It was a spur-of-the-moment thing; my friend asked if I wanted to go to the beach the next day and I said, “Why not?”
I have almost always never said no to travel. There is an allure in seeing new places and discovering new things. Plus, the promise of being able to dip my toes in the ocean was too good to pass up. There were six of us on this trip; five introverts and one extrovert, all of us happy to be out in the sun. We checked into Circles Hostel in San Felipe, Zambales, whose bare-bones accommodations and rustic, artsy theme was precisely its charm. There were no private rooms; you had a choice of either a bunk bed or a hammock, all of them cooled only by ceiling fans and the Zambales breeze, a mosquito net your only protection from the elements. Someone had written “I threw up in this bunk” in mine; I fervently hoped he or she was bluffing. The hostel was filled with graffiti; almost every nook and cranny decorated with pictures and words of encouragement and hope, someone’s thoughts come to life, left behind.
We dumped our bags on our beds; to heck with lockers, and ran to the beach. I don’t have to describe the beach. You can see it for yourself in the first photo above. While we were laying down blankets, a guy wandered by and asked if we could watch his belongings for him. He had jumped on a bus from Manila, hoping to run to the beach to forget. He hung out with us for a while, swimming in the ocean, playing Cards Against Humanity while having lunch, then just napping the afternoon away before he had to catch the bus back to Manila. “I’ll find you guys on Facebook,” he said as he waved goodbye. We read and told stories and listened to Beck’s new album and napped some more. “Time moves so slowly here,” my friend said. “I love it.” We found ourselves at the beach again after dinner, this time sitting around a bonfire on a clear night. There were stories, and food, and booze, and a guitar, but most of all, there was company.
We fed the fire and fed ourselves; our hearts, minds and bellies full of friendship and poetry and corn chips. We left the beach just after midnight, somehow making it back to fall asleep in our bunks. We woke the next day, each at his or her own time, everyone slowly converging in the common area to lounge some more, some sprawled on the bean bags that littered the straw-matted floor, some on one of the hammocks that swung from the posts, and others, myself included, clustered around the hostel-provided bananas armed with cups of coffee and a jar of Nutella that someone had thoughtfully brought along. And then it was time to head home. As we loaded our bags into the cars, we knew that we had been part of something special; a magical sort of nothing that manifests, not in extreme emotion, but the lack of it, a total relaxation of the soul. Suddenly, we knew what it meant to be chill. Absolutely nothing happened on this trip, and that was what made it beautiful. I would not have been able to be part of it if I hadn’t said yes to my friend’s invitation, hadn’t been ready to leave in less than a day’s notice, hadn’t been afraid to survive without internet, hadn’t been brave enough to just be. In fact, from the way my friends told it, the whole thing had been a spur-of-the-moment decision on their part too, which just goes to show that sometimes, especially when it comes to vacations, the best courses of action are those that require the least planning.