I’m typing this blog from seat 13A on TigerAir flight TR 2726 from Singapore to Manila. Luckily, I scored one of the roomier emergency exit seats tonight, though the lack of a left armrest is a bit bothersome.
There is one potentially American dude in the aisle seat in this row, passed out and completely blocking my path to the toilet (that may become a problem soon). There is an incredibly irritating high-pitch whine beating the life out of my ear drums, but it’s playing the part of an insistent gnat and dodging my half-hearted attempts to find it. There is a loud child a few rows back, a fast-talking, smile-flashing flight crew, and then…me.
For the first time since taking a weekend in Cairns, I’m traveling all by my lonesome for a week in the Philippines. This is why I first set out on this trip: The opportunity to pick a random place on the map, buy a ticket, pack a backpack and go.
Wait, stop. Let me clarify something: In no way is this blog a knock on anyone I’ve traveled with so far. Nor is it intended to dissuade those who may be planning to join me – I want you here, and soon enough I’ll need you here; and who the hell am I to discourage anyone to travel anyway?
The time spent traipsing around three countries with my fearless little sister and the comfortable hospitality of my incredibly generous family in Singapore has been excellent, memorable and easy, and I’m fully grateful.
The thing is, I didn’t come out here for “easy.”
I saved money, quit my job, left friends and family behind and flew across the world because I want to challenge myself with new, uncomfortable experiences. I think it’s the best way to explore the world I live in and learn about myself and the elasticity of my beliefs and limitations.
So, here we are. No. Here I am. Riding a loud, bumpy plane to Manila — a place I know very little about but am eager to explore. I have a vague notion of the culture, currency and geography of the Philippines, like the general direction of Puerto Galera, where I’ll spend four days and three nights. Or the name of a bus that can take me near Mt. Pinatubo, a flimsy volcano with an allegedly gorgeous crater lake at the top.
And that’s all I really need to know. There will be plenty of learning experiences along the way, and I may end up wandering, lost and alone in a foreign country. But that was kind of the point of this journey anyway.
The only thing I’m sure about is that I’m going to have fun, because I’m going to make it fun, even if every moment isn’t fun. The excitement here is in the unknown adventure, good or bad, that lies ahead of me for the next week.
This is the manifestation of all my initial travel intentions. I’m ready to be nervous, lonely and unsure of myself. I’m ready to stretch my brain and body in ways I’ve never had to before. I’m ready to evolve my mindset and make decisions without a fancy phone or familiar face to guide me.
With a solo trip to Penang, Malaysia on the immediate horizon and lots of trains, hostels and couches in Europe shortly thereafter, the time is now to take the dive. A practice run, if you will.
Let this be step one of my uninhibited world travel. Let this be the time I finally engulf myself in the unfamiliar culture of a land different in a million ways from my own. Let this be the next place that introduces me to a new friend or goads me into trying a new food or takes me on an unforgettable trek. Let this be the first trial by fire of the next several months.
And, please, for the love of great experiences, let Manny Pacquiao beat Floyd Mayweather while I’m in his home country this weekend.
I think that would just be a fine and dandy start.