See the world: notes on traveling

(An officemate dug this up, because it was his job to dig things up in the newspaper archive. This was written as a filler, and over a year later, I got praises for it.)

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There used to be, at least on my part, a great sense of romanticism when it comes to traveling. It is what you do to “find yourself”, “escape”, maybe meet “the one”, and if you’re truly lucky, discover a purpose in life. These may well be clichéd notions, but they are nonetheless alluring.

Not to say that the idealism is now entirely lost on me, only that travel has become such a buzzword in the past years that its initial glamour and mystery have somewhat waned. If you love traveling, or would like to try it, safe to say that it is easier these days. Travel deals and promos abound. All you need is some cash, time to spare, and an open mind. And this is perhaps where the difficulty lies, and why I haven’t been traveling as much as I’d like to: it is one thing to prepare the luggage, but quite another to prepare the mind.

When I said I love food, I didn’t mean I love all food. This was my first mistake in traveling with a group for the first time. Little was I aware of my biases, and instead of taking the chance to get acquainted with the unknown, I opted out.

Others would surprisingly confess that one of their mistakes when traveling is bringing a camera. Capturing the moment removes them from the moment. This is not to say that taking a photo in your trips is despicable, rather, it is a reminder to pay attention. Among all the things we associate with travel, we could at least agree that it is an occasion to see the world.

What I look forward to seeing and seeing more of is nature and architecture. What nature does is humble you with its vastness and inexplicable grandeur, and realizing that you are part of it is empowering. My faith in the universe is strengthened as a quiet voice says, everything is in its proper place.

Architecture, on the other hand, strengthens my faith in humans. Not a church-goer myself, I can stay for hours inside the Miag-ao church in San Joaquin. Why? Because these structures standing for centuries show that mortal hands can create something beautiful and enduring. It proves that we are intelligent creatures who care for each other.

I vow to get out more this year, and along with this is the promise to be more open and attentive; but this time, not just to nature and works of art, but also to other people. If I may borrow poet Mark Doty’s words, when people are “real” to you, you begin to understand them for who they genuinely are and not as part of a category.

If there is one thing I’ve learned from my few travels is that traveling can never be mere passing by, checking things out, and taking photos for proof. Most of all it shouldn’t be an escape as it ought to teach us to be “in the present”, and that seeing — giving your absolute attention to the littlest things — must be a way of life.

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