That overnight hike to Pico de loro which I almost gave up on - it made me realized how I've been robbing myself of great achievements because of fear. That holy week in Siquijor - it taught me to be present in the moment - to stop glorifying my business with work. That solo trip in Tuguegarao- it forced me to be more trusting of the universe and of the people around me. That flight to Taipei - it showed me that understanding and friendship is possible despite differences in language, culture, and race.
All these journeys made a dent in my life, but the last trip I had... its dent was too deep that it snapped me back to reality.
"Is the water cold?" Nathan asked.
"Freezing." I answered.He plunged into the water and swam towards Kawasan falls. He came back a few minutes after.
"Wasn't cold at all" He said.
"To each his own." I explained.Nathan agreed, then he introduced himself. He's from Holland; he's taking a few weeks off from work.
"How about you, don't you have work?" He inquired
"I resigned about five months ago, been going around since." I smiled.We were silent for a few minutes until he continued with, "so what's going on?" - still referring to my resignation and going around status.
"Quarterlife crisis." I said.
"Tell me about it." He replied.I just shrugged. Then he ended up telling me about his quarterlife crisis instead. After he shared his story, he looked at me like I owe him my story.
"Quarterlife crisis isn't something that Filipinos normally go through" I gave in.
"What makes you so special then? Why do you experience it?" He said.The question surprised me for a second. Maybe, it was the phrasing, "what makes you so special then?" The question trapped me. I grasped for words and mumbled unintelligibly until I managed something:
"I have choices - unlike most Filipinos who don't have the means to do so because they need to survive." It seemed like I was telling that to myself rather than to Nathan.
"Ah, you're just lucky." He concluded.There it is again! This stranger, describing me in simple, straightforward terms that makes me feel like a spoiled, ungrateful cheeseburger - whatever that means. We parted ways that night, but his words remained deep in my thoughts all throughout that Cebu trip, and long after it was over.
The next day, I headed to Osmena Peak, the highest elevation in Cebu. There had been a storm warning, but I pushed through. I didn't care about the storm. What I cared about were my plans. It turned out to be a risky hike because of the strong wind, and muddy trail.
I made it on top. However there was nothing to see because of the storm, just the thick white fog.
I sat for a moment and chuckled.
"I'm such a fool. What in the world am I doing with my life? All I think of are my schedule, my plans, my enjoyment, myself." I let out a laugh and remembered a heated conversation with my boss before I resigned:
"You are making a big mistake, Arlet." He pointed.
"I'm willing to make this mistake right now, while I can still afford to." I declared.Then I set off to various provinces, and there I was, sitting on a rock of Osmena Peak.
Days passed and my flight to Manila was fast approaching.
"We're going back to reality tomorrow. I'll get my nurse license and start applying for jobs. How about you?" My companion pressed.We both resigned months ago to live the life that we wanted.
I sighed, "I don't want to go back yet. I'd like to stay a bit longer. I still have some savings left."
"Stop running away from reality." She said in a scolding but compassionate tone.To ease my mind, I ended up picking trashes around the beach. An old man saw me and told me that I was very nice. He said he disliked the area because it's too barren and dead. He said he's here for vacation.
"Fine." I retorted and walked towards Moalboal beach.
His name is Jim, a businessman from Ireland. He narrated how big the taxes are in Ireland, and then said that it is okay because their healthcare is good. He mentioned that there are lots of Filipino nurses there. He talked about his life and travels in Asia.
I asked him if travelers are running away from reality.
"Are you running away from reality?" Jim asked, with a look of concern in his face.
"HAHAHAHA, perhaps." I laughed, quite amused that he shot back my question.
"But why does reality have to be so repulsive then?" I went on.He smiled at me like an old grandfather and started his sermon:
"If you run away from your problems, you will be running away forever. You are an intelligent, kind, beautiful girl; you'll figure it out."We stood up and continued picking trashes.
That trip in Cebu did not solve my "quarterlife crisis," but through the people I've encountered, that trip compelled me to stop making excuses and start owning responsibilities. After all, the pieces of advice I got were from people who did not feel the need to protect my ego - people who did not sugarcoat the things I needed to hear (I'm looking at you, Nathan! hahaha.)
Perhaps, the "don't talk to strangers' advice should be thrown out of the window once you start traveling without chaperone. You might be pleasantly surprised to know that the backpacker on the top bunk is actually your lifelong friend you just haven't made yet.
Needless to say, I still did not want to go back, but at least I did not dread it as much.
I am, after all, a "lucky, intelligent, kind, beautiful" girl. HAHAHA!
See you around!