Traveling Light at 30 Years Old

By Pinay Pilgrim
female solo traveler

I’ll turn 30 years old in a couple of weeks as of the writing of this post. And as I’m reflecting on my 3 decades of life, I can’t help but wonder where all those years went. What they say about the quarter-life crisis is true. The anxiety due to social comparison is real. Ghosts of dreams that are deferred, dropped, and attained appear while the thought of living a copy-paste life becomes ever more compelling just so that I will be able to fit in.

But I’m a weird one. And being able to fit in, although a socially desirable goal, isn’t one of my strengths. While most women dream of marriage and kids at 30, I opted to go the other way. Instead of dating and waiting, I learned to pack myself, and of course my bags, as light as I can so that I can travel far.

Looking Back at My Old Goals

By packing myself, I mean, I have made it my goal to learn all the skills I need to be able to work anywhere at any time.

At the risk of being called an uncommitted job-hopping millennial, I changed jobs every 1 year or so to learn various digital skills along the way. I had worked for 5 different companies plus some freelance gigs in 7 years. Although difficult and dynamic, I did my best to learn the ropes of digital marketing. I have high hopes that this skill will save me from toiling the 9-5 workday to enjoy a 2-day weekend vacation.

At 28, I heard my peers planning weddings and buying diapers. I, on the other hand, fully transitioned to remote working and bought plane tickets and tents. I’m fully aware that I can be free from my family responsibilities at 30. And by then, my date-material rating would significantly decline.

I believe in the Christian/Catholic idea that dating isn’t a woman’s game. And I don’t like to play at anything I don’t have any chance at winning. Instead, I resolved to create a kind of life I can live with or without a romantic partner.

When I started working in 2011, I’m only looking forward to four things – support my family, serve in missions, work anytime anywhere I want, and take tons of travel and animal pictures. I stuck to those dreams to this day. And I couldn’t be any happier.

traveling light in manila

Traveling Light: Taking Trips Alone as a Woman

A woman’s place is home. That’s what I usually hear from people. But I’m not like most women. Even at an early age, I have this desire to hit the road, take random bus trips, and stop by strange places. True enough, I pursued that desire even to this day.

And I’m fully aware that traveling alone as a woman is a risky thing. It requires skill, patience, and a lot of planning to be self-sufficient enough, in terms of courage and finances, to survive anywhere. But I couldn’t imagine my life without random trips as much as many women probably can’t imagine their life without kids.

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” JRR Tolkien

What Makes Everything a Lot Lighter

It’s been a decade now that I’m building my digital nomad dream. And I realized that the insecurities and struggles I’ve been through as I kept this dream in my heart are worth it. I’m reaping its first fruits now even in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. That goal of traveling light brought me out of the office and into the comforts of my own home, working remotely and supporting my family.

  • Three decades in this life gave me the following simple, yet difficult to swallow, realizations:
    A degree (Ph.D, MA) isn’t necessary to make a difference in life. It’s often my insecurities that pushed me to collect credentials. My most meaningful experiences in life came when I worked as a missionary, not when I was hustling and fighting for promotion in the office.

Jef - Pinay Pilgrim - traveling light in Dumaguete

  • I shouldn’t take my life experiences personally. Whatever happens to me is always for sharing. After talking to so many students while on a mission, I realized that there’s a lot of people who share the same stories and experiences that I have. There’s always one person out there who needs what I have to say. Yes, I know I’ll break while sharing and reflecting on old wounds to make realizations out of it. But it always brings warmth to my heart seeing another person having an easier life because of the path I paved with my sweat and tears.
  • Making life simple matters a lot and it’s difficult. Living a simple life requires discipline to stick to a plan, courage to say no, patience to build, and faith that it will all fall into place. Most importantly, it requires a lot of time looking closely at all my baggage (e.g., frustrations, anxieties) and learning to let go.

Overall, traveling light or simplicity is a lifestyle worth living for the rest of my life. It’s about being at peace with the world, in all its flaws and pleasantness. It’s about feeling at home with myself so that I can be at home anywhere else. It’s about learning to see beyond materialism and making the decision to keep only what matters most in life.

At 30, I finally embraced the importance of building myself and my relationship with God first above everything else.