Theo has so many tears leaving Malay, Aklan, Philippines, for Bangkok, Thailand.

So many tears

The tears might finally be gone. Run out? Gone dry? I guess a new reality has set in.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. To feel. To hurt. To care.

How could an early retired life of footloose international travel include such severe emotional angst?

Yet, as I sit and write here in Bangkok, Thailand – my mind replays the last two weeks, the last two years – and I am again on the verge of tears.

When I quit work and left America in 2015 there were no tears. The freedom of an early retirement dream come true brought only smiles and squeals of delight.

Now six travel years and one pandemic later, this: an emotional hangover. More accurately, Philippine withdrawal.

Somehow leaving the Philippines three days ago was one of the most gut wrenching moments of my life.

Our ‘despedida’ (goodbye party) of 50-60 people was fun and comforting. But the individual goodbyes were extremely difficult.

Members of the indigenous Ati tribe even came to our apartment in the pouring rain to sing us off. That event ended with us all sobbing.

Presently, as I stare at the nighttime Bangkok skyline, the Philippine memories flood back. Then the friendly faces flash in my mind. And the tears well up again.

Without a doubt, it is those faces; the friends and families and children we came to know and love during our two-year COVID stay near beautiful Boracay Island, Philippines that have left me such a wreck.

Some friends in Malay, Aklan, Philippines.

There is a saying: “You won’t change the Philippines, but the Philippines will change you.”

Not true, I would argue. Both can happen. Myself and my wife are proof of that.

This blog detailed just some of the changes, the differences, we made in Filipino lives over the past two years.

Now I’m apparently feeling the change in me.

To be sure, we poured our whole selves into helping Filipinos throughout the two years of the pandemic. 

We were joined in our efforts by numerous overseas donors who contributed and multiplied our resources. Endless thanks to all those generous folks.

Never have I felt so needed and vital and involved in individual lives. Seeing the difference we made on a daily basis was intoxicating. Is there such a thing as being addicted to helping?

In the end, it led to some of the most intense friendships of my life. And now, as COVID hardships lessen, pulling away from those friendships is painful.

Still, the time feels right to return to ‘our own lives’. We’re blessed vagabonds. Two sedentary years is too much. The world – messed up as it is – awaits.

And thank God for Bangkok. The unending action and energy of this place provides a distraction, a kind of cushioning to the raw emotion of the past weeks.

Of course, I can and will continue with the Philippine friendships. Facebook and email and phone calls will facilitate ongoing interactions.

Eventually, we will return. We have to. The Philippines will always be like a second home to me. We’ve already talked about coming back after a few years of other travel… maybe other tears.

As always, be thankful and generous, happy trails & more beer. Life is NOW!

Thanks for reading, “So many tears.”

Earth Vagabonds are safe travel advocates.

6 comments

  1. So right…Philippines changed you. But you also changed it. I wouldn’t so much say you changed, but that your already big heart grew full to bursting. Maybe that’s what hurts right now. Much love to you and Ellie.

  2. My husband and I totally get this. We spent the 1st year and a half of the pandemic in a small town in Guatemala on our sailboat. We it was very heard to leave. We did everything we could for the locals while we where there and learned so much form them too. The pandemic then a horrific flood devistated the area but they are very resilient people as are the people you met and befriended in the Philippines I’m sure. I’m enjoying your blog! I found it while looking for a Mammogram here in Mexico(I’m 52 now and uts been 6 years since we left home and it’s way over due). Very sorry to hear about the breath cancer but that is excellent that no more issues since 2018❤️

  3. I thought you would never leave the P.I. so I can’t imagine what you and Ellen are going through. Onward and upward in your safe travels.

  4. Thanks for letting me share your time in the Philippines. Not only have you touched the lives of those you met, you touched my life also; and your story sharing enabled them to touch mine…I cried with you all.
    Blessings and love as you continue your journeys. I truly hope we meet again 💞

  5. Oh my heart 💔🥲 The universe wanted you to be there through the pandemic. You will return to your friends when the time is right.

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