Friday, August 19, 2016


There are only three things I do not like about travelling.

One: I hate airports.  

Sure, I will spend three times more if I bought a business class ticket just for the pleasure of staying in the lounge while waiting for my flight.  Aside from having to be there in the airport a good three hours before your international flight, you go through the rigorous process of security checks (a necessity to avoid any form of paranoia). 

But some are soooo detailed and meticulous that security inspections are just a notch below a prostate check-up or an ultrasound of your privates.

Then comes the long wait.  Try NAIA Terminal 2 where there is only one washroom for the entire floor and when it reaches peak hours, you fall in line like you were anxiously waiting to buy a ticket for another Hollywood blockbuster ... or the next Vice Ganda movie at the MMFF.

Two: I hate being cramped in a very small space in long hauls. 

If I am travelling for more than three hours, it is not only my bulging middle that becomes a problem while strapped on my seat with the seat belt. There is also the problem of the length of my legs. Although I do not have the vertical advantage of any of the sons of Benjie Paras, my height is still a challenge to the cramped seats of travelling coach. Somehow my knees get tucked in between the back of the seat in front of me and that very little space where I should shove my hand carried luggage.  

Then when the Fasten Seat belt sign is put off, just wait for the passenger seated right in front of you recline his chair (which is within his rights) and literally pulverize your kneecaps. 

Finally, one thing that makes me think twice or thrice about travelling is the Filipino tradition of expecting/ demanding/ anticipating pasalubongs.

I do not know how and why this whole tradition or superstition started that anyone who goes beyond the Philippine territorial waters should come home with a token or souvenir from the place of his travel to the people he loves.  

It is entirely different when you go abroad and spend maybe five to ten years not returning to your home shores: somehow there is this sabik na sabik syndrome looming that everyone wants a piece of you and your time away from the Inang Bayan.  

Now if the traveler is coming home from a weekend vacation in a land where the time difference is plus/minus two hours from local Manila time, isn't that a bit too ridiculous to expect your kababayan to bring home a souvenir of ...where? Hong Kong?!

But whether it is a destination as close and quaint as the ex-Crown Colony... or somewhere as far and distant as literally the other side of the planet like Toronto or New York City, the expectations remain the same.

"Hoy, pasalubong ko, ha?"

Wait. Before I am mistaken for a tightwad suffering from a real bad attitude regarding generosity, let me clarify.  I love giving gifts. I hate being obliged to give them. Worse, I would rather give it because I felt like being nice ... rather than to be ordered to deliver some imported goods in order to prove that I am not so bad. 

As everyone already knows, there is a difference between giving a gift because you really want to give something  from surrendering an offering because you were obliged or felt obligated  to do so. 

It does feel so much better when you know you are going out of your way getting a special something (price immaterial ... because it is the thought that counts, di ba?) from feeling compelled to grab anything that comes closest to a personalized gift (like a ballpen, mug or even t-shirt saying I LUV DUBROVNIK) just for the sake of handing out anything to people back home.

OK, let's face it.  Buying pasalubongs is a chore.  

It is a chore because it steals time from what you want to spend as quality minutes/hours/days having a vacation in a land where traffic can be exotic and not debilitating. Carrying this long list and ticking off names each time you finally acquire that something is as tedious as going through a Christmas list.  Just because you went on a vacation does not mean that you have to come home as Santa Claus.

At least with the Yuletide season, you have the privilege of pre-planning. 

You can do your Christmas shopping as early as when the -ber months come in if you want to play safe and avoid the pandemonium of the season. 

Or if you are one those privileged and covered by corporate purchases, you let the company do the spending and have some harassed purchasing offer do the shopping and even the gift wrapping. You can always order twenty-five dozen umbrellas (with a dedication specifically stenciled: Merry Christmas from the Tikmulan family or something like that) or maybe the same number of yearly organizer planners also with a similar dedication to remind the recipient that you will be with him all year long.

But hey not with pasalubongs.  

With the limited amount of time you have abroad or even out of town --- you are tormented by the thought of buying all sorts of souvenirs to give as handouts when you get back home.  

And it is not like you rush to the Duty Free shops and buy an entire sack load of Green Tea Kit Kats as proof that indeed you landed in Japan. Or get a whole sack of champoy to satisfy the salty cravings of the madlang people when you come from Hong Kong. The very fact that you have to gallivant through the airport stores just to photo finish the completion of your list makes the experience in the airport all the more nerve wrecking.

Then there is that all too ungrateful comment that goes, "Aw, you just bought this in the airport before going home, right?"  That is when the recipient makes you feel guilty since you did not scour the streets of the foreign land to buy him something special. What do they expect? That I cross rivers, scale mountains and fight dragons to be able to impress him or her?  That does not only take out the joy in giving but aggravates the hypocrisy of having to give something or anything to someone waiting back home.

"Ok lang if you don't remember ... pero can I ask you to buys something for me if by chance you come across this item?  Kasi there is none available here, eh."

That is another reason why I would rather slip out of the country unannounced. There is that pressure to look for things that people make lambing for you to buy for them as if you had all the time in the world to scour shops to find their objects of desire.  Another sad note: with the advent of smart phones and Viber, what can be worse than receiving images of objects people are asking you to look for or worse, getting a request to send photos of samples found in shops. ("Sige na naman. Size 10 ... Viber me the picture of the rubber shoes when you see it so that we are sure you are getting the right one.")
And it is as if it is really easy to squeeze in all the pasalubongs in your luggage with a maximum of 30 kilos for check-in suitcases and only 7 kilos for your hand carried bag which must fit the overhead bin of your plane.

Yes, traveling is the best form of education and broadening of the mind. It even hones the spirit to embrace the culture of others and to realize that your concept of the world back home is NOT all of the world that there is to see.    Admittedly, traveling is enriching, mind-boggling and a means for self-discovery. But getting there ... and coming home with all these obligations can turn it quite into an ordeal.

So now I have decided enough is enough. I will not sacrifice my enjoyment of travel but I will put a definite stand on pressuring myself to be Mister Congeniality by obliging myself to be generous.  Yes, generosity is one of the most priceless virtues that affirms the greatness in our souls. But it must come spontaneously and sincerely.  Generosity in any other form becomes hypocrisy ... or at worse, an investment.

There is nothing wrong to be selectively selfish at times.

P.S.: The fourth reason I am turned off by travel is when you are most unfortunate to be seated right beside a hysterical baby on the plane for a twelve hour trip.  You realize that indeed there are many reasons to celebrate if not oblige birth control... even at 33,000 feet in the air.

No comments:

Post a Comment