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My name is Isa, I’m  also from the Philippines.

I discovered your blog through your recent travel essay on leaving everything behind to travel the world. Consider me a new follower of your blog; while I envy that you have seen as much of the world as you possibly can (a goal that I’m setting for myself); I’m also thankful for the piece you wrote which echoes my own thoughts on the constant in-between-ness of indulging one’s wanderlust and the constraints that real life presents. I used to share the same mentality of filling one’s passport with adventure and what-not, and while there is nothing wrong with that, I’ve learned through my own travels that traveling and being able to leave everything behind is a privilege more than anything for those who can afford it and that there is nothing wrong with not traveling. I bookmarked your piece for future reading, for when I want to remind myself that seeing the world is not the end all-be all of a good life.

So thank you, thank you very much for your piece. I hope to see the world someday, but I hope my restlessness will not prevent me from thinking that I am somehow unfulfilled if I must leave much of the world to its mysteries.

I hope you are well.

Dear Isa,

I am here in one of my favorite cafes in the city, where I meet online content work deadlines. On Mondays and Thursdays, I meet a fifteen-year-old who sometimes sounds like a thirty-year-old. We talked a lot. Our conversation is like our minds: forking to different destinations:  HP Lovecraft and Neil Gaiman in one minute, then to #rpfanfiction. I am supposed to be his writing mentor, but dang, I see myself as his fellow learner on the craft of writing though I am paid to do this.

Is Traveling a Privilege?

I just attended a five-hour forum sponsored by Payoneer [affiliate program] on how to grow as a freelancer and run a business online. I am more interested in digital nomadism, knowing that by December, I’ll be a full-time digital nomad—a label that is contradicting in so many ways. Before the event, I met my father and older sister in the hospital: my father had a problem with his kidney or prostate gland. I left some money for his pills that he must take for two months straight. It is hard to say no to emergency expenses in the family, but that is one of the many things that make us Filipinos. Although we are not the best of friends, I hope his is nothing serious. I spent the morning polishing an essay on Misunderstood Mindanao, cooked brunch, drank coffee, and talked with my cats. A lot of burying-my-face-on-their-tummy moments.

My apology for the late reply. Do not mistake my silence for nonchalance though. Far from that, when I received your email, I was so happy. I read it aloud to T on Skype. A writer’s happiness springs from the readers. Thank you for finding inspiration from my work. But since I got back from our four-weeek Indonesia trip, my mind was so dangerously focused on how to make money to fund the one-year trip this coming December. I am a worry-wart, Isa, so I drew inspiration from your words:

I hope to see the world someday, but I hope my restlessness will not prevent me from thinking that I am somehow unfulfilled if I must leave much of the world to its mysteries.

You are right. Not traveling the world is not a failure on our end. Not at all. I do not have even the world in mind. My dream destinations come in pockets and parcels. Not the entire world. And our country is already very beautiful to begin with.

People travel for different reasons. And social media made it look that it is a life, lifestyle worth pursuing for. But I never see traveling as the ultimate goal; rather I see it as a link to that goal—whatever that is: the closest I could think of, is writing, and writing damn well.

I know, traveling is highly romanticized: very instagrammable, envy-inducing. But people like me travel because we are restless. And it is not a good thing, I tell you. It means there is something missing in our life that we cannot find by staying put in one place. When others said, traveling is for the brave and the bold, that is not really the whole truth, if you ask me. For me, it is harder to grow roots and stay in one place, doing so requires more courage, therefore, braver and bolder.

A classroom in a mountain barangay in Lake Sebu

A classroom in a mountain barangay in Lake Sebu

Traveling, Isa, is not instagrammable most of the time. That moment when we had to endure a fourteen-hour bus ride—not the Victory Liner or Ceres kind of bus ride. The cramped kind. Or that moment when I had a bad case of diarrhea and could not hold it in. Traveling sometimes entails shit. Literally. Or that moment when someone  stared at me like I am some kind of prostitute for being who I am: dark-skinned, long-haired (I am now bob-haired!) with the company of a foreign man. These truths that are rarely talked about because traveling is perceived as a synonym of glamor. I am not saying, there is something wrong with glamor travel; but my way of traveling is far from it, for two reasons: it is more human, humane to travel as close as possible to a local’s way; and I cannot afford a five-star hotel.

I know, there is a lot of pressure to travel nowadays. When I open my Facebook, there is always that post, mostly sponsored, telling you that there is a bucketlist to follow, that there are top five beaches you must see before you die. Do not buy that bullshit: it is business. It is consumerism. Traveling is the most profitable business nowadays: I should know, I am part of the industry. I am sorry, when BWAB sometimes makes room for listicles: it is my main travel fund source.

Isa, it is all right to not travel. But it is never all right to not live a life of passion. Traveling is not the only passion out there. There are many. As I a said, I have a friend who is crazy about snails and frogs. The fifteen-year-old I met on Mondays and Thursdays is crazy about different languages. I am very passionate about cats, books, and gardening.  My friends and I can talk about our favorite poets and poems until the wee hours in the morning. Writing is my ultimate insecurity and frustration.

Here is hoping that you have that one passion, one love to hang on to. Cling to it. Fight for it.

Thank you for inspiring me.

I hope you are doing what you love the most.

One restless soul,




Random talks on life, travel, dreams, getting lost, finding one’s ways, and errr, cats, on Facebook. Follow us.

Jona of Backpacking with a Book

Hi there, I’m Jona, originally from Cebu, Philippines, had live in Hanoi, Vietnam, and now currently based in Munich, Germany. This blog used to house thoughts on life and books, but eventually it morphed into a travel blog. For collaborations, projects, and other things, please email me at backpackingwithabook@gmail.com. For essays, creative nonfiction, and others, find me elsewhere.

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  1. Kikit says:

    Ma’am Jo! Nindot kaayo ni! Agree ko sa imong view except ani: It means there is something missing in our life that we cannot find by staying put in one place. I believe some people travel for the sheer joy of discovering places. Para nako, there’s a difference between “traveling from…” and “traveling to…” The former’s about escape, the latter’s about learning. Pero ako lang pod ni. 🙂

  2. Sanket D. says:

    Oh boy! I love this email exchange so much. I come from a similar background. Parents are great, but not the best of friends, and are far too different on a basic level to understand your choices. They are financially sound and independent, but family problems aren’t always about the money. It is so important to physically be there, for moral support, if for nothing else. Then there’s all sorts of other obligations to people in your extended social circles. All of those are things you can’t always avoid. For some people it is an easier choice – and I envy them sometimes; but I’ve also realized there’s nothing wrong in choosing otherwise from time to time. I receive emails and messages sometimes, from people I know, and sometimes people I don’t know telling me how they envy me and how they wish they could do this. I don’t tell all of them this, but with every trip I make, I realize more and more what a privilege it is to have the means to be able to do this – I guess this is just one of those things you can only learn for yourself, and not by someone telling you so.

  3. Jen Morrow says:

    Great perspectives. Everyone has a different reason and goal for travel. I know some people that obsess over getting more stamps in their passport, but have never explored anything in their hometown. It is ok not to travel, just keep learning and exploring!

  4. Awesome thoughts Jona, We travel because we love to explore new places and learn something new everytime. But yes it becomes difficult to explain people sometimes that its our passion and it is not something we think as money making tool. We travel with a kid and we have people who even raise questions at it. But at the end its what makes you happy you should do. Irrespective of others perspective. Thanks for sharing inspiration.

  5. Tina says:

    Lovely post to read. I noticed that a lot of girls look mode like during traveling and if I compare myself I am more the frizzy haired girl. Or if you look at Instagram everything looks perfect but it isn’t. F.e. My work and holiday visa in Australia? I ended up at a farm with a creepy farmer and hat to literally escape out of there! Travel can be very uncomfortable and hard but definitely worth it. Thanks for your post.

  6. Liana says:

    “It is all right to not travel. But it is never all right to not live a life of passion.” I had to quote you, because literally it’s what I think of me travelling. I found myself into your words, and I loved reading you. Damn, it’ s true. Everything looks perfect on Instagram, but sometimes it’s not and surely you’re not gramming it, you want to only post about glamour. That’s alright, and that’s also damn good to share the bad things. Social media had just made us competing for the best pic. I get it. I’m part of the whole system.
    Moreover, you’re right when you say it might be a curse to be restlessness – I do feel the same. I don’t feel like for now, I would want to settle, but more of seeing first a huge part of the world. And I guess that’s why I always seeking for good adviser. I did find one into you!


  7. Tamshuk says:

    Such a meaningful and honest reply to Isa.
    People travel for different reasons and most importantly it is our own personal choice.
    The point is not to travel, but to do something that makes us happy. For people like us it is traveling that makes us happy but it does not have to be the same for others. Well written email 🙂 🙂

  8. I completely agree with most of this! Of course it’s all right not to travel! It’s all right to live your life in all kinds of ways. It’s possible that I am escaping from something when I travel, but if it is, I am not sure what. I just know that I want to live a life of adventure. But that life isn’t for everyone, or even most people I think.

  9. Bernard Tan says:

    This is an awesome post! many bloggers have talked about the need to travel the world and to expand your horizon, but sometimes in life it’s all about living a life of passion. I have known people that totally hate travelling, but they also lead a meaningful life.

  10. Isabel says:

    I loved your post! Indeed, I agree with you nowadays it is all about seeing that monument or that other place, taking a picture in front of the Eiffel tower, you leave and that’s it. The more places the better, the more you consume also and then you show all of it to your friends in the social media. When actually it is more about making that trip matter I believe, and living that life of passion you talk about. Best regards from Luxembourg.

  11. Joann says:

    I’ve always been a fan of your blog especially with your post about being okay in not traveling the world. I’m a huge fan of travel but the past year, been hit really hard for what probably could be travel fatigue..or I don’t know. Admitting to myself that I’ve grown passion to something else (cooking and entrepreneurship) is one of the toughest yet liberating things I did. I still travel though not as often as I used to..probably because I found what I’ve actually been looking for? I can’t tell. But I agree that it’s not okay to live a life without passion.

    Continue blogging, love your work! 🙂

  12. Heidi says:

    Hi Jona! Remember me? Your Subic roomie.
    I just had to post something in this thread because of your quotable quote: ” It is all right to not travel; but it is never all right to not live a life of passion.” Finally, someone as well-traveled like you understands why people like me prefer to spend weekends and vacations at home. My parents, my husband, and now even my children have often been chided for not going out to see more of the world. They don’t realize that in those rare times when we CHOOSE to travel, the moments and memories become more precious.
    Speaking of rare travels…thanks for the Taboan bonding.
    🙂 heidi

  13. […] that started two months ago. So far there are four episodes in this series. The first went viral: Dear Isa, It Is All Right Not to Travel. It was a sincere and truthful retelling of “What’s Wrong with Leave Everything Behind and […]

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