Last July, I embarked on my first DIY international trip to Hong Kong. All my own planning, all my own expense and for the first time, without any adult supervision! But aside from the adventures and the many firsts that I experienced on this trip, I want to tell you through my story how traveling can sometimes answer the questions we have in life.
CREATING THE PLAN AND BREAKING THE RULES
I booked my flight to Hong Kong last December 31, 2014, because (a little tip here) airlines always have their best promos a night before the holidays or any holidays! My travel date was from June 30 up to my 24th birthday, July 4. It has always been my dream to go to Hong Kong. Aside from it being a popular go-to destination for Filipinos because of the proximity and no visas being required, Hong Kong has one of the closest Disneylands I know I can visit– my childhood dream!
So for 6 months leading up to my birthday, I planned the whole trip with a friend of mine who was going join me for my birthday escapade. I’m an introvert, a perfectionist, and a detail-oriented freak, so from the time we arrived until the time we would leave, I made sure that all our plans were written, typed and saved! I read blogs, researched a lot, and prayed. Because aside from the fear of being lost in a foreign land, this is my passion! I get excited planning trips and connecting dots, finding the best and shortest routes possible in my adventures.
One of the things that I learned about this trip, and I discovered about myself, is that I CAN DO IT! Sometimes, we get so afraid of trying, of booking that flight, enrolling in that class, or joining that group that we’ve always wanted to join… but all we need to do is DO IT! To take the first step. Of course, not everything comes easy, but with enough planning and preparation, you can get one step closer to achieving your goals and dreams.
When we went there, we were commuting like we were pros. Mastering the MTR line in itself was a huge achievement already for me, and hopping on and off the free shuttles at Macau like a boss meant big savings for us. One by one, we ticked off places that I and my friend wanted to see. But every plan I had, I made sure I surrendered to God. My prayer every time I travel is that, it will be memorable. Though I have everything planned down, of course there are still some bumps and surprises along the road that we can face. There will be some unforeseen events that you cannot have planned, but in the end you’ll just have to roll with.
Another thing that I’ve learned: be flexible and lighten the grip. Yes, as much as I had everything planned, we still had to skip some places because of exhaustion and lack of time (Victoria Peak, I’m going back for you!). We mixed up the different ferry terminals (Taipa, Macau, Cotai, got me all confused), but getting lost also led to some great discoveries (free cable car ride over a mountain at Ocean park, discovering Hong Kong Museum of Art before it closed for renovation for 3 years). At the end of the day, even though there were plenty of mishaps, we also had plenty of laughs.
RUNNING AFTER YOUR DREAMS AND RUNNING BACK HOME.
I’m a dream catcher. And when I dream, I dream big. It’s a dream of mine to travel the world, and of course ticking off Hong Kong in my list was one of my goals. In Disneyland, where literally all my childhood dreams came true for a day, I became a kid again. Watching every magical show, taking lots of pictures (except during the wild rides), I soaked it all in! Plus, ending the night with their new attraction, the Night Parade, and the anticipated fireworks display, I left the park singing “A Whole New World” until we got back to our hostel. We also went to Ocean Park, experienced my first dolphin show and Simbio (you have to google it if you want to know) and got to try their long cable car ride. Plus, we visited the usual Ladies Market, the Avenue of the Stars and of course, Macau. Finally seeing the famous St. Paul Ruins, the Senado Square and the Macau Museum right in front of me was beyond crazy.
During our whole trip, I felt so happy to be doing the things I’ve always wanted to do, finally seeing the places I wanted to see. The things I used to see only in movies, photos, other peoples Facebook posts were finally right before my eyes. My dreams were, one by one, coming true.
But one thing that struck me is that during our visit to Macau Museum, we found out that a lot of guards there wereFilipinos! One in particular, and I forgot his name I’m sorry, started talking to us about where we were from and what we were doing in Hong Kong. All of a sudden, he was sharing his frustrations about the Philippines. I was not frustrated about this but rather, sad, that he obviously missed home and missed talking to fellow pinoys. We also met a Filipino performer at Ocean Park. We just asked each other simple ‘how are yous’ and he blurted out “kapagod”. After those encounters, we met more Filipinos down the road and I kept thinking about all the families they left back home to pursue their dreams and to provide for them And with that thought, I immediately missed home. Sure, we were only there for 4 days, but you end up missing home at the end of the day.
I know that my dream is to keep traveling, discovering the world, to become independent. But what this trip also taught me is to always hold onto home. Wherever our dreams take us, it’s important to know where we came from because if we take it for granted, who knows… we might not be able to get back to it. Wherever our dreams take us, we always need something to hold onto, because running after our dreams could get exhausting and from time to time, we need something to pull us back.
BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU PRAY FOR
Remember what I said earlier? That every time I travel, my prayer to God is to make it memorable? And did I get what I prayed for.
The whole 4 days in Hong Kong was an amazing adventure for me! All the places we have gone to and seen! But the icing on the cake was our last day, which happened to be my birthday, July 4.
As we did our final shopping, spending our last HK Dollars, for some reason we underestimated the time (very Filipino, I know). We chose to ride the bus going to the airport instead of the train so we could get good seats. We already calculated the time of travel, but what we did not anticipate was how soon the bus would arrive. And boy, did we wait a long time.
Our flight was 7:30pm. After the long wait for the bus and the long ride going to the airport, we arrived at 7:00pm. We got our things and ran as fast as we can and when we got to our counter, the person in charge said: “this plane has already left”. Just like that, my heart sank. All of a sudden, my supposed to be most special day of the year became the opposite. We didn’t have any money or credit card to purchase new tickets. We tried contacting people who could help us; we even tried pleading with the airline crew if they could just include us in the next trip, finding all the excuses in the world just to get their sympathy, but all we got was a NO.
Everything was not going well, and my friend and I were already getting lost not knowing what to do, and then my mom called. Call me crazy, but at that time, I just didn’t want to ask help from my mom. I knew that she would just scream at me and nag me. And at that moment, that was the last thing that I needed. But then again, I didn’t have a choice; I needed to answer the phone. And when my mom asked where we were, I couldn’t lie! I told the truth that we missed our flight back home. And just like that, I began crying while explaining to my mom what happened. Like a kid lost in a mall, my heart broke in front of my mother.
With my mom’s help, we were able to book the earliest flight for the next day, because it was cheaper than the next flight out. The person I was trying to escape from became the very person who helped me.
After all the drama, me and my friend ate, washed up, refreshed and looked for a a spot in the airport to spend the night while waiting for our 8:25am flight the next day. While I was browsing through Facebook, I read a post about fretting, and that are all really resting in God. When our world gets upside down, do we really not fret? When our faith is tested, do we really trust the one who we always say is “in control”?
That night, God shook me. But during those frightening hours of my life, I learned lots of things:
1. It’s okay to ask for help, even if it’s your mom (haha). To be humble and to admit that not everything is under our control, and that sometimes w just need aassistance
2. I learned to trust the Lord even if there is no “obvious” help. I kept waiting on the Lord to work something out, to miraculously provide a way home right then and there, but the Lord has other plans and
3. God answers your prayers, but not always in the way we want them to be. I asked for a memorable birthday, but I got the best one I can ever imagine. It may have caused me a couple more bucks and stress, but not everyone can say they missed their plane and still managed to get back home the next day! It was my first time to miss a plane, rebook a flight and sleep at an airport all in one night. If that is not memorable, then I don’t know what is.
When we travel, we want lots of things. To discover ourselves, challenge our independence, find peace or take a much needed rest, but in our hearts of hearts we long for an amazing adventure. All of this roller coaster of an adventure happened to me one day when I decided I wanted to go to Hong Kong and I was going to book that flight. Adventure is different for each of us. Maybe adventure doesn’t mean traveling for everyone; maybe it’s art, or dancing in front of a crowd, or singing on stage, but one thing is certain, it’s out there.