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To Infinity and Beyond. "Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Backpacking Pinoy style.

PHILIPPINES | Saturday, 5 July 2008 | Views [1254]

Filipino backpackers gave their insightful and inspiring, not to mention enviable, experiences on traveling around the world last night at the Recreational Outdoor Exchange (R.O.X.) shop at the Fort. Five speakers shared their own travel plans and notes, and gave useful tips to the participants, each of whom was probably pondering silently on how they would execute such similar excursions.

First to speak was Robert Alejandro and Jetro Rafael about their trip to 8 countries around Southeast Asia. The two guys had known each other, but became good travel companions after pursuing a backpacking trip for 3 months, which started from an invitation that one of them got one day thru email to go on that long trip following an established backpacking trail. Jetro eventually even decided he had to quit his day job to take the opportunity. In their 12-week long travel, they visited the nations of Singapore, Malaysia, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, with the Philippines as their start and end points. And all it cost each of them was Php 45k (although they gave it an estimated Php 100k if you wanted to go splurge on a shopping spree in Hong Kong at the final leg of the trip). While commodities were far cheaper in most of these countries (as compared to the Philippines), the key factor to that shoestring budget, according to them, was to minimize your cost: cheap street food, budget lodging like hostels, avoiding flights and taking other inexpensive modes of transportation such as trains and boats as much as possible.

Next to share was a newlywed couple, Gabby and Mench Dizon, who devised an innovative way to travel across Europe from London to Morocco in about 25 days. Since they loved to travel, instead of asking for the usual gifts at weddings (like household appliances and furniture), they came up with a travel itinerary where their sponsors, family, and friends could pledge to shoulder their different travel expenses such as their plane fares, accommodation, food, etc. Theirs was not a trip on a shoestring budget though. If Robert and Jetro costs were P100k each, that same amount was just their plane fare each from Manila to London and back. But they’ve also minimized their expenses by hunting on the net for budget airlines across Europe and settling for mid-quality lodging. Currently, they say that they’ve raised about 75% of their required budget from the pledges, and are still raising the remaining amount. (If you’re interested in helping them out raise the funds, you may want to visit them here).

Finally, it was Zia’s turn to share her 2-year experience traveling around the Mediterranean from Greece to Italy to Spain, then across North Africa, to Turkey and the Middle East, to India in South Asia, before returning to the Philippines. By far, her travel was the most audacious and most inspiring—albeit hardly replicable—backpacking trip of all. She worked as a journalist in Greece before embarking on her journey. At first, she started out with an itinerary, visiting places as if she was on tour. But later on, she got tired of visiting the usual places that tourists frequented, and dropped itineraries altogether; realizing there was more to traveling than just spending time in cities. That’s when she started moving out to the rural countryside more often, away from the hustle and bustle of metropolitan areas. She began taking long walks, hitchhiking for miles, having conversations with different people or just staring at mountains the entire day. According to her, at one point she even decided to hike instead rather than take a bus ride that cost €1. She also had to teach English classes at times to bridge her finances. Not all of the things she encountered were pleasant: at one point she says she even got harassed by a hostel owner in Jordan, or got visited by a rat while sleeping on the floor at the Sikh Temple in India. Nevertheless, she continued traveling with that lack of a sense of responsibility and just enjoyed life as she pleased. Freedom was her motivation.

From all those amazing stories, and apart from talking about costs and itineraries (or the lack of it), they all said that their travels changed their lives. All of them (except from the newlyweds who have yet to go on their Eurotrip) made new friends. Despite the oftentimes lack of comfort (imagine 30-hour train rides), the experience as they say was all worth it. Not only did those trips lead to a discovery of different cultures and peoples; it was also a journey to self-discovery. I guess the take home message is everyone can go on an inexpensive trip around the world if they choose to. All it takes is making the first step.

Tags: backpacking, pinoy, testimony, travel, travel tips, wanderlust


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