Wednesday, October 27, 2004

My Traveling Experience

For the past few years, my parents have been urging me to go abroad for my vacation. When I was a kid, the normal routine involved me going to another country (whether it's Hong Kong, Australia, or USA) during summer break (thankfully, I never had to go to summer class because I passed all my subjects). During those times, it never dawned on them to ask me whether I enjoyed the trip or not. The yearly vacations were a fact of life to me; it wasn't something I chose but rather an event that happened, much like having to go to school, or having to attend the birthday of some relative you really don't get along with.

Perhaps what made the trip uneventful was the fact that I traveled with my family. I mean I don't really talk to mom and dad, and they simply can't relate with me. My sister was younger than me, and at the time, barely more than a toddler, so she wasn't exactly someone I could converse with. Perhaps given different circumstances, I would have enjoyed my trips. But the problem that as a kid, it was your parents who scheduled everything for you. And it's probably because of that fact that I've developed an aversion to Chinese food. Or more specifically, the Chinese food that my parents order all the time, no matter what Chinese restaurant we eat in (and since Chinese restaurants are present in a lot of countries, no luck for me when it comes to variation). And this repetition can be seen in how they plan our trips as well. I mean whenever we go to Hong Kong, perhaps their primary amusement for me is Ocean Park. It's really fun at first but when you're going there year after year, the place loses its charm. The same goes for Disneyland and Universal Studios whenever we go to the US.

Again, it all wouldn't have been so bad if perhaps I was in the company of different people. I mean I'd sure enjoy a trip to Hong Kong if I were with my grade school friends perhaps, or even my cousins. But I'm with my parents, whom I'm always with anyway, and they're quite familiar with the place, so they know where to bring me and where not to bring me. Perhaps one of the biggest attraction of travel is the fact that you get to experience new things, learn new insights.

I eventually fell in love with books and the one thing I can get excited about when going abroad is the fact that I have access to books that are otherwise unavailable here. Of course it was then that it hit me what I also didn't like about traveling abroad. I'm at the mercy of my parents when it comes to finances. If I want something, I have to notify them. There's no one to give me an allowance for expenditures. I'm sorry to say but to me, an allowance is like an illusion of independence. It's like a salary: once you get it, it's yours to do as you wish. I don't need to notify other people of what I'm going to do with my money. It's mine. There's also the illusion of saving money, storing it day after day so that you can afford an item that would otherwise be out of your reach. It's something people take for granted, the freedom to purchase an object without having to ask permission from someone else, the ability to buy what you want just because you want it. When overseas, I'm robbed of that luxury.

And Filipinos being who they are, a trip abroad also means that there should be a plan. It's a common Filipino perception that tourists shouldn't squander their time doing nothing since it's not everyday that you get to travel, so you might as well see the sights and places the country has to offer. I didn't want that. I wanted to be alone with my books and actually read them. And of course, my parents would give me the sermon that it's not everyday I get to travel. Never mind the fact that they probably had travel plans for next year and the year after that.

There was also one time that I had to go to Australia without my parents. I was left under the care of my uncle and cousins. Which was actually fine although I spent most of my time sleeping (and again, my relatives would complain that I'm in Australia so why would I waste the opportunity by merely sleeping, which I could always do at home). Of course in the end, I really wasn't empowered; the power of authority was merely transferred. I mean one thing many urban Filipinos take for granted is the fact that Metro Manila is a congested metropolis; that means that when I step out of my house, I'm in the city and have access to luxuries that only a city can provide, such as accessible public transportation or shopping malls. Overseas, I wasn't living in a metropolis. If I wanted to go to a mall, I'd have to walk distances I won't even dare (and I'm the person who walked all the way from Katipunan to Greenhills). It's also not like my parents gave me any money. Again, I was dependent upon the mercy of my relatives.

So when the next year came around and my parents foolishly asked me where I wanted to spend my vacation, I told them I'd stay here. In the Philippines. I reasoned out to them that most likely, I'd just be sleeping during my summer break, and that's something I can do here. I'd save them the cost of the plane ticket, among other things. I also told them that I was bored to death abroad, and that I'd only be a burden to our hosts. And of course, I told them that the peso was depreciating (a handy excuse since it's always depreciating), so travel would be expensive, and I'd help the country more by staying here. I could see the frown on their faces, and offerred to take the cash-equivalent of the plane trip instead. Unfortunately, they declined.

Nowadays, I don't get invitations to go abroad. Perhaps it's because the times are harder these days, and we don't have the luxury to take a vacation overseas. Not that there's any shortage of sites to visit here in the Philippines. And when you're unemployed like me, you want to take a vacation from your permanent vacation. But at the heart of it, I don't really mind. Because there really is no place like home. And sometimes, it's not about the physical place, but more of the people you're with. What is Philippines without Filipinos after all?


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