Breathes there a man with soul so dead who never dream of going to various places in the world. To dream is one thing; to go those countries you dream is another. But living the dream is the ultimate level.
I was still in high school when I have this itch of going abroad. I really wanted to see those places which I can only dream of. But I grew up in a middle-class family; my father is a mechanic while my mother is a homemaker. All in all, there are nine siblings.
So, it was impossible for me to go abroad – in those days. But the dream kept on coming. So much that when I was 25, I got my passport without any intention of going to another country.
During a break, Mercado asked me: “Do you have a passport?” I was totally surprised by his question but I quickly replied, “Yes, I have.” (Two months earlier, I got my passport.) Hearing those, he again asked, “Would you like to go Bangkok for another seminar?”
Don’t ask me what my answer was. A month later, I was already in Bangkok, Thailand – my first trip in another country. I was already 26 years and I had the opportunity of going abroad and attending press briefing on food security in the region with other journalists from other countries. All these I did while writing best man speeches my friend was requesting me for a client.
I returned to Bangkok the second time when I was invited by the German embassy to attend a business expo. It was during October and one of the much-awaited events was the Oktoberfest. All invited journalists were requested to attend.
Before the party ended, there was a raffle contest for all visiting journalists. When my name was called, I got my prize: a winter jacket. How will I use it, I asked myself. I am from a tropical country! But just the same, I brought it home. I stayed with my sister’s place in Hibbing (the city where Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan grew up) for more than a month. In the morning of December 25, we woke up very early as we had to spend the Christmas in the place where her mother-in-law lived. While we were on our way, I could see the snowflakes dropping from the air. As if I could hear Bing Crosby crooning, “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas…”
The best autumn experience I had was in Montreal, Canada, where I attended an international gathering of science journalists from all over the world. It was October and maple trees were all over the city. And the trip going to Quebec was totally exhilarating as I saw the hues of colors along the lanes. Aside from the Durban experience, I also attended two AIDS conferences in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (yes, I scaled the Twin Towers) and Melbourne, Australia (where I visited its famous zoo). Three International Coral Reef Symposiums brought me to Bali, Indonesia (ah, those famous beaches and noted Hindu temples), Fort Lauderdale, Florida (did some diving at the Biscayne National Park), and Cairns, Australia (who has never heard of Great Barrier Reef?).
As part of the prize in winning the competition of Bright Leaf Agriculture Journalism Awards, I was able to visit Beijing, China (I found out the scaling the Great Wall is not a walk in the park) and Hanoi, Vietnam (visited the famous Halong Bay, a World Heritage).
Other international conferences brought me to Bogor, Indonesia (where I had to fly to Jakarta first), Siem Reap, Cambodia (an opportunity of going to the famed Angkor Wat), and Phuket, Thailand (a city that was once devastated by tsunami).
“You are living the dream which most of us want to experience,” my friend, Gabriel Paolo Morales told me the other night (that conversation led me to write this piece). “It’s not so often that someone like you will ever experience the kind of opportunity you have.”