My trip to Manila was a last minute decision — I bought the tickets less than 48 hours before leaving after being approached by two friends in the need of a third travel buddy due to last minute changes. I was accustomed to doing extensive research on destinations and planning trips myself, so it was nice to just leave for the airport after class on Thursday and be open to whatever happens. I must say I did not know what to expect from Manila — I knew the Philippines was a large country and that other destinations like Boracay or Cebu were the more touristy, beachy options, but for me, Manila remained enigmatic, a name I grew up hearing but a city I knew nothing about.
I was able to spend 8 days in Bali over our midterm break, and one thing that loomed over my trip–literally–was Indonesia’s volcanoes. Climbing a volcano was one of the top items on my Southeast Asia bucket list. I grew up devouring mountaineering books and documentaries, and although I do not know if I can ever see myself ice climbing, I still consider myself a mountaineering enthusiast. I’ve done 7-8 hour hikes partially up mountains in various national parks, but before my trip to Bali I had never done a real “summit hike.”
Even before I left for Singapore, when I told people where I was studying abroad, one of the first things they mentioned was that I would not have too hard of a time adjusting to my new life because Singapore is so “Westernized.” Maybe I was subjected to this comment more than others would have been because most of my travels outside the US before this semester were in India. That is, my family, friends, and colleagues all recognized that compared to India, Singapore was going to be a vast change in scenery and lifestyle.
As I prepare myself to leave for Singapore, I have spent time reflecting on my past trips abroad and why they hold such weight in my memory, why they constitute so much in the construction of my own identity. Beyond seeing new places, being exposed to new cultures and ideas, or learning a new language, traveling for me has always resulted in one essential outcome: a deeper understanding of what it means to be human and how important our connection to others is.