My 2017, like many of the years prior, began in the comforts of the open road.
On a 15-hour journey to the mountains of Kalinga, I sought the art of a century-old woman, well-known for having inked victories on the skin of warriors.
Despite his indifference to the kind of traveling I’ve been doing, I took the boylove to Whang-od, with me. It was a big ask, considering that anything out of the big city was out of his comfort zone. To be fair, he never stopped me from scaling my own heights. But it didn’t mean he was scaling heights alongside me either. For the most part, I have had to seek adventures on my own.
With a serpent on my wrist and a crustacean on my back, I went home from that trip feeling as if I have somehow won battles worthy of badges; patronuses for small triumphs in all my years as a solo traveler. It was also my last foray into backpacking, the world that took me in, wounds and all.
I do not regret one bit that I traveled solo. I was able to live out cliches: found myself, followed my dreams. But on the same tightrope, I have also learned to discern which freedom to take, and which to let go.
Thus, the road to Buscalan was almost ceremonial — the culmination of my growth as a wayfarer; closure to an indulgence that I’ve always thought was insatiable.
SUBIC BAY AND BATAAN, PHILIPPINES
Family trips were never my cuppa tea. My whole being would shrink into a zygote at the mere thought of small talk. But part of my “growing-up” was to involve myself in grown-up stuff; suck the antisocial up and survive family gatherings, for instance.
Subic Bay was my fire exit; an island girl’s refuge from the stifling Manila. In her coves lay reprieve for a lifestyle that did not otherwise allow keeping still. Beneath her mountains was where the sun rose and fell– testament that even the mightiest needed some rest.
Bataan, on the other hand, was a walk home. 2017 was an extraordinary year to be Filipino. Ironically though, getting my Australian citizenship in the same year, technically meant I ceased being one.
An afternoon in Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar took me back to a diorama of history and heritage. It was heartwarming and heart-wrenching at the same time. But as much as it was a timeline of where the country had been and where it was at that instance, it was also a chance at choosing where it would be. That last bit, was why I continue to fight for the old man I helped catapult into presidency.
HONG KONG AND MACAU
My best friend, Jopet, and I used to dream big about small stuff. Hong Kong, for example, was first on our travel list. And as far as I could recall, there was only Hong Kong on that list.
Sorely missing the soulmate I have not seen in 7 years, I chased the dream for both of us. Happily standing as proxy was the boylove, in whose company I was able to be exactly the same kind of crazy.
Hong Kong was just as vibrant as I imagined it to be. I even made an exception in my utter dislike of manufactured fun, and gave in to the beckoning of Disneyland.
But it was the detour to serendipitous Macau that held the heart forever captive. As in all else in life, there was romance in juxtaposition: in sun-aged and technicolored, creamy egg tarts and spicy beef jerkies, past and future, old Macau and new Taipa.
EAST COAST, AUSTRALIA
On Easter this year, the boylove and I took our entire squad to a 4-day road trip to Surfer’s Paradise, passing through Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour and Byron Bay along the way.
Since our friends have always been on the outside of the wayfaring world– mine in particular– that road trip was to them, a primer for the kind of life they only otherwise saw me curate in stills.
Down south to Melbourne, my trips were almost always work-related. This year, I was given a promotion I have not factored in on the drawing board. But in hindsight, I guess it had to be that magnanimous to fully eclipse all other reasons I gravitate to Melbourne for.
Without contest, the highlight of my 2017, was the long-overdue foray through Japan in autumn. For my stingy husband, it was a willing extravagance. For the unapologetic dork that was myself, it was homecoming.
Japan was the belonging I found inside the television set back in childhood. It was one of those memories I didn’t think I have, until nostalgia hit hard on my first morning in Tokyo.
Whilst Akihabara was the playground of my youth, and Harajuku was my clique’s table in the cafeteria, Shibuya was, no doubt, the sole bus stop from Earth to parallel universes.
Damn you, and the possibilities you flirt with, Shibuya.
Somewhere between the waterfalls of Okunikko, volcanoes of Hakone, and lakes of Mt. Fuji, I found the silence of a soul-searcher who has finally come full circle. I am yet to pen narratives of my Japan experience, but learning new metaphors for this new-found perspective would need to take some getting used to.
I could honestly not pinpoint how this came to be. Maybe I have out-traveled myself. Maybe adulting had led me astray from the ways of the youth. But maybe too, Jonathan finally succeeded in loving me hard enough that the duty of loving back far outweighed whatever existential crap I’ve been using as an excuse to find myself on the trail.
On the Kyoto and Osaka legs of our Japanese adventure, it was clear that I was no longer the same vagabond, who first carried a backpack across Bohol on a motorcycle, ten years ago. I will always have a deep love for that wide-eyed girl with a broken spirit. But I like what she’s become better.
Here’s to 2018! May this new hustle around the sun be as awesome as the last one.