Four AM. The world was sound asleep. It was pitch black beyond the lone bulb on my room’s terrace. I sat beneath the light, my bags packed, waiting for the driver to take me back to the Bali International Airport, about two hours away. The epic journey, Indochina 2014, was about to end. The silence around me was deafening as my brain roared with a slew of thoughts. It was over. By sun-up I would be on the plane back home. By this evening, I would be back in my own bed. How would it feel? What would “home” be like now that I was finding some of it out here?
It was strange sitting there by myself. It felt almost anti-climactic even. There was no one to say goodbye to, no one to see me off. There would be no proper goodbye hugs and “see you soon’s”. All there was was Amed, the dark sky and the cool air, the lush garden, watching me go. There was a vague feeling of closure, and yet things felt suspended in mid-air. Like there was no period, thus it couldn’t possibly be finished.
Finally the driver arrived. In silence I handed him my pack and slung my shoulder bag around me. I gave the place one last look and descended to the empty street. We drove in darkness the whole way. I got a vague glimpse of Mt. Agung looming in the distance, and said my goodbyes and thank yous to Bali. Before I knew it I was on the flight back home.
One year of anticipation and preparation culminated in 36 short but glorious days on the road, each day with its own unique highlights. My travel buddies, Nica and Bernice, and I learned a ton of lessons along the way:
- Don’t travel too fast
- Don’t impulse buy at the Night Market in Luang Prabang despite the awesomeness of everything (or you would go hungry!)
- Pack lots of food for road travel
- Avoid Northern Vietnamese sleeper buses as much as possible
- Don’t travel too fast (I cannot say this enough!)
- Have more faith in the Universe
- Make the mostest out of every moment
The length of time it took us to make the trip happen could be owed to 1)the starving artist lifestyles that we led, and 2)the fact that we didn’t earn dollars, and had an even weaker currency than some of the places we visited. The long wait on top of the hard work we put in to make the trip happen naturally resulted in sky-high expectations of fantastic tales and wild adventure. We were all hoping and praying that all the hard work would be rewarded. Of course to expect and to have your expectations surpassed was a whole other matter.
Traveling the way we did got exhausting sometimes. Sometimes it made me crave for creature comforts. But at the end of each day, there were still giant smiles in our hearts, knowing that that kind of excitement, of pleasure could only be found on the road. That was the life, good, bad, and whatever else.
Before the trip began I was entertaining fantasies of continuing on. Of not buying a return ticket from Bali. Of becoming a nomad, like the bloggers I followed. Realistically speaking though, without the dollars, it was a difficult task. Doable, but it took a whole other level of commitment traveling penniless across foreign lands. It’s still in my bucket list though (not the penniless part haha). It’s just one of those things I know I’d regret if I didn’t take the leap.
As the trip came closer to ending, and as our destinations became more exotic and more exciting, I knew that leaving that life and going back to normalcy would become more and more difficult. And to make it worse, I was going back to Manila. Manila. Don’t get me wrong, if you haven’t been there you should go; it has its own charms as well. But as a resident, dealing with anarchy and chaos on a daily basis has drained me of any positivity and fondness for the place.
When I came back from a two-week trip to Thailand a year ago, I was depressed and angry for a good couple of months. I was frustrated that I was dealing with constantly unhappy, angry, stressed people when I just came from one of the best times of my life. It was such a drag and I was afraid there was going to be a repeat, especially since this time the joy was magnified. I thought to myself, this kind of day to day life was not something I had to deal with; not something I wanted to deal with. There was so much more to this earth, to life, than 4-hour traffic jams and a soul-sucking environment. I was sure there was nothing harder than parting with the life I was living for weeks and going home.
But as the days thinned, my photos accumulated, and my untold stories became longer and longer. I found myself looking for home. Not the physical home, but the people. My family and friends. I’ve been communicating with them constantly on Facebook and messengers, but there’s nothing like talking face-to-face, with a detailed narration of my adventures, hearing the excitement in their voices and seeing it in their faces in real time.
Thus, slowly but steadily, I found myself looking forward to home, to going back. To them.
I found that the proverbial basket of my heart was already brimming, overflowing with joy and memories, and I had no one around me with whom to pour it onto. I was getting to that point where I needed to empty my heart again so that I’d be able to refill it with new stories. It was quite an amazing feeling being so filled with joy that there is no other way but to pass it on and share it with others. It amazes me what level of happiness it must be that it can’t be contained. This was the happiness I found on the round; and surprisingly, the happiness that made it easier, not harder, to board the plane heading back to Manila that early morning and go home.
When I touched down at the Manila International Airport, the same airport we took off from, I found a smile on my face and a skip in my heart. I wasn’t the same person who left anymore. I was richer, and fuller. My eyes were forever altered, and I couldn ‘t be more glad.
I say goodbye for now to Indochina, as I answer the calls of other lands. But I will forever be grateful for the glorious baptism and welcome it has given me to the world I’ve always wanted. I’m only too excited to be back.