The wild side

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Saturday, December 21, 2013

I’VE had the good fortune to travel to many parts of the world—49 countries to be exact. I’ve also had the opportunity to spend a great deal of time in the United States and the People’s Republic of China, two nations with vastly differing political ideologies as well as social landscapes.

In many ways, I can say that my travels have greatly shaped my views which are largely liberal and mostly centrist. I have seen the good and the bad of socialism as well as capitalism. And I can say that neither is better or worse. Governance is ultimately more important than ideology.

I’ve been to places where everything works but I’ve also been to places where you can scream at the top of your lungs and things will still get done at their own time so that if you want to survive, you simply have to breathe in deeply and go with the flow or go home.

I used to go only to places where there were no surprises—where the trains run on time, where the streets are safe from wildlife and where the sun shines when the weather report says so. But through the years, I found myself looking for something a little less certain, a lot more amazing.

Like a pride of lions coming into view. Zero clockwork. Absolute awe.

These days, I keep an open mind when I travel. That way, everything is an adventure. It’s not wise to have too many expectations—except perhaps the hope that you can get back home in one piece and stay alive long enough for the next adventure.

I’ve learned to savor the unexpected despite the inconvenience because the unexpected can also bring the unparalleled. Don’t get me wrong.

Nothing beats the seamless experience but the seamless experience spoils while the imperfect reminds us to be grateful.

When you travel to a first-world country where most things work most of the time, you tend to be impatient and inflexible. You get infuriated when things break down. When you travel to a third-world country where most things don’t work most of the time, you are simply grateful when they do.

Every day is a blessing.

If there is anything I have learned in all the travelling I have done, it is that the places that were the hardest to reach because of cost constraints and challenges like air routes, visas and/or health hazards gave me some of my most colorful and enduring experiences.

While I’m not about to suggest that you follow my lead and risk getting bitten by the deadly tse-tse flies, I can tell you that stepping out of your comfort zone can be a rewarding experience if you are willing to sacrifice small and sometimes, not-so-small comforts to walk on the wild side.

I’ve had the good fortune to travel to many countries of different cultures, faiths and landscapes. And I’ve found that it’s not the ideology but the attitude that I’ve learned the most from. People in developed nations are often consumed by their rights to life and liberty that they whine at every ache and annoyance. People living in developing nations, however, bereft of many of life’s liberties are simply grateful to be alive.

That is the beauty of walking on the wild side. Every day truly feels God-sent.

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Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 22, 2013.


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