Travels in Boracay: On being lonely and independent

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Imagine smelling nothing in the air but the almost sweet spray of the ocean waves. The mainstream club music sounds from a distance. Somehow, it is fitting to the moment. And all you have is water, sand, and moonlight all around you. This is Boracay.

It certainly is a very touristy island, with almost all of the natives here working in some industry or other that goes solely towards serving the natives. However, the clear waters and lack of real civilization (no pesky cityscapes to ruin those glorious ocean views) makes it a worthwhile island to venture out to at least once in a lifetime.

Boracay, for those who don’t know, is a small island, about 4 miles by 2 miles in its entirety. It’s a pretty underdeveloped tourist destination as there’s only 1 McDonalds on the island. As you travel around, you will also notice several plots of land roped off to construct fancy hotels. It’s definitely getting there though. It’s also an island that has been ranked in the top 10 go-to beaches around the world.

After a draining but definitely interesting month of running around after children and with my deep love for beaches, I did much research and decided to travel to Boracay. Three things inspired me to choose Boracay.

  1. Famous for beautiful beaches
  2. Considered a cheaper option since it was in the Philippines, an underdeveloped tourist destination, and was during off-season
  3. Touted as the Asian cheaper version of Cancun

My Boracay trip lasted for 4 days. For 3 of those days, I stayed in a very cheap hostel, Jeepney, which cost only about $18 for 3 nights. It was what you’d expect of a hostel with very friendly staff. However, my complaints would be that there’s poor ventilation/air conditioning, leading to pretty warm nights, and the existence of mosquitoes. Though honestly, these complaints are probably more related to Southeast Asia in general, and so something you should come to expect.

For my last day, I booked a night at a 5 star hotel. Not quite the Shangri-La, but at the Monaco Suites de Boracay. Because it was off-season, I only paid about $175 (I also got a discount through Orbitz). This is probably cheaper than the nightly price for a 3 star hotel in the States. I also received an Ocean View Suite, which consisted of a bedroom, two bathrooms, a fully equipped kitchen, living room, and a patio that overlooked the ocean. It was heavenly and the perfect end to my travels on the island. The service you receive from beginning to end is also great, from the glass of apple lemonade and the cool towel you receive upon check in to the golf cart ride from the entrance to the reception area to your suite and to the shuttle rides to the airport/D*Mall, makes you feel pampered. If you get the chance to stay here, be sure to also check out the infinity pool and jacuzzi.

The downsides to this hotel was that while Monaco Suites surpassed my every expectation in the way of what a 5 star hotel provides, the small details surprised me, and were of course, almost insignificant elements, but did create breaks in the illusion that you had arrived in paradise. For example, the room service menu had broken pages, the television didn’t have any working channels, etc. And while the breakfast buffet was pretty decent, the room service meal (I got a pesto sandwich) was dry and tasteless. That being said though, I have yet to get a room service meal that was actually tasty at any hotel.

That night at Monaco Suites, I took a swim out in the infinity pool. Upon walking there and seeing the lighted pool in the moonlight, My first thought was that this was the best thing ever. My second thought was, ‘Oh shoot…There’s exactly one honeymooning couple here…and they’re honeymooning away…You know what…whatever. This is a public pool.’ So I just strode in and took a dip in the pool. The couple waited a bit for me to leave, but upon seeing I wasn’t going to leave anytime soon, they left. And you know what? I don’t regret chasing away this one couple with my presence.

It made me contemplate not only this trip but also my previous trips as a solo female backpacker.

The independence you feel on landing in a completely foreign country, one where you may not even speak the language, completely by yourself is a rush that I can’t even begin to describe. Being able to walk around, seeing what you want to see, eating what you want to eat, and doing what you want to do, without a care in the world for other people, is thrilling. It provides you with a sense of freedom. No more holding yourself back just because you know your friend or your mother wouldn’t want to do that. A shady but cool looking alleyway over there? Just go. No one is there to yell at or chastise you.

And when people ask you, from shady men to families to couples, “Are you here alone,” and you respond yes, depending on the situation” the look of astonishment they get is the icing on the cake. It’s a look that mixes the two thoughts of “Wow!” and “You crazy bitch!” and it’s great. As I lay on my back in that infinity pool that night, I watched a thunder/lightning storm not quite far from me and really relished my independence.

However, this independence also lends its way to feelings of loneliness and it’s inevitable. Most of the time, it’s overcome by feelings of awe and glee at traveling alone and seeing/experiencing new things. However, this feeling of loneliness sometimes creeps up on you unknowingly. In Boracay for example, 75% of the people there were couples (This number is my own hyperbolic estimate of course) and walking around, doing the activities meant for couple by myself, from “commonplace” things like eating to the more exciting things like sailing, inevitably makes you feel alone. Hearing another honeymooning having a late night dinner to songs like John Legend’s “All of Me” in the restaurant patio above the pool  only accentuates the feeling.

It sort of feels like a pang in your heart and you start wishing for a boyfriend, a friend, anyone. You start looking at the male tourists and thinking that maybe we could have a thing in your twisted fantasy land. You feel envious of the couples.

You feel alone.

In the end though, I believe that you come to engulf the loneliness within you and become stronger for it.

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