I was recently asked the question: “how has traveling changed you?” A tough question. It’s often hard to see changes in yourself.
I believe this is because changes take place gradually and since you experience yourself continuously you don’t always notice the change. It sometimes takes a good friend or family member who hasn’t seen you for a while to spot the differences.
However, there is one change within myself that I am very aware of because I can pinpoint it to one particular travel experience.
-Moalboal, Cebu, The Philippines, December 2008
I was the only guest in a small resort. Every morning, a lone tri-cycle driver waited for me outside the resort. I called him “Manong”, the Cebuano word that is used to refer to older males.
He took me to a number of different highlights in the area. Since I was by myself, I asked him to join me on my activities as opposed to waiting for me. I ended up hanging out with him for several days and I became friends with him.
One day he invited me to his house. I was a little shocked to see the circumstances in which he lived. Manong had 10 children and lived in a small, self-constructed house on the beach. With only two rooms, six members of the family shared a room, sleeping on thin, old matrasses on the floor.
Manong insisted I would stay for dinner. He bought some rice and vegetables from a local market while I went fishing with two of his oldest children, using small spears. After an hour or so, we had caught a fair amount of small fish which we then grilled on an improvised BBQ.
It became very clear to me that it wasn’t easy for Manong to support his family. What really struck me though, was the fact that during all the time we hung out, he didn’t complain a single time. He was simply trying to make the best of his situation, always maintaining a positive attitude.
I thought about the silly things we tend to complain about in the western world. A stain on our favorite shirt, the weather or our favorite sports team lose a match.
I asked myself: would I ever complain about these things in front of Manong? No way. I’d feel to embarrassed.
This realization made me promise something to myself. From that day on, I don’t let minor things affect my mood in a negative way. Whenever I feel like complaining, I imagine Manong watching me. This has helped me keep a positive attitude in most occasions.
I even stayed relatively calm when I lost all my belongings in a taxi in Shanghai. To this day, I’m thinking about returning to Moalboal. I’m pretty sure Manong would be very surprised to learn what an impact he has made on me.
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