Travel. Wanderlust or so. Each person has his/her concept of travel. For some it is a way of life, a part of one’s yearly or monthly itinerary already marked in the calendar. To others, it is a way to reward oneself, to compensate for hard work or extraordinary achievement. Lastly, it could be a dream waiting to become a reality.
For me, I’ve always thought it was not possible until I reach my 30s or 40s. As I grow up, I believed that it will happen but only after many years, I was contented with documentaries or travel shows. Back then, travel was merely a concept to daydream about.
I came from a simple family. I along with my siblings, was raised in a country wherein bills and daily expenses could easily overtake or exhaust one’s income. My parents were both government employees who earned just enough to provide for our basic needs. With barely enough to pay for bills and expenses, it was a struggle to save. In a nutshell, travel was just a distant thought, something to look forward in the future. We cannot even travel around our own country, what more into international destinations?
However, I had that longing ever since to see the world, experience what each country has to offer, meet new people and hear their stories. Some of my childhood pleasures were watching travel shows, documentaries plus reading history and geography books. I had a fascination with capital cities and maps. A distant reverie but one that makes my heart warm and motivates me to push my boundaries.
Fifteen years forward, here we are in a new continent.
Now, our family is beginning a new life in Australia. We have been here for less than a year and life is certainly hard. I’m still juggling two jobs and school. It is kind of tough to handle stress from work, study, financial and family problems that sometimes I think I’m almost in the brink of having depression. Thoughts such “Where would I get the money to pay for my tuition fees?” or “How to manage work and school” were once foreign to me, but now I think of them today. In addition, I would often think of ways to improve my career direction related to the field I was studying. When you are in this situation, there is always the fear that one mistake can cost you everything.
I needed a breather, just to recover a bit of my former self.
Then, there was an opportunity. I saw some interesting research and internship program in Bolivia as well as a conference in Germany. Of course, everything is crazy expensive when you are flying from Australia so a trip to either country would be quite tricky. Still, I decided to play around and checked some routes. I found out that flying to Europe first, specifically Spain and catching a plane to Lima there, was cheaper than taking a direct flight going to South America from Melbourne. Also there were also cheaper flights going to Europe from Manila. In addition, the flights to Manila from Melbourne were not so bad too.
Sounds too complex. However, it could be feasible and I was also stubborn.
The next day, I asked my father who is based in Manila, if he could lend me money and help me go home for Christmas. I also started conceptualizing my fundraising campaign. The remaining amount of my scholarships and the little savings I had would suffice for the Manila-Barcelona leg and Barcelona-Lima leg of the trip. The funds collected from the campaign would be used to cover insurance, visa costs and daily expenses.
That same day, I booked the Manila-Barcelona and Barcelona-Lima (return) as I was afraid that prices would go up. After that, I started my countdown. I had four months before the trip, I had enough time push with my fundraiser and save a bit of money for both the tuition fees next year and also to have some pocket money for the trip.
For my fundraising, I ordered artisan, Andean crafts from my Peruvian friend in Lima (I picked them up there), beautiful, handmade souvenirs will be given out to each donor once I come back from the trip. A European option for souvenir was available for them to choose. I presented my fundraiser to my friends, work colleagues, bosses, my mother’s friends and colleagues. I also told them about the research program and the conference.
At the end of the fundraising, I was able to collect a substantial amount of funds to cover for most of my expenses. I was exhilarated with the outcome and cried when I was left alone. I never thought it would be possible, not now. I thought I will be 40 before I reach Europe and 60 when I visit South America. But the universe, fate, divine intervention, a Spiritual being and all these people conspired and helped me achieve this. Who wouldn’t be elated?
I told my friends both in Europe and South America about my plans, even they helped me when they offered to host me. It was incredible, nerve-wrecking, exciting and scary all at the same time. As I packed my bags, I still had these reeling emotions within me. I looked back to all those moments I daydreamed what Barcelona looked like or how wonderful will it be to see Machu Picchu.
I had a month to spend with family and friends in the Philippines. It was comforting to be back that even Manila’s worsening traffic situation did not deter my happiness. Barcelona is the first destination before I fly to South America.
Operation Cusco and Thalys (I like giving names to trips) commenced the moment I boarded the plane to Barcelona.
An apparent surrender to this terrible habit of escapism, I just found myself smiling and muttering “Here’s to three months of freedom”.