Getting lost in a foreign place can be a terrifying experience. Unfamiliar characters etched on street signs and looks of confusion on locals’ faces as we ask them for directions can leave us feeling disoriented and vulnerable. It’s easy to turn the wrong street and find ourselves somewhere we didn’t intend to go. But when this happens, should we treat it as a setback, or should we embrace the feeling of being thrown into the unknown?
Whenever I travel, I have the tendency to compulsively plan everything in the form of detailed itineraries. I’ll plot out places to visit including routes to take, accompanied with a schedule listed down to the specific hour. When we’re traveling to new places, we’d like to see and experience as much as we can with the limited time we have. But in reality, the itineraries we prepare aren’t always going to hold up. There will be hiccups and detours along the road that throw us off our initial plan.
A few months ago, a friend from Manila had visited me in Cebu. Wanting to show her the best my home province had to offer, I prepared a list of places to take her – the typical must-see spots in Cebu. I had it all plotted out. First, we were going to spend the day out in the ocean. Afterwards, we’d visit Badian which was home to the picturesque Kawasan Falls. We’d cap off the day by Panagsama beach in Moalboal, known for its gorgeous sunset view. Since neither my friend or I knew how to drive, I planned the itinerary with buses being our main mode of transportation. But when it came to the actual day, it proved harder to get around since most of the buses we encountered didn’t pass Badian, a town on the other side of the island. Noticing our frustration, a habal-habal driver approached us and told us he could take us there with his motorbike, albeit on a different, much longer route. I was hesitant at first. Aside from safety concerns, I was also worried about the time it would take us to get there since I wanted to make it to Moalboal before sundown, as planned. But my friend was able to convince me to let go of the initial plan, and we ended up taking the driver on his offer.
Now, I’ve been to the South of Cebu a couple of times, but I’ve never seen it from the back of a motorbike. Traversing through the coastal roads and rugged mountain ranges, I felt like I was seeing the place I grew up in from a whole different light. Along the way, we made a few (unplanned) pit stops as well, from the cascading waterfalls of Tumalog to the jagged cliffs of Osmena peak. We stumbled upon places we probably would have missed had we taken the bus. By the time we got to Moalboal, it was well past sunset, but surprisingly, I didn’t really mind because what we saw and experienced was so much more than I planned for.
When we allow ourselves to veer off-track and make a few mistakes, it can lead us to make unexpected and worthwhile discoveries. After all, the best food kiosks, dive bars, and scenic views can’t always be found with a quick search or flick through the guidebook. Sometimes, they can only be found when we allow ourselves to take the roads less travelled.
This is something I’ve learned over the past year. I began 2018 having just left a long term relationship. To add to that, I’d just shifted out from a degree I’d been trudging along in for the last two years. I was distraught. It felt as if a a roadblock had been laid on my path and I was forced to redirect my route and start all over again. But on the other hand, I remember how liberating it felt – knowing that I was no longer tied down to a relationship or a course I’d slowly been losing interest in. I felt comfort knowing that I could start anew, and that my life could take a turn at any moment.
So for the next few months, I latched onto that freedom and opened myself up to life. I began forcing myself to do things previously unexpected of me. I started saying yes to invitations I would usually turn down. I went on my first solo trip outside of the country. I applied to my first internship and got accepted. I did things I always wanted to do but never got around to doing. My detour became an opportunity for growth and exploration, and boy did it take me to the most unexpected places.
Being thrown into a different direction gave me the clarity I needed to re-evaluate my original path. For so long, I’d been mindlessly pushing myself to continue down a road I didn’t see a future in. Still, I carried on because of this personal life itinerary I laid out obsessively in my head. The roadblock I faced in the start of the year made me slow down and reflect on where I’d gone wrong. Instead of feeling stuck, I forged ahead and stayed open to the mishaps and chance encounters – the detours along the way. And in the end, it made for a more fulfilling year.
So the next time you make a wrong turn, allow yourselves to let go and enjoy the moment. It might feel uncomfortable at first, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last year, it’s that taking detours can be better than finding your way on the first try. And besides, who ever came out of a smooth trip with any interesting stories anyways?