September 01, 2007

Getting away from it all

(Staying at Discovery Shores in Boracay was a different kind of experience altogether. More on that in a future blog entry.)

Something Like Life
Aug. 31, 2007


GOING on an extended vacation, where you just want to be by yourself, away from all the pressures of city living and demands on your time, isn’t as simple as it used to be anymore.

After going through some unfortunate family events in the past few months, I thought it was time for me to take a break, at least two weeks, to get my head together and revive my spirit. This would only be the second time in my entire adult life that I would take off all by myself and try to relax solo.

At the onset, it was difficult to explain to my usual travel buddies why I wasn’t inviting them along on my holiday. Of course, there was also the mother creature whom I had to persuade to live with my sister and her family during the time I would be away so she wouldn’t have to be all alone at home. I was just in dire need of some alone time.

Then, there was the packing. I realize that as one gets older and becomes a creature of habit, there are just certain items that one can’t live without. First of all there was the matter of what toiletries to bring.

When I was in my 20s, I was quite content with just a small bag of toiletries containing my toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant, lotion, cologne, baby powder, foundation, eyeliner and lipstick. On this last trip, I had to bring two kikay kits along—one for my toiletries, which now included age-defying creams (for daytime and nighttime), and another for all my makeup (eyeshadow, mascara, lash curler, blush, brushes, lipliner, lipsticks and lipgloss).

(The main pool at Shangri-La Mactan, Cebu. Heaven!)

Even what resort wear to bring has become a tad complicated. I never ever packed jeans while on vacation, as I was quite content living in my shorts and T-shirts every day, whether at the beach or in any resort. But now I found myself packing a pair of jeans, black capri pants and a few light long-sleeved tops for cocktails I needed to attend at a resort. And, no, the sarong over the bathing suit just doesn’t work anymore...I had to have my lounging tunics as well.

Whereas before I used only one purse which took me from day to night, nowadays I would bring three different bags of varying sizes. One is a casual bag small enough to put in my wallet, two cell phones and a lipstick for that quick trip to D’Mall or some café; a medium-sized bag made of banig to bring to the beach or the pool, carrying—besides those items mentioned previously—sunblock for my face, sunblock for my body, a book and a magazine, and a bottle of water; and, last, a large foldable all-purpose bag to accommodate all other items that I expect would no longer fit in my luggage on my way back from vacation. (We girls always end up with more stuff than what we had originally brought for our holiday, don’t we?)

Truth to tell, I was even going to bring my iBook because I had never taken a leave from work that long. (The last time I did, laptops had yet to be in vogue.) I thought I might get some writing done while I was away. But then I had already locked myself in my home office for three days straight before my vacation, just finishing my assignments and advancing stories for my editor abroad. All that work would have been all for nought. I had to draw the line and do a mental check, convincing myself that I could live without my iBook for the duration of my holiday. I was only supposed to read a book or two, lounge by the pool or beach, and eat without guilt. So I unpacked the iBook and banished it to my cabinet.

Still, as I was about to begin my vacation to Cebu and Boracay, I found myself at the airport trying to stand upright as I struggled with my mid-sized luggage on wheels, a backpack and a purse! Ack!

In Cebu the sun was out and the heat was on, tricking my brain into thinking it was still summer. My hotel room overlooked the ocean and the inviting pool below, which I thought I would be enjoying for next few days. After a quick merienda, I took a leisurely walk around the hotel’s splendidly manicured grounds and made a quick tour of the hotel spa, and was calmed by the wonderful scents permeating throughout. Off I was dreaming of my own day of wellness.

(Tourists watch a local para-wakeboarding – not quite sure if that's the right term for the sport – in Boracay.)

With the constant breeze from the ocean cooling me, and the relative quiet of the surroundings, I was lulled into thinking that I was in for two weeks of relaxation...until someone mentioned that I had narrowly missed a typhoon which by then had been battering Metro Manila, plunging it into a flooded mess. The comment threw me off-track and quickly put me on my “city” mode. For the next two hours, I was glued to the TV set in my room watching ANC for more news of the typhoon.

I then made the mistake of checking my cell phone, which I had put on silent mode supposedly in keeping with my vacation. But there was a text from a friend back in Manila asking me how the weather was in Cebu. He added that it was flooding everywhere in the metropolis and the rains were just pouring unabated. That did it! I had to once more check myself and mentally struggled to shift back to “relaxation” gear once more. So I hurriedly changed into my bathing suit and went for a few laps in the pool that had beckoned to me only the day before.

I managed to catch a few winks as well in between my magazine reading, then it was time for lunch. But then, I foolishly passed the business center on the way back to my room. The next few minutes caught me plunked down on my sofa reading the Asian Wall Street Journal’s analysis of the subprime credit mess in the US. Oh, good grief!

Over the next few days, I was lounging at the pool—and hanging out at the business center, watching the TV news (this time, CNN as well), reading the AWSJ and, ultimately, succumbing to checking my e-mail on my cell phone, even as I continued to myself that I had switched on the vacation response option on all my e-mail servers.

I thought things would be different when I landed in Boracay. But as soon as I had lunch and had leisurely eaten my favorite dessert of lemon tart and coffee, I was off looking for an Internet café. After two hours, I had already read all my e-mails, chatted via YM with some friends back in Manila, and updated my news blog (http://sludge.wordpress.com). Arrgh!

That being said, I don’t mean to sound ungrateful for this spot of “me” time. And, of course, there were a few days when the endorphins and dopamines kept me happy and calm, especially after a few visits to the spa and some delicious meals with my favorite reds. I was also able to sleep soundly throughout the night, waking up feeling quite refreshed. I also have a slight tan and my slowly fading dyed hair to prove I had been using the pool and the beach and not simply parading my bathing suits. But I was foolish to think that in this day and age, I could still get away from everything that would remind me of my frenetic life back in Manila.

Vacations are no longer as easy as leaving your watch in your hotel room or switching off your cell phone. As we get older, the packing becomes a bitch. Gone are the days when my vacation consisted of a few clothes and my toothbrush and toothpaste in a small backpack. (On my way back to Manila, it became the luggage on wheels, backpack, the large now-unfolded all-purpose bag, as well as a box of sweet treats from Boracay. Oh, brother!) And as technology pervades every corner of our lives, we will never again be so isolated and alone no matter how far away from Manila we go. All hotel rooms now have TV, our cell phones are always within range of cell sites, and even if we don’t bring our laptops, there are Internet cafés everywhere to pander to our Web surfing habit.

Now, did someone mention Bhutan?

(My column, Something Like Life, is published every Friday in the Life section of the BusinessMirror. All photos by the author.)

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