Let’s start a revolution. A quiet revolution of heart and mind.
More and more young Filipinos are discovering that there’s a world of travel beyond bitin weekend escapades and touristy package tours. Some are even quitting their jobs to travel the world, like their first-world peers.
If you’ve read about my “mini-retirement,” or watched my ode to travel, you know that I’m an unabashed advocate of the life-changing and abundance-attracting fruits of travel. To me, the reason is simple: if you are young, and have the freedom to, you owe it to yourself to make decisions that will open your world as opposed to narrowing it.
The world is a big place, and there’s wealth in all forms to be found. Don’t wait until it’s too late, because, as the saying goes, you will only regret the things you didn’t do.
With that in mind, here are my top 5 reasons young Filipinos should travel more:
1. Because Filipinos can make for great travelers. You could be your country’s best ambassadors.
What do most people in the world know about the Philippines, if anything? Manny Pacquiao and super typhoons? Hero-worship is cool, and sympathy is touching, but you know what's better? To be seen as friends and equals.
It's an excellent long-term cure to this embarrassing inferiority complex we display every time some foreigner makes some disparaging remark about us and our culture. Being pikon is a telltale sign of insecurity, and our "crab mentality" is a sorry manifestation of it.
Chances are, you’re well-educated, open-minded, you speak decent to excellent English (and one to three other languages); you're a unique mix of Asian, American, European, and even Latin American cultural influences; and you’re warm and fun-loving, while being generally laid back like the islander you are. In other words, you could be our country’s best exports. I’ve been told more than once by other travelers that Filipinos are a source of good vibes. So go forth and spread those good vibes, bro --- every good Pinoy traveler chips away at others’ negative misconceptions or plain lack of awareness about the country.
Show the world a new face to the Filipino - get out there and travel far and wide!
(A side note: Many foreigners have encountered Pinoy OFWs all over the world, but because of the nature of their jobs, I don’t think they’re able to make the same connection with people as you could as a traveler - i.e., as one of their peers. It’s a sad reality, but that’s how it is. It would be nice, if others get to know you, if you could put in a good word for your OFW compatriots and tell your newfound friends about the sacrifices they’ve made for family and the important economic role they play in countries all over the world.)
2. Because the country badly needs people who believe in and pursue world-class standards. To know what those are, you must see the world.
If you want the country to be “world-class,” you have to know what that phrase means. I assure you, it’s not an overpriced building in Makati. To learn what world-class means, you must see the world.
You’ve felt it every time you’ve traveled: You see someplace else in the world and you feel sorry for the state of our country. You’re caught up in discontentment and feel determined to make things better based on all the ideas you’ve absorbed everywhere from Manchester to Mandalay...
Until you come home, NAIA and Manila traffic welcome you back like a backhanded slap to the face, and you feel hopeless all over again.
I can’t help but think that, if only more of our leaders had the same attitude, this same unbearable shame about the state of things, things wouldn't be this way. Everyday you see things around you here that are woefully managed, poorly thought-out, or just plain stupid. And this happens because we either don't know any better, or are just content to settle for less because we aren't challenged to be more.
Seeing how people drive around Manila, or seeing how Filipinos behave when there are long queues where people keep cutting in line, depressingly illustrates how we can be so selfish and myopic here at home, unwilling to follow simple rules. We seldom think beyond ourselves and our own interests, but progress requires some sacrifice for the common good.
Notice how many of the famous Pinoys we admire are based and/or were trained abroad? There is so much talent here, but something in the system keeps us from reaching our full potential, or even being fully aware of it. There is a bigger game to be played, and the sooner we take on the confidence and discipline needed to succeed in it, the better it will be for our society.
I dream of the day when bright young Filipinos don't feel the need to leave our shores to have world-class careers making world-class things. It's already starting - but we need more!
3. So we can get over ourselves and learn to stop judging others.
My pet peeve. I wasn't aware until I traveled about how deeply divided Philippine society is. All these judgments we make about people from other backgrounds, other provinces, other religions, other ethnicities, other schools, other barkadas… Eh kasi mayaman siya. Eh kasi jologs siya. Eh kasi hindi siya Katoliko. Etc, etc. These drive me crazy, and you see them everywhere on Philippine social media.
All these fade away in the face of an unbelievably diverse world where people live beautiful lives in so many ways, great and small. Most of us do not grow up around diversity, and it shows.
When you travel around the world, no one is going to care about what school you went to and most won't know the difference between Manila, Cebu, Ilocos, or Bacolod. Try to impress them by name-dropping your powerful parents or with what designer bags you own and you'll probably get blank stares. They only care about what you have to share and if you're a good person to be around. They do care about what country you’re from, and that’s the whole point of this post. For God's sake, stop being a jerk.
By all means, celebrate your unique identity and origins, but do it by being awesome, not by being a condescending ignoramus!
4. To inspire and enable other Pinoys do the same.
So much travel literature and inspiration is written from a Western and more “first-world” perspective, so it’s not completely useful to us within the context of our passport power, work culture, and economic situations. With so many places yet to be explored by Pinoy travelers, we need crazy trailblazers to help hack out a path for the rest of us to follow.
That’s why this book exists. And that’s why I wrote this. That’s why Kach of Two Monkeys Travel is my hero - she’s out there pushing the boundaries of what you can do and where you can go with a Pinoy passport and sharing her learnings every step of the way, whether it's how to work abroad or how to apply for a visa abroad without even having a steady job.
FACT: Travel is not just for the rich. PERIOD. Instead of being envious, research and figure out your own way!
5. Finally: to wake up the world to the fact that your home country is paradise, with unparalleled hospitality, and they are making a huge mistake if they haven’t visited us yet!
When I was on a flight back to Manila from Bangkok, I noticed something: there seemed to be zero travelers or backpackers on that flight. It was all business travelers or balikbayans.