People have different reasons for traveling. Some do it for the fun and excitement, others, for the shopping, still others, to learn and explore. Then there are those who go for the escape—to find something more.
Jen Horn has experienced traveling for most of the reasons above, but it was only last year that she crossed the final one off her list. After deciding to take a hiatus from the company that she co-founded, Jen took off on a solo trip that spanned several countries in South and Southeast Asia. Armed only with her trusty backpack, an ancient BlackBerry and an open mind, she challenged the traditional Pinoy belief that it isn’t safe for women to travel alone. Two and a half months later, she came home with a renewed spirit and went on to pursue the idea that had been germinating in her head. Today, her brainchild, Muni PH, has already gained recognition for its environmental campaigns and promotion of local culture and arts, and Jen’s only getting started.
Here’s a little peek into the brain of the Nomad Manager herself as she shares the truth behind some travel misconceptions and talks about what traveling really means to her.
> I’ve wanted to backpack alone for a long time. I was itching to do it and I realized it was time. I needed to take a break.
> It was weird because I thought when I’d do my backpacking thing, it would require me extensive planning six months ahead, but no. I booked my flight late April or early May and left in July. I didn’t really do much planning.
> Aside from my passport, the one thing I couldn’t have gone without was my old Blackberry. I got a SIM in each country and used my phone for emails and BBM.
> I didn’t have an itinerary. It was all in my head. The only things I wrote down were my expenses.
> It’s not as bad as people make it to be. After doing it for the first time, I realized that I actually prefer traveling on my own. You get to do what you really want. Contrary to what people think, there are certain places that, when they see you traveling alone, they’ll help you even more.
> You realize the goodness in people. If I were to count the number of good experiences, they definitely outweigh the bad.
> When it comes to travel experiences, you get from it what you put in. Two people can go to the same place and if they’re thinking in a certain way, that’s how they’ll perceive the place.
> During my first two weeks in Sri Lanka, I wasn’t happy. I experienced people ripping me off. It wasn’t until the week after—I don’t know if it was the people who changed or the way I looked at them that changed. I became more open to the experience and that’s why it became better for me.
> You know what they say about the food in India? I don’t know where those people eat, but I never got food poisoning. I was eating Indian food, not cup noodles from 7-Eleven. It was nice.
> Muni was already in my head even before I left. I wasn’t aware of it.
> I’d just come back from a five-day trip to Vietnam with a couple of friends. We were visiting another friend there. At that time, I was stressed out and just wanted to leave. When I came back, I realized I wanted to travel. That was July 2011.
> I decided to start my blog, Nomad Manager, to get me on track on working on becoming location-independent. I would find myself blogging about social enterprises, green things, yoga and vegetarianism. Eventually, I felt this should be something that people can contribute their ideas to.
> I started Muni in November 2012. It was running on my savings, plus some of the earnings we got from events. In March, I called out for volunteers, and I took a part-time job in April. I couldn’t do it full-time anymore because I wasn’t making money and I needed to survive in life.
> Recently, my friend asked me to be part of the UN’s My World campaign, which is about taking charge and realizing that your world is shaped by your choices. It ties into Muni’s tagline of “Your world, your choice.”
> Everything that we’ve encountered in our past helps shape what we do in the present. It’s not necessarily the traveling that helped me figure things out. It was more the time I took for myself to think.
> You don’t have to be elsewhere to sort your shit out. It just so happens that I was. I stopped focusing on the daily to-do list and really thought about things that mattered more to me, and what I wanted to do. You don’t have to take drastic measures to have a “eureka” moment in life.
> Getting out of your comfort zone builds confidence in yourself to explore new things. You realize, “Oh I am actually capable of doing this, and I didn’t think before that I would be able to do this.”
> The plan was to be location-independent by 2013, but my priorities changed. When I got back after backpacking, I didn’t feel like I needed to travel so much anymore. It’s not that I don’t want to discover, because I still want to. It’s just that the feeling of wanting to leave is not so bad anymore. I’m more at peace with myself and where I am.
>The freedom that comes with traveling is a state of mind. It allows you to see the world with bright eyes, and I can see that now even if I’m not traveling.
> If something has been bothering you for so long, just do it. Otherwise, it’ll forever be in the back of your head. It’s sad to live with the what-ifs. Just do it.
When I first asked Jen to talk to me about how her travels inspired her, I expected her to give me a specific defining moment, a pivotal experience like those you see in movies. You know, that dramatic scene where the lead character stands on top of a mountain looking out at the world spread out in front of her, music swelling in the background. Instead, she surprised me by saying that she didn’t think her travels played much of a role in shaping her career. In the next breath, she says, “Maybe I’m too quick to discredit that idea. I just don’t like to play to the whole Eat, Pray, Love plot.”
Many people have romantic notions about going off to a faraway place and coming back a changed person. While that works for a great story, it doesn’t often turn out that way in real life. Jen says that she could’ve just gone off alone to Zambales for a week and still have gotten to where she is today. It’s all about removing yourself from your daily routine and giving yourself time to be alone. Traveling is a great escape, but you don’t have to go to extreme measures to find yourself. Sometimes, you just have to be quiet and take the time to really listen to the voice within you.
*Photos taken from Jen Horn’s Facebook page–Thanks, Jen!
*Article written for my Feature Writing class exercise 🙂