The age old questions: will travelling expand your horizons? Turn you into a sun-drenched hippy? Mend a broken heart? Enlighten you? Help you 'find yourself'? Tell you the meaning of life? Or will it do none of the above and will you find yourself with the same boring old thoughts - just in an exotic location. There is an exhaustive amount of literature on the subject of travel and its restorative qualities, but is there any truth behind it?
I am currently two days into a semi-epic solo travel trip around a bit of the world. After a busy few years spent living in a mega-city, it's the strangest thing to find oneself washed up on a beach with essentially nothing to do. The main issue I am coming to terms with is the feeling of guilt. Which I did not expect, but I can only assume it takes a few days to really switch off and adjust to a more chilled pace of life.
At the time of writing I am sat in an art café in El Nido (the Philippines) along with a host of other traveller back packer types. As I landed in Puerto Princesa the other day, I ambled along to the tiny information booth following a small gaggle of other backpackers. The information assistant asked the guy in front of me to date his signature, he stared at her blankly for a second and then declared he had no idea of the date. This made me chuckle slightly, but then got me to thinking: how glorious it must be to not know or care what the date is. If there's one thing I aspire to achieve on this trip, it is to lose sense of the restrictive nature of time.
El Nido is a tiny little village that acts as a base for hopping some of the world's most beautiful islands. I am yet to venture to them yet, but they do look simply stunning. It is touristy, yes, but nothing like the same scale of the tourism that has plighted Thailand's southern isles. I haven't backpacked in a good old while, but I find myself staying in a hostel without a mirror and have already come to the decision to not wash my hair for a month, to see if the fable about it 'washing itself' comes true. In short, I have already naturally slipped into the role of scuzzy backpacker with relative ease.
In response to the questions at the start of this blog post, I can't answer any of them authoritatively yet, but I'm sure as hell going to have fun finding out.
Useful information on El Nido:
The main things to do here are as follows: island hopping, renting motorbikes, snorkelling, diving, kayaking and hiking. There are other trips and excursions such as zip-wiring, visiting waterfalls and the like. The place is relaxed and touristy (but not outrageously so). I am currently visiting in the rainy season, which is low season for the resort. As a consequence, trips, hotels and 'tricycles' (taxi style transportation in the form of a motorbike with a built on shelter) can all be bartered for. I personally hate haggling, but you must sharpen your bargaining skills or you will get ripped off. As the island is so cheap it's not the end of the world if you do get over charged here and there, so don't worry too much. There are beautiful beach front restaurants serving freshly caught fish and you are able to pick up Wi Fi more readily than I anticipated. Filipino people are super friendly and delightful, but do remember to fix prices before you pay.
Getting to El Nido:
It is notoriously irritating to get to El Nido as there is no commercial airport nearby, and the ferries seem to take days. The 'best' way is to fly to Puerto Princesa and then take a van from San Jose terminal. The journey takes between 5 and 6 hours. If you are in a group, you can hire a whole van to yourselves. As tourism is by far the biggest industry here, everything is set up for travellers - so you should have no problems getting from A to B.