In all my travels, I do these activities. They reflect my personality and give me the utmost happiness wherever and whenever I do them. In essence, these are also the reasons why I travel.
- Bring “pasalubong” (a welcome gift) from your country and give it to the person whose presence/company you most enjoyed during the trip. I usually bring with me a t-shirt with “Davao” or “Pilipinas” printed on it with the aim of giving it to the most awesome local I meet. The recipient could be your tour guide, who swallowed a Lonely Planet guidebook for you; or your porter, who carried your life (okay, maybe just your overloaded bag); or the owner of the guesthouse, who made you feel at home. To see their faces light up with gratitude is priceless, I tell you.
- Send an unsuspecting friend a postcard. Since I already imposed upon myself to send postcards to my family when I travel, so why not send one to an oblivious friend or a random stranger, right? I call this my version of the traveling gnome prank.
- Visit the highest elevation of the place. Before going to a certain place, I always google the highest structure or the highest mountain (if it has one). I know I am not the most fit to take on a challenge like this, but the view is always worth the effort. So why do this? Because as the famous architect Cesar Pelli once said, “The desire to reach for the sky runs very deep in our human psyche.“
- Visit a local bookshop or library… and of course, read. Being a purist at heart, I find joy (and awesomeness) in reading books. I ask the librarian for classics of native authors (e.g. Rumi’s The Book of Love) or the bookshop saleslady for bestsellers of local authors (e.g. Dumb Luck by Vu Trong Phung). Sometimes, you have to excuse the translation though, but the story plots are usually out of the ordinary.
- Watch a show. Be it a symphony orchestra or a ballet company or an acrobat team, you know that the show will give you goosebumps in the end. This activity usually costs the most in my itinerary, but I love to see people who are insanely good at what they do and usually people in these shows are the passionate ones or the crazy-talented types.
- Go to a restaurant with no English translation in its menu. This is the ultimate daredevil challenge for me and I usually do this at the last day of my trip (because I cannot afford to have diarrhea while visiting museums or watching a show). For restaurants, this is a test of how effective their food plating and photography is. So, order, take an instagram, and pray to the heavens for an awesome (and tummy-safe) meal.
- Go to their most sacred place. Coming from a very religious country, I know how religion can give its followers hope. And it is such a sight to see people, both the desperate and the thankful, converge (sometimes in large numbers) and pray to and affirm the existence of someone/something. It is mind-boggling (yet very moving) for me all the time.