While traveling solo around Cebu – from the North to the South of the province, I’ve been to conversations with several backpackers on hostels I’ve stayed at. Some of them have traveled for 7 months to several years all over Asia or the whole world. I can’t help but admire them all and have thought to myself if I could do that too.
I really love traveling. You wouldn’t be reading all the things I’m writing in this blog if I didn’t. Sometimes I feel like it’s not just the destination, but it’s also that feeling of moving through places that makes me ecstatic about traveling.
Yet the truth is, I have chosen a profession that does not give me much freedom when it comes to time. When I was in medical school, which as of this writing has only ended a little more than a month ago, I read and go to 7-5 classes for 10 months straight and then get 3-5 weeks off where I try to squeeze in some traveling. During the clerkship or junior internship year, grueling 29hrs-10hrs duty cycles eat up my energy and sometimes I can’t help but just dream of a vacation. Many days have I told myself maybe I should have gone into the usual 8-5 jobs in the corporate world, or maybe do some kind of freelance and just went wherever it took me…But no, I dreamed of big things. I dreamed of noble things. I dreamed of listening through a stethoscope. I dreamed of knowing the cure. I dreamed of understanding diseases. I dreamed of providing care. Everything felt so ideal and beautiful in the field of medicine.
I don’t have to tell you that getting the M.D. after my name wasn’t a walk in the park. Some nights I cried silently. Some nights I took out my frustrations on someone else (I’m so sorry…), but many days were fulfilling. I saw many patients smile at me. Yes I got scowls, but mostly I was touched by grateful hearts. I was moved by courage from suffering souls. So even though the way was bloody hard, I don’t regret the decision of going into medical school.
I must admit, it was a lot (a really lot) of time devoted to going to school. I’m 24 now. I started 1st grade when I was 6 years old. I finished elementary school at 12 and highschool at 16 years old. Then college followed. That was my first adventure alone far from home. From a small town in Zamboanga del Norte, I would fly to Manila (sometimes partly take the boat to Dumaguete). I finished at 20 years old and immediately went to medical school after about 2 months of vacation. I think two months is the longest vacation I’ve ever had, which were always in between school years. Mostly I went home, other times I do a side trip on other islands in the country.
This year after medschool graduation, there has been quite a change in things. For the first time I traveled alone for leisure. I told myself, this time I wanted to learn to enjoy my own company. Truth is, that was just part of the reason. I wanted to think too and was kind of tending to a stubbornly broken heart.
It was a different experience. I think all those who have done solo traveling know well enough what I mean. Somewhere along the bus rides, the checking of google maps, and talking to locals, I felt so empowered. It’s like I was born to walk this world, and to keep on walking. There is something about discovering new places that fills me up with eager energy and wide-eyed wonder. The best thing however, was meeting people who felt exactly the same way and connecting with them.
At the start I admit I tried to keep to myself. I was busy with my own thoughts and in discovering myself more. I didn’t put on much effort to be friendly, because after all I told myself I was traveling to think and to be on my own, but I could not deny the fact that it was lonely. There will always be a time when you wish you could share the moment with someone. So I resorted to checking who are online, looking at my phonebook for familiar names, and even dropping messages to someone I probably shouldn’t. It’s such a great thing that backpackers have this certain attitude of being such easygoing friendly people, and soon enough I was saved from the ‘loneliness’.
I admire backpackers. Some quit their jobs and find work wherever life leads them. Others have saved up for their trip. One thing is always common among them, they have this spirit of adventure that is so contagious. By being with them and conversing with them, somehow I’ve come to believe that I too am a kind of “nomad” who has a home everywhere in this world.
The excitement of traveling is inexplicable and exhilarating. Call it wanderlust; call it addiction to traveling; call it anything, I don’t object for it is something I will always crave for. During my solo trip around Cebu, I stayed in one place until I felt like it’s time to move. There were no fixed plans, just spur of the moments. However, at the end of every trip, I will always go back to my profession and my passion in medicine. It gives me fulfillment and a sense of worth. It is something I’ve worked so hard for and too precious to throw away, but it does not mean an end to traveling.
If there is one thing medical school has taught me, it is to be patient. It has showed me, in its own tough way that anything worth having is worth waiting for. Besides, waiting for something to happen makes it all the more special. I guess everything happens in its own time. There is a time for work and a time for play.
I heal to travel. Yes, because it would be my job and it will provide for me financially. Yet it’s just not about the money. By doing my job, I can go places where my services are needed, be it on the far flung provinces of the Philippines to the urban jungles of whichever city.
I travel to be healed. Once in a while, we all need a breather. Mine is always the sea or any wide open space. It is the rush of wind through my hair that makes me feel so alive. I like it when I turn darker after hours of swimming. I like the wind drying my salt-watered hair. I love the conversations with locals and the cheers and beers with fellow travelers.
I travel and heal, because I have decided I am a traveling doctor – an inhabitant of this world. Wherever life takes me, the passion I have for healing and traveling will always be together.