Lately my dreams have been very vivid, filled with sites of past travels and visions of ones to explore once the world is safe again. My sleep has allowed me to escape from the current world, transporting me to a life where the virus has ceased to exist and we are no longer confined to our houses. However, this is sadly not the reality.
Unable to travel to new places for almost two years already, I’ve terribly missed the thrill of landing in a new country, seemingly entering a parallel dimension with different cultures, traditions and aesthetics. I’ve even missed driving to the airport at 4 in the morning, when the world is still quiet. I’ve missed relaxing in a peaceful state of limbo while waiting for a flight, filled with anticipation for the adventure ahead.
My most treasured memories have always consisted of my summers spent abroad with my extended family. With my family separated all over the world — in the U.S., Philippines and China — the weeks of bonding and shared experiences abroad were always filled with laughter, inside jokes and lots of fun. Now, as we grow older and start to establish our own roots and build careers globally, I still continue to fondly look back on these trips as a reminder of our youth.
Once school was over, I always felt eager and in a rush to leave home and satisfy my feelings of wanderlust. Whenever my family and I traveled someplace new, we would book a tour or a cruise for our family to follow a schedule that allowed us to hit all the tourist spots and learn about the history of each place.
While exploring different countries, what I loved most of all, aside from being with family and having mini-photoshoots wherever we went, were the spontaneous moments. I can recall a myriad of memories — stocking up on onigiri rice balls whenever we entered a Japanese grocery store, making new friends from around the world on cruises, finding hidden bars with my mom in Hong Kong, hearing mass in the catacombs of the Vatican, eating fresh kiwis in New Zealand, going to night food markets in Taiwan or thrift shopping with friends in Florence and Venice.
As someone whose life revolves around making lists and schedules, it was during these moments that I felt truly free. For once I didn’t have to plan out my days. For once, I could just go along with the flow and focus on making the most out of these mini-adventures.
One of the most important lessons I’ve come to realize from traveling is the importance of showing respect for a new culture and making the effort to immerse yourself in it to make the most of these experiences. A life of traveling has truly opened my mind to the great diversity and versatility in the world. Every time I met someone new, I would realize that despite our external cultural and environmental differences, we still shared the same human struggles and were on the same path of self-discovery as anybody else.
Whenever I landed somewhere new, I couldn’t help but compare the differences of each country’s aesthetic and environment. My life has taken me from the blinding lights of Osaka’s nightlife to the serene waters of Canada’s Harbourfront, from the hustle and bustle of Australia’s Sydney Opera House to peace and quiet of New Zealand’s rolling fields, from New York’s modern cityscape to Italy’s Renaissance architecture, from the freezing winters of Alaska to the heat of the Philippines.
Every experience simultaneously felt brand new but also familiar at the same time. It was the same excitement, the same rush of taking the beauty of each country all in, the same appreciation for my ability to have all these wonderful experiences.
However, after spending an additional year at home, I realized that I actually haven’t been to many places in my own country. Growing up my whole life in Makati, the capital of the Philippines, all I really know of my own country consists of the city life and beaches. I have yet to travel to the Italy-like streets of Vigan, witness the hot-air balloon festival in Pampanga or go anywhere outside of the region of Luzon, really, except maybe to beach resorts.
It’s strange to think that after 19 years of living here, I have been to more states in the U.S. than regions in my home country. This extra year should have been my chance to accomplish this, but COVID-19 has rendered this aspiration impossible in the meantime.
Of course, there are still many places and experiences on my bucket list that I have yet to check off — visit the Holy Land, see the northern lights and have my own Mamma Mia! moment in Greece. In fact, one of the thoughts that pain me occasionally is that there will always be hidden sites that I will never get to see or restaurants I will never get to visit for myself in this lifetime. But as I continue to dream of the world beyond me, I am reminded to take the time to appreciate my home as I now add the Philippines to that bucket list as well.
Michelle Limpe is a sophomore from the Philippines studying Chemistry and Public Health. She is a News & Features Editor for The News-Letter. In her articles, she likes to reflect on finding the silver linings in life to give meaning to her struggles.