He´s Brit, any problem with that?
by Evans Yonson
(Note: One of life´s greatest pleasures is having very good friends in the right places. I met this Brit in January 2010 and my life has never been the same again. We´ve travelled to several countries in less than a year. In October, I visited Aaron in London.)
Aaron Bravo Gallo (ABG): Hi to all light travellers! My name is Aaron. It’s a Hebrew name meaning “mountain of strength” which I like to believe best describes me. I’m a nurse (Silliman University, Dumaguete City, Philippines) based in London, United Kingdom. I was 3 subjects short of completing my Masters degree from the University of the Philippines when the call to work outside of the Philippines came. Single (but never alone). I prefer “borrowing” my nieces and nephew than having my own children so I can return them to their parents when they start crying!
The Light Traveller (TLT): What circumstances brought you where you are now? How many years have you been here?
ABG: Work, and I’ll be a hypocrite not to admit that money was my main motivation to get a job outside the Philippines. I’ve been working abroad since 1996. It’s a plus that I have easy access to travelling all over.
TLT: How often do you travel in a year?
ABG: I travel at least 3 times a year. There was a year where I’ve travelled 8 times. I love taking short weekend breaks anywhere there’s a cheap deal. I’ve taken visiting friends on day trips for lunch in Paris (via Eurostar) then back to London in time for late dinner.
TLT: Would you travel alone? Or with your family? Or with friends? Why?
ABG: I am very independent and not having a travelling companion has never stopped me from going anywhere. I belong to a family of travellers and we enjoy travelling together. Our trips allow us to bond. I am fortunate to have friends who share the same interests as me and it’s a joy to see the world with like minded people. The main advantage to having a travelling companion is having someone to take your photos (unless it’s with my friend Ben whose photos always turn out blurred!)
TLT: How do you travel? By car? By bus? By plane? By boat? Please explain.
ABG: I travel by any means. If I was to rank them by preference, first, by plane because it’s faster and it gives me the opportunity to enjoy the in-flight movies (especially on long haul flights). I’ve travelled economy and first class and came to the conclusion that where ever in the plane you sit, you all land at the same time!!!
My worse plane experience was with Egyptair and I swore NEVER to travel with them again! I was on my way to Egypt and had no problems until every passenger was inside the plane waiting to taxi and take off. 30 minutes on, we were hot as the air-conditioning was off and still waiting to taxi. Children were getting restless and started crying and shouting. My seatmate was starting to sweat for the whole of Egypt and there was no update from the pilot. The flight attendants (ugliest I’ve ever seen) were rude and it didn’t help that when one opened the overhead compartment directly on top of me, her abdomen was resting on my shoulder!!!
Second, by car. There’s nothing more liberating than having the freedom to decide when and where to stop. The only problem is finding a parking space, unless you travel with a chauffeur! Third, by bus. I remember how I used to hate travelling by bus when I was growing up (they didn’t have air-conditioned buses then) but this changed when I took the Greyhound Bus from Calgary to Vancouver with my friends Gilda & Rose. It was such a joy to see the changing autumn landscape along the way.
Last, by boat. Boats are comfortable but I feel it takes so long to get to the destination. We have fast crafts now but I guess I always relate boat trips to the ones I took when I go home to Cebu City from Dumaguete City during semestral breaks in college.
TLT: What is the farthest place that you have travelled to away from your present residence? Why the distance?
ABG: It’s probably Los Angeles, California and going home to the Philippines. I’ve travelled to these places to see family and friends.
TLT: Do you buy souvenir items during your travels? Why?
ABG: I used to collect ash trays and pins but one time I went home to the Philippines, I discovered my brothers using the ash trays. Now, I can’t be bothered to get souvenir items. I take photos instead.
TLT: Do you take photographs during your travels? Why?
ABG: I love taking photographs. The photographs now serve as my souvenirs. I always find great comfort going through my photographs and relive the emotions and memories I felt when I was there in my mind. I’ll tell you a conversation I had with my one time travel companion, Trevor (he’s British). We were in Prague, Czech Republic and I kept asking him to take a photo of me with a particular background I like. After maybe 10 photos, he asked me why I had to be in every frame. I told him it’s cultural as Filipinos love to show “proof” that they were actually there. If I wanted a good photo of a particular tourist spot, I’ll get a postcard. With the advent of digital cameras though, there are no limits to the number of photographs I could take with or without me in the frame.
TLT: Do you have any particular poses/shots that you want wherever you travel? If yes, how did this come about? Please explain thoroughly.
ABG: I have an album on my facebook account labeled “AAAHHHHHHHHHH !!!”. The pose in involves me crawling with a hand outstretched. The very first photo came about in Washington DC with my friend Mylin. She was driving me to a factory outlet for shopping, a 15-minute drive that took 4 hours (return) because we got lost … so lost! We managed to get to Chesapeake Bay and found our way to George Washington Birthplace National Monument in Virginia. There was a remote road we drove into and the idea of being left in the middle of nowhere came to mind.
I then started doing this whenever I travel and friends started to dare me to do it in certain places. I’ve done it in public places, on a plane, trains, churches, museums & shops. My favorite is one with my parents in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, their expressions are priceless. My mother was smiling and my father looks like he wants to kick me. Recently, a friend gave me a crown and am now starting to use it as props for another photo album I’m starting. I don’t know if I could sustain the crown photos because it takes so much space in my hand carried bag but my AAAHHHHHHHHHH !!! photos are getting stronger and more daring. I have quite a following because of it.
TLT: Travel light? Travel heavy? Why?
ABG: I’ve never mastered the art of travelling light. My idol when it comes to travelling light is my father. He could pack for a week in a hand carried luggage. It’s understandable to have a heavy luggage to my destination because of the presents I’m bringing (especially when visiting friends and family) but then, I still end up having a heavy (sometimes heavier) luggage on the way home from the shopping I end up doing.
TLT: Backpack? Luggage? Why?
ABG: It used to be backpack but it’s not a very good look wearing your backpack in front specially in crowded places. LOL!
TLT: What’s in your backpack/luggage when you travel? Complete details, please…
ABG: Travel documents (passport, ticket, EU medical card), wallet (local currency, bank and credit card), camera(s), mobile phone(s), wet wipes, pen (in case someone asks my number), local map, comb, scrungie, cologne, umbrella (depending on the season of travel).
TLT: How many days are the longest time when you travel? Why?
ABG: Depends on where I go. The longest I was home in the Philippines (since 1996) was 6 weeks. I prefer short breaks as I easily get bored. If I like the place/country I’m visiting, I go back (I’ve been to Barcelona and Madrid, 4 times, Amsterdam, probably 6 times, New York, about the same and many others) with a “come what may” attitude.
TLT: When and where was the last travel? For how long?
ABG: I was in Barcelona to celebrate a friend’s (Ben, who takes the blurred photos) birthday from January 29 – February 1, 2010.
TLT: What do you usually look for in the city of your destination? Why?
ABG: Nothing in particular. Well, maybe local cuisine.
TLT: Tour guide books? Local? Why?
ABG: Tour guide books or doing a search online helps before you travel so you know what there is to offer in the city/country. Having a local show you around is the best way of immersing yourself in the place and culture. On my last travel, I had the opportunity to be shown around Barcelona by Evans. I’ve seen a different side of the city.
TLT: When and where will be the next planned travel? Why?
ABG: Amsterdam (again!). my travelling companions have never been there yet. The plan is to leave on March 11 and stay till the 14th but we haven’t booked out tickets yet.
TLT: Any particular country/city that you want to travel to? Why?
ABG: I would love to travel to the Scandinavian countries, experience the carnival in Brazil, see the Red Square in Moscow, dive and bungee jump in Australia, and cruise around the Caribbean.
TLT: Do you always plan what to do during your travel? Or are you spontaneous? Why?
ABG: I have a routine I observe specially if it’s my first time to visit. I join a hop-on, hop-off tour (if it’s available) so I get to see the tourist spots and get the commentary that comes with the tour. If I manage to do it for a day, the following days, I just walk around and discover the place on foot via the side streets. This way, I see the important places and still have time for spontaneity
ABG: I get very excited before I travel, then get a sense of satisfaction to have seen and experienced the place. Exhaustion sets in when I get home that’s why I always reserve a whole day to recover from the travel before going back to my routine.