A traveler, by definition, is a person who moves around from place to place. A wanderer, on the other hand, is a traveler who wanders aimlessly. Beyond these definitions, we go by what Gandalf said, that “not all those who wander are lost.” For those who seek travel with a purpose — regardless of whether the purpose is with the act of traveling itself, or of the destination, or of both the journey and the destination — traveling, or wandering, requires a set of emotional, mental and physical skill sets. Let’s tackle five of those.
1. Positive, Forward
Risks abound in life. Some people avoid risks. We, like many people, embrace risk. Taking on risk is not mindlessly lurching forward without thinking of the consequences. Calculated risk, that’s what we always hear. Knowing the risks and knowing how to minimize or remove those risks greatly increases the chance of coming out unscathed and happy at the same time.
There will be obstacles, to be sure. A true traveler doesn’t give up at the first sign of problem. Rain? No problem. Kung nabasa ka na rin lang, magtampisaw na.
In travel, we don’t always get what we want, or hope for. A spoiled brat, just like the toddler version crumpled on the supermarket floor because he’s not getting the chocolate bar he wants, will shift to a sour disposition and ruin the entire trip for himself and, worse, for the entire group.
Roadblocks? Carry lang, besh. Rock on forward!
2. Inner Peace
Ocean-going ships have a deep keel to keep them steady even in really rough waters. The ocean is a harsh, unforgiving place. We all know that when we travel, shit happens. It’s not always calm waters. Cars bog down. Planes get delayed. Hotels get overbooked. Travel schedules get tangled. Heavy rains come out of nowhere.
On even keel, an expression which means stable and balanced. Inner peace is the capacity to stay calm, focused and collected notwithstanding the bedlam surrounding you. It’s easy to be calm when things are calm. It’s hard to stay calm when things go awry.
Speaking of ships and inner peace, in relation to the first trait discussed above, we are reminded of a nice quote: “A ship in harbor is safe — but that is not what ships are built for.” We are safe and at peace in our comfort zones, but that’s not what travel is all about. Travel is about the wonder exploration and the happiness of discovery.
As Russell in UP! said, “Adventure is out there!” Go outside. Maintain your inner peace.
It’s funny that inner peace, in travel, must come with a strong body. The need for a strong body would seem another trait, but we strongly believe we can’t separate the two. A weak mind in a strong body is as disjointed as a strong body in a weak mind. The Universe loves balance. A strong body, and we’re in no way limiting this to buff and toned muscles, always needs inner peace to happily plow forward.
3. Blend In, Adjust
In travel, and even in the bigger scheme called life, we don’t expect the world to adjust to us. This is funny line we hear from comedians and friends alike: “So, sinong mag-aadjust?”
If your clothes blend well with a restaurant’s table cloth, sinong mag-aadjust? If your dress blends with the ricefield, sinong mag-aadjust? Siguradong hindi ang palayan. You must adjust. And here’s the more important thing — you must adjust with a happy heart.
The capacity to blend in, which we take to mean flexibility or resilience, is, of course, not limited to the more mundane of one’s shirt matching with the table cloth. Flexibility means understanding and respecting the culture of the locality a traveler finds himself/herself in. You wear the proper clothes when you’re in a mosque. You respect the culture of the mountain tribes. You observe. You adapt.
Resilience, which is toughness or the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, refers to a traveler’s quick thinking and action, even when momentarily thrown off balance by a totally different and new scenario. It’s still part of blending in, of adjusting. A collapsed bridge calls for a detour. A cancelled direct flight may call for multiple connecting flights. Even if you have all the money in the world, there will be times when you’ll be required to adjust.
Curiosity often leads to trouble, somebody once said, but it has also resulted in some of the world’s greatest discoveries, many of which are by accident. We just have to keep our minds open (open-minded ka ba?) even when, in the most unfortunate of circumstances, we find ourselves in the unhappiest place. Trust us, even Rihanna, the pop star, swears, again and again, that she found love in a hopeless place.
[This photo in Sumaguing Cave, Sagada, is courtesy of Lenstagram. Check her Instagram account, @jiglypuff16, for more photos. She swears that it’s an adventure she doesn’t want to do again. Still, dear Lenstagram, remember what Rihanna realized. Huwag magsalita ng patapos. Thank us later.]
Curiosity of all shades is likely made of the same stuff. The curiosity of serious scientists is born out of the same DNA as the curiosity of a traveler who wonders what’s at the bottom of Sumaguing Cave. Or if she can do freediving at the Barracuda Lake in Palawan. Or if it’s really cold up in the Pulag summit. Or just about anything that a traveler’s mother would disapprove.
Curiosity need not be grand. A child’s curiosity level is always a good start. As we said earlier today, happiness comes in tiny packages. Contentment comes with the little things. When you enjoy the little things along the way, you will realize that the destination is just a bonus.
Curiosity may indeed lead to trouble. The lack of curiosity, however, leads to something infinitesimally much worse.
It’s not easy to find a direct translation for diskarte in the English language. It’s a combination of strategy, persistence and resourcefulness, with a healthy dose of boldness.
It’s not just “strategy,” defined as a plan of action to achieve a goal; diskarte is the capacity to flow like water whichever way the strategy goes. It’s closer to, but not quite exactly like, resourcefulness, defined as the ability to find clever ways to overcome difficulties.
[This photo is courtesy of Duane Sandicho, going through the 7-kilometer trek to the crater of Mt. Pinatubo in Zambales. Check his Instagram account, @duane_the_wanderer, for more photos.]
With or without money, in good and bad situations alike, diskarte will save the day. With or without electricity, you’ll find a way with diskarte. With nothing, you’ll come up with something, using diskarte.
It’s a certain quality that you can see and feel, but hard to explain. You have friends with whom you are most comfortable going anywhere because you feel they’re going to bail you out when shit hits the fan. Hindi pabigat. Hindi bibigay. They’re like BDO, they find ways. They’re like Metrobank, you’re in good hands. They’re like instant noodles — cheap to maintain, quick to act, and highly effective to tide you over until the next meal.
Diskarte, we observed, is learned during the younger years. Pre-college, more or less. When you’re grown up, you either have diskarte or you don’t. Diskarte is not just about being smart (you know what coddiwomple means, right?), but also being streetsmart (knowing that when there’s smoke, some stupid ass might just burn Mt. Pulag all over again).
So, there you go, the five traits that, we believe, should be in every true traveler. That’s all. And, I, thank you.
[Photos reproduced with permission (thanks). Tag your Philippine travel photos with #visitpinas so we can track it down. Photos will be featured in this blog’s photo of the day and in instagram/VisitPinas, facebook/VisitPinas, twitter/VisitPinas.]