Globe-trotting: The story of a solo traveler preschool teacher who has visited all ASEAN countries

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What inspires me to see the world is brought by my travel and childhood memories. When I was a child, we lived in Lucena City for a short period of time. During summer breaks, we either spend our family holidays in Manila, Laguna or Quezon visiting our relatives. If not in those places, we are visiting beaches in our town in Masbate or staying in our grandparents’ farm.

I usually traveled with my family, not until I entered elementary and high school where I had to compete with other students in our province or region. There are times my mother would accompany me because I had motion sickness. Sometimes she could not be there; I had to travel with my fellow participants and trainers.

When I entered university, my family traveled to Quezon City to make sure everything was okay before leaving me. After that, I had to travel from Quezon City to Masbate all by myself. But, that’s not where my solo traveling started!

My solo traveling started before my university graduation. I was twenty years old back then. I traveled to Baguio City from Manila with my backpack. My friend brought me to the bus terminal, and at 12 midnight, the bus departed. I reached Baguio City at 6am. When I alighted, I realized that it was Friday the 13th. I started to think “Should I continue exploring Baguio? Or should I take the bus again back to Manila?” I felt apprehensive because it was Friday the 13th, and also, I was a graduating student. There was this superstitious belief that if you are a graduating student, you are prone to danger. To make that thinking go away, I went out of the bus, walked a little further and bought “taho”. Then, walked a bit further again until I felt the cool atmosphere, witnessed the sun rose and saw a person doing his morning jog. These sights made me at ease. Fear started to dissipate. I decided to stay in Baguio. I stayed in UP Baguio dormitory for two nights, where I had discount as a UP student.

My next solo traveling was in Myanmar in 2014, Brunei, Hanoi (Vietnam) and Luang Prabang (Laos) in 2016. I will tell you more stories about my Laos travel because it was the boldest travel I had ever done in my life!

What would you feel if you were new in a country where you could not understand their language at all? What would you feel if all people you see were strangers to you? What would you feel if you traveled for 1.5 hours from your hotel with a driver you did not know and you were to pass by secluded areas? Actually, I did not care about the first question. I could always use “sign” language. I also did not care if all people were strangers to me. I went there to explore places and learn their culture and history. What caused me fear was traveling for more than 1 hour (with a person I did not even know) in a place where I could only see soil and grasses with no houses, no people and even no cars or other kind of transport passing by! That frightened me! What if I will be kidnapped? What  if I will be harmed? To make those unwanted thoughts vanished, I initiated conversation with the driver. I talked to him and get to know him until I felt at ease. He was Manny Pacquiao’s fan by the way!

My fear totally disappeared when we reached our destination. Sigh! Finally, we reached the destination. I could now see some people. Sigh again! “Thanks, God, I was safe!”. Sigh again. Sigh again. “Thank you, Lord!” 🙂

I paid for the entrance fee and took the boat to cross the Mekong River/Nam Ou River and reached Pak Ou Cave. The nature, its beautiful scenery calmed me. When we reached Pak Ou Cave, I saw a variety of Buddha statues in the lower cave.

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The driver served as my tour guide. He told me that many local people would visit the cave during Lao New Year.

We then went to the upper cave. He said that the upper cave served as the house of their King when America was bombing Laos.

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After visiting Pak Ou Cave, we took a boat again and rode the van. I was already feeling relaxed. We headed to my next destination, which was the majestic Kuang Si Waterfall.

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After feeling the cool splash of water from the waterfall, I came back to the van where the driver was waiting for me. I had not eaten my lunch yet. I still had few kips left in my wallet. I asked him to buy food for us. He said, he had already eaten. I told him he could eat it for dinner. He bought food. He drove me back to the hotel. Then, we parted ways.

Do you have plans of traveling solo yet fear has been stopping you? I also felt that! But… “Don’t let your fear of what COULD happen make NOTHING happen”! It will make you a better person than you are right now. After my Laos trip, I could say that I am dauntless!

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For more of my travel stories, read Holiday Mode: Teacher is On Leave category.

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