South Korea, 2018

Expectation: This post will narrate how the trip has been the break that I needed; that after this I felt recharged and ready to take on my life again; and I will be more ready for my tasks as I have taken a few days to relax and unwind.

Reality: I keep trying to look for literally anything connected to the expectation above to write about this trip. I want to say that it felt like the break I needed, and that I’m more willing to go to work again.

That is not entirely the case.

Prior to going to Korea, I have talked to my doctor about my anxieties and worries and asked for advice on what I should do. I have also talked to my adviser regarding my work, how I don’t think I can deliver what I have promised. Both of them have been understanding and encouraged me not to stress about the things in my life and to enjoy my week-long vacation in Korea, and just think about everything else once I get home.

So that’s what I did. From the moment I arrived at the airport to wait for my flight to Incheon, I tried not to think about the work. I basked in the excitement I never got to feel weeks before the trip because there were just too many things to worry about. I let myself feel happy that I got back in my favorite place on Earth. I resolved that for a week, I’m not a researcher, I’m not a lecturer, I’m not a student, I’m not working, I’m not a patient, I’m not depressed. I’m a tourist.

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And I genuinely enjoyed myself there. I even got to read a web novel, and it was a love story. I met new people. I didn’t feel the need to post pictures while I’m there to show that I was really enjoying myself. We went through the itinerary, took pictures, tried their food (even the spicy ones), went crazy shopping, tried to blend in with the people, tried to speak the little Korean that I know.

I just realized, while I was there, I felt normal. Still hit by sadness every now and then, but my heart felt full.

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But it was a vacation, it was just a break from life. As the days went by, as we got nearer to our date of return, I realized that the trip had been an escape. I didn’t want to go back; I never want to leave.

Still, I took the flight back home, and I felt really sad. Going back to the Philippines meant going back to my true self, and going back to live in the reality that I have. I have work to do, bills to pay, students to grade, a thesis to finish, a life to fix. After unpacking the things I bought for the people here, everything begun to sink in. I’m back. Korea is again miles away.

I pondered about two questions: was the trip good for me, and did I get better after the trip?

Short answers: the trip had been good for me, and yes, I felt better after the trip.

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You might be wondering how it had been good for me and if I’m really feeling better after the trip, after I just wrote how sad I have been to return. The trip was exactly what I needed; I just didn’t know it.

After getting back, of course I had to accept the reality that yea, I’m still the depressed person who left a week ago. Initially it felt really bad because I was hoping that the trip would make me a brighter person inside, but nothing much has changed. I thought I needed the trip because it would take away some of the negativities that I have, and I’d return happier, just like the Hong Kong trip.

But I needed to feel normal again, to feel like myself, so I can breathe. So there would be something to look forward to in my life again. It was what this trip has shown me: to live in the moment, to not worry, and to have something to look forward to.

It didn’t give me freedom from my worries, but it gave me a glimpse of what’s in store for me if I kept fighting for just a little longer. I’m returning again next February, during the winter. A few months ago, to give myself something to look forward to, I have decided to plan out my life, and one of the plans is to work overseas, but I’m not sure about which country yet. After the trip, I have decided that the country I want to work in would be Korea.

It’s all vague in my mind still, but hey, anything that makes me want to get up in the morning, right? I’m not gonna lie, I’m still not 100% okay, and I still get eaten up by the shitty thoughts in my head. I go to sleep wanting to get away from everything, but I wake up feeling a teeny bit more normal. Not totally better, but it’s already more than I am asking for.

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See you again, South Korea 🙂


Also, I have to give the people I traveled with a shoutout since without them, the trip wouldn’t be as fun hahaha

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That’s it for this trip! I miss Korea so bad already 😦 #

Love, Lady 💛

Hong Kong, 2018

To be completely honest, Hong Kong was not in the list of my dream destinations. You see, I still try to be a reasonable traveler. This year the international country travel goal was Thailand, as the Loy Krathong and Yi Peng Festival dates fell near my birthday. Money permitting, Japan was also included, to experience the cherry blossom season in the land of sakuras. (NB: I am quite aware that Japan is not really the cherry blossom capital of the world and I know that I can experience cherry blossoms in other countries as well, but the girl in me who loved Memoirs of a Geisha remembers the sakura viewing parties Sayuri attended, and why not just go to Japan and experience it myself?) One person argued that I can go to Hong Kong Disneyland, to which I countered that if I want to see Disneyland, I can just go to Japan instead. But the travel bug bit me in June, I wanted to go somewhere and when I jokingly asked my friend if I could come with her in Hong Kong with her family and she said yes, I booked my ticket and planned my OOTD’s and caught the plane to Hong Kong.

In retrospect, I realized that I won’t be going back to Hong Kong. We went during summer, where I discovered that their summers are probably as unforgiving as the ones here in Manila; I didn’t enjoy the shopping as stuff there was waaay too expensive for me to consider it a bargain; everything went by too fast since we tried to squeeze in a lot of activities while we were there; and for some unknown reason, the air just smelled weird. This is not to say that I didn’t enjoy it because I had a fun time in Hong Kong. There’s just not enough reason to justify coming back there. However, this trip will always hold a special place in my heart (hence why it’s going in the blog) and would always be a remarkable one.

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Prior to the trip, my ex decided to text me after more than a year of not talking. Being my usual fragile self, this has shaken up my world carefully perched in its pseudo state of balance. It wasn’t that eventful, closure-filled conversation, either. It was just catching up in that weird limbo of ‘are we or are we not okay with each other’. Bottomline is, I got nothing from that, except for maybe another set of unanswerable questions.

So the Hong Kong trip was like a palate cleanser of some sorts. It was the break I needed after an exhausting time of my life, and a perfect distraction from the new batch of senseless thoughts floating around in my head when my world was thrown off of its balance.

Moreover, this is my first ever solo-ish trip in another country. I was never allowed to go travel on my own. Since I’m going with my friend and her family but can’t stay where they were staying (booking issues), I was forced to look for a place to stay on my own and to navigate my way to places alone. Of course I have done a day trip around San Francisco last year, but staying by myself is a different story. I have no internet connection outside of the hotel, so I had to rely on pre-searched directions while I’m out, and be always on the lookout for my companions whenever we decide to meet up. As a first time female solo traveler in a foreign land, this was a nerve-wracking experience. My shrink pointed out that surviving it gave her a glimpse of how adventurous and how fearless I am, and I realized that it was who I used to be before I became someone who is always being afraid to make decisions or even to say something. I felt good and felt like myself again after a long time.

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Also, making it to Disneyland and finally seeing the Disney princesses in the flesh and moving right before my eyes are life experiences I could only dream of as a kid. There was this one moment, when I was walking around and trying to find the perfect fridge magnet to get, when I realized that I have been doing things that I initially wanted to do with a special someone. I guess some people are just wired that way, that a goal in life is to find that perfect other half, and for a long time I have considered myself one of those people. Initially I felt sad, because I’m already doing things I want to do with a special someone on my own. But then I realized that I can already do these things on my own and still enjoy myself, and it felt like an accomplishment.

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Upon returning from Disneyland, I spent the night in the hostel crying my heart out because I realized some painful truths about everything in my life. I’ve been depressed for a long time. It’s over for a long time now. And no, he’s never going to explain. But then after drying my eyes it was the first time I have felt so free in a long time. I’m still here. I’m on my own and I’m surviving, I’m getting better, and there’s still reason to celebrate.

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So yea, probably the biggest reason why I’m never coming back there again (except maybe when I have to for work) is because I have left a lot of my negativities in Hong Kong. But it will always be where I found a new sense of freedom, and that always counts for something. #

Love, Lady 💛

(May chika at skwater version din nitong Hong Kong trip ko, na sobrang mas maraming commentary and mas ‘ako’ sa dedicated travel blog ko. Enjoy!)