Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I Decided to Bite the Bullet and Backpack Asia for 6 Months

So after years of preparation and months of contemplation, I am finally doing it. I am backpacking Asia for six months starting October this year. This kind of independent, long-term traveling has really been a dream of mine for many, many years now. I just never thought I could actually come up with the resources and muster the guts to do it. Apparently, I could. I knew it, determination is the key.

This decision was never really easy to make, more so explain, even to myself. It took me a while to actually uncover why I wanted to do this. To date, I have come up with five reasons. Not that I need any of them. Chasing the dream is reason enough for me. But for good measure and as a way to remind myself each time the thought of backing out crosses my mind, I am laying them down here.

I am young and uncommitted.

I am now 26 years old. Not too young and too old. Just right, I think. And uncommitted. Not just relationship-wise. Finance-wise, too. No mortgage to pay. No little mouths to feed. There can be no other perfect time for me to do this. And while I do believe that extended travel could be for anyone, no matter the age nor the circumstance, I am afraid challenges and changes (not all of them bad, of course) may soon come my way and I may just give in, all my travel dreams forever tucked away until forgotten. That I do not want to happen. So I'm acting now.

I want to try the digital nomad thing.

That's the term used nowadays for long-term travelers doing jobs, usually involving the Internet, while on the road. Fortunately, I pursued professions that may well be location-independent, i.e., it will be possible to do the kind of work I do without having to show up at some office. I have been an ESL professional and now work as a full-time Spanish translator for a company here in Manila. I am now trying to make arrangements that will make my work as a translator location-independent. Hopefully everything goes well. Because if it does, I may well stay on the road for longer than I initially planned. Fingers on both my hands and toes completely crossed!

I have been provided the means and resources to do it.

I would like to think that many of my counterparts, i.e., twenty-something Filipinos, have the option to do extended travel. But I would be kidding myself. The truth is, I can afford this because my parents decided long ago that education was indeed the best gift they could give their children. With my college degree, I was able to explore options that ultimately had me acquiring the Spanish language which, lucky for me, was paid a high premium in the BPO industry today.

These are things which, make no mistake about it, I fully appreciate and which indebt me to the people that made them possible. I am not saying you need to be in the same situation I am in to be able to afford something like this. What I am saying is that I was given enough capital to acquire the resources I need and combining that with sheer determination (which I think is the most important component), then you have yourself a wish fulfilled.

This is my failure turned upside-down.

Conan O'Brien said it so eloquently. "It is our failure to become our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us and makes us unique. It's not easy, but if you accept your misfortune and handle it right, your perceived failure can become a catalyst for profound re-invention."

When I read that, something reverberated. I just realized it all made sense now. The travel dream that I had many years ago went something like me getting a scholarship to study in Spain, making it my jump-off point to explore Europe and the rest of the world. That was my definition of success, my perceived ideal. Obviously, that never happened. No matter how hard I tried. And I tried. Countless times. After every failure, I grew frustrated. People always told me that I was a shoe-in. But no. The stars just never lined up.

Then I started doing small trips here and there. Then they grew bigger. Then I started planning my own travels. That was when I realized that I never really needed a scholarship. The fulfillment of my dreams does not and should not depend on anybody else other than myself. At some point, I just got tired of wishing. I took matters into my own hands. That was when I discovered independent traveling. And the rest is history.

There will always be reasons not to do it.

All these other reasons are just part of the opening salvo. What tipped the scales for me really was the realization that for anything as big as this, there will always be reasons NOT to do it. All I needed to do was to make that decision to go and everything will fall into place.

Back then, my reason was I did not have enough resources for it. Now, it's that for the first time in my working life, I have a job that pays well, that has me working agreeable hours, and most importantly, one that I actually like. Yes, it is a 9-to-5er, something I know I'm not looking for right now. But the decision to leave it was definitely not easy to make. I thought sure, I like it. Sure, I can do small trips here and there some weekends. Does that mean that this job is something I am ready to build a career on? Maybe. I don't know. But then I reminded myself that I can always get another job (if the location-independent thing doesn't work out). The job may even be better than what I have now. But again, that's something I don’t really know.

But travel. It's one thing I have always been sure about. It's one thing I have been chasing for a very long time now. It's one thing that affords me genuine happiness. That's why I'm doing it. I mean, take my shoes. If you had discovered that one thing that makes you truly happy, what would you do?

Hi there, traveler! Got any comments, suggestions or feedback? If so, do leave me a message by posting a comment. I would love to know what you think or at least "meet" you. A Retweet or a Like would be very much appreciated as well. Sharing buttons can be found at the beginning of this post and below. Safe travels!
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