I’ve been thinking about how to write my blog about my time on the Philippines for a while now. I have left the country two weeks ago; since then I have chosen the pictures I want to use, I have cut the video, but something inside of me refused to sit down and write about it. Maybe because it’s never easy to admit your true feelings. But when I started off this blog, I promised to always be honest. And I want to stick to this promise. So maybe, this is gonna be my most personal entry so far.
Philippines. In my head, I had this picture of paradise beaches, palm trees and perfect waves. And I was right about that. I can say with all honesty, that the Philippines, or at least Siargao, the small island in the South-East where I chose to go, is without a doubt an extremely beautiful place. But what does the most beautiful scenery do, when you don’t want to be there? Yes, you heard right. I arrived in paradise and I really didn’t want to be there. Let me explain, before you think I am complaining or that I am not grateful to be able to see places like that…
Back in Indonesia, I injured myself. As ambitious as I am, I didn’t stop surfing when I noticed the pain in my shoulder, but kept going every day, pushing through it to the extend where I was on Sumbawa and couldn’t even lift my arm to put my hair up in a ponytail, let alone paddle out on my board. So I gave myself a break, thinking that the problem would solve itself. When it didn’t, I invested a fair amount of my weekly travel budget into seeing a traditional healer back on Bali. When this didn’t help either, I went to the hospital to see an Orthopedist. With plenty of muscle relaxant and anti-inflammatory medicine in my hand-luggage, I eventually took my flight to the Philippines, believing what the doctor said: it will be fine within a week. So here I was on Siargao, sitting and waiting and thinking. Thinking a lot. Thinking way too much, actually. I was thinking if I couldn’t surf any more, what purpose would this trip still have? I was thinking maybe this trip didn’t have a deep enough purpose in the first place anyway. I was thinking maybe I was stupid to spend all my money on world travels. I was thinking I should be spiritually enlightened by this time, but I wasn’t. I was thinking about my family and my friends and my couch, my apartment, my safe place at home, where I can drink chocolate milk in my sweatpants. I was thinking about booking a flight home. I was at that point where I thought, maybe I’m not strong enough to do this on my own.
I never thought I would get to this point, to be honest. I knew that I would go through tough times, I expected to feel lonely, I expected to be bored from time to time, I expected to be a little homesick. But I didn’t expect, that I would ever second guess my travels.
But let’s face it: sometimes the unexpected happens. Most of the time the unexpected happens in life. And then you got to somehow deal with it. And I really, really tried. Every morning when I woke up, I was hoping to be free of pain. But I wasn’t. I was in pain and I was scared. One side of me wanted to go home, but at the same time I was afraid to go to the doctor again to find out I had torn my ligaments and actually really had to go home for surgery or something horrible like that. It was all so confusing.
The problem with traveling is the following: no matter where you go, how far you run, how high you jump, how many flights you take – you always take yourself with you. And you will still be the same person, even though you are now sitting under palm trees.
For me that means: I am still this overly-sensetive, melancholic human being and I sometimes get deeply sad about situations I am in that I can’t change.
It also means: I am still this realistic person, lying in my 6-bed dorm on a mattress that doesn’t deserve the name, with three out of the other five people snoring loudly, knowing that traveling is not always as easy and light as it looks like on the Instagram pictures.
But it for sure means one thing: while I carry melancholia in my right pocket, I carry hope in my left, the one that’s close to my heart. And I am also still this romantic girl, searching for the perfect sunset, counting shooting stars, with my feet in the sand and my head in the clouds. I am still the girl who was brave enough to put everything she needs in a backpack and travel the world on the search for freedom. I am still the girl that never gives up on her dreams.
So damn, of course I am not flying home. Instead, with melancholia in my right pocket, and hope in my left, with pain in my shoulder and tears in my eyes, but with irrepressible will power in my heart, I carried on and collected some picture perfect moments on the Philippines. I snorkled with thousands of jellyfish in turquoise water, I dived underneath rocks into a hidden cove, I jumped off cliffs, I meditated, I did sound healing, I started appreciating Yin Yoga (that I could do with my shoulder), I made friends from the Philippines and all over the world, I discussed about politics, religion and cultural traditions, I hiked up on hilltops, I watched the sunset from lonely islands and boats, I sang with local bands, I wrote a song and I found the most amazing seashell ever that I will for sure go to jail for if anyone ever finds out I took it with me.
And then, when after a week my shoulder didn’t feel better like the doctor said, I (since there is no real hospital on Siargao) booked myself a flight back to Manila, because traveling sometimes also means taking responsibility and changing plans and going through challenges and being a total grown-up. I got myself an appointment for an MRI the next morning at 5am and went through it like a lioness, trying to let this be just another adventure on my trip, and found out that nothing was torn and I wouldn’t have to fly home, knowing that – deep in my heart – this was everything I wanted and needed to hear.
On the plane to San Francisco I had the feeling I didn’t do this country justice. I felt like I couldn’t appreciate the Philippines for what they are. I felt like I had just been passing through, but maybe that’s ok, because you can’t like every place the same, and in this case, I had to gather all my love towards myself to heal my injury and my broken heart. In case I will ever come back: I promise to do better. If I never come back: I’m sorry!
I have learned some precious lessons in the Philippines, about traveling and about life, and we all know sometimes it takes an overwhelming breakdown to have and undeniable breakthrough. So may the next three months of this trip be a continuous sunrise, an awakening and breakthrough on many levels. Three months down, three more to go – and at this point, I really want to thank all of you, my friends, for reading this. I am thankful that you are with me on this journey!