There are certain moments that radically alter your perspective on life. And traveling has the power to change your thinking, inspire your creativity, and experience transformative moments. In November 2012 that happened to me.
Before 2012, the longest trip I’ve ever taken was 2-weeks in Omaha, Nebraska when I was getting trained to run the Right at Home DC business. And my fondest memory of that trip was hating the cold Omaha weather and vowing to never travel that long again. So when my wife asked me to travel to the Philippines for a month later that year I thought she was out of her mind.
My wife’s friend was getting married in the Philippines and she invited us to go. I knew nothing about the country and when I learned it would be a 20+ hour flight I was like no way. Our son was just born so we would be taking a 15-month old baby on the trip and that scared the hell out of me.
Eventually I would give in. I let my wife plan all the details and I would take several months of save up to pay for flights and hotels. I figured I may hate it, but it would be a good experience for our son Bryce. I was 21 years old when I flew for the first time and here he is traveling across the world at the age of 1. I was cool with the details until I learned that the crime situation in Manilla, Phillipines was out of control. At that point I started to get nervous.
I began to do my own research and realized that we were going to a very unsafe place with our only child in tow. Manila was extremely dangerous to the point that you shouldn’t wear your jewelry, carry cash or use your credit cards. We were very inexperienced travelers at the time and had never been in this type of situation before, so of course I envisioned the worst.
We spent one night in Los Angeles, California at the Four Points by Sheraton to break up the 20+ hour flight. We chose to fly Philippines Airlines since there was a direct flight from LA to Manila. When we got to the airport, I was amazed at how many people were traveling. I was hoping there would be some extra seats available since we only purchased 2 seats (kids fly free under 2). Once I realized the flight was at capacity, it quickly became daunting since I would be holding my son in my lap for over 14 hours. And to make matters worse, they had televisions, but the movies were in Chinese.
Although things didn’t start out too great, we made it too Manila feeling awesome. The city was crowded and the people drove crazy but the chaotic metropolis was filled with lots of soul and great energy.
It was during the Christmas season so our hotel at the Discovery Suites was very festive with tons of decorations including a huge Christmas tree and a real gingerbread house. We had steak dinners for 3 including drinks and the bill was only like $30 USD. We got the chance to experience the Manila Ocean Park aquarium, ride in a Jeepney, went to the mall and checked out a movie.
We only stayed in Manila for a few days before heading to Tagaytay for the wedding. Tagaytay is a popular town south of Manila and it sits on a ridge above the active Taal Volcano. My wife is the adventurous one so she did a donkey tour up the volcano and I decided to go to the spa.
It was a traditional filipino wedding with traditional foods and even had a whole pig. There was a DJ and band and we had so much fun drinking and partying. After the wedding we would take a flight to explore the city of Boracay.
The bride and groom and some of their family and friends joined us in Boracay. Boracay is a small island in the central Philippines known for its white sand beaches. The sand was super soft, bright white and it was the cleanest beach I had ever seen. The water was so clear that you can snorkel waist high. Today it is still one of the best beaches I have ever visited due to the views of the mountains, temperature of water, nice restaurants & eateries on the strip and so much more.
There was a life changing moment during our stay in Boracay. We were heading back to our hotel from the beach which was a few miles away. This young man asked if we would like a bike ride which we accepted. He peddled and peddled and when we arrived at the hotel, he only asked for $3 USD. This moment made me appreciate my life so much more as I realized how much I take things for granted.
After staying in Boracay for a few days, we would leave all of our friends and head to Thailand. In the Philippines most things were written in both Tagalo and English. So it was quite an adjustment when we arrived in Thailand and everything was written in Thai.
We got in late so Bryce was sleep. Dawnta arranged a pickup with the hotel and the driver was super cool. When we got to the Lebua hotel, the staff was friendly and our room was fantastic. It was rainy so we didn’t do much that night. The next day we toured the Grand Palace, Wat Po, road an elephant at Elephant Village, watched Thai kickboxing, experienced the floating market and did so much more. I got several suits made and even made a few new friends during our stay. We were only in Bangkok for a few days but it felt like a lifetime. Now it was off to Koh Samui.
Koh Samui, Thailand
We took a small plane with Bangkok Airways. And even though the flight was short, they fed us and sang an amazing jingle. I realized at this moment that the staff on airlines in other countries were way nicer and more accommodating than a lot of the airlines in the States.
Koh Samui is Thailand’s second largest island.. It’s known for its beautiful beaches, coconut groves and dense, mountainous rainforest. We took a taxi from the small Samui Airport to our hotel. And when we arrived I felt like we were in heaven. It was rainy when we first got there, but the weather ended up perfect, the people were nice and our hotel was life changing.
W Koh Samui
The view from the main lobby was breathtaking and the staff didn’t disappoint. There are “sweet spots” with drinks & ice cream situated right beside our room. So this meant we could get ice whenever we wanted and it was free.
There was a private pool connected to our room, outdoor showers and a direct access to the beach. The food was delicious, the restaurants were amazing, and they even had a DJ spinning our favorite jams. But what made this stay the most amazing ever is this is where we conceived our second child Bria Marie Turner. All in all this was one of the most memorable hotel stays ever.
A trip to remember….
We did so much that I couldn’t include everything in this blog, but I tried. When it was time to go, I was begging my wife to stay longer. She mentioned that she wanted us to stay a month and I settled at a little over 3weeks. Damn I messed up on that one. It was so awesome being on the other side of the world and still being able to connect with people back home via social media.
I really appreciated the Asian culture and how everyone were so welcoming. At one point I thought I was celebrity in the Philippines when people kept trying to take pictures with me at the mall. Apparently they didn’t see black guys very often or maybe I looked like a movie star. Anyway this trip changed my life because I got to see two amazing countries and it felt like home when I was on the other side of the world. After this trip, I told my wife that I want to do this all the time. This is when I realized how important traveling meant to me.