Dear Kai,

Some weeks ago, you asked me about your Southeast Asian trip. Is a three-day trip too short for three countries: Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh) – Cambodia (Pomp Penh) – Thailand (Bangkok)?

I said that you’re such an addict—an expression I used when I did not know exactly what to say. I threw the question right back at you: isn’t three days too short for three countries?

But come to think of it, why not? T and I crossed three countries within 24 hours. T had to fly back to Germany from Bangkok while I had a flight to catch to Yangon. We were in Hoi An in central Vietnam. We had to travel from Hue, crossed the Nam Can-Phonsavan border to Laos, and crossed the Savannakhet-Mukdahan border and bused to Bangkok. Yes, within 24 hours. Was it preferable? No. I had a problem with my lower back; it would ache so badly if I sat for more than ten hours. For someone like us who live in an archipelago where ferrying to another island province like Iloilo takes at least twelve hours, it was nothing short of adventurous and amazing to cross three countries in twenty-four hours.

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Kai, what can you do in three days in three countries? You already have an idea, right? You are going to be in a rat race: tick off this, tick off that. Is that what you want? Yes? Then go. Forget the superficial battle between what makes a tourist and what makes a traveler. Your memories and experiences are yours. They are personal.

When did it become a crime to love, to pamper ourselves at the expense of our hard-earned money?

With my profession, I am rather lucky to have a month-long paid summer break; while you must only have two weeks off from work. And you would be lucky if you got paid for taking some days off. While I have the privilege to arrange my almost non-existent itinerary, there you are, trying to see everything before you go back to the daily grind.

My coffee is more expensive than my meal. Haha!

BANGKOK, THAILAND. My coffee is more expensive than my meal. Haha!

Learn to be guilt-free and unapologetic for the things you deserve. You work hard.

I just booked a two-night stay at Capitarase-Cebu for Php6820 inclusive of service fee. It is, no doubt, too much for me, but seeing the photos that exude of luxury and elegance, the price is pretty reasonable. Why did I book such? Not to deceive you, I would be reimbursed with my booking expenses. Do I deserve it? I would like to believe yes. I have not seen much of Lapu-lapu City, and saying yes to this deal would afford me to explore a friend’s cursed land anew. I’m going to bring Katorse the bike to pedal around Olango Island.

It is not about me getting a sponsored stay in a posh condotel. It is about us pampering ourselves.

Have you tried sunbathing on a beach and ordered food from the resorts’ restaurant and did not think about Africa’s malnourished kids? And the so-called travelers frowned at you for your indifference of the world’s issues?

SIQUIJOR, PHILIPPINES. Always date the self.

SIQUIJOR, PHILIPPINES. Always date the self.

I did, Kai. Because, darn, I work my ass off.

What I am saying is that why do we have to burden ourselves with the sufferings of the world when in fact we are taking a break from ours? Or can we not take a day off from being socially relevant and indulge in a capitalistic pleasure without feeling guilty? Capitalism would be here forever. Those so-called travelers, by the way, were willing to pay Php95 (normal price is Php55) for a SanMig Light beer in a so-called off-the-beaten beach.

Learn to be guilt-free and unapologetic for the things you deserve. You work hard.

True enough, I have stayed in a smelly dorm that cost me USD6 a night. I did not do it because I wanted to be profound and wise after my trip but because I was in a tight budget. If I had the finances, I would have chosen at least a single room that would cost me around USD25 for sure. No bed bugs. More comfort. I could parade naked inside the room while I had to be alert in a mixed dorm.

Cafe in Jalan Sabang, Jakarta

JAKARTA, INDONESIA. Splurging in a coffee in Jalan Sabang.

True enough, my boyfriend and I stayed in a USD35 room in South Kuta, Bali and a USD40 a night on our last day in Jakarta. It was somewhat more expensive than our usual accommodation budget (I insisted on putting a cap on it: $23/2), but we got the room anyway. We did not feel guilty or unapologetic for getting such a room. In the middle of our month-long trip, we needed a break from the busyness in moving out and moving in and tended to the most basic of things: like lazying around, spending hours doing nothing on the beach, and cooking for ourselves.

I do not really believe in that so-called dictum travel like a local. Maybe we can truly say that when we are traveling domestically. But abroad? Experiencing a two-day train from Point A to Point B will not give us the license to brag that we know the locals’ way of life inside out. Cultural assimilation takes years, not a train ride.

On my thirtieth birthday, Kai, I spent Php9000 (USD225) for a six-day trip encompassing Siquijor-Dipolog-Misamis Occidental-Moalboal. More expensive than my week-long trip to Malaysia! The younger Jona would have felt guilty. But not the thirty-year-old.

Why? You may ask, Kai. Because.

When did it become a crime to love, to pamper ourselves at the expense of our hard-earned money?

I can come up with a lot of reasons why I travel. One is to write. Another is to escape. And I know you too, Kai, have your reasons. As long as we do not become unethical with our ways, we should be fine.

So go ahead with that three-day three-country race. Whatever happens with your trip, it would be a story worth sharing.

Sincerely,

Jona

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