#TTTeen

The Transcendental Tourist

The Transcendental Tourist Turns Teen

May 12, 2022

Shudder at the thought. TTT has finally outgrown the age of innocence and now begins his angsty teen years. Even time paused to mark this transition with a lockdown, at first imposed then voluntary, that stretched to two years and forever. The tourist hung up his passport and retreated to the safe cocoon of his home until the impending emergence. In the intervening years, he accrued enough emotional baggage to unpack piecemeal in this now 13-year-old blog.

TTT (The Transcendental Tourist)

But I’m getting ahead of my teen alter ego. Before we forge ahead, let’s look back at TTT’s peregrinations and ruminations the past 12 years. This nostalgic throwback focuses on the countries that TTT was blessed to have visited even with the barest of budgets. Of course, the home court – the Philippines with a grand total of 116 posts – is exempted from this listicle. But special shoutout to Light Up La Union for consistently topping the stats for seven years and counting, thanks to a senior high school module that lists it as a reading sample.

TTT @ La Union, Philippines (2015)

Of the 20 countries represented in this blog, here are the top 13 in terms of number of posts:

Japan (28 posts)

TTT has twice visited Japan, which leads the listicle. The first visit (2009) was upon the invitation of my former boss in an online language school. I stayed at her house in Shiga Prefecture, practically in the middle of nowhere. I recounted my mundane experiences in Middle Japan, a nod to the term Middle America because of their suburban similarities.

It took eight long years for TTT’s next visit (2017). This time I was invited by my Japanese students from DLSU’s English language center. I immersed in cultural experiences, seeing my students in their natural habitat (My Japan Home) and au naturel in an onsen (Bare Back, Full Frontal, Inside Out). But the highlight was seeing my first snow and slipping several times from my first ski (My Snow Angels).

TTT @ Himeji, Japan (2009)
TTT @ Yamanashi, Japan (2017)

China (23 posts)

TTT was born in 2009, but the sperm of his idea was already swimming in my head in 2001 when I lived and worked in Shanghai. Primordial forms of TTT were published as email to my mother and friends. No wonder I returned as my alter ego four times, the most for one country.

My first visit (2012) was a trip down memory lane with friends I worked with a decade before (Tomorrow’s Sky). In a less nostalgic turn, we also visited a new place, which yielded Hanging On to Heaven inspired by Chinese poetry and China’s famous lake.

The following year (2013), I came back on a sponsored trip, my first and only one so far (as they say, beke nemen). To drum up interest for their Shanghai-Manila maiden flight, China Eastern Airlines got TTT as a media delegate to a familiarization tour with travel agency heads (Eastern Charm). TTT leveled up for a moment there. The trip gave me a chance to reconnect with my Chinese best friend (A Little Bromance).

TTT @ Hangzhou, China (2012)
TTT @ Shanghai, China (2013)

The third time (2017) was a grief trip. Guilin was one of my mother’s dream destinations. She checked it off her bucket list in 2002 when she visited me in Shanghai, but I couldn’t join her and my sister due to time and budget constraints. I regretted it after she passed away. With my Chinese student as guide (Mr. Total Package Tour), I embarked on a personal pilgrimage to Guilin (A Trip Down Mommy Memory Lane).

My most recent China trip (2018) was with Ki. It was a milestone for being our first trip abroad together. As a master of predictably unpredictable travel, Ki got me to see Hong Kong and Macau in a different light. We went island hiking (Hiking in Hong Kong) and colonial trekking (Memories of Macau).

TTT @ Guilin, China (2017)
TTT @ Hong Kong, China (2018)

Morocco (14 posts)

I decided on the country just a month or so before my visit (2019). I was embarking on an epic European trip for my 50th birthday (Fifty Be Like). Since studying Spanish at Instituto Cervantes in the late 1990s, I’ve always wanted to see Spain. Sadly, Ki was denied a Schengen visa and he convinced me to drop Spain off my itinerary. My sister drew up a new one in a jiffy. But where would I take Ki? I researched the nearest visa-free (for Pinoys) country from Europe. It turned out to be Morocco, just across the narrow Strait of Gibraltar. And that last-minute choice turned out to be gold.

I find it easy to write about this wonderful country because of many memorable experiences: From sleeping off heat exhaustion in the middle of the street (The Sweltering Sky) to getting called Chino by young people swarming me for photos (A Camel Tow and the Beach Boys of Tangier). From stumbling onto ancient graves (Avec le Temps) to dodging a persistent Clooney-like tout on a train (Tales from the Train).

TTT @ Casablanca, Morocco (2019)

France (13 posts)

In place of Spain, France stepped up as more than a worthy substitute. My travel experiences range from terrible (Forget Paris) to terrific (Ladies of the Louvre) – and that’s all in one day. But what takes the cake – Marie Antoinette really served it – is the South of France leg. I learned history (Aere Perennius), appreciated art (Go the Way of Van Gogh), and did the Poliquiting with my sibs (Sur le Pont d’Avignon). The warm, sunny, colorful region makes up my retirement goals now.

TTT @ Paris, France (2019)

Nepal and Taiwan (12 posts each)

I suggested a trip to Nepal (2013) on a whim. It happened one night while I was chatting with my travel buddies. Within a few months, we were gazing at the Himalayas, the abode of the gods (Top of the World!), and at the Kumari, the girl goddess (Touched by a Goddess). We paid respects to the dead (Life and Death and Everything in Between) and paid attention to live animals around us (Lord of the Animal Kingdom). Nepal awakens both the senses and the spirit like no other country I have visited.

I visited Taiwan twice. The first time (2018) was also a whim with another squad of girls. We haven’t met in 18 years and were reconnected only through soc med. Where should we hold our reunion? I chose a country we all hadn’t been to; the next thing we knew, we were at the airport (The Taipei Trio). The other time (2019) was Ki’s 50th birthday trip. The grueling long haul flights to and from Morocco a few months before made us decide on a nearer country to celebrate Christmas (Home for Christmas @ Kaohsiung), his birthday (Raining with Happiness), and the New Year (My CNN New Year). I feel we will be visiting the island country many times more. It’s so near (geographically) yet so far (culturally).

TTT @ Kathmandu, Nepal (2013)
TTT @ Taipei, Taiwan (2018)
TTT @ Taipei, Taiwan (2019)

Myanmar and Israel (10 posts each)

These two countries could not be more different than they are, yet they share a certain mysticism. I planned a visit to Myanmar (2018) with a friend who passed away before the trip. I dedicated this post to her: Close Encounters @ Mount Popa. Myanmar is one country that surpassed my expectation vs. reality. From its ancient sites (Bagan Temple Run) to its urban centers (In Ya Face), the country delivered and more.

The next year (2019), I went on a Holy Land tour to walk where Jesus walked all The Way of the Cross. Experiencing the environment of where Jesus’ earthly life and ministry started (O Come Ye to Bethlehem) and ended (Garden of the Agony), even two millennia later, gave clearer context to and deeper understanding of biblical accounts, thus strengthening my faith. “Holy Spirit activate” indeed!

TTT @ Mandalay, Myanmar (2018)
TTT @ Jerusalem, Israel (2019)

South Korea (9 posts)

TTT’s cross-country trip (2014) traversed half of the Korean Peninsula from the south (Defying Murphy’s Law) to the north (Chomping and Stomping Grounds @ Chuncheon), from the east (Seorak So Rocks) to the west (The Real Jurassic Park). My most memorable takeaways are the glory of autumn (Kimchi-Colored Fall) and the kindness of Koreans (Soul, Korea).

TTT @ Nami Island, South Korea (2014)

Netherlands (8 posts)

I never foresaw that my first touchdown to Europe (2019) would be in the Netherlands, but there are certainly no regrets. I fell in love with this quaint country. It seriously looks like a living museum all over, including the countryside. Three of my favorite cities in the world are Dutch: Leiden (Leiden Unlocked), Delft (Protestant Gothic), and Den Haag (A Long Way on a Long Day). I would be happy and honored to call any of those cities home.

TTT @ Delft, Netherlands (2019)

Cambodia, Indonesia, Singapore (7 posts each)

TTT began his journeys through Southeast Asia, his home region. His first trip (2008) as TTT was through Indochina with the main stop at Cambodia (I Got Myself a Universe in Angkor Wat). By 2010, I planned a trip to Indonesia with the same squad in 2008. We were stood up by one, which almost ended up in unfriending. Perhaps Borobudur calmed my triggered self (Prayer Pyramid). After Dad passed away the following year (2011), my sister and I took Mom to Singapore (A Bird’s Eye View of Singapore) for a little change of environment. It would also be our final overseas trip together before she followed Dad in 2015.

TTT @ Angkor Wat, Cambodia (2008)
TTT @ Borobudur, Indonesia (2010)
TTT and Mom @ Singapore (2011)

TTT hopes that the pandemic completely blows over. He has started to feel, though belatedly, cabin fever. With the changing political climate in the Philippines, it might be wise to start packing. Perhaps TTT will ditch his comfort zone and reach more remote destinations? Perhaps he will take his sweet time in pacing each journey? Perhaps he will flex his independence and maturity for solo travel? Stay tuned!

Fly higher TTT! Thank you dear readers, if there are any, and please share the adventures of #TTTeen on your soc med platforms (use the hashtag!).

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