So many places to explore, so little time.
Having a good sense of wanderlust, I travel around quite often. But still, the number of locations that I have not been to seems too many to count. When asked about the best places I have seen so far, so many come to mind, and it’s always a struggle to give an answer. The fact that all of the places I have visited has its own charm and beauty and one could say as “one of the best, if not the best, in the world,” I’ll only pick those which I felt I had the most meaningful travel experience.
First on my list is Vietnam. With its dramatic landscape and beautiful traditional architecture, rich history, and, delicious food, this country is nothing short of amazing. However, what stood out for me the most were the people. In my 3-week solo backpacking trip around the country, getting around from one province to another and staying with the locals, I learned more about their culture first-hand, met interesting people, shared stories and experiences. The Vietnamese are kind, hardworking, optimistic and helpful people. Despite their limited knowledge and use of English, it didn’t hinder us from having jovial conversations. With just plain body language, facial expressions, and some basic local words in funny accents that would often draw some laughter, I managed to spend good times with them. It’s really amazing how you meet people for the first time, and, it feels like you’ve known them for years. My hosts, together with the rest of their families and friends, became my most trusted people in Vietnam. My travel was made unforgettable not so much by the tourist attractions I’ve seen, rather by the friendship I’ve made and the memories we’ve shared together. This is the main reason why Vietnam will always be one of the best places on my list.
For nature and adventure lovers, Nepal is a utopia of natural beauty. Located in the Himalayan region, the country is endowed with stunning mountains, meandering river gorges, large lakes, and blessed with rich flora and fauna. Home to eight of the world’s tallest mountains, this country is famous all over the world as a trekking destination. Trekkers from different places flock to the country to have a once in a lifetime trekking experience, and I am no exception. After finishing my studies, I worked hard and saved up to make my dream of climbing the Himalayas happen. Finishing the trek made me realized why it is known to be one of the best places to hike in the world. No other hiking trail in the world offers so such magnificent scenery and lets you experience the magical Nepalese culture along the way. The trek to the base camp was long and hard, but at the same time, it was a rewarding & humbling experience. It was one of those eye-opening moments in my life when I experienced God’s love and realized how He uses difficult circumstances in our lives to make us a better person. This journey was by far the trip which I considered to be my ultimate travel experience because of the impact it had on me. It may sound very dramatic, but it is true. I was never the same person again since then.
In my journey around the Philippines, having visited 54 out of the 81 provinces in the country, I found a place that made me want to stay in there forever. It was a perfect combination of untouched natural beauty and very warm people. This hidden gem is Siargao Island in the Northern tip of Mindanao, facing the Pacific Ocean. It is gifted with white sandy beaches surrounded by crystal clear turquoise waters, secluded lagoons tucked in lush green islands, spectacular sandbars, massive pool with a natural reef, waterfalls, lush mountains, endless coconut fields and rice paddies, mangrove village, and I could go on and on! The very first time I laid eyes on this paradise, I knew it was love at first sight. From that moment on, I promised myself that it was not going to be my last visit, and I kept that promise and came back several times! Siargao has drowned me in its beauty, and I allowed it, thrice! Unlike Boracay or El Nido, this paradise hasn’t been overrun by tourists, keeping the island vibe intact. It’s a place where technology has taken a backseat; where driving a motorbike in its open roads can be really fun without having to worry about traffic jam; where every corner you go to has an empty beach without the annoying crowd nor any loud noise, and where everyone is genuinely friendly and helpful. It’s a place that makes me dream of having a piece of my own and lives there someday. Without a doubt, this has got to be one of the best places to go in the country. For me, this place represents the real Philippines- simple, laid back and beautiful.
Sometime in your journey, you will find places that stand out in your travel memory. It might be a tiny historical town, an exotic country or a far-flung beach. Each of us has different tastes, choices, and liking, but whatever the "best place" for you, one thing is for sure - you will always come back home a little different with a greater appreciation for life.