I’m a city girl who loves to write, draw, and play video games at home. The only other place you’d be sure to find me is at the mall; anything beyond its parameters is too “far” for me. The reason? I just don’t like going out (unless we’re talking about a metal concert or a UDD gig). My brother Hatch is crazy about the outdoors. He’s a mountain biker, an off-road 4×4 truck driver, and a certified boy scout, so he tries to grab any opportunity to get me out of the house. The past weekend, he finally succeeded and brought me to Iba, Zambales.
The last time I was in Zambales… well, I can’t remember when, but I know for sure all we did was eat, swim, sleep, and eat again. That’s exactly what I was expecting from this trip, except this time, I had to work on my next book. Revisions on my first one are officially with my agent Caitie, and I won’t be hearing back from her until next week at the earliest. I didn’t really see myself whipping out another doc file just yet, but instead jotting down notes on Evernote and doodling on my Starbucks planner. So at four in the morning, with my 3DS at hand, we drove out of the city to the northwest side of the Philippines.
And this is what I woke up to for the three days I was away:
And this is the view from the skies:
Pretty neat, eh?
Honestly, I’m still at that stage where I don’t know which story to pursue next, but being back in Zambales helped bring things into perspective. Maybe it’s the fresh ocean air, the excellent grilled food, the extremely comfortable monoblock lounge chair, or the fact that I actually got to (read: had to) go moonbathing. Whatever it is, I found myself absorbed by the idea of a whole other story; a spin-off of my current manuscript set in the summer before the first book, from the perspective of my protagonist’s best friend.
Writing a book is hard, and I used to believe that I had to write what other people were familiar with. I wasn’t sure if people outside the Philippines knew about Zambales or have tasted Philippine mangoes, so I didn’t think a story set in the Philippines would work in the international market. Until recently. Seasoned writers always say to “write what you know,” so I wrote about the relationship between music and mental health in my first book. I wrote about the world I love that shaped me professionally, but haven’t written about the place where I was born and grew up in.
So here I am now, back in the city with the tastes of suman, pastillas, and Uling Roaster’s inasal (their self-deprecating catchphrase is “‘Di raw masyadong masarap, pero pwede na!” roughly translated as “They say it’s not that good, but it’s good enough!”). I gained a lot more from this trip than I thought I would. My drive to work my best at my day job got its chance to recharge, and since getting back to the office, I feel more alive.
Stepping out of the world you know and traveling your beautiful country is simply one way to get your groove back–and you don’t even have to spend thousands for it. If you find yourself in a slump, ditching your daily grind for a few days really does help. I spent a lot of time thinking about my position as an author and how clouded my head was about what successful writers are putting out there. And now, it’s not so clouded anymore. Maybe me being away from the world I know helped me process these thoughts more, if not better. The peace and quiet (despite the dogs’ constant barking) really makes a difference.
I’m still hoping to grow as a person with stories to tell through her books and illustrations, and I want to keep traveling. I want to keep picking up seeds of inspiration and turning them into something more than just an idea, and I’m beyond excited to share it all with my fellow Filipinos and the rest of the world.
Here are a few more photos from my trip: