Friday, May 13, 2016

Backpacking: The Trouble With Hellos Are Goodbyes

Hopping on the next available plane and setting yet another journey is always  a special moment for any traveler.
You get that amazing feeling of being free from all the troubles and weariness that have hounded you for weeks prior to your trip.
In that exact moment, all your worries just go away and you start thinking of the adventures and life-changing experiences that await you.
For many travelers, including me, I always look forward to the amazing people I will meet in the most unusual places and during the most unexpected moments.
katharina and British girl Lexie
In my recent Asian journey which took me to the streets of Kuala Lumpur, Koh Pangan, Bangkok and Siem Reap, I met some of the nicest people you will  ever meet. And while I also met several people in the past, meeting these people was quite different because this time around, I was older and wiser.
I knew now not to always ask the usual questions that travelers get tired of asking and being asked themselves.
“Where are you from”
“How long are you staying here?”
“Where else have you been?”
“What do you do back home?”
The question “What’s your name again” almost always comes at the end.
Hendrik and Finnish girl Velma in Surat Thani
Stranded in Surat Thani, I met Hendrik, a 23-year German student who is out to search for more meaning in life. He’s been sheltered in Aachen, a town in Northern Germany. You can actually walk from this town for ten 10 minutes and you are in The Netherlands. If you walk another 10 minutes towards another direction, then you will reach Belgium.
This kid, shared that not because Europe is rich, its people are necessarily happy and contented. There is more to life than just money.
We traveled all the way from Koh Pangan to Bangkok.
In Bangkok after a harrowing 24-hour trip from Koh Pangan right after parting with Hendrik, I met Chris, a 25-year old British carpenter from London, who despite his relatively unimpressive profession, was able to impart valuable travelling wisdom to me, a newbie.
Chris also taught me the value of perseverance and determination to succeed in a very wealthy and competitive city.
me and Imke in Temple bar
And candidly, he shared to me why there are lot of white guys, who fall for Asians, some of them not really very pretty.
Some guys, he said, choose to commit themselves to people who make them feel special, wanted. In their home countries, some of these white guys are considered plain, and simply unattractive. But when they reach Asian territories, their ego receive a much needed boost.
There was also Imke, a very pretty Belgian I met at a bar. On the outside, she seemed like your typical European college student out to have fun after suffering through loads of academics.
It turns out however, that she and her friend Helena, volunteer to help the street children of Cambodia
after 8 mugs and 2 buckets
And then there was Erik, a 27-year old NGO officer who taught me that there is more to travelling that just having fun, flirting and getting absolutely wasted. (But of course, we did have fun drinking hahaha).
While most people his age, are in the middle of partying and throwing their lives to booze, this guy just got off from a 4-year stint doing health services in war-torn Gaza. He also shared insights on why Norway did not accede to the EU.
I can honestly say that this trip has been the most memorable and most meaningful for me, not only for the places I’ve been but more so because of the people I’ve met.
But no matter how happy I’d been for the last two weeks, it also made me realize the difficulty of meeting new friends. When there are hellos, there are always goodbyes, which happen almost as quickly as the introductions.
In travel lingo, you call them “5-hour friends,” referring to the relatively short time of you being friends.
me and Erik also in Temple bar
Even if you guys shared the most pathetic and trivial of things or your innermost thoughts, there is definitely an expiration.
As soon as we got off the bus in Bangkok, Hendrik gave me a quick brotherly tap on the shoulder and headed towards another 12-hour ride to Phnom Penh.
Chris and I walked around Khao San Road and shared a budget room in Soi Rambuttri from 6am to 4pm, and then he had to fly back to London.
damon giving his wacky face
Erik and I parted at around 3am last Saturday as he needed to fly to Myanmar for some volunteering work.
Imke along with her other friends are still in Siem Reap but it was I who had to fly back to Kuala Lumpur and then eventually back to Manila.
No matter how honest and special your shared moments, they are almost always very quick. This is a backpacker’s life. You can meet a very special friend or your soulmate and then, they leave and you might never ever see them again.
Unless you try, really really hard to stay in touch.
I was able to do it  with another German friend Katharina who I’ve met at the Poipet-Aranyaprathet border in 2010. We stayed in touch with each other and met again this year. Though we barely know each other’s CV, we are buddies when we are together.
There is communication with Hendrik and Imke and Erik promised to become best buddies, no matter how far apart we are.
For Erik, Chris, Hendrik and Imke, I hope that we could be really good friends. I really really do.
After all, we may be divided by oceans and vast lands, but we are still under the same sky.


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