Finding Your Travel Superpower
Riza shares her journey deep into the Matsés territory in the Amazon where she finds a connection with an indigenous family that have managed to preserve much of their culture and tradition. The Matsés people are also known as the ‘Jaguar People’ because of their characteristic cat-like whiskers and facial and jaguar-like body tattoos. They were an isolated tribe in the Amazon jungle until their first documented contact with the outside world, in 1969.
Why do we travel? Beyond getting to see and explore new places, the purpose of travel is connected with building social relationships, opportunities to learn and grow, and commitment. It gives us the chance to be truly engaged in an activity, to develop new skills and to discover new cultures. It brings us closer to ourselves and others.
Human connection is key to understanding one another, building compassion, and feeling empathy. As world travelers, we rely on different skills, tools, and strategies to help us in forming connections with local people that we meet along the way. Some travelers are good in speaking and learning new languages, or in mimicking accents. Others use their skills in sports, such as soccer, or in music or dance to find some connection with the local population.
When it comes to making connections, my superpower is the ability to blend in, like a local. I’ll do this by donning traditional women’s clothing, and by learning the typical tasks that women carry out within their communities. Over time, this knack for shape-shifting has become second-nature to me, and I’ve been likened to a chameleon. Connections become easier when we accentuate the things that are the same or similar and downplay our differences. In my experience, a little effort goes a long way, in opening people’s hearts and minds to connect, to share, and to learn.
A PhD bioengineer, intellectual property management professional and social entrepreneur. Founder of Explore Africa For Impact. A citizen of the Philippines, UK and USA. A wine enthusiast. A devotee of the visual arts and dance. A yoga practitioner. An impassioned traveler. An introvert.