AT FOUR in the morning, white heavy fog embraced the bus as we approached cities I have never been to.
The bus neither slowed nor hastened. It only kept its pace as everything else blended in the white haze. Beside me was my best friend, her breathing slow and peaceful as she sleeps.
They say you think about something hard enough, you begin to attract it.
Just as hazy as the fog was all the feelings brewing up inside my chest. All I knew was, I needed to get away as far as I could.
At the third stop, the sunlight broke the gloom and awoke us in warm orange light. People in the bus shifted in their seats, eyes squinting at the new day. The sun melted the fog and the anxieties that came along with me on the trip, and I knew then that I was “away” enough, and I was alright.
Haidie, Jamel, and I unloaded the bus at the wet market and bought food to eat. We rode a skylab for almost two hours, passing by long stretches of rice fields and picturesque mountains. When on a balanced plank of wood atop a single motorcycle, there was no other way than to trust physics and the driver’s years of experience, as we were told. As our butts endured the travel through rocky roads and streams, we held on to our dear seats for life.
When we arrived, the falls did not look like the photos at all. Don’t believe everything the World Wide Web tells you. It was shorter in height, but the rocks did lead to a higher level with pools among the rocks when Haidie and Jamel climbed them. I cannot possibly go after them and risk losing my eyeglasses in the water’s current, so I stayed and asked around for the third level.
The narrow path wasn’t marked with anything that says falls this way, but the locals were certain.
The stairs, which was only made of slabs of rocks embedded in the soft soil, was cut short at around one third into the descent. The rest of the way was uneven footing, with no bamboo poles as guides anymore. The local did say that the recent typhoon affected the area and the visits declined. I kind of wished I declined, too, but we went on.
Carrying twice my friends’ luggage combined, I slid and fell too many times than I can count. Di na ko muusab, ma! I declared into the woods.
The 30-minute descent turned out to be an hour. Our knees were weak when we finally touched grass, but even weaker at the sight of Awao Falls.
The water cascaded unhurried among the rocks. Afternoon light illuminated the falls that stood mighty before us.
If there is a god out there, I told myself, I see you now.
And yet as swiftly as our breaths were taken away by nature, droplets of rain showered on us. We followed a different path going up, but it was blocked with a blue flag. I was anxious about how blue it was, how it looked like a warning, but not quite.
I was in fear for I did not know myself well in the wild. It’s as if my instincts were washed away with the rainwater’s current building up on our path. My friends and I had no time to argue about what the blue meant as the rain fell like an open faucet upon us. It has to be a way out.
Hiking through a muddy path rewarded us with an open road. We found our driver after hitching from a local’s motorcycle. A rainbow graced our parting ways with Monkayo, as we headed home with tired bones.
A year later, a good friend and I sat for coffee. I was, once again, at a point of my life when I desperately needed to get away.
This raised a concern in my friend, sensing escapism as my means to temporarily cope with the stress I am in.
“Don’t you think it’ll cause more harm than good when you find yourself coming back to your problems after your escapes?”
It dawned on me how, even as I knew my intent was to get as far away as I could, I never traveled to escape. There was no argument unresolved, heartbreak without closure, unfinished school work, or unpaid debts that I left behind. There is, however, yearning for a break in the monotony, in the everyday dulling of senses when all sights are only set at deadlines.
Yet in as much as I’d like to, I couldn’t frequent the mountains and the falls, the beaches and the waves. The most leisure I can afford as a college student was to come home to purring cats and watch Netflix from my best friend’s account.
But for what it’s worth, I learned to not be sorry for all the ways I am mostly away from nature and its healing. What I lacked in my immediate environment ushered me to cultivate that connection with Nature within.
When there is no sand beneath my feet or a crimson sunset on the sky, there is a pulsing memory of a time when I was fully alive and present in it. When I can’t afford a day on the beach, there are people who make me feel like the sea: wide, flowing, and full of life underneath amidst the turmoil of waves above.
I travel to liven the wellsprings of hope that pushes me deeper into my dreams, and closer to myself. It is when I am away that I can look at the grander schemes of things, and shift my perspective to help me grow.
Travel makes me teachable, but only because I am willing, and it is the kind of experience I seek when on the road.
No height of mountain peaks or depth in oceans will make you know yourself more, if it’s not what you aim for. While my journey comes from being rarely-traveled, the rarity taught me to value the depth of experience rather than the mileage of flights. It doesn’t have to be the way to go, but it has what the universe has taught me for now. The next travel might mean different things, but I have yet to find out.
It is my prayer that when you take that next trip away, you are, at most, seeking to go as far as within. (Alaska Ordoña, AdDU Mass Communication intern)