I am guilty of just about every traveler cliché there is. I buy guide books weeks before my scheduled flight to wherever. I make pre-travel plans and itineraries that I never follow, if only to fuel my excitement for my impending trip. I keep boarding passes, train cards, theme park tickets, and all sorts of knick knacks. I spend a ton of money on keychains, bottle openers, commemorative shirts, and souvenir pictures. I overpack and bring too many pairs of shoes. So, is it true that there's a thrift store slash tourist trap five blocks from here? Count me in!
If there's one thing I'm proud of, it's that I always find my own way. I get lost all the time because of a variety of reasons that I may or may not cause, but I always find my way back whether it be through a map, a GPS device, or by asking around. I have learned not to panic easily after traveling for almost fourteen years.
My first trip abroad was when I was around seven years old and my parents decided to take me and my sister with them to Hong Kong. We'd fly back almost every year after that (with occasional side trips to China or Singapore). I remember getting my first dSLR camera there.
My dad once said that if he left me alone in the middle of Tsim Sha Tsui, I would still be able to go back safely to our hotel. My parents taught me a lot of things about traveling that have stuck with me through the years. Here are some of them:
1. Never take the taxi. We never took the taxi anywhere we went. We have walked the whole peninsula of Hong Kong, have explored New York City just by subway, and have opted to ride tuk-tuks in Bangkok under the rain instead of hailing a cab. My parents always insisted that taxi drivers asked for too much money that could be spent on something else like food or a new pair of shoes. The first time I rode a taxi abroad was when I was living in Los Angeles and I had to attend a party downtown. And there were eight of us in the cab so the fare was minuscule when we split it up. The most recent time was in Singapore and I was a little bit drunk after a night out at Mulligan's in Sentosa. The MRT was closed and... actually, I barely remember that night.
2. Walk, walk, walk. A few months ago, my mom and I took my aunt with us to New York. I was there to watch Sufjan Stevens and it seemed like a good opportunity to explore a little as well since it had been two years since our last visit. My mom and I have always been used to walking all day long and my aunt wasn't so imagine her pain and annoyance as we left our bed and breakfast at 10 in the morning and walked until 11 in the evening. But seriously. Walking around is the perfect way to acquaint yourself with your new environment. You also meet people this way if you're lucky.
3. Keep your valuables with you at all times. This is common sense, but I have never lost anything overseas. I have to thank my mom's obsessive compulsiveness when it comes to passports, wallets, phones, and etc. I have successfully developed the same paranoia for all of my things. If you see me walking in a very crowded area, you would think I was a freak because of my ninja-like stance that screams I am ready to protect this purse with my life. Sigh. I wish I could say to my seat mates on the train, "Please don't take it personally that I look at you with a sneer whenever you move. I just want to make sure you're not touching my bag."
4. Be brave. It's not that my parents are cheap, but like every other parent in the world, they would look for the best bargain even if it meant walking to the farthest electronics store in the island. I remember when my dad got a camera at some store in the street as he was guaranteed that it was the lowest price in the market. The next day, we found the same model at a Fortress store (the most popular electronics store in Hong Kong back then) at a much cheaper price. It was probably my dad's fault for falling prey to a shady Chinese businessman's tactic and for not checking twice, but that man should never have messed with us. We walked back to the store and a shouting contest between the storekeepers and my mom ensued. Dad considered calling the cops even. The storekeepers went from being apologetic to racist. I will never forget his line, "You Filipinos always want cheap price!" Uh, duh? Point: my mom was brave for confronting those men who ripped us off. I've never had the chance to be as brave yet and I'm hoping I never get to. (In my mind, I'm as brave as HitGirl).
In every trip I make, I get to pick up new things to apply to my nomadic life. After years of traveling with family, I discovered the joys and sorrows of traveling solo and with friends. But despite the change in travel companions, I will always, always remember all these things my parents have instilled in me and hopefully keep myself safe wherever I may be in the world.