I started the year with plenty of doubts about myself and my decisions. I had quit work to chase after an ideal – as early as October of last year, I had started booking at least one trip for every month of the following year.
In between trips I freelance as a writer, and I use what I earn from that to fund my next trips. I have no issues with working my butt off (I even get lucky with projects that actually require me to travel) – it’s the staying optimistic bit that I sometimes find difficult.
But it’s experiences like this Coron trip that keep me going, that keep me smiling and hopeful. They remind me why I’m doing what I’m doing, and why I have to keep dreaming. Dreams are beautiful but pesky little critters that flutter about, staying just beyond reach. They fill your head with wonderful, tantalizing images that make you toss and turn at night. Dreams make you crazy. Dreams make me want to scream and pull my hair out. But ironically, it’s also the dreaming that keeps me sane. It keeps me strong. And brave.
Coron was breathtaking. The vivid greens and blues, the pristine lakes and white sand beaches made you think twice about going home. And the people were fantastic, the kind you’d expect and hope to meet in that kind of setting. I met a group of sprightly young travelers: Dan from England, Edel and Gus from Ireland, Jamie and Lucky from Wales, and Carly from New Zealand. I was in a boat with them – a foreigner among foreigners – and they brought out bottles of San Miguel beer from a large blue cooler to celebrate every stop-over (Siete Picados, Twin Lagoon, Cayangan Lake). Carly told me that she had quit her job to travel the world. I told her I had done the same. Edel raised her bottle for a toast and taught us how they said “Cheers!” back home in Ireland. We clinked our amber bottles, exclaiming “Sláinte!!” as the boat sped across the waters.
Before sunset, I had already consumed three and a half bottles of beer (a bit beyond my usual drinking limit), and we alighted the boat red-faced, slightly sunburnt, but happy.
The next day I met a full-time father, Scott, and his fourteen-year old son, Francis, on the same boat. They talked about their adventures, of their search for the best dive spots in Southeast Asia. They were from the U.S. but they had moved and were currently residing in Thailand. It was a beach bumming day and we stayed in Malcapuya Island to enjoy the white sands and clear water. In between lunch and snorkeling, Scott showed us photos of his favorite beaches and asked us about the Philippines – its population, history, culture, people, cuisine, current events, etc. My companions and I took turns answering his questions, but it made me realize that there were so many things I didn’t know, and a lot more I needed to learn and discover.
At night, the stars would out – countless, twinkling lights that dotted the entire night sky. It made me feel…small. I remember the second night, I was on a boat, on my way back to Discovery Island from the town, which was 10-15 minutes away. We traversed dark waters and passed by islands that looked deserted and eerie in the night. Straight ahead I could see the gentle slopes of a mountain, silhouetted against the light of a thin crescent moon that hung low in the sky. I looked up, and there they were – a brilliant display of stars. I couldn’t take my eyes of them and they seemed to shine even brighter the longer I gazed.
That third night, there was more drinking. The whole gang from the previous day’s boat ride sat around a table, and invited us to drink with them. We spent the rest of the night exchanging stories and telling jokes. They shared tales from home and told us how they had met each other in Australia. I’ve never been to Ireland, New Zealand, Wales, England, or Australia but hearing their stories helped me get a sense (however faint) of these foreign places. Our homes were miles away from each other, and yet here we all were, in one of the most wonderful places in the Philippines, sharing several rounds of beer and vodka while telling our stories.
It was all so random and unexpected, yet everything just sort of fell into place. The setting and the company couldn’t have been more perfect. I left Coron the next day with a heavy heart but with a renewed sense of purpose. Going after what you truly want is hard work – I feel like a little kid chasing butterflies and unicorns and rainbows. And saving up for these trips is no joke (calling for donations! Hahaha juuuust kidding). But I couldn’t possibly give it up. Being in transit has helped me open up my mind, body and soul to new experiences, new people, new stories and new ways of seeing. Sure, it’s about sacrifices and putting in a lot of time and effort…but it’s also about continuously learning, discovering, wandering, and finding inspiration.