By Janelle Reserva
Backpacking was one of those things I never really thought of doing since life has always been full for me. I’ve always seen the world as too big and startling. But there was this one day when school was toxic and everything was just wearing me out that I decided to raise my hand at the oncoming yellow bus. This was how it all started – hopping on Ceres buses. The first thing was to just really do it. Good old Bilbo Baggins did this, too, in his bright clothes and naturally thick leathery soles. But unlike Bilbo who wasn’t able to remember how he found himself outside, without a hat or any money, it is certainly wrong and silly to do the same because we
aren’t living in an outlandish place where Gandalf saves and the mighty Thorin Oakenshield rescues. So here are those practical things to note:
Start lightly.Travel alone by going to places you’ve heard of. Start with those places that are a bus or boat ride away. Google everything about it or meet a friend who can take you to places, but leave room for your own wanders. Take a stroll in the city and
ride two public transportations to get to a famous tourist destination alone. By this, you’ll learn how to follow directions (For women, studies show that we have poor navigation skills, disprove it). Yes, it will be hard, but your friend can always get you if ever
you’re lost. Haha. But our country has the most welcoming people. I’m sure you’ll find your way.
Know places. So let’s just say you’ve already visited two to three cities. By now you know that one of the most important things is to always know where to get a hotel. Our country is overwhelmed by tourists, which means there’s always a cheap inn. If you can’t check in right away and you’re fidgeting to know the city, you can always leave your things in the mall. Know where police stations,
hospitals and schools are or spot unusual looking buildings. These are perfect landmarks. So where do you go aside from tourist spots? For me, I’d go to markets. The idea of buying the cheapest, most delicious and strangest food that is unique in every city, those weird sensations: from funny smells of flowers to dark scary thingamajigs, and everything that you’ve yet to discover in our
people and culture is just magical.
Going to higher places, somewhere where the city is in full view and where the night sky is everything or in wide places where farmers drown in the sea of their joyful common toil, hold you.These places would help you discover homemade stuff that
locals are making or selling to eat. I tell you,these things are world class. I remember tasting this ordinary looking bread somewhere in the outskirts of Pagadian City. It was like nothing I’ve ever tasted. A friend and travel junkie, Sesi Quilao, says he rents a bike to
go off beaten paths, river banks or parks to look at people and things.
What a remarkable way to save transportation expenses! Also, just in case, let someone know where you are. But if you won’t and you get lost, well, there’s always excitement and experience, right? Haha.
Pack wisely. Invest in a durable backpack. You can’t travel happy when you travel heavy. Don’t forget that you can always buy clothes.For women, choose clothes that don’t wrinkle and dark clothes that dry quickly. I bring a slightly thick cardigan, shorts, and thin clothing for sleeping. Packing light saves you from paying porters and enables you to take public transportation. you can even walk and you’re less likely to lose something. Buy those smart organizer pouches where you can place your toiletries and underclothing in one place. Remove those cards and various scraps that have been in your wallet for decades. I carry those rubber-made
waterproof fold-able wallets that you can find in malls. Pack an identification card, a pen, a small booklet for addresses, contacts, etc. and a journal (I place my ATM card and ID inside my journal); a digital camera that takes excellent photos (I don’t recommend bringing DSLR cameras); wristwatch; earplugs; a phone that has enough memory to store all the songs you’d like to listen for the entire trip; medicine (bring at least three of the following: antidiarrhea, paracetamol, cough and colds medication, andantihistamines ); and sachets of soaps, sunscreen, insect repellant, shampoo, etc. Lastly, bring extra money.
Converse and Love.Our country is magnificent. Every country is. Don’t miss that opportunity. Each time you get to meet people, talk and ask a lot. I remember talking to this well versed woman who teaches despite her old age. She was one of those UP
students who fled the country during Martial Law. She had to cross the boarders of different Southeast Asian countries and even reached China because many of those brilliant young people, her batch mates, during that revolution were tortured and killed.
Talking about crossing boarders during 1980s was crazy! These are one of those things that make backpacking captivating.
Don’t spend too much time checking social media or reading a book. Spend time knowing how to love a culture. You might be
thinking that it’s hard to ask or talk to somebody, but during the course of your travel, you’ll get over it. Choose to love the greatness, the diversity that God has placed before you. Savor moments in places where you might never set foot again. Take
unforgettable photos of events.
Travelling is one of the best things that can happen to you. It is an experience worth sharing. You will be surprised how paths, noises, and lonely lights give you the happiest memories. So, get that backpack and get out!