He was one of the old-timers, those writers that have been with the company for years. Back then my technical writing career has begun in my old company, Innodata. We didn’t really talk that much until he organized a trip to Batad and I decided to join. Ram is your go-to person when you want to know how to go to this or that part of the country. We consider him an expert when it comes to local traveling. He knows where to stay, which spots to see, which food to eat, and who to contact. But his expertise did not just come from years and years of traveling, it’s also the result of his effort to travel from a local’s perspective. Let him explain this further through this article. People, here comes our 12th Travel Bug Series feature, Brahma C. Foz.
Please tell us something about you
I am not very good at this. I have never looked at me from the me perspective… but, from what I have gathered from other people, they say I am very keen and meticulous, sarcastic and silly or corny — sometimes all at once. I know I enjoy meeting new people with no preconceived ideas about what or what is not possible. I just go with the flow.
I am a freelance travel writer, contributing to broadsheets and magazines. I have some articles published in 2GO’s Trip! Magazine and Manila Bulletin’s Lifestyle section.
You are a seasoned traveler, but when did it all start?
I have been traveling since as far as I can remember, but I really trace back my wanderlusting years to the early 2000s, back when I finally decided to ditch government service in favor of “finding the true purpose of my existence”.
How do you pick your next destination?
I don’t. They pick me. 🙂
Seriously… I don’t know. Most of my solo trips are random, spur-of-the-moment gigs — the kind that qualifies as have-bag-will-travel affairs. But I do love the exploratory type of traveling. Of course, there are destinations that I go back to (and love going back to), but I’d rather travel to new and uncharted territories if logistics permit.
Do you like to travel solo or with a group?
I enjoy traveling alone. Solitude is like a mirror that affords me the opportunity to be self-aware of my own strengths and weaknesses, revealing many qualities that I thought I do not possess: patience, perseverance, and tolerance. Going solo has taught me a thing or two about “social interaction” and self-confidence, as well as, honed my “navigational” instincts and “haggling skills”.
But that doesn’t mean I shun group travel. I love it equally, especially the practicality it offers.
You also organize group tours, what do you love about it?
Well, I did. I don’t really organize group tours now. What I do these days is travel pool. I gather people planning to go to similar destinations and we travel together. It’s mostly a KKB (Dutch treat) trip, but you get to have other people to share in “group expenses” such as boat rental for island hopping, guide and porter fees, etc.
What are the challenges of organizing these tours and how do you deal with them?
As I mentioned earlier, I don’t organize tours anymore. But back then, my #1 pet peeve are those who have no regard for other people’s time. These are the ones who still think that it’s fashionable to be late. There was one instance where I got truly irked that I left the individual behind.
How do you discover the lesser known but beautiful spots in the country?
It has become more of a habit for me when I travel to interact with the locals. Instead of looking for fancy places to dine in, I go to jeepney or tricycle drivers’ digs, which, more often that not, offer the best local delicacies at very affordable prices. It is in these “karinderyas” that I get to know “other places” worth visiting…
… but of course, there’s also the Internet. 😉
Most of your travels are done locally, is there a particular reason for this?
Yes. I am taking the “Wag maging dayuhan sa sariling bayan” slogan to heart.
What do you think is lacking or things that can be improved on Philippine tourism?
Knowledge of local tourism offerings. Especially from tourism front-liners: hotel front desk personnel, transport providers, etc. It’s frustrating sometimes to ask for information from a hotel receptionist who’s clueless as to what are the points of interest in the area.
If there is one Philippine destination which you think is underrated but you’d definitely recommend to people, which one is it and why?
Not really underrated, but more like unheard of. Well, unheard of before but not anymore, as there is already a sudden surge of interest in the place. Balabac Group of Islands in Southern Palawan is the only place that comes to mind. Why? I believe, it is truly the country’s last frontier.
Care to share some useful travel tips?
When asked, most people would say that the principal value of traveling is that it breaks the monotony of life and work.
Y’see, life, for many of us, is a mad rush. A dash from home to the office — from one place to the next. A sprint from one client meeting to a waiting company presentation — from one money-making deal to the next career-breaking move. Day-in, day-out we try to accomplish as many stuff as possible. Thus, traveling becomes a form of escape for the likes of us — a time to relax, reflect and ponder. Traveling gives us the opportunity to disconnect from our regular life and, for a fleeting moment, not think of any problems or issues for a few days (or weeks). Being away on a weekend can also afford us the much-needed time to help us figure things out that we would not have understood without the distance traveling can give. We all have crazy schedules, work, and a family to take care of and going away alone or with some friends gives us that break we rightfully deserve.
Very few find a great deal of informative value in traveling. More often than not, our focus centers on the promise of a fun-filled R&R, of selfies and jump shots. This is where I realized that a lot of people don’t seem to share some of my views about traveling. For me, it is very important to see and experience the places I visit from a local resident’s perspective. Traveling is an avenue for me to open my heart and mind to new things and explore different cultures and traditions; thus, experiencing life in new and exciting ways — widening my perspective about life, especially the life I have in relation to how other people live. If viewed with an open mind, it can help us change some of our habits or even create new ones…
When traveling, don’t just go there. Be there.
Read about Ram’s adventures in his blog, The War Fish’s Lair