The Traveling Me, Part I
Memories pressed against the pages of my mind
Unless one is blessed with wealthy parents, traveling is one of those that one dreams of but never really get to experience, until one has become rich on one's own..... well not stupendously rich, but one has to have enough reserve in the bank to be able to draw from it without pleading poverty for the next 6 months.
When I was a child, the extent of my family's travels were limited to visiting my father's farm some 100 miles away over rough roads that became almost impassable after a torrential downpour. Despite the physical difficulties, I enjoyed those trips because they afforded the family respite from the hectic life in the city, and also opportunity to reap the benefits of my father's labours, by way of fresh fruits and vegetables, and milk, and pond fish, and smoked carabao (water buffalo) meat. Of course there were the occasional visits to my maternal grandmother's ancestral home several islands hop away, over pockmarked provincial roads in overcrowded rickety buses and over rough seas in overcrowded rickety motorized boats.
Fast forward 20 years later, and I found myself traveling to the United States, on an immigrant's visa, with a wife and a two year old daughter. Better work/financial opportunities are generally the main reasons why one would leave the familiar comfort( and discomfort) of the mother country and travel to America. I was obviously no different. It took me 2 years after Internship and Residency training (Los Angeles) to feel financially secure enough to think about traveling other than to and from work, or to and from a place 200 miles away to visit friends and relatives.
The very first time that I traveled out of California was in 1977 when several nurse friends of my wife invited us to come with them for a weekend in Las Vegas. Vegas in 1977, was still a rough hewn town dotted with stand alone hotels separated by undeveloped desert. The 2 day stay was forgetabble except for the show "Jubilee", and the smoke-filled gamerooms crackling with the noise of coins dropping down slotmachines. Since then Vegas has developed into a mini mega-city, but despite the surface appearance of glitzy glamour inside inter-connected resort-hotels, it remains deeply what it has always been and will always be.... a mirage in the desert.
Over the succeeding years we visited several states (Florida, Colorado, South Carolina, Minnesota, Missouri, Hawaii) on occasions when I attended my every 3-year Medical School Class'72 reunions..... all of them uniquely memorable, not only becasue I got to see classmates that I haven't heard from or seen since medical school, but the places where we held them were fantastically receptive to the needs of a group made up of rapidly aging baby-boomers.
Our Australian visit (specifically Melbourne, Phillip Island), in December 2000, was surprisingly difficult on so many levels. The car trip from Melbourne to Phillip Island for one, because I have never driven on the left side of the road in a car with with the steering wheel on the right side. The scenery however was something to behold specially along the stretch of mountain road lined on both sides with tall trees with skinny leaves that allowed rays of sunlight to play on black asphalt. Australians, I think are the friendliest people in the world, going out of their way to make our visit as pleasant and memorable as possible, which our trip was( savored some really fine Australian wine, played a round of golf, saw midget penguins parading then roosting on the sandy beach after a day of fishing). Two political events marred it though, i.e. the unresolved American presidential election, and the impeachment of the Philippine president in Manila.
A friend of mine said that you could not really consider yourself a seasoned "traveler" until you have visited Europe. Well we became one in 2002 when we embarked on a tri-city trip(London-Paris-Rome), via a guided tour over a period of 10 days. So it was hectic, but long enough for us to appreciate the British penchant for tradition; Parisian's love for themselves their art and their architecture; and the Italian's que sera sera attitude. I was not too surprised that Picaddilly Circus turned out to be no circus ; that the Eiffel Tower was not as jaw-dropping...... Mona Lisa was, ensconsed at the phatasmogorical Louvre; that the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel captured for all eternity the artistic intensity of Michaelangelo.
Our first ever cruise was on a splendid ship called Splendour of the Sea, which at that time (1997) was the biggest ship of the Royal Carribean Cruise Lines. It could hold 3,000 travelers and a full complement of some 2,000 cruise ship staff. The nightly show on a big enough showcase stage boasts entertainers from comedians to singers to dancers and magicians. One comedian doing his routine stated flatly that it was not the captain of the ship who was actually running the ship, but the darn "filipinos" in the engine room, in the dining room, in the cabin room, in the casino room and.... well almost everywhere else. A big HORAY for my fellow Pinoys.