Part 3 in a three-part series starting with:
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Traveling solo is great fun and in previous entries, I've already mentioned my favorite solo experiences and also the lessons I learned while traveling solo. I believe traveling solo (at least sometimes!) has made me stronger, more reflective, self-reliant and independent. There's really very little you can't handle once you've been able to conquer a foreign city or country by yourself.
VALUABLE THINKING TIME
There's also so much more thinking time when you're by yourself. Today, for example, I was on another plane watching a movie that made me think about human greatness and how relative this concept is. It's easy to conceptualize the president of a country or a fireman in the 9-11 bombings as great because of the heroic valor he or she displayed; but just because you don't lead a country or save the lives of people, it doesn't mean that you can't live a life of greatness.
Not all people will have such traditional opportunities for greatness, but it doesn't mean that 99% of the population will not be able to live a life of value. In everyday life, achieving greatness is still possible on a daily basis, and this can be defined by the personal challenges a person is able to overcome. The movie got me thinking about this -- and I believe people can live a life of greatness by overcoming their fears, being more selfless, doing good in small ways, and inspiring others even by modest examples.
If I had been traveling with someone on the plane, I wouldn't have had time to think about such lessons gleaned from a movie.
SOLO TRAVEL GUIDELINES
That said, when traveling alone, I always err on the side of caution as there are certainly more dangers to traveling by yourself. Many unsavory characters are constantly on the lookout for easy prey, particularly among solo female travelers in tourist locations.
Here are my personal guidelines for solo travel:
1) Always stay in a good hotel and use the hotel services as much as possible. In general, I never get into taxis at night unless these have been pre-arranged by my hotel or restaurant. Subways, too, are a no-no after 9 pm even if people tell me they're safe to use. I'd rather avoid risks.
2) Don't talk to strangers -- and especially not to strangers who approach you first. In fact, I'm probably less friendly when I'm traveling alone, and that's basically because I have my personal security wall up. The only exceptions are strangers seated next to me on airplanes; and even then I don't usually do much talking anymore.
3) In less safe cities, order room service for dinner and stay within the safety of the hotel.
4) When traveling alone, make the hotel safe and the general managers your temporary best friends. I keep all valuables safely locked and ask the GMs for recommendations and assistance.
5) Never go down dark or empty streets after 7 pm unless it's in a city you already know very well. One block can make all the difference between a bad neighborhood and a good one.
BACK IN MANILA AND I GET AN iPAD
Well, I returned to Manila this afternoon after a very quick trip abroad and it was straight to the Honda showroom to arrange for a new car. When thinking about which car to get, I was sorely tempted to go for one of the fancy models many of my friends ride around in. I even went so far as to test-ride a couple of luxury European brands and also a Lexus. Regular readers of this blog may remember that I'd downed a shot of whiskey at Polo Club's Last Chukker sometime back and then I'd headed straight over to the Lexus showroom on a whim.
Well, all the cars I rode were wonderful and I was so tempted with two in particular. In fact, I'd already made up my mind about one of them when at a dinner last week, someone told me about the horrors of maintenance and the fuel consumption. Fancy cars are equally fancy to use and maintain; and I'm certainly eager to do my part for the environment as well by trying to use more eco-friendly vehicles.
In contrast, the Honda is not very flashy but it's a perfectly good car. I test-rode one of the only two models left on the Philippine market of the new Accord last week and I liked it. It took me all of five minutes to make up my mind to buy one, and I would actually have gone home that day with one if the color I wanted was available. The Accord is nice and understated, and the gas consumption is on the conservative side. Plus, the 2nd model left in the Philippines was in a color I wanted.
This afternoon, I took possession of my new car -- and Marie, my Honda salesgirl, just informed me that I also get the latest 3G iPad as a gift. That certainly made my day as I'd put off buying an iPad in favor of the more sensible decision (at least for me) of buying a small and very powerful Macbook Pro that I literally take with me everywhere. It's not as light or cool-looking as the iPad, but it can certainly contain my whole life in one gadget. If I lost my MacBook Pro, it's far from an overstatement to say that I'd be completely lost.
So just in case you're thinking of purchasing a Honda car soon, remember that they're giving away iPads for certain cars for the rest of this month. Or at least until supplies last, I was told.
A WONDERFUL BIRTHDAY
Then tonight, after work, I headed over to Alabang for the birthday party of a much-loved personality in Manila. It's a testament to his kindness and sweetness that so many people showed up to celebrate with him from all industries and generations of Manila society. There were even friends calling from as far away as Zurich to send in their greetings since they were missing the party. Even I'd made the trek to Alabang in spite of complete fatigue from a very early morning trip to the airport today, as I just couldn't miss his birthday.
PhP 1 MILLION FOR MISS WORLD PHILIPPINES
It was a very big party and I sat at a rather eclectic table of people who knew each other but had almost nothing in common. There was a proper program emceed by Cory Quirino and with well-known singers entertaining us with medleys of songs. One singer named Kevin who is rumored to soon be one of Manila's hottest singing stars bravely sang a capella since his tape broke down; while another singer sang so many semi-sweet songs that really made me sentimental. As the songs were going on, Cory Quirino sat next to me and we talked about her efforts to organize and promote the upcoming Miss World pageant. She's planning to hold the swimsuit competition in the underground river in Palawan and she hopes to give the winner of Miss World Philippines a cool PhP1 million -- which is quite a record sum for this kind of prize.
"I want to really give the winner a chance for a better life," she said. "Lots of beauty contest winners find that their lives don't change much after winning. I want this time to make a difference."
Again, an example here of human greatness.
DANCING ALL NIGHT
Then a DJ came on and everyone got on the dance floor. Because there were different generations around, the music ranged from foxtrot to cha-cha to swing (my favorite) and current hits. Someone took my hand and got me on the dance floor, and before I knew it, it was way past midnight and I'd been dancing all night. I really like the swing so I don't need much prompting to get up when I hear swing music playing; but I was very surprised to realize I enjoyed the cha-cha and I loved the foxtrot. It had been a long time since I'd gone to a dance party and it was really an enjoyable event.
Just another Tuesday in our never-ending, and never-endingly eventful, Travelife.
ON SALE EVERYWHERE FROM APRIL 15
Travelife's Special Summer Issue
with Angel Aquino in Boracay
Angel Aquino in Bora
for Travelife Magazine's April-May 2011 issue
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