A long running anecdote about me as a kid was how I used to be a cry baby. My mom said that when I was a toddler, I was playing by myself and out of nowhere, I cried. She came to me and asked me what happened and why I was crying, did I get hurt, and I she said that I just pointed at an ant that was crossing from where I was sitting. It was stupid, crying over an ant that happens to be passing by from where I was. My siblings’ all time favourite “cry baby Carmina” scene though was when my brother fetched me in the school so late that I cried like a banshee. They never did forget what I said to him when he came to my “rescue”: “Sabi mo tatapusin mo lang yung Ghost Fighter, nanood ka pa ng (Flame of) Recca!” (You said you were just going to finish watching Ghost Fighter (anime) but you also watched (Flame of) Recca!) I was twelve then. In my defense, I didn’t know how to go home and I really don’t like to be left alone.
Flash forward to 2015, fourteen years later, where I have decided to tick off one of the things on my bucket list: go on an adventure solo travel to a place I’ve never been before and know not one single soul living there. Extra challenge: try not to cry.
So in March of this year, I decided that fuck all these things that make me not want to do it, booked a solo trip to Thailand and Cambodia and used my “save it for a rainy day” savings for the 25 day journey/soul searching/whatever you want to call it for the first time in my life.
If you’d ask me why I did it, I wouldn’t know the real reason. Maybe because I realized that I can, and that I wanted to. And maybe because nobody wants to go with me, and if you don’t want to go with me, then fine, I’m going alone. Sure, there are those people who do want to go with me. But they either don’t have the money right now to do it, can’t take a leave from their jobs or have conflicting schedules with mine. That’s when I put my foot down for myself; I had the time, the money, the courage (at least I hope I had it at the time), why the fuck, not?
The first thing I did when I decided that I wanted to do it was book the flights. This is so I would have a harder time chickening out because it’s already there, and if I didn’t do it, that ticket’s such a waste of money. Months before the imminent trip, I have been constantly obsessing about it. From finding a safe place to travel alone (especially for a girl), to the most trivial things like “what would I do if ever I get bored and if the people are not nice?” kind of stuff. I sought the ever reliable Google for answers for some of these female solo travelling woes (tip!). There are the good stuff and the bad stuff, of course. I became instantly scared and excited for my life. To say that I felt happy, liberated, and confused all at the same time is an understatement.
I then started telling people close to me that I am going on a journey alone. Their reactions varied from the worry-stricken “Are you sure?” “You’re joking, are you?” “Why would you even think about this?” to the supportive ones that go, “That’s wonderful! If I only didn’t have (insert reason here) I would be going with you/going on a solo adventure, too!” and “I’m so jealous I wish I could do it myself, too! Don’t forget to blog about it!”
All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go. Waiting for boarding.
The need and want to go out on my own for a while came at the perfect time. I was about to lose my dream job because of my principles and beliefs. For further reasons, please see Buhay Media. I figured that if I’m going to cry about the lost of my love of writing and having people to know the stories that I make, then I might as well drown that sorrow in a faraway place. Or try to have fun and meet new people and gain new experiences and see the world!
Back in Phuket
So off I went to visit my mom first at Phuket. I stayed with her for eight days, became a totally clingy daughter to make up for the times we weren’t with each other and did all the things I haven’t been able to do the first time I’ve visited her the previous year with my sister.
Bangkok Traffic (Minus The Love Story)
my favorite drink!
my manager, Tito Butsik. lol.
Wander Woman X Captain America
From Phuket, I took the bus going to Bangkok to visit my uncle who works there as a singer. For twelve days, we both explored Bangkok and shopped ’til my wallet almost dropped. I think I have memorized Platinum’s blueprint the entire time I was in Bangkok. The shopping clearly explains the extra luggage I brought home.
“No man is an island”
Angkor Wat, what a beautiful thing you are
On to the final leg of the journey: in boxing, “we call it the main event.” The night before I depart for Siem Reap, I had butterflies in my stomach. I was too excited, I was no longer scared. I realized that more than anything, I wanted to do this. I am finally doing it. I might get bored doing everything alone, but I am also quite positive I am going to meet people.
I present to you, the Solo Travelers Club. Or maybe the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The Single Society? Or the Clash of Cultures Clan. Haha! Iwan’s the guy doing the tongue out (Indonesia), I’m wearing the pink shirt, Pilipinas, represent! Marta’s the other girl from Catalonia. And Edwin’s from Holland. With our tuktuk driver!
And meet people is what I did! It was the “clash of cultures”, no, scratch that, it was a very nice coming together of people, who came from different parts of the world but shared laughs, misfortunes, stories from home and travel, and more laughs along the way. It was perfect. Honestly, it felt like we’ve known each other for a long time. Marta even said that she’s surprised we didn’t have a lot of cultural differences after all. Like how we both hate the pout-y lips X here’s my cleavage selfie of some girls our age and how the boys don’t have any problem with that at all.
with Marta and Lily (from America) Girls’ night out!
We visited museums, watched the circus, rode the tuktuk, shopped, shared meals, went to bars and bought mojitos for a dollar and shared love stories (not me, haha)!
our last meal as a group!
We bid our goodbyes after two days and three nights of spending it together. It came as a shock that saying goodbyes to these people was harder than we expected it to be. Remembering how I had group hug after group hug with Edwin and Iwan before going our separate ways is hilarious. Marta was teary eyed saying her goodbyes. I am surely going to miss everyone. I really hope that we can do it again some other time. Funny how the world can be so small that I was able to meet these wonderful people and how it can be so big at the same time that the possibility of the four of us ever crossing paths again is close to negative one. If you guys get to read this, go and visit the Philippines some time. I miss you! I’m a willing tourist guide!
The three days I spent without them I spent with myself. My personal favourite is watching the sunrise in Angkor Wat and sitting by the grass alone. It was cloudy that day so I didn’t take any photos of the sunrise, but I loved the serenity of looking at an ancient temple that holds and knows the entire country’s rich history, if only the walls could talk. I loved that I get the chance to see its glory and clear my head of all the stress in Manila. I liked that nobody dared to talk to me in that thirty minutes I was sitting there. I liked that I didn’t bore myself to death. Because if I did, maybe people would get bored of me, too! Haha!
Me, Only Better
Going on a solo trip made me realize a lot of things about myself. It’s true what they say: you think you know yourself, you have no idea. I realized that I can be who I want to be, if I wanted to. I released myself from all the inhibitions and all my worries and that’s when I had so much fun. I didn’t even know I could be a friendly person who would strike up a conversation to another human being as I normally would just wait for that person to talk to me or not.
I realized that I’m okay with getting lost because that only meant that I am going somewhere. I got lost around Pub Street the last day of my trip looking for the perfect souvenir for myself. Haha!
Kosal, my tuktuk driver. Get his number from me if ever you’re going to be in Siem Reap! His English is not really good, but he’s really verrry kind, he did not rip me off and I trusted my life with him.
I realized that it’s okay to trust people you don’t even know, especially the locals. Not everyone is going to try and rip you off just because you’re a tourist. I let my hair down and trusted my tuktuk driver to drive me to this faraway museum with just the two of us. I would normally not trust anybody with my life and be on guard.
I realized that I was wrong when I said that the reason why I can travel alone is because I don’t have any responsibilities yet; because I was my responsibility. I had to look after myself, make sure that I’m still well within my budget, that I’m not going to get my stomach attacks and ruin my trip, make sure that I enjoy myself and learn new things. There is no one out there who would look out for me the way I would for myself.
I realized how I love my mother tongue so much! Hahaha! I had some moments when I’m having a head ache just listening to people talk in their languages, especially when I had to communicate in English in the morning. I mean, my mind’s still not fully awake! I even missed hearing myself talk in Tagalog during the trip, would you believe that I am even talking to myself in English the whole time I was there? It was just hard to turn it off!
I realized that I should have practiced my selfie game on because I’d be doing that a lot since I’ve no one to take photos of me in the temples. I also realized though, that I had the knack in taking timed photos of myself as if somebody’s taking them for me. It was so much fun! And then I realized that some people are kind enough to offer you to take your photo, while others will deliberately photobomb you while you’re trying the look away shot, come on!
I realized I’m street smart, I have a good sense of direction but I can get lost, but that’s okay because the happiness of getting found is amazing. I’m a good haggler, but I can get ripped too, but that’s okay because it’s part of every traveler’s experience. I realized how I love to learn more about other countries’ cultures. I wish I could just go and travel and explore the world every day of my life. That I can forget about and break away from all the curveballs that life has been throwing my way; that there is a place for me outside the walls of my comfort zone if only I would be brave enough to do it. That I was Walter Mitty version 1.0 once, but I could be the version 2.0 if I want to.
Should I Stay Or Should I Go
The guy sitting beside me on the bus on our way to Siem Reap (from Bangkok) asked me after having conversation for the past couple of hours, “Do you miss the Philippines?”
I found it absurd of him to ask me that, but I quipped, “Not really.”
“Then maybe you no longer have a place in the Philippines, you should try to find your place in another country,” he said.
I realized how funny it is that I went out of the country (as cliché as it may seem) to find myself, but I have come back not only with a more confused version of what I wanted to do with my life, but a certain longing to go out and travel more. Now I don’t know if I still want to write for TV, go on a regular 8-5 job (that was the plan after the trip) or continue doing what I’m doing today. I realized that I don’t even regret missing out on that SP (segment producer) position for another TV network; I don’t regret not being able to have the chance to work for an aspiring politician now that the elections is coming; I don’t regret missing out on all the other work opportunities that has presented itself to me after leaving my previous company.
When the world has opened its doors wide open for you, you become a kid in a carnival; you don’t seem to know which ride you should try first. And I honestly don’t know if it’s a good or a bad thing. I went out looking for answers, but I came home with more questions. But I am going to figure it out.
Finally, I realized that I am no longer a cry baby. I no longer need to wait for my brother to fetch me from school and I no longer have to shout at him and cry, “Sabi mo manonood ka lang ng Ghost Fighter, nanood ka pa ng Recca e!” He could watch Ghost Fighter and Recca all he want because I don’t want to wait for anyone anymore; heck, I got home from miles away at 3:30 AM Philippine time, safe and sound. It was then that I realized; I am a Wander Woman. And I can’t wait for my next flight.
Here’s the video of the trip!
If you want the travel itinerary, please let me know. I will TRY to make one. Notice the emphasis in TRY. Haha!