It’s the new year, at least for me, so I now find myself taking stock of things that were, and of things that should be. Questions like: am I on the right path? Do I know where I’m going to (cue Theme from Mahogany, by Diana Ross)? Where am I going to? Do I know?
The thing is, I was never the kind of person who plans big time. I remember back in college, I had this friend who had a list of things to accomplish by the time she hits 20, 25, 30, 40 and so on. There was even a corresponding salary to match every age in her bucket list, oh wow. And then there’s this other friend who even had an Excel file of, get this, her own wedding plans (and we were just 16 years old back then! Mere froshies!), complete with bridesmaids, color motif, gown designs, etc. I remember being impressed with the first friend, and seriously alarmed with the second friend. Why? Because I didn’t have a list back then of things I wanted to accomplish, be it professional or personal.
I still don’t.
Does it still worry me? This lack of any list? Well, I wouldn’t say I don’t have any list, as in zero. I mean, sure, there’s the To Do list for today, and for the rest of the week, and yes, a floating, if not wishful list of things to do in the next 6 months, but that’s about it. I still don’t have long term goals, aside from the mandatory “saving for the ‘future’. . .whatever the ‘future’ means” financial account.
No big plans.
Well, I do if you count this coming May and other travel fantasies I have.
Giselle (a.k.a. Buttercup), in her previous birthday post mentions about me being well-traveled. That gave me pause. Am I, really? I probably would say ‘no, I’m not.’ I’ve only been to a few countries outside of the Philippines—Japan, Hong Kong and Macau within Asia, the US (Orlando, Las Vegas, and LA), London and Germany in Europe, and Brasil in South America. That’s about it. That’s probably enough to some people, but not to me. I’d probably need to add at least 5 more in that list before I can consider myself really, truly, honestly, well-traveled.
Or maybe it’s not the number of places visited, but the significance and value of those trips that matter? That in order for one to be ‘well-traveled’, one has to honestly experience what a place really has to offer, regardless of the plurality of the countries visited. And by experience I do not refer to staying at 5 star hotels, or eating at fine restaurants, or mingling with the Who’s Who of that country (although I must add I have tried doing those things one time or another *sheepish*).
A fruitful travel for me is one that is filled with adventure, whether with friends, or in solitude. It is traveling from Sao Paolo to Rio de Janeiro in a rented car for almost 10 ungodly hours, with nothing but your friends and a map to keep you company. It’s getting to taste authentic miso soup and sashimi amidst very lean and healthy Japanese scholars.
It’s trying your hand at worshipping the ancient gods in some Shinto Temple in Nagoya, complete with gargling and hand-washing to symbolize purification. It’s crossing a road as wide as Roxas Blvd in nothing but your 2 piece bathing suit and a tangerine sarong (for a touch of modesty). It’s being asked for a kiss by a complete stranger at the National Gallery no less (no dice, though, sorry); looking at artworks by Renaissance masters, and signing official documents as a witness to help out Pinoy OFWs on the run from their Middle-eastern bosses in London.
It’s hitting the slot machines in Vegas (and winning close to $200! Beginner’s luck!), laughing and enjoying the kitschiness of the gladiators at the Caesar’s Palace, counting the many lions over at MGM, appreciating the small Eiffel Tower and the even smaller Pyramid littered with drunk and dazed gamblers, and trying the $5 eat-all-you-can buffets in every hotel. It’s spotting Angelina Jolie during the Hollywood premiere of her Lara Croft movie, gawking at scientifically-altered people along downtown L.A., and just, basically, ‘enjoying’ the smog of the City of Angels.
It’s getting to watch your first football match ever, in Curitiba, Brasil of all places (Go, Atletico!!!). It’s being taught how to play futbol by a teenage Brasilian, and getting to wear a Ronaldinho jersey (oh have mercy!). It’s eating authentic churrasco in Ponta Grossa and learning how to concoct caipirinha using cachaça. It’s getting to taste pinhão straight from the bonfire, to hell with the burns.
Obviously, I can do it like a wild, carefree tourist, but I prefer doing it as a low-keyed traveler. I don’t like the bells and whistles of traveling. Give me a map, some change of clothes, sufficient moolah, and I can guarantee a journey that will be difficult to forget.
Then again, all guarantees are for myself. It is my new year, after all. So while I still can’t imagine myself drafting a list of things I want to accomplish before I hit the bucket (hence the term, bucket list), allow me to continue fantasizing about the places I dream of visiting: Greece, Egypt, France, Italy, and Austria. That’s my top 5 after May. After that 5, then I’d be comfortable with the label “well-traveled,’ What can I say? I’m rigorous and exacting that way. 🙂