Six days ago, I saw an Instagram post from The Circle Hostel announcing that their Baler and Zambales hostels are closing. Only their La Union hostel will remain open. I felt sad upon reading this because The Circle Hostel has played a special part in my solo travels. I’ve had great memories from both Baler and Liwliwa. The announcement made me look back on when I started traveling solo.
My First Solo Travel
My very first solo (non-work related) travel was in 2008. It was the day after my birthday. I went to Puerto Galera alone. I’ve always wanted to go to Puerto Galera even when I was still in college. I remember me and my housemates back then made plans. But it never happened due to lack of time, or budget, or maybe both, Then on my third year of working, I decided to finally visit the place. I had money and time (I had lots of vacation days earned). I had no one to go with (everyone’s busy with their jobs), so I decided to go on my own. It was my birthday gift for myself for working hard. It was a great trip, but I never got to do it again.
My I Went Anyways Moment
The other leisure travels I had were always with someone else. I remember booking a flight to Coron during a seat sale and not going because I wasn’t able to find someone to go with me. And then fast forward to 2016. I was working in Manila for a year already. My previous jobs were always in mine sites. The common practice was you work straight for a certain number of days and then you go on a field break (like you work 21 days straight and you get 7 days field break). But in Manila I was office-based, so I had weekends off. I used to live in an apartment with two other girls. On weekends, they go home. I also go to Baguio (I still had my apartment there back then) but I did it every other week. On the weekends that I was in Manila, I was bored to death. I was nursing a broken heart at that time too, so it was super lonely.
Then came Chinese New Year. It was a long weekend. I didn’t want to just stay in Manila so I thought of going somewhere and I invited friends to go with me. But they backed out a few days before the trip. I decided to go on with the trip alone. The original plan was Sagada, but when I was trying to contact a local guide, he said they are fully booked. Tourists flock to Sagada during long weekends. What I did instead was to do a solo hike in Mt. Ulap in Itogon.
First (Solo) Hike
Itogon is a town next to Baguio. I used to work in Itogon so I know that the place is safe. But you can’t hike the mountain on your own, you need to hire a guide. I was able to contact one through a friend. Mt. Ulap was my first hike. It was supposed to be solo, with a guide. But I ended up doing it with a group I met at the registration desk. There were not enough guides at that time so the people at the registration desk asked me if it’s okay that they join me. I agreed because then I would have someone to split the costs with, and though I know that I’ll be safe with the guide, it is way safer if there were other people with me. I had a great time hiking with the group. They were super nice to me. One of them even became a Facebook friend.
After that hike, I did another solo hike the following month to Mt. Balagbag, a mountain near Metro Manila. I was going on 32-days fieldwork at the mine site two days after, so I pushed through with it even though none of my officemates were available that weekend. I’ve read that the mountain is safe for solo hikers. That was my second I went anyways moment.
Circle Hostel Memories
After the 32-days fieldwork, I had a few days off. I decided to go on a trip to Zambales alone. I choose it because a friend’s son was getting baptized that week too and I was asked to be a godparent (ninang). The baptism was in Zambales. I thought it would be a good time to explore Zambales. When I planned the trip, somehow I got used to doing things alone already so I didn’t ask any of my friends to join me anymore.
For that trip, I went to Magalawa Island, then to San Felipe, and then to San Antonio (where the baptism was held). I wasn’t alone in Magalawa because when I told my sister I am planning to go there, she asked if she and her boyfriend can join me. Her boyfriend is from the town near Magalawa Island and my sister was there with him at that time. We stayed overnight on the island and camped under the stars. The following day, I traveled to San Felipe alone.
Circle Hostel Zambales
The Circle Hostel Zambales is located in Liwliwa, San Felipe, Zambales. Liwliwa is a favorite beach getaway of those who are not a big fan of the crowds. It is just a few hours away from Manila, and an alternative to the famous surfing spots in the north.
I only stayed there for a night but had a really great time. I arrived in Liwliwa around lunchtime. After having lunch, I decided to just stay in the common area of The Circle Hostel and read a book because it was still hot to go to the beach. After a few hours of chilling there, a Chinese girl also came to stay there. She asked me a question and then we began to chat about many things. And then she invited me to join her and her friend when they go surfing. She told me that Liwliwa has amazing sunset and that I shouldn’t miss it. And so I went with them, except I didn’t surf (I wasn’t ready for it yet). And much as I would love to see the sunset, it rained that day so there was no sunset.
At night I decided to buy dinner at the shop across the hostel. While waiting for the food I ordered, I was surprised when I heard someone calling me. It was the Chinese girl (too bad I can’t remember her name anymore). She told me that they asked their surf instructor to cook sinigang for them and she invited me to join them. The food was great. After dinner, we watched the movie Point Break on her laptop. I had a great time in Liwliwa. And what I love most about my stay there is that I just enjoyed the moment. As I was checking for photos from that trip, I found that I only had a few. I don’t even have pictures with those two girls. Pictures were not a priority for me back then.
The following day, I took the bus to San Antonio to attend the baptism. After the celebration, I took a tricycle to Pundaquit to check the place. Had a nice chat and selfie with the kids there.
From Pundaquit, I took a tricycle to Casa San Miguel. I had a snack there and checked out the place. From there I walked to San Miguel Beach to catch the sunset. While waiting for the sun to set, I hung out with the kids there. They told me stories about their lives and they asked me why I was alone. I also got to watch them play Dr. Kwak Kwak, one of my favorite games when I was a kid.
Circle Hostel Baler
The following month after my trip to Zambales, I went to Baler to spend my birthday alone. I stayed at The Circle Hostel Baler. Because it was already June (summer season is over), there weren’t too many guests at the hostel. If I remember correctly, on my first night there (my birthday), I was alone in my room. I went to a bar near the hostel to have some drinks. The following day when I got back to my room after exploring Baler, I found out I already have a roommate. Just like me, she was also traveling solo. We got along quickly and decided to go for drinks at Cauti Bar, the bar across our hostel.
We had a fun night and got back to the hostel drunk. It was raining that night. We decided to sleep in the common area on the second floor. She slept on the hammock while I slept on the mat on the floor with the bean bags. It was one of my most unforgettable experiences while traveling solo.
More Solo Trips Followed
After those two trips, more solo trips followed, both here and out of the country. I’ve written about most of it here on my blog but there are a few that I haven’t written yet. I love writing about these solo experiences because I get to give other girls the courage to do the same.
Whenever I have the urge to travel, I don’t ask friends to join me anymore. I got so comfortable traveling alone. Even when we went to Bali for my best friend’s bridal shower, I flew there on my own and did the tours alone. I was only with them for a day and 2 nights. I know it might seem weird for other people, but they availed a tour package and I wanted a more flexible option.
Favorite Solo Trip
I love all my solo trips but there are some that stood out. Aside from my backpacking trip last year, I would say my favorites are Siquijor and El Nido. I would love to go back to these places someday and would love to take my boyfriend with me. These two places are beautiful, and I love the chill vibe.
So that’s my I went anyways story. After this pandemic is over, why don’t you try going solo too? It’s very liberating and you’ll discover that there are actually so many things you can do on your own. I would like to end this post with this line from Alice in the movie How To Be Single:
“The time we have to be single, is really the time we have to get good at being alone. But how good at going alone do we really want to be? Isn’t there a danger that you’ll get so good at being single, so set in your ways that you’ll miss out on the chance to be with somebody great? Some people take baby steps to settle down. Some people refuse to settle at all. Sometimes it’s not statistics. It’s just chemistry. The thing about being single is you should cherish it. Because, in a week, or a lifetime, of being alone, you may only get one moment. One moment, when you’re not tied up in a relationship with anyone. One moment, when you stand on your own. Really, truly single. And then.. it’s gone.”