How Gabbi Garcia conquered her fear of solo travel
Traveling alone used to terrify Gabbi Garcia. The mere thought of being in an unfamiliar place without familiar faces seemed inconceivable.
“I couldn’t imagine myself going on a solo trip. I’m scared of being alone with my own thoughts. I’m scared of not having anyone to talk to, of not having anyone to be with. I used to imagine that it would be a sad experience,” Gabbi said in a recent interview over dinner hosted by IAM Worldwide and Sparkle GMA Artist Center.
But having worked nonstop since October last year, Gabbi felt like she could use a little breather. “I did two soaps within a year: ‘Mga Lihim ni Urduja’ and ‘Unbreak My Heart.’ I had brand shoots and other projects. Things were hectic. I had gotten so used to the routine that I had forgotten what it was like not to have a day without taping,” she said.
Gabbi’s boyfriend, singer-actor Khalil Ramos, suggested it was time to conquer her fear and travel solo. Despite her initial misgivings, she booked a flight to Japan with no itinerary or advanced bookings.
A few days before the trip, Gabbi felt like having a change of heart and kept bugging Khalil to join her. He didn’t budge. “He said, ‘No. You have to go out of your hotel and go around,” she related.
Her first attempt at commuting via Osaka’s and Kyoto’s expansive railway systems didn’t go so well.
“I usually take a taxi. And I always depend on Khalil to navigate. Sumusunod lang ako,” she said, laughing. “But this time, I knew I had to take the train because taxis in Japan are expensive. On my first train ride, my God, I didn’t realize I was on the wrong platform. So, I waited for a while. Kung saan-saan ako napadpad!”
She eventually got the hang of it. The next day, she made her way to Arashiyama—the popular Kyoto district known for its temples, shrines and bamboo forests—without a hitch. “Di na ako nawala. After that, I felt like I could go anywhere,” said Gabbi, who endorses IAM Worldwide’s Immunergy Vitamin C supplement.
“I’m now more careful about my health after the pandemic,” she said.
One night, she decided to go for a drink at a standing bar near her hotel. Trying to strike up conversations was difficult because of the language barrier. However, she chanced upon Japanese and Korean guests who could speak English fluently.
“I was trying to find a good time to approach them. ‘Sana, isali naman nila ako!’ I thought. Much to my surprise, they were the ones who started chatting with me … They invited me to hop to another bar, and I said yes. I learned that they, too, had only met during the trip. It was a spontaneous thing.”
One of her biggest realizations is that it really pays to keep an open mind, that you don’t have to be bound to an itinerary. “You have to be open to mishaps, new people, new experiences and stories. If you’re closed off, what’s the purpose then?” she said.
“I’m a very schedule-driven person. If there’s a given schedule, I will follow it. If there’s a goal, I have to get it. But during this trip, I realized that I didn’t have to pressure myself. I learned how to go with the flow and be more carefree in a good way. You’re on your own. No one dictates what you have to do… and I ended up trusting myself more,” said Gabbi, who admitted being embarrassed about asking strangers to take photos of her at first.
Now, Gabbi has made it a goal to go on a solo trip at least once a year.
“It will be my gift to myself. Nabitin ako sa Japan. The experience gave me much knowledge and helped me grow. I discovered a lot about myself,” said Gabbi, who wants to explore Vietnam next. “It’s true that traveling alone can feel liberating. Back then, I wondered, ‘Huh, paano naging liberating ‘yun?’ But now I get it.”
More than anything, taking a break from show biz and spending time in a different place reminded her that the world is full of possibilities.
“I felt grounded… Just going about my day, interacting with other people… it reminded me of my purpose. Why I’m here in the first place. I realized that my life doesn’t just have to revolve around acting. There are so many things you can do in life,” she said.