Chase Travels to the Philippines with “lone wolf” Kami
It is the end of the road when it comes to our Chase Travel series in 2017. Let’s be honest, nowadays we all feel the urge to snuggle up inside with some Netflix and/or a lover, cosy blanket and a hot beverage. But that doesn’t mean you can’t dream about a trip to a tropical destination, right? So, what do you think about an adventurous backpack adventure in the Philippines?
That's exactly what the fierce Kami Siffer did, all by herself. She visited the Philippines during the dry season in March and April, when the temperatures are high and there are less tourists around. Through Facebook she got in touch with people who had already been there and who convinced her to take the plunge herself. Once she arrived in the Philippines, she felt lonely at first. But ultimately, Kami had the experience of a lifetime, surrounded by nature's beauty, friendly Filipinos and a loneliness that grew on her.
Photography by Kami Siffer, interview by Chess Teugels
“My cousin introduced me to some people in the art scene in Manila, Bacolod and Cebu in a group chat on Facebook. After talking to them, I was convinced to go. I booked my ticket without thinking about it too much. They made me a list with do’s and don’ts. I bought a Lonely Planet guidebook and five photo films, and fixed my visa. I deliberately booked a room for my first night only. Five weeks later I left Belgium."
"I didn’t really have any expectations. At first, it didn’t cross my mind how alone and far from home I would be in a country that was unknown to me, until I was on the plane. Suddenly, it scared me so much that I cried. I was afraid that I had made the worst decision of my life. The first day in Manila, I found myself on the street with a heavy backpack, a Lonely Planet in my hand and tears in my eyes. I thought to myself: “What have I done? This is not who I am, this is not what I want, why the fuck did I ever leave my safe home in Belgium?!"”
"There was another moment when I almost decided to go home, because I thought I needed my family and my friends. But some guy in my hostel came up to me, comforted me, even took me out for dinner and made me feel like I was with a trusted friend. It’s this kind of memories that I will never forget and that only exists exactly because I was traveling alone. That is why I absolutely don’t regret traveling solo.”
“During my first week in the Philippines however, I met a Belgian guy. We decided to travel together for two weeks, but only after four days, I realized I missed being alone. I missed being out of my comfort zone, being forced to socialize and to make my own decisions. So, I told the guy I’d rather travel on my own. From then on I felt like I knew exactly what I was doing and why, and enjoyed it all so much more."
“It wasn't the first time I travelled outside of Europe all by myself. But it was my first time being alone for such a long time. In September last year. I travelled alone, but I met up with friends and my sister, so I was never on my own for long. This time, I really travelled solo for seven weeks. I did meet new people, but never people I already knew. Sometimes it was hard though. But now, looking back at the experience, I’m very proud I did it and it taught me so much."
“I like hidden gems, where hardly any tourists ever come. I like to hang with the locals. I like to take a boat, observe people, and ask myself where they’re going and what they’re doing. I like to talk to the driver of a tricycle or a taxi. I like to visit little markets and buy local products. I wish everyone could experience the kind of loneliness you feel when visiting a country all by yourself. It feels amazing and terrible at the same time.”
"The Philippines often have a really bad reputation in global news, but it’s really the opposite. The people I met there are so freaking kind. Even now when I think of them, I really start to miss the friendly, warm and loving Filipinos. They start talking to you on the street, just because they are interested in where you’re from, what you’re doing and who you are; wanting to know if they can help you in any way - and if you tell them they can’t, they just leave you alone. Some of them were the kindest people I’ve ever met.”
"A lot of taxi drivers and people I met along the way asked me where my husband or boyfriend was. When I told them I was alone, they were very surprised. But once I explained to them why I was a solo-traveller, they seemed to understand.”
“All the pictures I took during my trip are special to me, but they mean the most together as a memoire of my travels in the Philippines. They reflect the experiences I had during my trip very well: the atmosphere, the themes, the colours… They show that I was sad sometimes, but also show my happy moments. They show how I was surrounded by people I didn’t know. They show how beautiful nature was and that I found peace there. It's exactly how I want to remember my adventure.”
“Every moment was memorable in a different way. But if I have to pick one, it was the day I rented a motorbike to drive around the north of Palawan. I was so happy and so aware of it. I was just soaking up the beauty of the nature surrounding me, feeling the wind in my hair and the sun on my skin."
"Another moment I’ll never forget, took place on a night boat. I couldn't sleep, went to the deck and started talking with a guy I met there. At a certain point, we were looking at the stars. We could see the Milky Way very clearly. Never had I seen something like that before in my life. I was lucky to see a shooting star twice. The guy told me to make a wish, and honestly, I couldn’t think of anything else to wish for than just being there and enjoying that moment. That was such a special feeling.”
“I’m a pure lone wolf. I do enjoy people’s company, but I have learned to put up with my own thoughts and ultimately, myself. During this trip, I felt truly lonely at some points, even though I was surrounded by a lot of people. Sometimes it scared me and even frustrated me. Other times I was able to enjoy it. I started to appreciate and embrace my loneliness. Now that I'm back in Belgium, I miss it. I miss being surrounded by my loneliness."
“Always be careful, but never be scared. Recklessness will cause you trouble, but fear will bring you nowhere. Find the perfect balance when travelling alone. Try to fit in, try to understand different cultures and religions. Be open, see the good in people, but don’t be naive.”
For more, check out the aftermovie she made (to the soundtrack of Bonobo's 'Kerala')!
Kami experimented with prints of her photographs during this trip on t-shirts and is now selling them. If you want to cop one, contact her via her Instagram or mail to email@example.com!
Next weekend, from December 1 to 3, you can go and check out Kami's 'Eat Your Loneliness' exposition with her photography for the first time (afterhours) at O'YO, a healthy food bar in Ghent where she works.