The Philippines makes for my 50th country visited thus far. It’s a big accomplishment in my eyes. To grow up in a small island five hours from the closest land mass, to leaving and seeing the world, I would have never thought it was possible. It means that I have been able to see at least a quarter of the world’s countries and have had the time, and financial means to do so. But traveling to so many countries is just a number count. Nothing more. It’s a way to measure progress and time and places. It also lowers my expectations of my travels, because all I have to do is get there to a country – getting there being the accomplishment – enjoying as the reward. It keeps me humbled and interested. Only seeing a “quarter of the world” – there’s so much more to see. But maybe that’s all we get.
Seeing the number 50, I remember the times I was saving for these trips. How I worked hard and sacrificed and gave up a lot of comforts for this dream. I don’t think I had a good life back in the states. It was comfort and routine, but I was missing a lot of things. I don’t regret it, but I wouldn’t go back. Certainly, without these discomforts and difficulties, the travel wouldn’t matter.
I guess what I am really proud of is that I have been lucky to be able to document all the places I’ve visited. Carrying around a large camera seems like a burden, but once I see the product, it becomes worth it.
I’ve grown to love other aspects of travel as well – the ones less featured in our culture, such as the people, history, nature, the food. It’s not just about the sights – that one beach that you want to see, or mountain to climb. There’s a lot of pressure to go to a place just to see the view, but you miss the whole other side of travel that makes it so fun.
I’ve grown up out of the early backpacker phase where all you want to do is party and waste the night away. Nowadays, I almost never drink and it has improved my visits to many places. You can always party or celebrate back at home.
The most humbling aspect has been meeting people who have never been able to leave their country. I’ve been to way more than most people will ever see, but I try to reconcile this concept with the idea that as long as I can be the best representative from where I come from, then it will be okay.
I think people begin to count their countries, and that’s where they become conflicted – like myself. Does this world need another traveler? So what if you’ve been to so many places? Does visiting another country even matter? And what happens when you begin to love a country? How do you go back to a country, when your mission cannot include revisits?
I don’t have the answer for those questions, but I love traveling to new places more than anything. And now the game is becoming more difficult, more challenging, it becomes even more exciting. I wouldn’t trade it for anything else.
So that’s all the reflection for now. Here’s some photos from the first travel day in the Philippines – my 50th country visited.