Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

My travel itch

Posted on December 07, 2014 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 7, 2014 – 12:00am
Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 8.52.05 AM
Illustration by REY RIVERA

I am having a severe case of travel itch right now.

I feel cooped up in my own life these days. My responsibilities are just too many. I sit on the board of 2 organizations which meet quite often. I will be starting a teleserye in 2 days and will play a role that demands my presence in many scenes. I just started a new album. I am also fighting a cold while I am scheduled to attend tons of social obligations this Christmas season.

I look at my schedule and I feel tired already. It seems to me that I cannot possibly miss out on getting good sleep every night till December 22 if I want to fulfill all obligations with enthusiasm and presence. It makes me feel stressful just thinking about it.

I wish I could just ride a plane and take off and skip all these things I have to do.

I have relatives who travel in and out of the Philippines about 40 to 50 times a year. It is the nature of their businesses to do so. I think that is a bit too much for me. I would be happy to have around 10 to 15 travels inside and outside the Philippines every year. That would be nice, easy and pleasant.

My last plane ride was to London last August. I loved it. It was my third trip to London but it was the first time I really enjoyed myself there. I traveled alone. The weather was sunny for almost 5 days. Aside from a few obligatory meetings I had to attend, I planned my own agenda and itinerary. It was great. I went to places I chose to go, at my own pace and leisure. I changed my mind when I felt like without disrupting anyone’s plans. It was total freedom.

Some people get stressed planning a trip. The packing, planning an itinerary and the idea of leaving home can stress them out. Not me. Many times, I pack my stuff the day before or the day I leave.

I don’t stress about forgetting to pack something. Except for my passport and money, I know that I can buy whatever I have left behind like shavers, vitamins, underwear, dental floss, etc. in the place I am going to. I am more focused on the unknown adventures travel will be bringing me to. The experience of a new place, meeting strangers and seeing the great sites, the food I will eat, the hotel I will stay and the experiences I will have can really turn on my creative juices.

In traveling to a new place, you must allow yourself to experience the unknown and allow yourself to be pleasured, challenged, be inspired by what you see, hear, taste and feel. It hits all your senses.

The only time I was in Madrid, I took a bus to anywhere at 2AM and got down where I saw lots of people in the street. I made sure though that I had the hotel calling card to help me get home. I followed my curiosity. I just walked around, checked out a bookstore, listened to street artists busking away, and ate some local food being sold on the street. I went home at around 5 AM tired but happy.

I almost always enjoy a new place whether I am on tour with some people or traveling alone. Aside from the gustatory, visual, aural and physical pleasures one experiences when traveling, there are also the intellectual and spiritual dimensions, and of course the emotional.

It is great to get soaked up in the history of a local setting. I like monuments, statues, visiting museums, and meeting the local residents. I also try to scan the local papers just to catch the present concerns of the citizens who live there. It makes my curious mind appreciate how a certain place and how its people have become what they are even if my appreciation may be a bit on the shallow side.

Emotionally, one can feel a certain connection when you meet and talk to locals, engage in conversation, even if it is just small talk. Sometimes, it may go beyond that when you feel a human to human contact through acts of kindness.

In Tokyo, I found myself lost in the train. I asked a total stranger where I was and how I could get to my real destination. She spoke no English and I hardly knew any Nihonggo. The kind woman actually went out of her way and took me to the right train platform. She then tried her best to explain that I should get off on the third stop from where I was. She waited with me till the train arrived until I was on board. SSoon after she e bowed, waved goodbye as the train left.

There are places that can attract you in a spiritual way. India and Nepal are just two of them. Knowing that the Buddha actually walked certain streets that I was walking on was quite a profound experience. Entering a place of worship of another religion can be quite inspiring and can evoke a feeling that crosses all cultural, religious and spiritual borders. Every culture must have had a God experience at some point which they honor with religious practices and devotions that have become part of their traditions.

I remember watching a cremation in Kathmandu where I saw a whole family attending to their father’s final rights. It was quite moving. I watched with great respect at how the eldest sun lit the funeral pyre. This practice and tradition says a lot about the Indians. These rites must have come from their own understanding of a lot of things—human relationships, death as a passing, the nature of the human body, God and the afterlife to name just a few.

My wife felt the same way when she visited the Holy Land. Someday, I will visit there, too.

As I write this article and stare at the calendar before me and see how busy the next few weeks will be, I heave a sigh. It’s a lot of work ahead.

Luckily I have two Davao concert shows next week, and one in Zamboanga on the 20th. I guess those will do for now till I get a chance to scratch the travel itch, and once again enjoy travel without any work obligations.

2 to “My travel itch”

  1. AJ says:

    Hi Jim! I follow your column at Phil Star. The depth of your insights never fails to give me a big-picture perspective on things. I guess you have somehow influenced me in my writing, though I’m no pro. I’ve also witnessed the open-air cremations in Kathmandu. I hope you don’t mind if I shared my own piece on it: https://ajpoliquit.wordpress.com/2014/10/07/life-and-death-and-everything-in-between/

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