By Celina Sol Cruz

We travel to see the world, get a deeper meaning out of life, find our purpose but we often tend to put too much pressure on ourselves and end up missing out on the whole travel experience.

We all have that strong desire to find ourselves, realize our purpose, and give meaning to life and we often think to do this by travelling alone. People always say, “lose yourself to find yourself”

This was what pushed me to go through with my two-month marketing stint in Sibiu Romania. When I was presented the opportunity, I thought it was such a crazy idea to be even considering it. I mean, I had a stable job in a multi-national company, my family and friends are all here (and I’m gonna be there all alone), and I was starting on some projects that I truly enjoyed. I was happy with my life but deep down, I knew I had that itch that needed to be scratched– I knew I had to do it.

Goodbye, Manila!

And so I packed my bags and left everything behind (well of course, it was an emotional three months of fixing my visa, quitting my job, packing my life in a 20kg luggage, and saying my goodbyes)

I came to Romania with the hopes of having a better understanding and becoming a better version of myself. I gave myself a strict schedule to follow: Wake up at 6:30am everyday, fix my bed, workout, have my quiet time, talk to the people back home, etc. and for the first few weeks I found myself mostly alone in my apartment pressured by my schedules and my to-do lists  (which I love making, btw hahah) — thinking this would help me achieve my goal.

Hello, Romania!
Yourlocalocals-romania-sibiu
Sibiu, Romania

Then I realized, what was I thinking trying to make this trip all about me— turning this great opportunity into a bootcamp for myself. That’s when I decided to shift my perspective. I am in another part of the world, surrounded by beautiful white-skinned, blue/hazel/green-eyed people accustomed to a different kind of culture, spectacular architecture, snow-covered mountains, colorful flowers and so many other unusual things for me.

That’s when my trip really began, when I started living in the moment. I invested my time in getting to know the people I worked with in KeepCalling & AIESEC. I started living like a local, going to meetings, giving talks on exchange programs to students in universities, attending music festivals, etc. There was an unexplainable joy of being able to see the world through the eyes of these locals and having to experience all these things for the first time.

Yourlocalocals-romania-sibiu
Romania

In the many interactions I have had with the Romanians I found myself exchanging stories, showing pictures, and learning about each other’s cultures and ways of life. As I got to learn more about Romania, I also got to share interesting stuff about our home country. We would talk about almost everything & anything that comes to mind—from history, culture, economy, tourist spots, to food, jokes, dating etiquette, pet-peeves, etc.

The most important takeaways that I had were from conversations over coffee or beer at my favorite café terrace or during a 5hr car ride or a spontaneous trip up the mountain or the lake. It was from the time I got to spend with the locals, the stories that they openly shared with me, and the exchange of thoughts about the most random things such as life.

  • Like how a couple, Luci & Alina, who loves to travel taught me that the best adventures are the ones that aren’t the most expensive, they taught me the value of simple living, experiencing nature, and the importance of just being with good company.
  • How a mother, Bogdana, shared with me that motherhood changes your perspective– she used to just live in her little bubble when she was single but now, is very passionate to make the world a better place for her daughters.
  • How my work buddy, Georgiana, would always remind me to always live in the moment or else it will just pass you by. (and this just confirmed the point of this post! Haha)
  • How my closest AIESEC friend, Horatiu, showed me that quality time is the best way to show that you value someone. I saw how he was always willing to go out of his way for the people closest to him. Time was what he offered and if you come to think of it, time is the foundation of all relationships.
  • How my adventurous workmate, Anda, described the feeling of freedom and oneness when she’s in the presence of nature and how when you want something so bad, you gotta own it so that the universe can conspire to make it happen. (Yup, she knows the secret!)

As I engaged with these people, simple exchange of words became exchange of stories and then later on exchange of lives. Through focusing on these people (and taking occasional coffee dates with myself to process and write about it), I was able to understand myself in parallel with these stories.

But of course, like anything in this world, it had to come to an end and I had to go back to the Philippines. Leaving Romania was such a bittersweet experience. It was difficult to leave the place I was only starting to call home. But getting those goodbye messages from people made me realize that, in one way or two, I have touched their lives and made a difference. It was very humbling & heartwarming knowing that by living in the moment, you did not only make yourself better but also had a positive impact on other people’s lives.

And from hereon out, I know that I shouldn’t make travel all about myself but always focus on the new world that I’m gonna be seeing and the stories of the people that I’ll be encountering. And only through this will I discover my newfound self.

Read more about my experience at 2-month Romania adventure.

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