BOHOL, PHILIPPINES – As I write this, I’m sipping native (Filipino) hot chocolate while listening to the crashing of waves in Panglao Island in Bohol, a popular tourist province in the Philippines. I was here to attend a tech conference called Geeks on a Beach then decided to extend my stay and take some time to think and write.
I’m here on my own, and it’s become apparent that locals don’t know what to make of a woman traveling all by herself in these parts.
While I was checking in at the Bohol Bee Farm, there was an automatically-filled-out form that indicated, “2 pax.” I corrected it, crossing out the “2” to scribble, “1.” They still put “2” on the computer. Then when the porter came to take my bags, he asked where my companion was. When I told him I was traveling alone, he said in Filipino, “Oh, I thought you had a partner.”
And in the car on my way here, the driver wondered out loud why I was on my own. “Usually, the Filipina passengers here come with foreigners.”
There are times when that stereotype irks me, but because I have been dating non-Filipinos over the past couple of years, and because I don’t see myself being with a Filipino man ever again (let’s save this for another blog post), I had to mentally stop myself from feeling judged.
And while I was getting dinner last night and breakfast this morning, I got awkward looks for requesting for a table for one. I seem to be the only person in the entire resort who is dining on her own.
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In writing this, I’m expressing my amusement over the expectation that women should be traveling or dining with someone. (Does it apply to men?, I wonder.) Maybe it’s because that’s what people have gotten used to for centuries, so I can’t blame them. But I’m also writing this to say that, in fact, I thoroughly enjoy being on my own. I wish more restaurants and cafés had Tables for One so that people like me can take their places in these establishments without feeling guilty over occupying a table for two or four.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m still very much a hopeless romantic and still have hopes of finding a good partner in the near future, but being at peace with my solitude also means several things:
1. It means I’m at peace with myself and can stand solitude and silence without the need for distractions. (Unless you consider writing to be a distraction.)
2. It also means that I’m more purposive about the time I spend with others. If I invite you into my life and spend time with you, it’s because I value your company and am choosing time with you over other things. I interact–and live–by design, not by default.
3. I also don’t do things out of loneliness, so I doubt that I’ll be clingy. Yes, I do get lonely, but I won’t do things “just to have someone there.”
4. I won’t need you–or anyone else–to “complete me.” (Shudder.) And vice-versa. I believe that a healthy relationship is one where two healthy wholes come together to share who they are with each other, like a nice Venn diagram of intersecting circles. (Sorry, that was a geeky way of putting it, but I’m a nerd, so there.) I won’t expect you to fill my gaps, because I should do that myself, so don’t expect me to do that for you as well.
(And yes, we can complement each other, but we should “complete” ourselves and not expect anyone else to do it for us. I’ve learned that the hard, painful, gut-wrenching way.)
5. I take my time seriously and respect others’ time. We all have only 24 hours in a day and a gazillion things to attend to. If we decide to do things together, I will be there on time and I will make it count. I will value the time you choose to spend with me because time is the one thing you can never, ever get back.
6. I won’t play games–ever. There are so many more important things to do than that, seriously.
7. All this also means that I’m probably a bit too independent, a bit too strong-willed, and a bit too “intense” (as one guy I’d dated had once told me). But, hey, that’s what you get when you find people who are at peace with themselves. They won’t try to please others just to be “liked” or to have company.
8. I also take seriously the time that I spend working on myself and making my life count, so I will tend to make my own plans that don’t involve others. While I do consider the input of family, loved ones, and trusted colleagues, I won’t necessarily wait for “approval” or, worse, “permission” in order to take a particular course of action.
In saying all these, am I therefore scaring people away and setting myself up for a lifetime of solitude? I don’t know, and I certainly hope not. I believe that people of the same “frequency” will naturally gravitate towards each other and find reasons to be in each other’s lives. In the meantime, I shall enjoy this precious time bonding with myself and will be deeply grateful for the ability to do so. 🙂