The moment I stepped into my cottage by the beach in Bantayan Island, Cebu, after four tiring hours on the road (the last hour spent feeling claustrophobic because I had to finally share my seat with someone), I looked out into what is most probably among the prettiest coastlines I’ve seen in the Philippines…and felt nothing but dread.
Not relief, not joy, not a heightened version of the excitement I felt before I boarded my plane from Manila, but bone-chilling, get-me-the-f*ck-out-of-here dread.
I think it was because 1) the place was too secluded, 2) save for the waves breaking on the shore, it was too quiet, and 3) I was the lone single woman in a resort where coupling off was the norm, something that was further amplified when the restaurant waitress looked at me curiously and said, “Mag-isa lang kayo, miss? (You here alone, miss?)”
While there was one group of friends who took advantage of the long holiday weekend, I was indeed the resort’s official loner. And I panicked. Going here on my own was daunting enough—although my apprehensions were largely due to safety concerns (read: they were unfounded)—and to finally be here, with only myself for company, ended up being the exact opposite of what I had originally expected. Instead of feeling grateful for the solitude I had been craving after the fast-paced month I’ve had, I suddenly felt suffocated by it.
But then I thought that maybe that was the point. I had been living within my comfort zone for the past year now—it’s why I’ve been stuck in a rut in the first place—so maybe it was time I let myself feel all these negative emotions until I’ve finally purged myself off of them. So I can finally cross over to the “other side” where all these fresh ideas will finally show up.
I was actually thinking of leaving immediately the day after, but a relaxing massage finally managed to calm my nerves that night, as did turning in early (I was asleep by 10 haha). I woke up feeling more relaxed and rejuvenated so I decided to just milk the experience for what it’s worth.
I didn’t really have anything planned, but I think that worked for me because I got to leave when I pleased. I spent most of the day biking around Santa Fe (I couldn’t believe how cheap they rent out bikes here!), and stopping to try some of the cafes that caught my eye as I passed. I also spent the morning reading a book while sunbathing by the sand dune in front of my resort. Just when I was beginning to finally enjoy myself, high tide came and I had to leave because I didn’t want to get stranded there :P
All in all, it was a pretty good trip. I guess when it comes to this whole solo travel thing, a lot of things factor in to the overall experience. One thing I learned is that it’s different when you travel alone in a city compared to going solo in a secluded island. When I finally found myself back in Cebu City, being alone was a piece of cake because I’m used to it. The noise of the city offered enough distraction and there are plenty of things to do. When you’re in an island with only yourself for company, you tend to get really introspective and I guess at that point in my life, I found the silence deafening. To be honest, it scared me a little, but I realized that was okay because we need to let our inner demons loose once in a while.
But as for Bantayan itself, I can’t really complain much. The island is really beautiful. White sandy beaches, waters that shift from aquamarine to midnight blue, and the sleepy town reminds me of Siem Reap somehow. No franchises here, just quaint mom-and-pop cafes, and the main mode of transportation is of the two-wheeled variety—bikes, scooters, and the occasional pedicab.
Funnily enough, Bantayan Island actually meets all the requirements I had when I first decided to do the solo thing. I don’t even know why I was so agitated when I actually got what I wanted. I guess the initial “shock” of being truly on my own got to me for a minute. But then that quote about being in good company when you’re on your own popped into my head, and it gave me the motivation to see the whole thing through.
And in the end, I slept happy my last night there. When I started writing this entry, I was waiting for my dinner at a restaurant by the beach, indulging in a mango milkshake, not thinking about calories and sugar and whatever, just listening to the sound of waves crashing in the background mingling with the conversation people were having around me. And unlike my first afternoon there, I didn’t feel stressed or paralyzed with dread. So I guess I’m glad I made the trip…and call me a masochist, but I know this will definitely not be my last stab at solo travel. :P