I received my second luggage tag (it was a Baymax where you place your name and contact information in case you lose your luggage kind of gift) which led me to believe that maybe I am meant to travel again. Late May of this year, Veronica of Van Gogh is Bipolar or V as she is fondly called, gave me a card reading that made me think about how great an idea hitting the road was just before the year ends.
Well, like any control freak, I needed to plan things out and map my comfort as I do the long drive. I had to push the planning aside as my job requires me to be on my toes, with no time to be idle. Maybe that was an excuse I gave myself to stop myself from worrying on how I can manage being on the road on Christmas Eve.
So the 24th came and I have not yet planned things out, so I had to say “Fuck it, I won’t go.” I was really tempted to do the usual, perhaps be with the family and see how things can be interesting when we stare at food and more food till we get into a food coma and have a fitness New Year’s resolution the morning after.
I showered and had coffee and contemplated if someone did a road trip on a Christmas Eve and bravely posted it online. Zilch couldn’t find any. Even my online crawling for an hour couldn’t give me a decent itinerary or perhaps tips for travelling solo up north in this time of the year. Yada yada yada still non, so I figured this could be fun, what if I just hit the road. So after I packed my camera, some clothes, yoga mat (didn’t really know why), shades, chargers and the usual necessities (toothbrush and the likes), I uttered a prayer and stepped on the gas to the nearest exit out of South.
As I was cruising along the skyway, I was already starting to have that awkward feeling in my stomach and I am starting to question: “Am I being insane?” Probably. I was and here are the things I figured on my solo trip up North:
1. December 24 early morning (4:00 AM) is not a bad time to hit the road, the obvious less traffic is a bliss for the road tripping folks.
Yes if you Google it you would have a hard time looking up suggestions for the single souls in search of refuge on Christmas Eve. We know that the norm is to be with a large group of people or to be with family on this holiday. Contrary to some, yes there are a few of us who want to be on our own and the less to no traffic is a rewarding start.
2. If you look at the map, Vigan is actually in Ilocos Sur. Before I was always thinking Ilocos Norte, oh well, my Geography teacher would be cringing by now.
As this was my first time in Vigan I found out Calle Crisologo in Heritage Village is actually a small area with historic mansions and houses that are well-kept. The pictures you often see online that says Vigan would most probably be that one stretch of a street where the houses and establishments where architecturally maintained. There are interesting nooks and crannies where your nerdy architectural curiosity can be satisfied.
I found a great place Aniceto Mansion and they had a room for just Php 1,500 for a night with breakfast. Surprisingly they also have a room for just Php 700 for the night with no air-condition and a common bath and that is a great offer for those who prefers to spend less on accommodation.
Contact them for most recent rates. (Number: +63777222383 / +63777222384 Email Address: [email protected]) This place is just in front of the church and just on the right is the Heritage Village.
3. People travel for a variety of reasons, mine was really to just get away, to be with myself for a much-needed alone time.
So you can already figure that I am that geek sitting alone in a coffee shop and yes the first thing I did was look for a café when I got settled in Aniceto Mansion. I found one, Mocha Blends is just straight up Heritage past Cordillera Inn. I sat there just enjoying how people in groups walk along the cobbled steps of this once very Hispanic alta street. It is very interesting how the kalesas sound as the horses prance to and fro the whole stretch (motorized vehicles are not allowed in this area to preserve the cultural experience, so I was told). As I enjoyed people watching, I also eyed the lonely windows basking in the sunset and random lights from the street lamps and corners. Some of the houses were oddly broken, painted with a patina for that vintage feel and others are new ones with the Spanish architecture maintained. We all perhaps are like that, we fit in, we maintain that kind of face to fit in like this whole stretch of Heritage and am sure it is not an easy task.
4. I asked the front desk the morning after my stay if the Bangui windmills or perhaps Kapurpurawan rock formation are just near and I was told it will take another 3 hours either way. So I skipped those and went straight to San Fernando, La Union. I only had one destination in mind, Flotsam and Jetsam as I have heard from a friend that it is a great place and it is normally frequented by backpackers. My hopes where up to see and meet solo travelers who like me are in search of their own quite place. I went there without any reservations or even notice that I would come over. I was just hoping that since it is Christmas people would be home with their families and most likely the place would be deserted or with just a few people checked-in. I was wrong, the place was almost fully booked but I was lucky that they still have an empty slot and I got myself 2 nights of just beach waves and nothingness. You can check their most recent rates at flotsamandjetsamhostel.com. Now if you think about it: Most of the time you can be wrong however you think you are right, but there will always be an opportunity to make it work, much like my luck.
5. So I settled down and got myself out to enjoy the breeze under the shade of the nippa hut and the comfort of the bean bags.
A few locals where around enjoying their lunch and some staff helping out and of course there were a few surfers and backpackers. It is very laidback almost enjoyably lazy with great ambiance, you can almost breathe the joy of being with yourself.
This is when I realized, I must have a resting bitch face or maybe I am not really sociable for people to say hi—not that I needed one. And as I was going on with my business of doing nothing just sprawled on a bean bag enjoying the moment, I realized Filipinos are naturally nice and accommodating but we are always suspicious of people who are alone. We tentatively smile at people but we don’t want them to get the feeling that we are being creepy. We wanted to say hi but we are not sure what to talk about right after. In introspect, I am like that too. I realized I need to smile more, not necessarily to anyone but to be genuinely appreciative of my current state and not be a bitch about small things that mostly doesn’t matter. Conversations should not be avoided like a plague as it gets you to know how other people think and feel. That embarrassing couple of seconds will help you meet and see other people’s perspective in life, that is the reward of solo travelling. Seeing life in different sets of eyes, there is wisdom in that.
6. The night prior, I was talking to Reynaldo. He suggested that I take into account how other drivers would think and have a fall back plan.
I took his suggestion and I left Sunday morning instead of my initial after lunch plan. It is supposed to help me avoid being stuck in long lines in each toll-gates. Reynaldo is almost like my namesake so it was interesting, he has a story to tell: a dad who lost his wife after giving birth to their daughter. Being that at that time all I needed was a table to share I did not yet realize that my social skills suck and that there was an opportunity to hear his story. So the only thing I got was how to avoid the bad lines in the toll gates, it was necessary information but I missed an opportunity to learn more from him.
7. As I was heading home, I realized a driving habit. If I don’t want to be bothered I stay on the leftmost lane which I know is just willful stupidity and just plain inconsiderate.
So I am not really sure if we are all aware on how etiquette dictates that no one should be a lane hogger, no one. If you want to over-take you take the left lane because it is never safe to over-take by the shoulder—I know I do this stupid act sometimes because there is just so many lane hoggers.
Now in the highways of life we often think we can do it at a given pace, we often are hard on ourselves without considering our real capacities because it is not acceptable to slow down. The truth is we will all get there if we keep going. We can be overly critical of our own speed not realizing we are not doing ourselves any good. Pushing ourselves too much, alienating those around us and ourselves with our inconsiderate and blinded desire to win. The truth is the race is not about getting there first, it is getting there whole and please don’t hog the right lane.
The lessons we learn along the way are rewarding. Taking the trip North on the most untimely days of the year was ill-planned and perhaps was just a reason to get away from things.
But there is peace in being with yourself, getting lost in the moment and celebrating the small things we often miss. I may not have planned it as I would have wanted but it got me to realize a few lessons that I’m undoubtedly taking with me on my next trip.