Travel Stories Week 5
What’s your favorite place you have visited?
Not an easy question to answer, but the Philippines will forever hold a special place in our hearts. While there, we became a part of a tribe of fellow backpackers and hopped from island to island exploring this beautiful country. For us, traveling is just as much about the people we meet as the places we go.
Of all the places we visited, Port Barton on the island of Palawan was our favorite. Once a small fishing village, this town has started to become a popular travel destination, but still holds an off the beaten path feel to it. To get there, you must drive down a cliff side on the single dirt road leading into town. Power is available for only a few hours each day and runs completely on generators. And a pristine white sand beach stretches around the bay hugging its turquoise blue waters.
The vibe there is super laid back. Besides exploring the jungles in search of waterfalls, snorkeling, or taking a boat tour to the surrounding islands, there isn’t much to do except sit back and relax (not a bad thing in our book). Port Barton is the perfect destination for any traveler looking for a place to escape.
What’s the best thing you have seen while traveling?
A man who has given up his home and dedicated his life to helping the underprivileged within his community.
For the past six years, Mr. Yuth has built a school from nothing and gave up his home so that volunteers can come and have a comfortable place to stay while they teach English to the children of Kratie Province, Cambodia.
We spent two weeks teaching and living at the Dolphin School of English. The school is located in a small rural village where many of the children don’t attend a traditional school. Even for those who do, there are few opportunities waiting for them down the road outside of their village. A lot of the children spend their days helping their parents work and don’t have time to just be kids.
The Dolphin School is a safe space where they can play and enjoy their childhood while meeting volunteers from all around the world. The moment we arrived, Alli had a girl run and jump into her arms to say “teacher, I love you!”. Right then we knew how important this school is for the children and the community.
We will never forget the lessons we learned at the Dolphin School: what it means to be the foundation of a community, how to nurture and love someone that you cannot understand, and how to educate young children. And we will never forget Mr. Yuth, a symbol of selflessness. A man who gave up everything to help others have a better life.
What’s your best travel story?
Our best travel story happened on the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal. We trekked for 16 days, walking over 120 miles, and up to 17,769 feet through the Himalayas. Neither of us had ever backpacked before, but we still decided to do it on our own with no guide. TJ’s little sister, who had up until that point never left the US, joined us in Katmandu and together we made our way into the mountains to start this crazy adventure… we had no idea what was waiting for us.
Nor did we fully understand how long, tough, cold, and wonderful the trek would be. On day 9, after hiking roughly 10 miles each day, we arrived in the mountain town of Manang where we would stop and allow our bodies to acclimatize to the altitude. This is where the biggest surprise of the whole journey was waiting for us.
A few months back I had told myself that I would ask Alli to marry me in the Himalayas during our expedition to trek the entire Annapurna Circuit. I had no idea where or when it was going to happen, but I knew somewhere in these mysterious mountains lay a place perfect enough for me to ask the most important question of my life.
That perfect place was waiting for us just outside the small village of Manang. To get there we would need to climb up to a viewpoint that lay at at 13,000 ft with perfect panoramic views of the Himalayas.
When we reached the top, we were floored by the beauty that surrounded us. Snow dusted mountaintops greeted us in the distance, prayer flags blew in the wind, and a pristine lake shimmered below. After walking miles and miles and climbing thousands of feet I’d found the perfect place to propose. I called Alli and my sister over to the cliffs edge and asked my sis to “take a photo” (our secret word for my proposal). I took Alli’s hands and told her how I had asked her parents for their blessing back when we were all traveling Vietnam together. Before I could finish or even get down on one knee, she dove into my arms. I popped the question surrounded by one of the most beautiful views either of us has ever seen in our lives.
The whole thing felt a bit surreal but it was wonderfully perfect. We’d always thought we’d get engaged outside… but had no idea we’d be standing on top of the world while it happened.
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Who do we have next week?
The Travel Stories spotlight focuses on Nom from therunawaygal.com