More chances to travel in 2015

My January 25, 2015 column.

The recent visit of the Pope was also a harbinger of sorts
for what’s in store for Filipinos in 2015: more long weekends!
This is because most Philippine holidays will fall on either a Friday
or Monday this year. In addition, a few holidays will fall on a
Thursday or Tuesday. People can actually plan their work
ahead so they can file leaves on the sandwiched days and be
guaranteed of even longer weekends. In fact, those who
 are creative and proactive can find ways to schedule their
leaves within the holidays so that a five day leave can
translate into a ten- or twelve- day holiday.
This bodes well for traveling, which seems to be a
new preoccupation for Filipinos, thanks to the advent
of budget flights and ready accessibility of travel arrangements.
One can now arrange trips simply by trawling the Internet.
A friend was able to arrange a month-long vacation to Europe
 for 20 people scheduling transportation logistics, making
hotel bookings, and even buying tickets to museums and
shows without having to visit a travel agent – she did all
of it from the comforts of her bedroom using a laptop.
One can easily get recommendations or advice from people
who have been where they want to go, view pictures, or even
watch videos of destinations before making decisions.
In the last four years, the kids and I have made it a point
to go on one foreign and one local trip every year.
We’re thinking of going to the north (Ilocos) and to
Japan or Cambodia this year. I pretty much leave the
planning to the kids – they seem to have better competencies
in terms of finding better deals or choosing wiser options.
I am a satisficer by nature and tend to get the first deal that
meets the minimum requirement that I have set while the kids
 tend to be maximizers – they tend to exhaust their searches
and look for freebies and other sweeteners.
The adage that says one has not really learned until one
has traveled seems true; there’s just so much learning
that can be derived from traveling and not just about the
places we go to, but from the various interactions with
different people and culture, and even from the whole
journey itself. We tend to behave differently in unfamiliar
situations and learn more about ourselves in moments
of utter amazement or bewilderment. Traveling also offers
many opportunities for reflection during long drives or
plane rides, or even while just waiting for flights in an
unfamiliar airport as we watch people go by.
And above all, traveling enables us to appreciate
the many wonders left in this world.
It’s a shame, though, that many people seem to
travel primarily to show off, that is, to take pictures that
they can post in social networking site as proof that
they have been somewhere. I have been in situations where
I witnessed people climbing 200 steps up a historic hill,
or spending hours queueing up towards a famous painting,
only for the sole purpose of having a selfie taken. It gets
worse when in places of worship such as when in temples,
churches, or sacred grounds where one is supposed to soak
in the essence of the place and one finds himself amidst a
sea of chattering tourists with no idea whatsoever about the
significance of the place, or the expected behaviors required.
But then again, I am probably just being a nerd again.
Still, I do think that we would all become better people
if we make an effort to translate most of our experiences
into learning opportunities; at the very least, we reduce
the possibility of repeating mistakes.
There are many opportunities in 2015 to pack those bags
and fly off to some destination particularly with the move
to take out fuel surcharges in plane tickets which have
further reduced the price of plane tickets. There are thousands
of places waiting to be explored both here and abroad.
Happy traveling!


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