Next Travel Destination: Your Own Backyard


By Sarah Grutas

In this day and age of airplanes and travel packages, we all too often find ourselves planning our next big adventure to some faraway and exotic destination. Save for the few others who have the financial capability to make this plan a reality, this ‘next big adventure’ will, in the end, turn out to be the ‘next big daydream’ for most of us because of a lot of considerations, especially the expenses involved.

I, too, like to travel a lot, and I do so on a limited budget most of the time. Sometimes, it gets frustrating when the travel bug bites and I know that I have to quell my travel fever because of financial considerations. So what do I do when the restlessness for adventure becomes too overwhelming? I look for alternatives!

Recently, I and four of my friends learned that traveling need not be expensive and the destination need not be an international location. One Saturday morning, we decided to climb up the mountains of Baao, Camarines Sur, never really knowing what adventure awaited us.

My house is located right at the foot of the mountain, and I must confess: in my twenty plus years of existence, that was the first time I’ve gone up the mountains of Baao. Or second, if you count that one time when my uncle took me for a motorcycle ride to the top, but the trip was so quick I never really had the time to take in the whole place.

We left the house at 8AM. I had no idea how many hours it would take for us to reach the peak in Antipolo (a baranggay in the mountains). I lied to my friends and told them we could reach the peak in an hour. Believing we’d be back before lunch time, we did not bring any water or food. We didn’t realize that we would be thirsty or hungry during the climb! Fortunately, I was in company of good-natured friends. It didn’t matter that we didn’t have water or food with us. We were happy. We kept on laughing at small, trivial things.

The climb was longer and harder than what we all expected it would be. When we got too thirsty and hungry, we picked some coconuts from the coconut trees along the road. Because we did not bring a bolo or any other kind of equipment, we had to smash the coconuts and throw them on the ground until they all broke open. We consumed at least twenty coconuts during the climb alone. We scoured every fruit-bearing tree along the way. We shook a papaya tree full of ripe fruits and combed through an exotic shrub locally known as Berba, with round fruits the size of a regular lanzones that taste like a mix of santol and mangosteen.

We reached the peak in Antipolo at 1:30 PM. We sat under a humongous balete tree, and from there, we could see the town far below, the lake, and the rice fields that stretched for miles. The vast foliage soothed our eyes, and the wind calmed our nerves. We shouted our hearts out before taking a moment to reflect and breathe everything in.

Up until that moment, I never really considered the Baao Mountains to be a tourist spot. But sitting there and enjoying the 360-degree sight of my hometown was like a whole new experience. It was like being in a foreign, yet familiar place. The air was clean and crisp, and the only sound I could hear was the chirping of the crickets.

We trekked down the mountains at 3:00 PM and arrived at the house a little after two hours. We were all both tired and content; tired because we didn’t have a proper meal during the trip, and content because our thirst for adventure was quenched. But the best thing about it all: Zero Expenses.

I learned that traveling is not just about plane rides or luxury hotels or travel packages. It is about discovering and exploring new sights and places (and in the process, discovering and exploring yourself, too). So the next time you plan to travel, forget about what those travel agencies tell you. Try going to destinations closer to home – a thick patch of forest, a small brook, an old dilapidated house, a corn plantation – to unknown places in your hometown. They are only waiting to be discovered. [Text and Photos by Sarah Grutas/]

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