(Note: It’s taken me two months to write this. It’s definitely been in my head since I got back, but I wasn’t ready to write it until today, almost two months exactly since I arrived back in LA after four months of an incredible adventure that I still can’t believe ACTUALLY happened….)
Anthony Bourdain once said:
If you’re twenty-two, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel - as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them- wherever you go.
As someone who turned 22 while traveling the world, I couldn’t agree more. However, I have also learned that you don’t need to travel across the world to find out how other people live and eat and cook, and you can certainly learn from people you meet every day. Although this particular adventure is over, the journey isn’t; there are still many more adventures to go on. And since I can’t afford to go on another trip halfway around the world, I need to make the most of discovering new places, trying new things and meeting new people on a much more local level, which is completely possible and what I’ve been doing since coming home.
I am still “Natasha in Wanderlust,” a girl in her twenties traveling to understand her existence aka what she’s doing with her life. I am still a recent graduate trying to find a job (with interviews this week, I’m guessing the next adventure is definitely going to be career related.) I am still going to travel to learn more about myself, explore the world, challenge my comfort zones, experience different cultures and take advantage of every opportunity I am given. But there is one thing that’s changed: I now understand that I can’t find myself by traveling; I can only create myself, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.
This is not an end, it’s merely a “to be continued.”
It’s been about two weeks since I’ve been back in the United States and I think the reality of not traveling any more has finally hit. My last two nights have been filled with dreams of me diving with my cousins on the beaches in the Philippines and I have no motivation/ am losing hope very quickly on the job search. But it’s in these rough times and post-adventure depression that I am constantly reminded of the belief my family in Manila has in me and their voices telling me that I can do it just keep replaying in my head.
Manila taught me a lot about hospitality and family. There were always greetings from security guards and workers, family members were always in and out of the house, and there were so many people looking out for me. I miss dinner & movie nights with my cousins, taking Zumba with my aunt, eating ice cream for breakfast with little cousins, hanging out in my grandpa’s office, gossiping with my grandma, the fridge stocked with fruits and sweets outside my bedroom, runs in the park, yoga classes at my studio on Jupiter, running into the whole town at the club, random nights out, warm weather and the opportunities to see relatives on a regular basis. I miss joking around with the maids, getting safety lectures from the drivers, daily trips to Rockwell, an endless supply of dried mangoes, Sunday lunches, sitting in the lanai and having no worries whatsoever except what I was going to have for dinner that day. I miss the sense of community. I miss the strong value placed on family. I miss the easy-going lifestyle…
But I guess life does have to go on and it was time for me to face reality. I am thankful for the opportunities and people this trip brought into my life. Until next time, Salamat Manila! Thank you for the extra love and support you brought into my life. Although I am thousands of miles away, the people and memories will always be close to my heart.
First, let me preface this by explaining the title of this post. You see, my dear cousin thought it would be funny to introduce me to the whole dinner party last night as a bum since I’ve been traveling for the past four months. It then started a chain of bum references throughout the less than 24 hours we spent in Bacolod…
Ever since I was little, trips to Bacolod while on vacations in the Philippines have been some of my favorites because of the people there. Always warm and welcoming, my family in Bacolod makes sure that we are relaxed, having a good time and keep us constantly laughing.
After spending two extra hours in the airport because of flight delay, we arrived to the city at around 7:30pm, went to the house and got ready for my cousin and his wife’s “Welcome Home” reception. In typical family fashion: we ate, we drank, we sang, we danced. Then we went home and went swimming until about 3am. Since we had less than a day there, all of us cousins decided not to go to bed just yet, so we stayed up chatting while drinking hot chocolate (which was perfect since the pool was freezing!) We finally convinced one another to go to bed about an hour later, and thankfully were able to get around five hours of sleep before starting our day again.
There are two things that we always have to do when we go to Bacolod: a cocunut oil hair treatment and eat Manokan. We go to the same hair salon every time we’re in the city and they remember us. (There’s a very homey feel to Bacolod because of all the friendly people which is another reason I love visiting.) After our relaxing treatments complete with head, neck and shoulder massages, we went to meet the whole family again for lunch. Bacolod chicken, also known as Manokan, is unlike anything else. At first glance, the places we go to eat this popular dish may seem unsanitary, but that’s only because they semi are. I actually went into the kitchen today to take pictures of where and how it’s prepared, and well, let’s just say the FDA probably wouldn’t approve. However, it’s that combined with the fumes, pollution, flies and the home-made alcohol mixed into the marination that make it so delicious! It’s always such a fun experience because there’s usually 20 or more of us sitting around multiple plastic tables passing food to one another, talking about life, joking, laughing and of course eating. After a delicious and filling meal, we sadly had to say our goodbyes since our flight back to Manila was at five.
Today was the beginning of my goodbyes to some of the people I’ve spent the past four months with. As my best friends will tell you, I’m really bad with goodbyes since reality takes a long while to set in for me and I prefer “see you later/soon!” I got teary and had to stop myself before I bursted into tears, but I can’t even tell you how much I’ll miss being able to see some of the people I said goodbye to today on a regular basis. To make me even sadder, it hit me that I only have five days left until I go back to LA. But don’t worry, I’m determined to find a job that will let me be a bum in Bacolod (and the rest of Asia) more than once every two years.
This past week, I was my grandfather’s date to his friend’s son wedding in Hong Kong. Days were filled with reading, strolling around the hotel and meeting my grandfather’s friends, and nights attending ceremonies & receptions and exploring the city.
With it’s cool weather, location by the water and everything on a hill, Hong Kong reminds me of San Francisco. I was so excited to find out that Hong Kong has winter! And I’m very glad I checked the weather before packing shorts and sundresses, which is what I’ve been living out of since I got to Asia. Being able to wear jeans, scarfs, sweaters and boots helped make it feel like the holiday season I am so used to. OH, and the Starbucks in Hong Kong is the only place in Asia I know of that has gingerbread flavor! I had three gingerbread lattes in the five days I was there :)
Since it was an Indian wedding, there were different functions to attend. Even though I skipped out on the actual wedding ceremony to explore the city at night with my aunt (oops), every event was fabulous! And although I complained about it, I was really glad I got the chance to wear one of the saris I bought from India. This wedding brought people from all over the world together - the States, London, Japan, Australia and of course Hong Kong. It’s so fun to watch people experience their first Indian wedding and it makes me realize how meaningful the traditions are. Everyone was so friendly and I got the opportunity to meet people of all ages. Like every other place, I was sad to leave everyone, but now have more friends from all over the world to visit :)
I’ve learned a lot from my grandfather and his friends, and one of the most valuable things I was told by one of his friends at the wedding was:
If you want to have a good life, have good friends.
They keep you alive. They keep you laughing. They give you the love and support you need to make it through the ups and downs of life. My grandfather and his friends are a living testament to this statement. I was with him as he just strolled into an apartment building in Hong Kong and up to his old friend’s apartment, without any prior notice, to such a warm welcome; we were then invited to lunch the next day, when we ate delicious food and laughed throughout the whole meal as old times were remembered. No matter the distance or time has passed, there is nothing that can change a good friendship.
Although I couldn’t see myself living in Hong Kong since I don’t speak Cantonese and not very many people speak English well, I would go back for a visit. I have to go back actually. On my first trip there two summers ago, I visited the Buddha in Lantau and made a wish that came true; it’s said that if your wish comes true, you have to go back. And since I didn’t get the chance to go back this trip, I’ll see you soon Hong Kong!