The Wanderer Grows Up



“Je t’offre un verre?”
(Can I buy you a drink?)
The old guy in the heavy cream pullover and oversized scarf
spoke to me in a hushed tone as he patiently waited for me to get what
he was saying.
I quickly glanced up, flashed him a sympathetic smile, and
gently said, “Oui.”
If that happened two years ago, I would’ve panicked and ran
away from the bloke. I would’ve locked myself in my hotel room, cursing the
place and its pervert old men.
But the wanderer has grown up.  

He took the seat opposite mine, and started the conversation in
French. When I told him I didn’t speak the language, his eyes lit up and he blurted, “Ah,
finally! I can speak in English! It’s been a while.”
As it turns out, he has an adopted daughter from Thailand
who looks like me whom he has not seen in a long time. He spoke about his
daughter with a longing in his eyes.
So he was not a pervert. Just one of those random people you
meet who somehow changes the way you look at the world. I’m glad I accepted the
cup of cappuccino he offered.
Travel—ah, it changes you. It makes you grow up.
In 2011, my sister Pinky and I embarked on our very first
real backpacking adventure in Southeast Asia for 21 days, covering 4 countries
(Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos), in a string of misadventures. We learned
the ropes by squeezing ourselves into overloaded tourist buses steeped in
marijuana smoke, booking overpriced hotels through touts, taking the wrong
turns 80% of the time, and keeping ourselves busy getting lost in the wee hours
of the morning. We had our fill gastronomic surprises that often ended in
frequent visits to the loo. We got stranded in obscure towns too quiet for
comfort for failing to do our research on local holidays. We were brave. We had
fun to ourselves. And boy were we naïve!

 In 2012, we backpacked in Myanmar for 3 weeks and spent a
week relaxing in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The trip was an eye-opener. Lazy
afternoons spent gazing at sunsets, sipping tea at a local tea shop, or
exchanging small talks with the monks soothe my spirit and made realize that
meaningful travel should be more about discovering yourself and the people
around you. I took less pictures this time, as I allowed myself to take in as
much of the experience as I can—first hand, from my own eyes and not through camera
lenses. It was liberating.
So 2011 was a year of learning, 2012 was of discovery, and
2013 will be a time of immersion.
I see more tea sessions with the local ladies at the corner
shop. More conversations about inflation and unemployment with the men at the
café.  I see lesser quick island hops and
more long-haul flights. I see less hotel beds and more couches of friends.  I see less photo-shoots and more people
watching. I see more mingling and less running away from strangers. I see less
tour groups and more village folks. I see less casual acquaintances. I see more
long-term friendships.
I see a wanderer who travels—for real.
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This is my entry to the PTB Blog Carnival with the theme: “New Beginnings” hosted by AdventuROJ.com. 
For more PTB Blog Carnival themes, visit Estan Cabigas’ Langyaw.


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