2 | Mt. Mapalad: On Traveling to Escape

Disclaimer: This is not a travel blog.

On my previous post, I talked about how in order to conquer my mother mountain, I had to conquer my fear of trying something new, of being with other people, and of facing the truth. In my second attempt to reach another summit, I had a new goal.

A week after climbing Mt. Maculot, I was back at the mountains with a burning desire to embrace nature. Only this time, I was not a solo joiner. After I told her about my hiking shenanigans, my sister, Jenniza, who was also still mourning our grandmother’s death, expressed her longing to get away from the city.

So it was settled. Jenniza would join me. Her boyfriend, Jann Anthony, and my brother’s girlfriend, Lhean, would join us.

Ascent: Crossing one of the rivers
From L to R: Lhean, Airen, Jenniza, Jann Anthony

I.

Life sucks.

It sucks and you know it.

Being an adult sucks. Living in the Philippines sucks. Losing a loved one sucks. Suffering from any form of mental illness sucks.

But I believe there’s a silver lining in everything. In this case, I find comfort in knowing that it’s normal to love and hate the same thing at the same time.

“Holding two incompatible ideas in your head at the same time and accepting both of them–that’s the best of being human. Yes, no, good, bad, life, death.”

– Ruth from Russian Doll

The thing about my life is that although it sucks, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’d rather suffer than be gone anytime soon. Thus, the only option I have left is to keep going.

“As much as life can suck, it always beats the alternative.”

– John Green, Paper Towns

My best friend and I live by this quote. I’d actually have it tattooed on my body if I were a fan of getting inked.

II.

I traveled to escape the pain.

In order to keep going, I had to find an outlet for my bottled emotions. When my grandmother died, I had no time to grieve. I became too caught up with the funeral rights and all, acting as the head of the family, organizing everything from the moment she was hospitalized until we reunited for her first death anniversary.

I climbed my mother mountain almost two months after her death. Looking back, I am certain I was not instantly healed the moment I reached the summit. I was distracted, sure. But not healed.

Discovering new places, meeting new faces, and even uploading photos on social media distracted me, giving me ample time to recover from that unforeseen event. It also allowed me to gather the strength and courage to slowly–but surely–accept the truth: she’s gone forever and never coming back.

To be honest, I don’t think I’ll ever move on from the pain. The one thing I’m certain, though, is that 20 summits later, I found myself in a better place.

III.

I traveled to escape myself.

As of writing, I have already climbed 20 mountains. This means I’ve met thousands of people on the trail. Although we have unique stories to tell and reasons for hiking up the mountains, I bet most of us would agree that we travel to escape the mundane things.

Because many hikers are from the city, you can tell, even without them saying it out loud–and many hikers whom I’ve been with did say it aloud–that they travel to get away from the usual: the office work, the pollution, the noise, the toxicity of it all.

I mean.

When I’m up at the mountains, I am a different person.

Down here, I am not an active person. I slouch on my office chair at home all day, typing on my keyboard and only taking breaks when I need to pee, eat, bathe, or sleep. I don’t have any sports. Although I tried yoga to prepare for my Makiling hike, I can swear I am not meant for those kinds of activities. I guess I’m fine with sweating it all out when I’m out there reaching new heights.

Back here, I have poor social skills. I am an introvert. When I’m at the mountains, it’s a different story. Although socializing was a struggle for me during my first few hikes, I slowly softened and became comfortable with being with other people. And I like it.

In reality, I am opinionated. When I’m up there with the guides, organizers, and fellow hikers, I shut my mouth. I don’t stress about the trivial things, even though there are loud people on the trail who like to express their political views while trekking the mountain, sexist, misogynist losers who can’t keep their mouths shut and will take every opportunity to throw lewd comments especially against women, and people who are unpleasant to be with in general.

Escaping myself means I get to be carefree. I get to let go of any thoughts, any problems, any anxieties that weigh me down and keep me awake at night.

Escaping myself means I get to be truly happy, even for a day.

Descent: All smiles on the way to the jump-off

This is what traveling does to me. While life sucks on most days, traveling gives me hope that there will be better days.

And sure enough, there are better days.

Traveling allowed me to discover my life’s silver lining and for that, I am grateful.

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