Browsing Tag

learning

Asia

So I Went Alone: The Beauty of Solo Travelling

December 1, 2011
chiang Mai

“You’re someone who loves being with people, travelling with friends” was how one colleague describes me. And my latest trip – a three-day solo trip in Chiang Mai  – defies this belief and pretty much every fear I have of travelling alone.

Writers and bloggers the world over have romanticised the idea of solo travelling since time immemorial. It connects you to your deep self, it’s a good check of your map-reading skills, they would say. You know the motherhood statements that those narratives give birth to. I used to read those testaments with complete detachment – loathing the overly dramatic tones even – until I found myself in the middle of Wualai Road in Chiang Mai, walking along a sea of people scouring the Saturday market for tribal goods and found myself all alone. Ah, the freedom is overwhelming.

Chiang Mai, 31/01/10

I had not imagined myself writing this, really, waxing poetic about the joys of travelling alone, until I’m trapped in the middle of daily deadlines and found myself wishing that I were still relaxing and sipping hearty banana shakes in Thailand. For someone whose day job involves double-checking that all things are in place (grammatical and otherwise), it was a bit difficult for me to be as spontaneous as I hope I would be. Some of you out there may echo my sentiments: with only several days of granted leave a year, a depleting savings account and responsibilities that range from the emotional to the financial, we get tangled in our daily checklists. Every single day is a quagmire of must-dos and most likely, travel plans are the first to become collateral damage when ‘needs’ battle ‘wants’ (or as I used to say, when our wallet is at war with our wanderlust).

My weekend trip last month was my first attempt at going solo, and in a way, a small inch closer to spontaneity. I’ve stepped into the plane with only two things confirmed: I have booked a guest house (so my mum and dad would not worry where I would spend my nights) and I’m going white water rafting on my second day. Where would I eat, where would I go after dinner, who would I be with most importantly, deserve some big question marks in my head, which I had totally ignored.

Armed with semi-free tickets from a lucky draw (which got finalised less than 24 hours before my trip!), I told my parents and friends I’m going to Thailand alone. My parents and sisters are the most supportive surprisingly, with one of my sisters even telling me to also go to Koh Samui or Pattaya after Chiang Mai, and my mum is not as worried as I’d predicted. But my friends’ reactions range from surprised and worried (Why are you going alone? Is it safe?) to condescending (What is there to see in Chiang Mai?! Why there?) to that of awe (Can you do that? Are you gonna be okay alone?) At times, my petty concerns surfaced: What if something happens to me? What if I get sick during this brief period? What if I get lost? And the most superficial of worries: Who’s going to take my pictures?! (That’s why camera timers and tripods are invented, go use ‘em!) The trick is to get past the overthinking: pack your bags, hop on the plane and just wait for things to happen. Trust me, it’s all going to be okay.


Chiang MaiSo I went, I survived – albeit with a few bruises and whole body aching after falling from the raft  – and I’m here to tell the tales. There’s only one harsh truth about going solo: the first day is the most difficult, it’s like the backpacking rite of passage. The transition from your socially fine life at home and the lone backpacker mode before you is always hard. The moment I landed, I realised I’m really alone. The first meal is the most lonesome, since I am not used to eating lunch all by myself. But being free from the familiar is one the best things that happened to me this year. There is always something liberating about standing in the middle of a crowded street, looking for your next meal while grappling for the right words to say, as the people around you are speaking something alien to your ears. There’s no hassle of eating quickly, since I had no travel mate to worry about. The absence of an itinerary is also overwhelming; I can scoop the glass noodles of my pad thai with no ticking clock and printed schedule to always look at.

Back in the guest house, Wi-Fi has been my salvation, and not in terms of connecting with friends and telling them I’m okay, but because I realised I had not packed any maps or guidebook with me. I found a note on my phone saying that I should go to places called Love at First Bite and Mike’s Burgers (I forgot to list down the addresses!), both of which I haven’t had the chance to visit because I ended up ordering roti egg outside the Saturday market (It is love at first bite, too!) and having beef noodles and banana shakes with a fellow backpacker (concidentally named Mike) in a small corner of the walled city.

For some of you who have done an RTW backpacking trip alone for months or year, my concerns may sound petty, amateurish perhaps. But it’s a big step for someone like me who’s so used to being organised. And I loved every single minute of it. I was able to stop and stare at the nice views, and look at the souvenirs without someone nudging me to walk on. No one’s asking me to check my watch because we’ll be late for the next thing on our itinerary. I’m on my own time, reaching for my own targets (or lack thereof).

The truth is when you go out there, you are not alone, especially if you go anywhere near or along the Banana Pancake trail. Backpackers are everywhere and you just have to overcome the initial shyness and go talk to them! After all, the beauty of travelling is not on how we followed our itinerary by heart, but it’s the people we met, the stories that get swapped, the tips we take from those brief encounters with backpackers, who, after long days on the road, are reluctantly heading home. It’s those surreal moments when we are not defined by our jobs, by the gadgets we flaunt, by the clothes we wear, by the way we carry ourselves. It’s just you and the world, and the backpackers doing the same as you: exploring, leaving  the routine and the monotony of safe lives for a taste of the unknown across the border, or in my case, within a three-hour flight radius. Solo backpacking teaches you how to rely on yourself more, but more importantly, it connects you to strangers, to the places you only see in magazines and travel blogs, and you know, nothing can replace experience.

So before you roll your eyes (like I did, and I apologise) at those who continue to wax poetic about how they trudge along life’s offbeat paths alone, I suggest you go grab your backpack and step into the wide wide highways leading to your next great adventure. And if you can – actually you must, at least once – do it all alone.

Some of you have done an RTW for months or even years, but there’s always the ‘first time’. Where’s the first country you’ve been to alone? How was it? I’m so excited to hear your stories of “When I was in_____ alone, I_________… Hit the comment boxes and share your ‘travel firsts’! 

Cheers,

Nelly

from my sunshine spot north of the equator, wondering where and when my next solo trip would be

This is a contribution from Nelly Hernandez. Photos used from jrbubaker and Woody Shakti under creative commons license.


Travel Blog

My Seven Links: 25Travels So Far

July 31, 2011
My Seven Links- Brussels

Starting My 7 links post was difficult as I don’t have much material to begin with. It’s been only a few months since I started theblog and with only 13 posts to date, there’s not much material to work on.

I’m not new to blogging and I’ve been writing my thoughts since 2005. But I’ve had moved from one blog platform to another, hoping it will bring the writing sparks back and 25travels was my latest – and my blog solely for travel.  I’ve written a few travel posts in between for my family and friends to read.  But for the purpose of this exercise, I’ll try to keep it within my 25travels posts.

Thanks to Ren of So Not Lost for the nomination.  🙂

My most beautiful post
My 10 Favourite Places in Brussels, Belgium

Grand Place, Brussels

I originally wrote this post for the Matador Network. However, I sent it haphazardly then forgot to proofread and it was eventually rejected (that’s why bloggers, it’s key that you proofread). I’ve since rewritten this piece and decided to upload it here instead.

I lived in Brussels for two years and it goes without saying that I miss the city and my friends there a lot. Writing this post brought back memories  from my time there. Brussels became my second home, and writing about a place where a part of you remains needs some thought and lots of crafting, that’s why I consider this as my most beautiful post.  I’ve put much thought in order to reflect my feelings for the city and the experiences I’ve had there,  hoping that people who haven’t been to Brussels will have the same feeling as I had.

My most popular post
Final Four: finishing my 25travels goal

Sahara desert Morocco, 25travels

My most popular to date is my recent post on countries to visit for  my 25-country goal. I’ve gotten my best amount of page views and social media sharing from this entry. At the same time, comments and suggestions from travel bloggers had made it useful for my upcoming trips. Now, I definitely am excited to boost my travels again!  Their advice will definitely help and I’m excited to pack and get myself back on the road again.

My most controversial post
25-country travel: Why That Travel Goal?

Bullfight in Madrid, Spain

The almost empty comment box on this post might not say anything about being my most controversial, but I do get lots of questions and emails about my travel goal of visiting 25 countries before I turn 25. Mainly, words of encouragement and well-wishes for my future travels. But I do get an occasional response that I shouldn’t ‘rush’ travel and force myself to visit countries for the sake of finishing my goals this year.  I’ve also received a feedback that  I don’t need to ‘count’ the countries and in order to ‘travel’ I should go beyond staying a few days in one city.

I do agree to some extent that travel should go beyond just a city visit and I would love to do so if money and time permit.

We all have our travel styles and unfortunately, long term travel isn’t for me yet. Some people dictate that there’s only way of properly travelling which is to immerse yourself through long-term backpacking. But unfortunately, not everyone has that privilege and capacity to do so. I want to do it DEFINITELY, but I can’t at this stage. And despite only being in Spain or in Austria for a weekend – that experience had inspired me to look into the world with a different perspective.

By starting this blog, setting this goal and working towards starting my travels, I’m hoping to inspire other people so see other ways of travelling. In the end, we are all travellers. Whether you have a full-time job, still in university, or a person short of money and time, nothing is stopping you from travelling and seeing the world beyond the confines of our four-walled homes. In the end, we all enjoy and reap the benefits of travelling – having an open mind and understanding that there is a world beyond our small piece of lot.

My most helpful post
How to: Travel by public transport from Manila to Clark airport

 

Philippine passport

This post comes from a horrible experience of having to go to Clark Airport ( Manila’s budget airport) early in the morning.  A normal route that can be done with a  2-hour drive took me more than 5 hours by public transport (includes waiting time, missing buses and haggling for the ‘better option’). Bus schedules are unreliable so I had to wait for an hour before it left. Shuttles run when they are already full of passengers, which at 5 in the morning is virtually impossible. I’ve extracted this post from my own demise and translated my frustrations into a short and easy to follow guide for those venturing out in the same way.

I’ve shared this post with many friends and travellers who will be doing this impractical journey to the airport from Manila and have gotten great feedback.

A post whose success surprised me
Two sides of the Cu Chi tunnels tour

 

Tank in Cu Chi

I wasn’t expecting that this post will be my one of the most popular but if we based popularity on numbers, then this was it. It got a good number of page views and clicks from external sources. It even got re-tweeted by Melvin from traveldudes.  But I’m not really sure what made it popular in the first place.  It’s a post I can describe as candid, it’s merely a telling of a story about the irony of the Cu Chi daytrip tour starting with a visit to Cao Dai temple and end up with shooting rifles in Cu Chi.  I guess there’s love online for a combination of church and guns.

A post I feel didn’t get the attention it deserved
El Nido: Our 48 hours in paradise

 

Bacuit Bay in El Nido

El Nido is paradise and  is my favourite place in the entire Philippines. El Nido is how I pictured it, pristine and almost secluded white beaches alongside grey limestone cliffs. I have all praises as well for the town’s atmosphere, food and local people and I can’t wait to come back there soon. It’s the perfect place for those seeking an island retreat or vagabond beachbum lifestyle. But I think the post was shabbily written and somewhat didn’t capture my emotions towards the place.  That’s the reason why I think it didn’t get the attention it deserved.  My writing had also become rustic these days and through this blog, I can hopefully bring back my passion and attention to content. But don’t let this mediocre post stop you from visiting it, go and go now. 🙂

The post that I am  most proud of
23 best travel moments at 23 years old

Riding a zipline in Loboc, Bohol

I’m proud of this post simply because of the travel experiences I’ve encountered over the past year. Looking back, it’s a good summary of what a great year filled with new  places I’ve seen and people I’ve met.  The fact that I’ve seen Angkor Wat, rode a zipline and experienced a great World Cup finals (even if the Dutch lost) – is something that I’m proud of. The world is beautiful and I’m happy that I’ve got to experience a lot during the year. Hope to continue this crazy adventure this year and the next!

Here are my five nominations:

Ally from The Further, The Better

Neil from Backpacks and Bunkbeds

Mica from Senyorita

Jade & James from The World is Our Oyster

Tina  from Tightrope traveler

Education

Learning about the Vietnam War

June 15, 2011
War Remnants Museum - HCMC

I grew up knowing only a silhouette of the Vietnam War.

Despite the close proximity of the Philippines, there was hardly any mention of the war on our history school books. It ended a decade before I was born but it seemed like a forgotten episode at least when I was in school.

Growing older, I started learning about the war from its “Hollywood” representation – Apocalypse Now, Miss Saigon and various TV documentaries.

I”ve read up a bit a few weeks before I left for Vietnam. It’s always good to know the history of a country and understand where the place you are visiting today had come from.

The war was between the Communist DRV (North Vietnam) and the US-backed anti-communist South-Vietnam government. Eventually after a few decades of fighting, the Communist north defeated the south reuniting the whole of Vietnam under communist rule.

In Ho Chi Minh, the main tourist sites have a connection with the events surrounding the two-decade struggle. Amidst the bustling streets and crowded markets, it’s hard to think that a few decades ago, so much history had happened on where we were standing. There are two main sites in HCMC that I found interesting.

The Reunification Palace (then Independence Palace), where a tank crashed its gate signalling the surrender of South Vietnam. It”s now a museum with the interior remaining similar from how it looked 30 years ago.

Another place is the War Remnants Museum – a few blocks away from the Reunification Palace.

War Remnants Museum, Ho Chi Minh City

It displayed old helicopters, planes, tanks and Chinook choppers used at the war. While inside, the museum showcased photographs and various artefacts all aimed on showing the aftermath of a war that forever changed the lives of the people affected.

There were foetuses of Agent Orange victims, shrapnel from downed B52 planes, different ammunitions and a collection of hundreds of photos usually of victims and the areas devastated.

It’s interesting to note that the Vietnam War was the first war placed under constant viewing (and scrutiny) from the global media. Amidst the hundreds of photos, I particularly like this one – a precise photo of a falling B52 bomber plane taken when the plane was crashing mid-air. Kudos to the photographer!

Down B52 museum

The War Remnants museum may not be the best venue to get your facts straight as information had been skewed towards their communist government and an anti-American sentiment. But we can’t deny that these events happened – towns got bombed, families lost love ones, and futures forever shaped.

The outcome of a war is often written by the victorious side, but the aftermath, nevertheless, had disastrous consequences on both sides. The horrors of war existed on both sides and this is what was missing at the museum. Indeed, the US and its allies (including the Philippines) have brought destruction to Vietnam, but there have been attacks by the DRV particularly to their fellow Vietnamese, that were not shown. I understand that this is a government-run museum aiming to position themselves better in the society. But what I felt was that there is a reactive often aggressive response rather than a peaceful intention to move forward.

But if you ask any common Vietnamese, there’s no sense of retaliation against Americans or to anyone else, but rather the spirit and attitude that it’s time to move forward and look forward into the future.

What I enjoy about travelling is that it gives you an opportunity to learn outside a book, classroom or the press. There are far much lessons and experiences to gain from seeing the old structures from time past, looking on how a community thrives with their present lives and how people you meet are continuing to shape up their futures.

Truly, travel is part of the university of life.

PS: I’ve found out that even the Philippines sent 10,000 troops to support the war in Vietnam of course backing up the Americans – and this struck me the most. We grew learning barely nothing about the war even though 10,000 of our own troops went.

Have you trave

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...