How I’ve come to love travel and what traveling means to me

Growing up, my family rarely traveled. While other kids spent their breaks from school taking trips to places like Disneyland, I spent mine beside my older sister wherever she went while my parents were busy working. My parents, both native Filipinos, lived the typical immigrant story of working day and night to provide a more comfortable life for our family. Knowing my parents’ free time was limited, traveling became something special—a little luxury we couldn’t afford often. Early on, this instilled the idea that hard work came before any leisure and that any leisure afforded is a reward for working hard.

Living in the 90s in a small suburb of Sacramento meant living more slowly and quietly. I was probably from the last generation of kids who still played outside until the streetlights came on. On the rare occasions my family did travel, we’d squeeze a day trip out west for family gatherings in the Bay Area where my parents’ kababayan (or fellow Filipinos) lived. This led to celebrating many occasions in San Francisco, from holidays and birthdays to summer vacation. Celebrating my June birthday became an annual thing because my birthday was only days apart from 3 of my cousins (kids of my Dad’s siblings) We became known as the June Bugs—a nod to the 90s tv show Bug Juice. As we got too old to celebrate our birthdays, I’d beg my parents if I could still spend my summer breaks at my cousin’s house. They’d agree, though reluctantly, and off I was to spend my summer in the city.

I still have very fond memories of those summers away. Of the loud noises from all the cars, the endless hills that seem to touch the sky, and the constant ebb and flow of the crowds around the Sony Metreon arcade downtown where we’d spend our weekends. The city was such a bustling contrast to where I grew up—in the quiet suburbs of Sacramento—and that’s why I loved it. I didn’t realize it then, but those summers away were what sparked my curiosity for travel early on. To be immersed in an environment that is different—a different pace, a different lifestyle, a different experience.

I knew traveling was a luxury, so it wasn’t until college where I had more opportunities to do so. In 2006, I joined a dance team called The Company, with whom I’d spend the following 4 years of my college experience with traveling up and down California performing at showcases and competitions. In 2007, I was invited to perform with the group in Scotland for a youth tour around the country. That was my first time traveling internationally without my parents (the first and second time being to the Philippines with my Mom). In 2010, the team was selected to perform at a youth festival in Macau, China. On one of our only free days during the festival, I decided to take a ferry from Macau to Hong Kong. That was the first time I had ever visited and I was instantly smitten. Hong Kong has since become one of my favorite cities in the world to return to.

Having had these new experiences really gave me a fresh perspective. There was so much of the world still yet to explore, but I needed the means to do so. Hard work before any leisure. So in the final semesters before receiving my degree in Photography and Design in 2012, I found myself living in the city I once called home summers ago—San Francisco. And just before graduation, I landed a contract job as a Production Designer for the Gap, helping execute marketing assets for I put all my focus, energy, and ambition into my work, hoping one day my career would lead me back to another opportunity abroad.

I was eventually offered a full-time position and was then promoted a year later. To celebrate, I found the courage to book my first-ever solo trip to Europe in the fall of 2014. I had saved up several of my paychecks, worked overtime to make sure all my projects were complete and used all my vacation days on traveling to Paris, London, and Brighton. I stayed in hostels and on the couches and floors of acquaintances I had just met. It was the most terrifying, liberating, and exciting thing I had ever done in my life. To this day, it’s one of my biggest accomplishments I’m extremely proud of.

Since then, I’ve gone to Puerto Rico, Amsterdam, Rome, Puerto Vallarta, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Berlin, Phuket, Langkawi, Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Taipei, Barcelona, Nice, and most recently Nagoya!

I’ve come to realize how grateful I am for travel and how rewarding the experience can be. It changes you in intangible ways. It forces you to learn more about yourself and the relationship you have with other people; especially those who are culturally different than you. It gives you more awareness, understanding, and compassion for others and allows for your mind to expand and be able to see things differently. What’s more is that since 2015, I’ve been traveling with my partner Calvin, who also shares the same mutual love and passion for travel. Exploring together has strengthened our partnership and we continue to become closer as be build new memories and experiences together.

Traveling can be expensive and takes a lot of work, but the outcome far outweighs the process. I’ve really come to love planning my trips and can spend hours on end researching where I should travel to next. I’m going to try and capture what I’ve learned over the years and share them in my Tip Jar, so click to it if you’re curious.

I hope this gives you a sense of what travel means to me and the impact it’s had on my life. For a peek into what I plan to do next, check out my post Why I quit my dream job…to travel. Thanks for reading!

❤ Alex

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