By Krip Yuson
Remarked the 19th-century Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson: “I travel not to go anywhere, but to go.”
I used to subscribe to this principle, eschewing target destinations in favor of just getting away, and living the spirit of adventure in its purest sense. In my youth, I always imagined how it would be to undergo serendipitous passage, as in Basho’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North.
You traveled, stopped along the way whenever you felt like it — to enjoy the sight of a waterfall or a pond, to linger by a lagoon, to laze upon a beach. Then moved on. Oh, there would be a final destination, but getting there was half or more of the fun.
As you age, however, you begin to appreciate the package tour. In lieu of surprises along the way, and the necessary welter of decisions made at every turn, there is the benefit of having everything planned out for you. Escort service comes with the disadvantage of a clockwork schedule that seems at times to be one of fits and starts. But you do get to the landmarks and take photos of them, and increasingly more important, have photos of yourself taken while adding yet another notch to your selfie belt.
When one speaks of travel these days, it’s often related to bucket lists. We all have particular destinations in mind, to add to the roster of memories of conquests of foreign lands.
The older you get, the more you like to think that your bucket list is shortened. But more often than not, it’s lengthened. The more places you experience, the more there appear to be on other distant horizons. You get greedy with travel.
Decades ago, I took a train from Helsinki to the arctic circle, that imaginary sphere where the Lapland was ruled by reindeer and Santa Claus. I wondered if Carlos P. Romulo, whom I imagined to be the most traveled Filipino, had ever set foot there. I was determined to outdo him.
I reached Romanievi, where I was treated to a spicy home meal by a Finn I had shared a berth with on the train, together with his young son. They also took me toward the border with Russia, and pointed out some rampart on a distant mountain where the neighbor’s sentries were supposed to be stationed.
I failed to see any reindeer, let alone Santa and his elves, but I considered myself fortunate for having taken Lapland off my then incipient bucket list.
Save for Antarctica, I have touched base with all known continents, thanks mostly to invitations to attend poetry and other literary festivals. The most enjoyable, owing to their quaintness as destinations, have been Medellin in Colombia, Granada in Nicaragua, the Midlothians in Scotland, Newbridge in Ireland, Shiraz in Iran, and Durban in South Africa.
But my bucket list remains long, internationally: Machu Picchu, the Galapagos, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Montana, New Orleans, the Isle of Islay, St. Petersburg, Easter Island, Bora-bora, and anywhere in the northern hemisphere that I may marvel at the aurora borealis or northern lights.
Even within our country, my bucket list still has Bantayan in Cebu, Kalanggaman Island in Leyte, Tawi-tawi and Amanpulo.
Hooray for bucket lists, which keep us wishing for or willing the extension of our longevity. The spirit of adventure remains, even if now we yearn to travel not just to go, but to assure ourselves that we can say: Been there, done that.
We can only accomplish that desideratum by arriving here, there and everywhere.
Esteemed writer Krip Yuson has earned distinctions as a literary author of over 20 other books — from poetry, short stories, children’s stories, biographies, and translation. A Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature Hall-of-Famer, Krip regales us with his musings in his Illustrado column, “Illuminati.”