One small-town girl's travel manifesto: 'I will inspire by being ordinary'
Four years ago, I found myself in Paris, a place I never even dreamed of visiting. I'd always thought European trips were something only rich people did, but my sister stumbled on a seat sale (return tickets for as low as P15,000!) and we made a spur-of-the-moment decision to go for it.
It took us months of saving more than half of our income every payday, and we still had a bit of debt when we got back, but we did it. We went to Paris, Rome, Venice, Nice, and Marseille. I've traveled a little here and there since I was a kid, but it was that first big trip that made me realize: anything is possible, even dreams we never dared to dream.
In my blog Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains, I write about my travel experiences in the hope that I can inspire others to go for it as well. Many of us are just ordinary people who can't (and don't even want to) leave our homes and loved ones to travel the world.
Through this travel manifesto – originally written as part of a Wordpress challenge (Freshly Pressed, yay!) – I want to tell people that there is no "right" way to travel, that we are free to go wherever and do whatever fills our soul (without wrecking our wallets), and that it's perfectly possible to live an ordinary life and fill it with extraordinary beauty.
Here it is:
I will see the world with wonder, with gratitude, with respect. I will strive to stay, though ever moving, right in the happy middle: the intersection of longing and contentment. I will not close my eyes to the harsh realities of life and will endeavor to respond with compassion and action, but I will keep my rose-colored glasses on hand, in my carry-on, and remember to count my blessings.
I will not count how many countries I’ve been to, though I won’t think poorly of people who do. I will try to resist the temptation to count because I don’t want the number to be my motivation. I don’t want to travel just to tick a place off a list.
I don’t want to say: “My name is X and I have been to Y out of Z countries,” though I don't think there's anything wrong with that. I just don’t want to feel like I’ve left behind the rat race and joined the passport stamp race.
I’m sure the number is much less than I would want it to be and much more than majority of the people in this planet will ever have the means to achieve.
I will travel because I want to, in the manner that I want to, and I will allow others the courtesy to do likewise. I hope never to catch myself saying those who can’t leave behind the comforts of home should stay home. I hope never to become the sort of person who thinks I have the right or omniscience to dictate who should and shouldn’t travel, and how.
I hope never to get sucked into “traveler versus tourist,” a distinction that may have started as a well-meaning attempt to describe different levels of interaction with a place, but is now too often a none-too-subtle ploy to pat one’s own back: a traveler is me and a tourist is someone not like me.
I will always endeavor to dive deep into a place, to hear the hidden drum beat to which it marches.
But I will not judge those who rush from place to place, for it may be the only time they have, with the wealth they have or lack thereof, to see the places they’ve always longed to see with their own eyes.
And I will not be the sort of self-validating traveler who thinks he is better than people who have never been outside their hometowns.
I believe a person who stays in one corner of the earth all his life will still be capable of “broad, wholesome, charitable views of men,” no matter what Mark Twain says.
I will challenge myself. I will talk to locals and fellow travelers even though I'm someone who usually keeps to herself. I will try to capture an experience, in words and in images, the best way I know how, but I will also take time to just stay in the moment, so that even if my notebook gets lost or my camera gets stolen, the memory will have been burned into my heart to keep forever.
I will not stop dreaming. Someday I will see Antarctic penguins, northern lights, cherry blossoms, Scottish highlands, sunny vineyards, gloomy cliffs, pink beaches, purple trees, glorious lions in the wild. And I will encourage people to dream. I will never tire of telling them: someday you will see Antarctic penguins, northern lights, cherry blossoms, Scottish highlands, sunny vineyards, gloomy cliffs, pink beaches, purple trees, and glorious lions in the wild.
I will inspire by being ordinary. There are too many inspiring stories of people who leave everything behind in order to travel the world.
I will tell stories of people who stay, who find contentment in what would seem a humdrum life, who work and go home and save $10 a month in their travel fund, most of the paycheck having already gone to milk for their kids and educational funds and utility bills…and who, after 10 years, finally went on a 5-day trip to Paris.
I will celebrate the courage of working with what you have, the heroism of looking at the banal and saying: “This is my life and I am happy with it.”
I will travel whenever I can, for as long as I can, and while doing so I will create a home worth going back to. I want to be excited to leave and excited to return. I will create such a home that when my children and my children’s children go out, in their turn, to explore the world, they will always have a home to which they want to come back. – Rappler.com
All photos provided by Ligaya Saberon
I'm Gaya, just an ordinary girl living a simple life in a small corner of the world, and I wouldn't want it any other way. My background is in psychology and medicine but I've pretty much decided to ditch the mainstream and live life on my own terms. Right now I take on writing and healthcare-related projects from home. My family is the most important thing in the world to me; writing and traveling are tied for second. I'm awful at small talk and can't act to save my life but I've gotten pretty good at laughing at myself and my bumbling attempts to navigate life – I figure that will get me through.