning. Traveling is not a hobby or just something you do to relax, it is a way of living your life in the best way you could. It breaks your home comfort-zone and makes you reflect more on life. You get to find yourself; you get to know what you want and what you do not, after all, how could you say that you do not like something when you have never really tried it before?
I am confident enough to say that I am a better me now, and the world gave me wonderful previews of some of its parts, and I cannot wait to unfold more! I have learned to love and appreciate what I have and make the most out of it. I look forward in life now unlike before, and I value time and the people around me better now. Rest assured that I will not stop here; this is just the beginning of more stories to share and more memories to treasure. So, how about you, when will you start to live your life?
About the Writer
I am Ira Taryn Panajon Blanco, a single 23-year old Filipina. Juggling Law School and Work. I love traveling. I can honestly say that I cook good food. I am also into arts, and I like playing with words. Chasing my dreams one country at a time.
This article is an entry for the Bali, Indonesia Writing Competition 2015!
Are you on Pinterest? Pin these!