If there’s one thing that vacation leave veterans have learned in their years of traveling, it’s that there will be things that won’t go as planned. One extreme example is the emergency closure of NAIA due to the Xiamen Airlines flight that skidded off the runway, causing hundreds of cancelled flights and thousands of stranded travelers. Another is what happened to television host Gretchen Ho, who was robbed during a trip abroad.

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In case you missed it, Gretchen lost her bag—including her phone, wallet, and passport—during a shopping run in London. “’Yong latest OPPO phone ko, nandoon sa belongings ko sa London, nandoon na sa magnanakaw. Pero masaya ako kasi meron na akong bagong phone,” she shared in an interview during the OPPO F9 launch. “Kasi kasama ko kapatid ko, nag-tour siya. Ako, I decided to go solo tapos ‘yon nga… Siguro may nagmamanman na sa ‘kin. Kaya nung meron akong inabot na jumper…pagtingin ko wala na ‘yong bag ko.

While the incident was something she wouldn’t want to go through again, Gretchen tried to treat it as a learning experience. She shared a few nuggets of wisdom and useful tips for travelers planning to go solo (even for just an afternoon) in a foreign country.

“Always put your guard up.”

Kasi ako…happy-go-lucky ako ‘pag nasa ibang bansa eh. Parang, gusto ko lang i-enjoy ‘yong moment, gusto kong tumitingin ng mga iba’t-ibang bagay, mga tao… really experiencing things,” she said. “Pero kaakibat pala doon, meron din palang mga dangers na pumapaligid sa atin na hindi natin matatanggal every time we travel. So siguro, to be more responsible with traveling.”

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Stay simple.

For Gretchen, losing her possessions so far away from home made her feel “helpless and vulnerable... Sabi ko nga, ‘Ganoon ba ako ka-dependent sa phone ko?’” In hindsight, however, she took it as a reminder for her to keep to the basics. “Na-appreciate ko rin siya kasi isa pala sa mga natutunan ko pa, dapat simple lang tayo when we travel. Huwag masyadang magara or mukhang bongga… travel light. Para you can go from one place to another, hindi ka masyadong mag-aalala.”

Don’t be afraid to rely on the kindness of others.

Despite the not-so-great experience, Gretchen was glad to have gotten to know the kindness of people from that side of the globe. “Kung hindi ako tinulungan ng mga Pinoy doon, pinahiram ‘yong phones nila para tumawag and everything, siguro talagang umiyak na ako doon…

“Meron ding Sri Lankan na ‘yong Uber driver ko, na nung nagkukuwento ako—kasi nga ang dami na rin naming napag-kuwentuhan—sabi niya, ‘You want coffee? I’ll treat you to coffee,’” she recounted. “Tapos meron din na isa pa na Egyptian na ganoon din, binigyan ako ng libreng kape. So parang nakakatuwa lang, blessings ni Lord umaapaw din kahit nawalan ako ng gamit.

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When traveling or touring alone, always be aware of your surroundings and if you can, keep a handwritten list of emergency numbers to call. Include:

  • Contact details of your companions you’ve temporarily separated from (if applicable);
  • Contact details of your relatives in the Philippines;
  • Contact details of the place you’re staying at;
  • Emergency numbers of the country you’re in;
  • Contact details of the Philippine Embassy in the country you’re staying in; and
  • Contact details of your bank (so that you may cancel your credit cards in case they’ve been stolen).

It’s also important to keep photocopies or physical copies of the following documents:

The trick is to enjoy as much as you can while still knowing what’s going on around you. As Gretchen noted, “Anytime, puwedeng may mangyari sa atin, so dapat lagi tayong ready, lagi tayong alert.”

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