When I was a kid I used to think, “The world must be so big that it takes Papa twelve months to travel across the globe each time.”
Growing up in a middle class Filipino family — Papa was a seaman; Mama was a businesswoman in her own right — there were times my dream to live a life of travel and adventures seemed beyond the bounds of possibility.
Be that as it may, I learned to either find a way, or make one.
Sometime in 2015, I braved my way to my dream destination, El Nido (Philippines), with a backpack and a shoestring budget.
At the time, I had been working tirelessly for a very promising multimedia productions company in Manila. It was nothing short of a materialized holy grail — collaborations with highly accomplished & multifaceted professionals exploring different courses of action my 22-year old self could never have imagined, all while being surrounded by extremely talented local and international artists & performers every waking day.
My days and nights back then were routinely jam-packed yet I felt absolutely desolated. I had lost my own sense of self, so I decided to stop waiting around for anyone to join me….and packed Papa’s good ol’ black SwissGear.
“This is the kind of life I want… simple. This is home,” I thought as I stood on the edge of Matinloc Shrine’s limestone cliff while soaking up the sunshine, smelling the feast that our boatmen meticulously prepared for everyone.
One whole week of sleeping in the same mixed dorm room, of having pandesal & peanut butter & 3-in-1 coffee for breakfast with my international hostelmates, of getting sun-kissed by the beach, of talking about life in general with the locals, and of learning that no one has it all figured out.
“Always remember you have a choice in life: Follow the path that is lit for you, or be the one who leads the path and lights the way,” said Luca, a German backpacker I met who had traveled around the world for a decade.
I wholeheartedly wanted to leave everything behind and live in El Nido, but apparently, the universe had better plans for me: backpacking in Thailand with my main group of friends and finding out who my truest friends are, and opportunities to travel more within the Philippines and learning the art of solo backpacking by heart.
Nevertheless, life hadn’t been easy. I had put my friendships on the back-burner, I had chased after the wrong people, and I had lost sight of my future. It took several years of finding and losing myself over and over again, and to be completely honest, chaos had been my comfort.
I WAS LIVING SOMEONE ELSE’S DREAM.
Lo and behold, I got the amazing opportunity to live in Europe.
I had planned to take a Dutch language course and/or study Business Management in Brussels after a year of living with my host family as an Au Pair and learning French, apply for a Permanent Residency Permit, get a part-time job and rent an apartment, and obtain a Belgian Citizenship eventually.
Sounds pretty cool and all, though, how I wish my ex-grand plan was as easy as ABC.
Even so, possibilities were limitless — I got to deeply know Brussels in a matter of four months; how they cook, speak, eat, live, and have fun. I spent Christmas and New Year solo backpacking across Malta, Gozo, and Comino. I saw the awe-inspiring Eiffel Tower, and experienced Couchsurfing in Paris.
I could’ve seen the Northern Lights and driven around Iceland; I could’ve visited Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, marveled at the sight of Madrid, and fallen in love with La Barceloneta; I could’ve backpacked in Greece and devoured some freshly baked Baklava; I could’ve explored the Colosseum, spent time in Vatican City, done did “do as the Romans do,” and more.
I could have but I didn’t, because all those wonderful opportunities meant that I had to reside in Belgium for years, and living in Belgium made me feel a little less satisfied and a bit more miserable.
I could have but I didn’t, because I knew how much I needed to come home to myself — I needed to work on my inner self intensively, I needed familiarity, and if I didn’t shoot my shot… wherever I am and will be, I will never be genuinely happy.
I found home because I stopped looking for it in other people.
I found home because I have been broken apart and I have put myself back together.
And that’s how you build a home.
“How am I supposed to know which changes I need to make in my life, if I myself don’t know what I want my life to look like?”
The 8 month-long waiting time back home in the Philippines was the pinnacle of my journey — along the way, I decided to stop spending my existence wandering aimlessly.
So this time, I’m putting myself first, because if I don’t, then no one else will. This time, I regret nothing. This time, my priority is the legacy I want to leave behind. This time, I have a pretty clear idea of what I should strive for in life.
Where will these changes lead? Maybe nowhere. But, then again, maybe somewhere — which is the magic of it.
All I’m sure of is, I have this strong desire to live a life worth writing about. And all I know is, I’m well on my way to finally becoming the person I’ve always wanted to be.
READ MORE: Gratitude At Twenty-Five
Your turn! What’s your story? How do you want to live your life? 😊