How a Solo Trip to La Union Brought the Life Back in Me

“I was fascinated by the blue skies, amazed at the possibilities of an endless world unraveling before me.”

Life has been tough. And not just for me, but for everyone else. But despite that, people continued to move forward, and I felt envious. I was stuck, wallowing in sadness inside an empty box, while everyone I knew was out there living their life.

So one day in October, I decided to crawl out of my box. I yearned for the blue skies, the smell of the sea, and the sound of the crashing waves. After trying very hard to sort out my life for months, I realized all attempts were so far futile. Packing a few things in my old, yellow-green backpack, I headed north.

It was my first time to step out of Manila alone. All I had was my backpack, my phone and mobile data. On the bus to San Juan, La Union, I felt lost and left behind. I started to wonder and ask myself all sorts of the usual existential questions people feeling alone (or who are literally alone) ask themselves: what have I been doing with my life? How do I move on from this? Was life always this hard? But then all these thoughts and questions disappeared the moment we I caught sight of the ocean, that mesmerizing piece of paradise waiting for me in San Juan, La Union.

Awestruck, I took some time to feel the raging sun and the burning sand. I was fascinated by the blue skies, amazed at the possibilities of an endless world unraveling before me.

After I’d checked in at Circle Hostel, I headed straight for the shore, waded in the shallow part of the water and took some photos. I took short breaks to sit down and just marvel at what’s in front of and around me. I sat and watched people live and love walking past, frolicking — humans, old and young, seemingly oblivious to the sadness life can bring.

I decided to do one more thing I’d never done. I decided that I might as well surf, considering I was in La Union. I went to Sebay Surf Resort and rented a surfboard, hired an instructor, and I let my frail body paddle out into the ocean, farther away from everything and everyone familiar. Surprisingly, I learned fast and I actually managed to catch some waves.

San Juan has beautiful sunsets, I established this as fact as I watched how the skies transformed into artful swirls of white, blue, pink, orange, yellow and later, purple. A specific sort of warmth brewed inside me. I realized I was still capable of feeling happy. Life is like the sea, you can treat it like an old friend, embrace the waves and even learn to ride them, or let fear take over and focus on how you think the sea wants to swallow you.

It turns out; I was capable of making decisions on my own. I could overcome fear to do something new. A day of quick escape taught me a lot of things and gave me the gift of a new perspective.

As the night came, I walked back to the hostel and slept on a hammock. I braced myself for the mosquitoes that were going to feast on my exposed skin. I had never felt more alive and more sure of myself. This trip was precisely what I needed.

Heading back to Manila, I realized that I’m free to do what I want and be who I want to be. The only one who holds you back is you. Nothing feels more right than something that makes you feel excited and terrified at the same time. It’s creation’s way of telling you to follow your heart. Chances are, there’s something beautiful waiting for you. And whatever it is, it’ll all be worth it.