Last month’s backpacker was a sure hit! Now let’s hear from another lady backpacker: Gael Hilotin. Go Girl Power!
Name: GAEL HILOTIN aka “thepinaysolobackpacker”
Country of Origin: Philippines
Describe backpacking in three words: [A] Post-Modern Culture
Years of experience into backpacking? 2 yrs+ and counting
How did you start traveling/backpacking? It’s a sad story. 5 yrs after my friend passed away, I visited her and her family. Her tomb lies beside their house in Benguet. She was hit by a drunk student driving a BMW in our dorm in UP Diliman while she’s manning a ticket booth for a rock show. She was on comma for a couple of days; it was hard to see her name all over the newspaper and TV yet I can’t even see her because I was staying in a secluded island for our anthropology and archeology fieldwork. I couldn’t leave because I was graduating then. So after graduation, I used up the grad gifts (money) to visit her family. I stayed there for a week. It was hard to see her family in pain, I promised her I will go back after 5 years, when we’ve all moved on. And I did, last 2008, but nothing happened to her case. Without money, there is no justice. Anyway, since then, I kept coming back to the magnetic North and most of my trips in 2008 is around the Cordilleras.
Best experience ever while on the trip? I treasure all of my trips but I guess my road trip to El Nido. It was unplanned, I was alone and heartbroken and I had no idea where to go, what to expect, or if there’s a cheap accommodation there since at that time, I couldn’t find any posts by Pinoy travel bloggers about dirt cheap El Nido all I know is the high-end resort of Miniloc which I can’t afford. I boarded a non-air-conditioned bus in Puerto Princesa with the locals to El Nido. And at the end of the day I got a really cheap room named “FAITH” in a Bohemian inspired vegetarian resto and inn at the beachfront. It’s one of my most memorable trip.
Worst? As much as I try to see the beauty in the imperfect in my journey sometimes unfortunate events can be really disappointing. I have countless bloopers, like I got left by the plane in BKK (Bangkok). I have no credit card, not enough cash to buy another return ticket (in short I’m broke!), and my cellphone is useless (no roaming!). I fell off my bike and almost got hit by a car in Cambodia, also when I was off to Caramoan supposedly, I learned that my aunt died, so I decided to take a cutting trip from Naga to Sorsogon, I had no idea that one of the strongest storm is due to arrive that time so I was rain-soaked, I’ve got no food nor water, my 12 hour cutting trip turned into 22 hours, and when I finally got into our hometown, no trike driver would dare to drive me home because it’s flooded and the wind is too strong. They are scared of live wires in the water and falling branches of trees. But I was really starving so I started to walk alone in the flood so I can go home and eat, finally, one trike driver took pity on me and agreed to drive me home. That’s the beauty in every mishaps, we learn and we become better and sometimes we meet strangers who helps us without asking for anything in return.
Fave travel quote(s)?
“I wanna quit my job, buy a ticket, get a tan, fall in love and never return.”
Share your longest backpacking trip? I ain’t a hardcore backpacker yet, but I am saving up to embark on a long term backpacking. My longest was last summer, Cambodia, Thailand and my dear Philippines. I really try to immerse in the culture of my destination. I have a background in anthropology (and amateur archeology) so more than the stunning landscape, I am interested in cultures and human diversity, the major drawback though is limited time, that’s why I wanna do the long term backpacking by next year, hopefully.
Any realization/reflection while on the road? I was biking hurriedly to catch the sunset in Siem Reap and chanced upon 2 poor kids on the woods eating a from the garbage while waiting for their father. I stopped and talked to them and completely forgot that I’m chasing the sunset.They look so naive and didn’t ask for anything from me unlike the rest of the vendor kids you meet in every temple. It breaks my heart because I feel so helpless. If I give them money, I’ll teach them to beg. I gave them 2 of the 4 toy birds that I bought from the kids in the temples. I tied the other 2 on my backpack, it’s with me every time I travel, a simple reminder of my dream and hopes of poor children. Whenever I see poverty, famine, sufferings, wars and struggles on my travels, I weep because I feel so blessed for my freedom but I also weep because I feel so helpless. I dream that one day I can help not just 1 but countless souls.
But at the same time, I feel guilty because I am never satisfied. Whenever I see how the locals appreciate even the “simple and little” things they have in life, things that I disregard and take for granted everyday, I am reminded to count my blessings.
Share 3-5 important things that should be on your backpack?
My camera, My tripod, ATM or cash, Photocopy of my Passport.
3 Backpacking Tips?
- Keep an open mind and respect differences. stop the “backpacker vs. tourist argument” and “backpacker hierarchy” which is common in most backpackers.
- Don’t be in a hurry in one place, slow down and suck in the whole experience.
- Lonely Planet guidebooks and the likes is not a bible. Discover new places, consult the locals instead of being too tied up with fellow backpackers.
Best place you’ve been to in the Philipines? in other countries?
Though I feel so blessed to have been born and raised in our beautiful country, still it’s hard to name the best place I’ve been to. Every destination and every country fascinates me, there’s something unique and interesting about each of them that I’ve discovered. I have never been into a place or destination that I didn’t like. I guess it all boils down to our approach and our attitude towards that place.
Picture this situation: A student/8am-5pm employee asks you, “How do i start my backpacking trip?”
Answer: Although I’m a freak of unplanned trips, it wouldn’t hurt to do a bit of research before backpacking. It’ll save you the time, the money and the hassle ( I should remind myself about this!:D) And as humanly as possible, avoid tour packages, doing it on your own is an enhancing experience. But even if you’ve researched about the destination, still consult the locals and discover new places, like I said, travel guidebooks aren’t bibles. Keep an open mind, and suck in the whole experience. Mishaps happen, but trust me, they are blessings in disguise.
—–There it is. I learned a lot and I’m sure you as well. We will wait for your long term backpacking next year Pinay Solo Backpacker. You can read more of Gael’s adventure at http://thepinaysolobackpacker.com/ Thanks again Gael for your valuable contribution to the blog.
Every last Saturday of the month we feature a Filipino/Filipina backpacker so that we can also learn form their tips and adventures. If you know a Filipino backpacker who has done amazing feats let me know. Thanks!