A LOT of people travel for different purposes. Some seek to learn about a new place or simply want to escape from reality even for a short while. This is why a number of travelers are still in constant search of their real reasons. But for travel writer Johanna Michelle Lim, she has found all the right reasons for why she goes on these exciting adventures.
Lim started traveling when she was only 22 and began writing essays about the places she had visited. In her last eight years of wandering, her first collection of essays, “What Distance Tells Us: Travel Essays About the Philippines,” came about, exploring 12 places that represent the North, South, East and West.
For someone whose life is in perpetual movement, writing her debut collection posed its challenges but it was not short of learning experiences. Lim who’s used to writing for publications faced writing technicalities, thinking whether the weak pieces could be alleviated by the stronger ones and basically just threading the whole collection together.
While there were a lot of technical things she needed to learn, emotion-wise, it was really the idea of persevering that helped her finish the book. “I’m a very restless person and I realized I had to stay put just to finish the book, which was a challenge for me because I like the idea of movement.” Lim added that it takes a year of stillness to write about movement, which is ironic, but she felt like it was the effective process to take.
Now with the birth of her debut collection and as her book title suggests, readers can’t help but question the author about what did distance really tell her? “Different,” Lim started. “I think every essay will embody what distance has brought for that particular milieu.” She continued that distance was so integral to the making of her milieu and personality, she realized that there are just some things that do not manifest themselves when you’re looking too near.
Conscious detachment has its benefits and it was a milestone for Lim in terms of coming to terms with motherhood, her own identity, with being a daughter and an artist. Traveling, according to her, is when you become a different person unconsciously. “I think it’s a good way to use detachment and restlessness to your advantage,” she said. Lim who always travels alone find it beneficial not only for when she’s writing since it makes her more in tune with her own voice but solo traveling also gave her the chance to become a different person. “I was able to manifest my curiosity in a very vocal manner as compared to here when I’m in my comfort zone.”
Lim who juggles between being a mother, daughter, traveler, writer and brand strategist by profession shared that it is in the acceptance that life will always be imbalance that you get to be more of yourself. “I feel like in the recognition that it’s imbalance, then you don’t feel that you’re deprived of anything. When you’re traveling, you’re not any less of a mother or when you’re a mother, you don’t feel deprived of that idea of missing out on things.”
The “why” in her travels changes every time, but the main thing that it has brought her is that she was able to become a sounding board to herself. “ When you have that idea of change, having that external stimuli, you get to know yourself better.” According to Lim, the more you travel, the more you realize that you’re actually running toward something that you want to learn and traveling teaches you that. “What Distance Tells Us” will allow readers to discover and hold on to their “why” in traveling. “You have to go look for it. I hope my readers find their why or at least start to question what their why is,” Lim concluded.