Last February of this year, I decided to pack my bags and travel solo. It was then the bravest move that I had in my life. The mixed feelings of being excited, happy and anxious made me say, YES, ITS TIME TO GO.
Back story, this was not the first time that I had a chance to travel alone. Last year, our family booked a flight going to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. But due to personal reasons, my cousin and aunt told me that they can’t push through with the trip. So I had an idea of pursuing it on my own. I initially felt excited because I had to plan my own trip, try new things on my own, experience different routes by myself, and even waking up on my own time without following any itinerary schedule. But at the same time, I felt very scared. I evaluated my self then and thought that if I will push through the trip, it will be the first time that I’ll be outside of the country without anyone I know. No family to rely on if I’ll be having any problem along the way, no one to ask for opinion whether which public vehicle to ride, no one to ask which place should I go first or even with financial matters, I have no one to cover up for me in case I got short out of budget during the trip. Lastly, the thought of “is it really safe for women to travel alone in Ho Chi Minh?” what will I do if I got caught out of situation with a lot of untrusted people, how will I escape? I got a lot of hindrance along the way and my gut feel didn’t seem to cooperate too, so I ended up not pushing through.
So, after missing out the scheduled trip, I realized with myself that I lost a lot of experiences that I should’ve had. I regret that day that I said no with traveling. I regret how I was convinced with my close minded perspective. I regret why I got scared. I should’ve met a lot of new friends, try new new food, and experience to be with a lot of beautiful places.
When the time came that I had the opportunity to travel alone, I immediately said “YES” I packed my bags and went to Davao.
For those who don’t know, Davao is a place in Mindanao, Philippines that is very safe and known for their famous Durian fruit.
Having said that it is very safe, I didn’t hesitate to back out. I didn’t even have second thoughts, I just know within myself that I am ready for it.
I had a bit of idea on what to do there since I have a couple of friends who have been to Davao and they suggested a lot of good places. I had an early flight on a Wednesday, I went early to NAIA Terminal 3 because I was too excited. When I arrived in Davao, I immediately feel the warm welcoming breeze of the place. First on my list then was to check in the hostel that was recommended to me by a colleague. The name is “D’Counter”. The place is not newly built but at the same time not that old. I had a single room on my own. As I can remember it was only like a 15 Sqm room. If you can imagine, upon entering the room on your right side is the bed then on your left is the mirror with a small table and chair. Then if you walk about 5 steps forward, you’ll reach the restroom. That’s how small the room is, but I love it. It is very home-y and it has a descent amount of space for a single person, most of all it didn’t break my budget since I only paid 650 Php a night ($12.80) with a plated breakfast.
Since I arrived early in Davao, after settling down in my room I just freshened up and decided to start my journey. I got a tour guide with me, his name is Mark, he’s very much recommended by my friends who went there too. Kuya Mark toured me that day around the city of Davao, our first stop was Museo Dabawenyo where I learned the historical stories of the province. Proceeding after, our next destination was another museum but this one is kind of different, it’s called “D’ Bone Museum”, this place highlights animals from around the world. This museum currently has over 650 specimens on display and weekly, they tend to add a lot more exhibits.
After visiting a couple of museums, Kuya Mark brought me to our next destination which is the famous Crocodile Park. It has been known to be the place that has a lot of crocodiles (obviously) and there are a lot more animals too. Then during my stroll alone in the park a care taker approached me and asked “Ma’am kamusta kayo? Magisa lang ba kayo” (Ma’am, How are you? Are you alone?) I answered him “Opo Kuya, ako lang magisa. Pwede mo ko tour?” (Yes, I am alone. Can you show me around?) He immediately nodded and showed me around. I can say that I am very blessed that I met Kuya who approached me as I learned a lot from him. I learned that he is a single dad of 5 children and he has been working as a caretaker of the Park for almost 10 years now.
I was inspired on how passionate he was with his job, so that he can provide more for his children’s future. In return I also shared some of my stories with him. Before we separate ways, he told me “Ingat ka neng, masaya akong nailibot kita dito. Ipagpatuloy mo lang ang pag byahe sa iba’t ibang lugar alam kong malayo mararating mo” (Take care! I am happy that I was able to show you around the park, continue traveling because I know you will be successful with it) I am inspired with his kind words and it made me feel brave and motivated to continue this passion of mine with traveling.
On the evening of my first day, I met up and had dinner with my colleagues. The company whom I am working for (fulltime), has recently launched a branch in Davao so I got to spend time with my Davao officemates too. Most of their questions to me were “Bakit mag-isa ka lang?” (Why are you alone?) “Buti hindi ka naman natakot?” (Good thing, you weren’t scared?) “So okay lang sayo mag isa? Ang tapang mo naman!” (So, it’s okay for you to be alone? You’re so brave!)
I simply answered them, “No, Im good with traveling alone. I find it more liberating and it’s just my first day here and I learned a lot already” Those questions made me think. I had a question in my mind that is it still taboo in the Philippines to travel alone? More over, a female traveling alone? Probably, it is more common for foreigners to do it. But why do people tend to be surprised with a “a Pinay traveling alone” thought?
I then realized that the more you expose your self to the world, the more you learn. The more you tell yourself that “yes, I am really growing”. I am learning a lot from experiences, culture and most importantly, I get to know myself better. I get to know who really I am, the decisions and choices that I make are the best learning experiences that I had.
When I woke up the second day, I seriously didn’t have any plan where to go or what to do. I just decided that day that I want to go to the beach. I then researched how to go to Samal Island. Moments later I found myself laying under the sun of Samal while eating calamares and drinking a bottle of beer beside the beach. Then I met a foreigner, her name is Khay from Germany. She approached me and asked if I was alone too and if she can join me. We both had fun exchanging conversations and stories of our experiences. We found ourselves together the next day and I showed her around Davao city. We shared a whole piece of durian fruit, had some good bag full of shrimps and corn and we both discovered that pomelo salad is best in Davao. It was my first time to share a lot of my personal stories to a person whom I just met one day ago. It was a great feeling and guess what, until now we keep in touch. That day we exchange our goodbyes to each other.
Came my last day, I decided to meet up with my colleague, Janina. She toured me that morning in Talikud Island. It was 2 hours away from Davao City, when you arrive at Talikud port, you have to ride a motorcycle for about 20-30 mins to get down in the main beach. It was my very first time to ride on a motorcycle. It felt very extraordinary, when I saw the island it was very virgin and not commercialized. I was very blessed to witness the beauty of an untouched beach. I didn’t see any trash laying on the sand, no commercialized hotels beside, no disturbing sounds. It was indeed surreal. We stayed there for about 3-4 hours then we finally decided to go back since I had a flight to catch on.
I made a lot of “FIRSTS” during my solo trip. I met a stranger who turned to be my friend, I rode a motorcycle. I ate durian fruit. I woke up didn’t have any plans or itinerary for that day. I walked for almost 2 hours because I was lost along the way. I went to an island alone. I got to taste a crocodile ice cream. I woke up not rushing to follow any itinerary for that day. I got to stay to a hostel by myself for the first time.
A lot of FIRSTS, and I am very happy that I did it. For me, It was by far one of the best decisions that I did. To be brave and to trust my own self. I discovered a lot from myself, my negotiables and not. I learned that by far the best decision that I can do is what truly makes me happy and comfortable with. It doesn’t matter what other people think of me, because I believe that I didn’t make a poor decision to let myself experience the beauty with traveling alone. I was able to experience freedom and bravery at the same time.
I traveled alone and I loved it! Now the question is, “will I do it again?”