Hazel’s enthusiasm towards life and travel is definitely felt as you read through her answers. She climbs mountains, a real adventure go-getter and an optimistic woman. She was forced to feed a dove in Thailand, cried while sailing the Philippine Sea on her way to Calaguas and once married to a PMA cadet (well, that’s the story she made up to get away from the flirty cab driver in Baguio).
Her lost love has lead her to falling in love with backpacking. She started her story in Bangkok, where she traveled solo. Get to know her more. Here’s Gail’s interview with Hazel:
How did you discover your passion for backpacking?
When an 8 year relationship ended abruptly and plans of getting married never happened as planned, my universe crashed. I felt I was lost, angry and betrayed. That time I felt like I had lost the other part of me. Then I thought of something crazy. Well, it was really not a novel idea but hey, I was desperate to be happy again. So I made my own bucket list, only my version is called “The To Do List in my Lifetime”. Top of my list was – To travel solo in a foreign country! That was when my love affair with backpacking started. It was through that 5 day stay in Thailand alone that I started to fall in love to the very important person in my life again – ME!
Have you been to horrible experiences on the road? How?
If you go backpacking, chances are, you are more open to threats & danger especially if you have not researched about the place and there are no tour guides telling you what to do & reciting a boring monologue about facts & figures. And there are a lot of surprises along the way even if your itinerary is perfectly made that it will blindside you along muddy trails, open roads & dangerous seas.
It happened outside Bangkok’s Grand Palace when a big, scary looking lady grab me by the arm & forced me to feed the doves & extorted 200Bhat from me. I was alone & she was bigger so I gave in. The next day, I had a bruise on my arm. Another one was when I joined “Climb Against Cancer” in Mt. Daguldol. The soles of my sneakers gave up before the start of the climb so I had to trek barefoot. It was sheer torture! The recent one was crossing the “Basagan Waves” going to Calaguas Island. We had no lifevest and the waves were almost as big as a house that I cried the whole time. I thought our boat was to capsize & our poor bodies will be feasted by hungry sharks!
That is the best part really of backpacking, it will punish you first then it will reward you with someting wonderful… experience
Share the best travel experience that you’ve ever had?
When I was alone in Thailand – not because of the sights I had seen like giant Buddas & massive temples or the orange laden monks, or riding their tuktuks, not even tasting the best Pad Thai I ever had and flirting with a cute Norwegian guy does not even count. No, it is not about looking at sights but because of what I had learned and felt from that experience of being alone on the road. The sojourn made me appreciate myself, got to know more about myself & regained myself from what I have lost. I received kindness from strangers to whom we don’t share a common language. Speaking English became muted, irrelevant. And having survived that made me realize that I can cope on my own and be truly happy within.
The sojourn I had in Thailand is the best for me because it is something that I can call “my own”, an “I did it!” moment. And I can have that overwhelming feeling anytime of the day, that can spark a lifetime of inspiration & happiness to me.
What life lessons have you learned from backpacking?
I have learned to appreciate the simple joys & essential things in life. When you are on the road or conquering a summit with a heavy load on your back, you would only want to carry the bare necessities like enough clothes, enough food, enough water & enough money. The keyword is “enough” and not “more”. Backpacking taught me to have enough shoes, enough clothes, enough bags, 1 cellphone, that laptop or an iPad is not a need but a want
That life is too short and the world is too wide to stay in one place. To seize the day! When I was bitten by the backpacking bug,I feel like I always have that itch to move, to experience something different and to see something interesting. I always say to myself, “If I will not do this now, then when? Who knows, I might be married next year that priorities change or worst, I might be dead!”
Backpacking also taught me something important about accepting change. I sobered myself to complaining too much whenever something happened that was never planned. To always try to be patient to all the negatives around you. Like for example,you are having a heavy downpour even if PAg-asa predicted that it will be some sunny skies. So you don’t have a choice really but just to enjoy the rain, the fog and the booze that keeps you warm.
I also learned that to truly understand one self, one must be alone to hear everything what your heart is telling you. I am so thankful that I did that sojourn, because of that, I am able to give the right love to the person who also shares my passion.
I think that backpacking changed me gradually and quietly everyday. It made me see a painting about life and the world. I feel like despite the distorted image in the painting, I can see a different light to it — a beautiful one.
If I have the skills to teleport and bring you with me, where would you want to go?
This is proly the most difficult question of all. Hmmm, I’m torn between going to anywhere where I can witness the grand dance of the Northern Australis in Nort Pole or Sourthern Australis in South pole or experience the enigmatic Bhuttan where the people who live there believe that their Gross National Happiness is more important than their Gross National Product. Artist, philosophers, sages & monks do their pilgrimage to that place to seek & understand whatever they are searching for.
So if you can be so kind enough, can you be my genie instead so I can wish for 1 more place…Skinny dipping in Maldives would be great! hahaha Just kidding!
Among the places that you’ve been to, which one fascinated you the most?
I have not been to a lot of places unlike globe trekkers who have seen the world & I am just an infant when it comes to conquering summits so I do not have a lot of places to choose from. I am just someone who is easily captivated by nature. I was awestruck by the mystic beauty of Tinago Falls in Iligan City. The place is like a scene where fairies & pixies spend their day just lazing & playing around the azure waters and where magical creatures like white unicorns & happy, cutie dwarfs guard the place against the evil of the uplanders. The sound & the feel of the place is like from a fairytale book where the prince & the princess live happily ever after behind its cascading waterfalls. Tinago falls was worth the butt cracking 2.5 hour ride!
What’s a typical day for you?
Work- Eat – Facebook/read a book/research about places to discover – Sleep – Wake up – Listen to music ( Between those intervals, I also daydream & try to be a grown up )
I know that when you travel, your house is inside your backpack. What are the top 5 things you never missed to put in your daily bag?
3. Enough Clothes
5. Notebook&pen (this is cheating but 1 can’t live without the other right? They are like bread & butter hahaha )
What’s the silliest thing you’ve ever done while travelling?
I am so embarrassed to have shared this. It dawned on me 3 days later that we are an hour ahead from Bangkok. So that was why I felt like the sun rises late & sets late in Thailand!
I traveled alone in Baguio once, around 4 years ago. It was my first time to be alone so I was most of the time scared to speak with strangers. There was this taxi driver who nudged me a lot of personal questions while driving to Lourdes Grotto. I do not want to disclose too much information about myself so I had to lie about my civil status & my age and I also told him I was visiting my husband who is training as a cadet at PMA. So that hushed him & gave me finally my moment of peace & quiet.
What tips can you give to backpackers?
Pack light & return heavy with memories
Embrace surprises along the way
Keep an open mind
Take photos but sometimes, it is better to just put the camera aside for awhile & soak up in the moment.
What’s your favorite travel quote?
Mark Twain said, “ Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones that you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”