I’m in manila now where the angry sky is bombarding the streets with heavy balls of rain and the howling wind is trying to shake the houses apart. I just finished hitchhiking the Philippines. Over a month of backpacking, over a month of hitchhiking, over a month of exploring cities and villages, land and sea and over a month of doing it all on less than three dollars (100 Pesos) per day.
For 7 year’s I’ve been doing my best to understand the world. Reading helps, talking to travelers helps a lot, but that works best is traveling, visiting everyone everywhere, not tourist resorts but the places they have never seen a traveler. The best way to do this, is to hitchhike and hop from village to village.
Standing outside of Davao the bleaching sun crisped my skin. By the time I was outside of Davao my skin was already Hello Kitty pink. Luckily after that the rides came quickly. Strangers who became new friends, farmers and priests, school teachers and students, foreigners and Filipinos, and a comedian who insisted I marry a Filipina, any Filipina, and then introduced me to a young cute girl. In case you ever thing hitchhiking is dangerous – I just want to say, it isn’t. I hitchhiked over 100 cars, trucks, motorbikes, and boats while exploring the Philippines, and I have hitchhiked thousands of cars in my lifetime. Never have I had any problem with any of the drivers.
I say I hop from village to village like it’s something I have to do, it’s not, it’s natural, when you hitchhike people invite you to their homes, to meet their families and sleep wherever you can. On beds, on floors, on couches. They invite me home when the sun sleeps, when the sky as black as raw iron heralds a typhoons arrive, or when they want to me to drink with them and their friends. I got invited to a lot of vibrant villages and tiny towns in the Philippines.
Sometimes, and this is pretty rare, no one invites me to their home. It’s easy to fix, just go to a door, knock and say “Hello, I’m traveling, could I stay with you for the night? If you don’t have any space I could pitch my tent outside of your house.” It might seem absurd, it might seem crazy, but in over 20 countries people have told me “yes”. One of my best experience in the Philippines is when I did exactly this. As the sun slid down mountains in the west, and I stood on the shore of a small island, I approached and ask a local if I could stay with her. Libby, the wife of a fisherman and mother of 12, stood in silence, her eyes searching mine for sincerity, and she found it and invited me in to her magnificent home. She wasn’t rich, not even middle class, her house was the small and bare, but full of love. I stayed with her, her family and her friends for what felt like a lifetime but what was only three days. There I had an amazing experience that I will never forget and when I left I was calling Libby mother.
Traveling the way I did meant transportation, and housing were free almost always free, sometimes locals even invited me in for meals or handed me piles of fruits and other Filipino snacks. In the end my cost for traveling all over the Philippines was less than three dollars (100 pesos) per day.
For Libby, for all my Pinoy friends and for the travelers of the world who want to explore the Philippines on a tight budget while truly getting to know the people and the culture I will write about them.