Traveling Puts Us Back in Our Place

Mt. Guiting-guiting

Unlike our ancestors who viewed the world as a god that needs to be respected, the humans of today are a haughty bunch. The advancement of technology, preservation of status quo, our so-called sophistication, and contemporary lifestyle have made us arrogant, as if we are the alpha species of this planet. The gloated decision makers of Earth’s fate. Those arrogant humans include us.

But as Sheila and I traveled all over the Philippines, our perspective on ourselves as dwellers in this world drastically changed. Each lofty mountain, each vibrant reef, each rushing river, or each culture-rich city that we visited became a place where we got genuinely humbled.

1. We erased our notion of self-importance.

Canyoning in Biliran

It is human nature to think that the universe revolves around us. But when we explored the deep ravines of the Sampao River in Biliran, ascended the mighty Mt. Kanlaon in Negros, or marveled at the glittering crystal kingdom in Central Cave in Samar, the majesty of Nature instantly overwhelmed us. We then realized we are not special. We are just a speck in the entirety of creation. There are immense powers out there that we could never fathom.

2. We embraced our fragility.

Mt. Pinatubo Lahar Canyon

Mother Nature is extremely beautiful. But she is also cruel and indifferent. A storm could blow us off the face of Mt. Napulak. Loose rock can fall on our heads while climbing the limestone walls of Cantabaco and Poog. Our headlamps can unexpectedly fail while exploring the dark enormity of Langun-Gobingob Cave. We can get hurt or even die any time under these circumstances, but Mother Nature won’t care. We faced the truth that we are as vulnerable as the creatures that are on her bosom. Humans, with all our greed, can exploit and abuse our planet. But in the end, it’s Nature that decides and acts on our fate.

3. We don’t know everything.

Langon Cave

Every time we travel, we learn a whole lot—how the white sandbars of Concepcion are made, how rich Filipinos lived during the Spanish times, what is the role of baluartes in the country’s yesteryears, and more. Yet, even with our extensive sojourns, our acquired knowledge barely scratches the surface. The world is one infinite classroom, one whose wonders and mysteries are evolving and never-ending.

4. We accepted that there are people who are way better than us.

Barangay Sampao

We used to consider ourselves as experienced mountaineers. However, our strength and stamina pale in comparison with our local May-as guides when we climbed Mt. Guiting-guiting in Sibuyan Island. We are certified scuba divers, but our humble Panglao boatmen can “read” the seas far better than us. We are hikers, but the farmers of Antique’s rice terraces can traverse muddy trails faster than us. Traveling erases the notion that we are some sort of royalty. We give our utmost respect to resilient, skillful yet humble people who are at the fringes of our modern society’s notice.

5. We learned to be invisible.

Valderama Rice Terraces

Too often, we see travelers seeing themselves as special people who deserve nothing but the best. As visitors to a place, they should be treated as VIPs, right? Wrong! By doing so, they drastically alter the natural dynamics of the place. By demanding items, favors, and services, they become an intolerable burden and inconvenience to the locals. We wised up and veered away from that path. In every trip, we keep ourselves low profile, keep our silence, take photos unobtrusively, avoid demanding anything, and be satisfied on what is available. Blending in with the locals allowed us to learn more about their history and their natural culture.

6. We began to appreciate the world.

Scuba Diving in Chapel, Apo Island

“Back to the reality,” we often hear people grumble when they return to work after a vacation. Sadly, that’s how many people perceive their world—limited in concrete buildings, back-breaking jobs, and monotonous familial duties at home. But the real world is out there. In Balicasag Island where massive schools of jackfish swim gracefully in an endless tornado. On top of Mt. Igcuron where you can see checkered farmlands. In rustic Guimaras where one can taste the sweetest mangoes. When we travel, we see real, natural beauty that soothes the spirit and fills the mind.

7. Traveling taught us how to care.

Scuba Diving in Mactan

In our sojourns, we have seen how majestic, awesome, and powerful our world is. Yet, we also realized that it is extremely delicate. If humans want to survive as a species, if humans want future generations to enjoy the bounty and beauty of our world, then they must protect it. We did our part in our own small ways. One less plastic bottle in the sea meant healthier sea turtles in Apo Island. By not creating our own trails, we preserved the landscape of the picturesque Akiki Trail of Mt. Pulag. By supporting local industries, we help preserve the ancient Cebuano craft of wood carving.

No one can conquer a mountain, vanquish a country, or own the seas. We, humans, can only learn from the world and conquer ourselves.

Book a trip, pack your bags, and travel. Seeing reality with an open heart and a welcoming spirit is a life-changing experience, one that will make you realize your place in this world.

Crossing the Sulu Sea



About Gian and Sheila

Rock climbers. Mountaineers. Sweethearts on adventure. Adrenaline Romance is a photoblog that belongs to a loving couple who has an eternal lust for adventure. The blog contains experiences, tips, itineraries, and other useful information regarding adventuring in the Philippines and beyond.

41 comments on “Traveling Puts Us Back in Our Place

  1. Spot on and well-written! That’s why I’m a fan and follower.

  2. So eloquently spoken.
    People like you have captured the essence of traveling, where it is not about the bravado of posting on social media to say “Look ..Im here doing this..Like me!”. It is more of the awareness of ones environment and the acknowledgement of our roles as transient observers. A humbling endeavor that makes us realize how insignificant we are by ourselves, but how impactful our actions are collectively. It is this awareness that incites the advocacy of conservation.
    Your images are beautiful. Your words speak of truth. Your work is a mosaic of artistry and passion.
    Keep on your sojourns and God speed.

    PS. What camera do use for underwater photos. Thank you.

    • Hi Hanz,

      Thank you so much. The lessons we learned when we travel or engage in adventures are just more than wahoo moments. They were lessons of life—lessons of humility. 🙂

      For the underwater photos, we just use an old GoPro Hero 3 Plus Silver with a red Polar Pro filter. It’s important that the weather should be sunny and clear for maximum clarity and vibrance of colors.

  3. Your travels have changed you guys to be better human beings. More people should travel to be better versions of themselves. Sadly some travel a lot and still remain jerks and has this sense of entitlement.

  4. Such a great read and also…THAT TURTLE PHOTO IS INSANE. Sorry for being dramatic but so incredible!

  5. Well articulated entry. Thanks for lifting up my inner spirit to do more blogs. Work related stuff is really a hindrance for me to continually update my blog and post more. Upon reading this post, it made me excite to finish those backlog drafts that I have. Keep on posting things like this sir. 👍👍👍

  6. I really love reading your blog, Team Sweetie! You always remind me how it is to be humble. It’s true that there may be a lot of travelers around but not all has the same mindset. Some do it for “bragging rights”, others just so they have something to post on social media. And there’s you (and maybe a few more) who helps raise awareness, who reminds people that nature needs to be cared for.

    I especially love this line:

    “No one can conquer a mountain, vanquish a country, or own the seas. We, humans, can only learn from the world and conquer ourselves.”

    • Hi Aya,

      Thank you so much for the compliment. We post our travels in this blog and social media for sharing our experience in the hopes of inspiring people to get off their butts, leave their sedentary lives behind, and pursue their passion. We share to promote the adventures and destinations here in the Philippines.

      However, never did it cross our minds to brag about our trips. On the contrary, traveling made us feel minuscule and insignificant; the world is just so big. There are bigger powers out there than we can possibly understand or imagine.

      • And that’s what I love about your travel entries 😀

        I have read other travel blogs which are also very informative especially when it’s about itineraries and expenses.

        And here’s yours which is so humbling! It talks about how beautiful and vast the world is! Totally reminds us that humans shouldn’t act like “alpha species” of this planet.

        I’ve learned a lot from your travels! Even about how the slightest touch can destroy something so beautiful (ie. rock formation inside caves!)

        Cheers to more adventures! 🙂

      • Thank you so much, Aya! We, humans, are simply just another species in this world. We should not think of ourselves as above anything else.

        The sad thing is that although we are just a small part of the world, the effects of human action are the largest. 😦

  7. Very well written blog and good to hear about your experience. Loving the turtle photo 🙂

  8. Wonderfully written! 😀

    Everybody sees the world differently but the way you see it… it’s incredible. Your perspective is applaudable! We hope humans would understand the world like you do.

    Anyway, this is a wonderful entry. Ginalingan eh, kabahan na sila. 😀

    Best regards, Ace and Demi

    • Hi Ace&Demi,

      Thank you very much for the compliment. Travel taught us many things. But foremost of all is that it tells us, undeniably, how tiny, and insignificant, rare, and precious we all are. 🙂

  9. Thanks for your great insights. For me traveling is also about learning and understanding myself and the world. Of course, there are always people better than us. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Nice write up. Everything is so true. I may have not traveled a lot but I can relate to all these points. Keep traveling and keeps inspiring.

  11. Very well-said!! I love what you said about being invisible. Sometimes people demand too much not realizing that some locals don’t have too much. That’s actually a nice practice. And of course, I agree that travel makes us appreciate the world more.

    • Thank you for the kind words, Rea.

      Sadly, we’ve seen a whole lot of travelers and adventurers disrupting the natural dynamics of local culture due to their outrageous demands and totally alien/unruly behavior. They forgot that they are simply visitors.

  12. I definitely appreciate the learn to be invisible philosophy. Others have said it in the comment thread above, but its almost embarassing to watch other travelers make demands on their hosts and culture that are so inappropriate.

    • Hi The Global Guy,

      Thank you. Being invisible actually allows us to see and experience the “true” dynamics of a local culture. We make sure we don’t leave any trace of our “city” culture by adapting to theirs. For us, it is very important NOT to disrupt these people’s way of life.

      We are going to write an article about cultural LNT (Leave No Trace) soon to delve more into the “invisibility” subject.

  13. I really liked all the points, specially the one on learning to be invisible. Its so important to blend in with the surroundings and create as less intrusion as possible. Being part of the scenery adds a wonderful inclusive dimension too.

  14. wow, very well written post with amazing photos 🙂 Really liked all your points, especially the one about blending with your surrounding.

    • Hi Chiara,

      Thank you very much. Yes, blending in allows us to observe the natural dynamics of a place.

    • My wife and I visited Mamas on our honeymoon just for drinks an apps. We were so impressed that when we visited Maui again two years later Mamas was firs on our list of restaurants we wanted to visit. We went for dinner the second time we visited and it was outstanding to say the least. You really can't find words to explain the experience or the food. It was the highlight of our amazing visit to Maui. That was almost four years ago and we still talk about it. I would recommend to anyone visiting Maui to go and experience Mamas for themselves. Thanks for the great article.

  15. I totally have to agree. I esp get that feeling when I’m trekking. When I stand atop a hill and look down at the valley, I get this extreme feel to just jump and fly like a bird!!! When I see that vast expanse, how insignificant we are, is so evident!

  16. Traveling changes our lives. It makes us vulnerable. Before I started traveling, I thought I was tough but I was wrong. When I first traveled solo, I have experienced a lot of challenges and met new friends. I am grateful for these things.

    • Hi Iza,

      That’s a very nice insight. Yes, traveling truly humbles us, which, subsequently, makes us respect people, cultures, and the world. We begin to accept that we are just temporary inhabitants in the world like everything else. 🙂

  17. Very well written. Travelling changes the way we think. I support all your views from the core of my heart 🙂

  18. I love learning how to be invisible. “Take only memories, leave only footprints” Travelling has most definitely changed the way we both think. There is so much to explore and learn.

  19. This post really spoke to me. On my recent trip I spent a lot of time trying to comprehend the enormity of everything and contemplating the insignificance of existence. Those are the best types of trips! Thanks for sharing.

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