Even in my wildest dreams, I never thought that there would come a time that I will be tagged in a same picture for five to six times. I honestly couldn’t believe that the people who were once strangers to me became some of my good friends.
April 9th early morning, I arrived at NAIA after an epic backpacking trip across Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. And since then, there was no stopping me. I felt that I needed to go on another trip. When Tikoy told us about a seat sale. I was hesitant. But I know one thing, I’d like to do another trip with Tikoy. So we booked a flight to Korea even without the assurance of an approved visa.
December 4th came, I was feeling anxious and excited at the same time. Things are very different when you don’t have 21 more people around you. I felt a shortage of happiness will come anytime soon if no one cracks the first joke. But in a smaller group trip, I learned how to be a role player; If Edge is not here to make us laugh with his unique sense of humor, maybe I needed to exert an effort “to make everyone happy” which happens to be the tagline of my daily program–It’s Showtime! That is why in every photoshoots, I gave a hundred and ten percent of my talent–just to make these guys happy and to make the moment as memorable as possible. And I guess I was pretty successful. I don’t care if I looked like a fool, what matters is that I kept my company smiling most of the time. If not, then I apologize. Groupies when you are 22 people sticking together side by side just to fit yourself to the frame was an experience in itself. That was off the hook. But 8 or 9 people in a picture will provide what? Yes, better image quality. Don’t get me wrong, the more the merrier of course and that was one of the most memorable part of the trip. But no matter how many you are in a photo. Solo or group, wacky or serious, with or without theme, the most important thing is the story behind every click of the camera, and the memories that you will bear until the end of time. Just like what I said, it doesn’t matter if I became a laughingstock, as long as I made the guys happy, I am also happy. In that way, I can say that in my entire life, I actually made a difference–that I painted smiles on 8 people I was sharing my Korean moments with, and sharing the warmth of my laughter to ease the cold.
I said I was a changed person after the Indochina trip. But this time, I am a much better person. If Indochina opened my eyes to foreign culture and food, this time Korea made me confirm that. I cannot quite remember how many times I told Tikoy and Shiela that I don’t eat Korean food, I just joined for the friendship, and the profile picture. But those weren’t true after all. Not because I had no choice, but because Korean food are good in some ways. Yes I still don’t like Kimchi, but that doesn’t mean I hate Korean food. It just goes to show that you still have a choice. You can try or not. It’s still up to you at the end of the day. But since I was there, I just tried them, and I didn’t regret it. What’s great about more company is when you enter a restaurant and people will turn their heads as they see a whole entourage walking and sitting in one very long table. But having a smaller group makes every meal an intimate event. It’s actually good to talk to anyone without raising your voice. And sharing food can be much easier. No need for that “sarap yan? Patikim”, then “eto oh, pakiabot nalang salamat”, and then “wow sarap thanks, pakiabot ulit”. Intimate means you get to share more of your life, and at the same time you get to hear more of the stories of others.
The trip was an amazing experience, from night strolls in a -15C temperature to biking in Nami Island, from the loops and drops of rollercoasters in Everland to stumbling down in the Ski Resort. From Samgyeopsal to Galbi, corndog to churros. I won’t wish to change anything. Even Stef’s daily mishaps. Because every detail, funny or not, they all made our trip extraordinary.
It doesn’t matter how many are you when you travel, even if it’s you and your girlfriend alone, close friends, tour groups, or even solo. What’s important is that you learned something from it. You are not paying attention if you don’t get to realize even a single thing. While it is very easy for us to admire the things around us, the more important learning are the ones that will shape us to become a better person. Open yourself to the culture, to the customs, to the religion, and to the other things. Learn how to relate yourself to others, make friends, learn compassion. That! That’s what really matters.