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The Parallel Experiences of Travelling and Living Alone

Growing up in a Filipino household, I was fairly sheltered from certain realities of independence. Like a horse with blinders on, I mainly focused on my studies throughout university, for a “better future.” As I studied, my parents maintained the house and finances. Though my parents imparted many lessons throughout my life, some lessons are meant to be learned independently. Planning trips to new places planted seeds of self-reliance and eventually bloomed when I finally moved out on my own a year ago.

The initial anxiety to rely on myself during my first solo trip sunk in as I first landed in Ottawa, Canada’s capital city. As a kid, my parents emphasized being aware of my surroundings. Surrounded by a sea of unfamiliar faces, I was hyper-aware of my environment. Slowly dipping my toes into the city enticed my curiosity. Soon, familiarity and my inner adventurer abolished my anxiety, sparking confidence as I wandered the Ottawa streets in solitude. Similarly, when I first moved out, I was cognizant of the vast emptiness of my new home. I would constantly check if my doors and windows were locked so that no intruders entered uninvited. As the weeks turned into months, I nestled comfortably in my space, making myself feel free at home.

While I lived at home, bills were nonexistent. Though my parents both worked and had a part-time job, they advised me to save my earnings. But in the safety net of my parents’ house, I spent lavishly instead. When I forked over my hard-earned money to feed my month-long trip to Asia, I was hit with a big reality check. I was travelling to four different countries with vastly different conversion rates to the Canadian dollar. Prior to leaving, I wisely budgeted for each country and withdrew enough cash for the first leg of my trip. In every country, I meticulously accounted for each purchase for my financial records and brought souvenirs through Canadian borders. Budgeting for Asia built my habit of reviewing expenditures. Transitioning into my own living space, I continued to slash unnecessary purchases and reserve funds for actual living expenses. Though I have not perfected my budget, I am thankful for my financial awareness. 

En route to Bangkok, I landed in Guangzhou, China. My flight arrived late due to a typhoon wreaking havoc along China’s coastline. Missing my final connection fueled my anxiety and vexation. I attempted to contact my friends in Thailand, my sister, and my partner but was unable to send or receive messages. The Great Firewall of China censored certain Western social media apps. Being isolated from everyone I loved with no form of communication was truly terrifying. I wanted to break down into a frustrated ball, but I couldn’t with all these strangers around me. Instead, I endured the chaos, calculating my next move. Quickly, I learned that the airline accommodated passengers who missed their flights. I reserved the next flight and figured it was smooth sailing as I descended into Bangkok until I discovered that the airline left my luggage in China. Despite the craziness, in the end, things worked out. This was a lesson I remembered at the beginning of this school year when substitute teaching jobs were sparse. It had only been a couple of months since I moved out, and I felt stressed to the bone over my bills. My savings were quickly depleting, and I needed to stabilize my income. After much inner debate, I applied to a few tutoring companies to continue refining my teaching skills and make extra money. Problems may pile high, but regardless of the stressfulness, a situation will diffuse with action and patience.

My mom reigns as the cooking powerhouse. Usually, Mom took charge of grocery shopping and determined our meals, with room for suggestions. Because I rarely cooked at home, I simultaneously thought I sucked at it. In Thailand, my friends and I immersed ourselves in a Thai cooking class. Secretly, I was nervous since I lacked prior cooking experience. As we prepped, my anxiety quickly melted. Chopping and mixing all our ingredients for Thai dishes like Pad See Ew, and Panang Curry was my epiphany. I loved the mingling aromas and savoured the sizzling sounds of a dish forming. After all the love and effort invested into our food, I discovered my own self-sufficiency in preparing a decent meal. Moving into my own house, I’ve slowly enhanced my cooking skills, since eating out is pricey. Throughout the first few months, I surprised myself with the food I prepared. I even scout new dishes to share with my loved ones and document my progress on Instagram. As I continue practicing, the better my cooking skills become.

In Filipino culture, family is central to all aspects of life. While I enjoyed the freedom of roaming foreign places without parental supervision, I missed them after a few days. No matter where I travelled, and as I journey through life, I’ve learned to respectfully uphold my connection with my parents. Like everyone at the start of quarantine, I was locked in my house. Now that I was home more, cooking consumed my time. Learning Filipino foods kindled my need for the nostalgia and familiarity of my family. To understand the complexities of Filipino home cooking, I advised the master chef, my mom. Through her coaching on the phone, she guided me through dishes like Ginataan, Arroz Caldo, and Champorado. Amongst the chaos, her knowledge and guidance bridged my independence and the connection to my Filipino roots.

Exploring unfamiliar places enlightens our souls with depth and experience, carrying lessons of strength, curiosity, and independence. These lessons and experiences have profound or subtle effects on our daily lives, shifting our perspectives and blossoming new parts of ourselves. Armed with the knowledge my parents taught me throughout the years, coupled with the experiences of my adventures, my self-reliance evolved.

Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.

Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.

We have grown since then, putting out bimonthly issues (we are contributor powered: apply to write for our next one!), and weekly reviews of culture, and news that is important to us.

You can find announcements, more news, and get to know our staff on social media: give us a follow, and learn how you can get involved today!

We do not claim to speak for all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. We are just here to give them a place to speak for themselves.

We hope you’ll join us.

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