Sunday, May 8, 2011

Traveling Alone: The #1 Person to Trust

Traveling solo most of the time has its own challenges. One of which we commonly face as women is security issues. Through all the years that I’ve traveled by myself, I have learned that if there were only ONE person I’d stay in a foreign country with or travel with, it would be a MOTHER.
In any country I visit, mothers are sort of a constant presence who gives me a feeling of security and of the feeling that I am at home. They just have a nurturing spirit built within them that makes me feel safe and that I’m being taken care of.

So in this blog’s maiden post, allow me to honor the MOTHERS I have had the pleasure to meet and/or travel with:

L-R: Harley, me, Kamera, Malaysian couple Yasmin & Guna
KAMERA WILSON is a Maori (New Zealand) who first came to the Philippines in 2005 with her son Harley. They are set out to travel around the world for 10 years, and they are just beginning their journey. Three months after, I reunited with them in Sarawak, Malaysia for some jungle treks. It was when I traveled with them that they looked out after me. We shared accommodations, ate together, and they gave me helpful backpacking tips from “what to bring” to “how to travel light”.

with Tia Lilia

TIA LILIA VALADEZ is my host mom in Guadalajara, Mexico. While I was taking up a month-long Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) course, she was worried when I stayed up late at night finishing my paper. When I had practice teaching sessions, she gave me special tea to calm my nerves. Although there’s a bit of a language barrier between us (my bad, I didn’t exert any effort to study Español), I felt the warmth of her hospitality as she showed me pictures of her family, and as she sang a few canciones for me while her husband played the guitar (mind you, she’s an opera singer and a music teacher by profession). And like all daughters, I didn’t get away with the household chores, and sometimes she’d ask me to buy juegos y leche (eggs and milk) from the store nearby.

L-R: Nanay Grace, me, her bestfriend
dolled up in a hanbok in Jeju, S. Korea
MISUK KIM is my host mom in Jeju, South Korea. I call her Nanay (mother) Grace. When I visited them (with her husband Joshua) for a week, they were excited to have me as their first guest. I was touched by their gesture because the moment I stepped out of the airport, they were already waiting for me there! We shared countless meals together as Nanay Grace prepared authentic Korean dishes and Jeju specialty. When Tatay (father) Joshua was out to work, she would take time to show me around with either her classmate in English class or another relative. In the evenings, she’d make sure I was warm and she didn’t let me wash the dishes when she saw I was tired from walking around the entire day. The day we bid farewell, her eyes were watery and there was sadness in her face I could not take away.

with Sri Lankan family in Colombo (2009)
YOLLY CORTEZ, who else to honor but my own mother? We have traveled together mostly when we go on package tours, like when we went to Bangkok , Hong Kong and Singapore. Mom’s fun to be with in shopping sprees although our trip to the US in 1998 brought out the worse and the best in us as we faced financial challenges along the way.  Our recent trip to Sri Lanka in 2009 proved to be the most memorable for me. I was supposed to travel alone (as I now usually do), however when I felt that for some security reasons, I didn’t feel safe, I immediately booked her ticket so she can travel with me. It was probably one of the wisest decisions I have ever made. We met my host’s family and we had an enriching cultural experience together. Mom cooked for them Filipino dishes  which they instantly loved—sinigang and adobo. As we drove throughout the country, there was a strong military presence. But she would always be constantly praying. That alone made me safe.


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