For the last two years, Jeffery-James Halvorson, a 33-year-old used-car salesman, has been preparing his property outside Arlee, Montana, for the end of America as we know it. “Progressive taxation has failed,” he says, and when the dollar finally collapses, and the shelves at the Piggly Wiggly sit empty, and the oil companies sell every last drop of sweet American crude to China, people will migrate to the Big Sky en masse—and Halvorson believes his compound, where he lives with his cat, 4 dogs, 9 goats, 18 chickens, and an assault rifle, will be perfectly positioned for a new role as a refugee camp.
Fears of impending societal collapse are nothing new in northwest Montana. But Halvorson’s home is noteworthy for what it has become in the interim: the Orange Acres Dharma Station, a safe house, inspired in part by the television series Lost, where travelers passing through—or looking for work, or sightseeing, or just killing time before their Social Security check comes in—can find a soft bed, a warm shower, and some mini-golf, at no cost for three days. Longer, if they’re willing to put in a little work.
Our reporter spent three months sleeping on total strangers’ couches and lived to tell the story. Meet the “hospitality junkies.”
To Filipinos, I’m not sure which was more confusing.. the fact that I am:
- Traveling solo
- Don’t believe in any sort of god, Christian or otherwise
Alone and Single
Everywhere I went, some of the first questions that were asked were, “Where is your girlfriend?” and “Who are you traveling with?”. I of course replied with the truth, “I don’t have one” and “I’m traveling alone”. Every.single.time I gave these responses, there was always a pause of what I think was disbelief. They looked at me, often with confused or even offended expressions; it was always followed by “Why?”. To this, I didn’t have an answer that made sense to them. To me, the answer seemed obvious - “Because I want to”, but this appeased no one.
This was not just me. I met other travelers with the same experiences and it is such a significant phenomenon that even my Lonely Planet travel guide discusses it.
I’m still unsure of all the cultural reasons for this. From what I can tell though, Filipinos rarely travel alone or even do local activities alone. Living alone seems objectionable to many of them. They place a huge emphasis on family.
During slightly deeper discussions, the question of religion came up a lot, especially around my relatives. I think the question comes with the expectation that you will be of some Christian denomination. I also think it is not a taboo conversation topic in the Philippines because, to them, it’s close to unheard of to be non-religious. They don’t anticipate that you will answer in a way that might be foreign to them.
I didn’t often dive deeper into philosophy while there… Atheism is as foreign to them as their country and language was to me. 90% of the population in the Philippines is Christian and about 80% of that is Catholic. Evangelizing is minimal and everyone remains friendly when they discover my beliefs - certainly a step up from much of what I find in the US. However, there is always the comment that they “hope I find god”. The attitude seems to be that my belief is temporary, that I am lost, haven’t given it much thought or that I just haven’t found god yet. I felt like they saw me as a child who just “didn’t understand”.
If you’re looking for Jesus, I’m pretty sure if he’s anywhere, it’s in the Philippines. Displays of worship are bountiful. Not a day went by where I didn’t encounter something to do with Jesus and it’s usually closer to 5+ encounters. Almost all the jeepneys, the primary form of transportation in the Philippines, are decorated inside and out with tributes and messages about Jesus and the Christian god. You’ll find “Jesus is LORD”, pictures of Jesus and Mary, crosses, airbrushed paintings on the side of jeepneys, shrines, t-shirts and messages painted on the side of buildings basically everywhere. You’ll even find things in places you would not normally expect to find religious displays such as restaurants and hotels geared toward tourists.
As far as I can tell, the knowledge and understanding of things such as evolutionary science is about as common as one would find in religious communities in the United States. It is seen here, just as it is in the US, as a competitive belief to creationism. I see signs every now and then outside churches advertising “Science day”s. Not entirely sure what that would cover and I’m still curious to find out.
Reproductive health is a huge and controversial issue in the Philippines currently. The Catholic Church has an overwhelming influence in government there. The fact that things such as contraception come up here as issues at all is surprising and mostly seems to be brought about by the realization of how much it contributes to poverty and government spending. Abortion is illegal there and divorce is nearly impossible for most people.
Another reason travelling alone as a woman (who isn’t sure about her spirituality) would be very hard for me. :/ Maybe I can just stick to like europe/japan or something…
This morning I got interviewed on hometown radio station, WYMG! I’m on the sidebar at the top currently as “Craigslist NON-CREEP”, haha. They have a recurring segment about Craigslists creeps and crazies. Thanks, Liz!
Some of the best advice I got was from other travelers. Before you go though (these are awesome, btw):
And of course, don’t forget to google for travel tips.
We take these perks for granted, but dudes, 1956! Ovens in the sky! This very picture likely exploded many-a-mind.
Here is a mockup from 1956 of the first jet-transport interior to be created in the United States. Stewardesses pose inside the 98-seat Boeing Jet Stratoliner, complete with air-conditioning, running water, ovens, refrigerators, reading lights, and emergency exits.
Never thought I’d be writing anything like this.
You know how when people talk about martial arts and the question always comes up, “Yeah, but when are you ever going to use that?”. Well… sometimes it happens.
I was walking along Makati Avenue toward my hotel, back from getting some food at Yellow Cab, a local chain. It was extremely late at night, but I thought I would be fine since Makati Ave. is a major street and there are people on it 24/7. Makati is one of the wealthiest parts of Manila and all of the Philippines.
Most businesses (yes, even fast food like Yellow Cab), even when not open, have a security guard with a gun standing out in front of them. There are several 24/7 businesses along the road, it’s very well lit and maybe 5 minutes from my hotel entrance - tops.
Just a couple minutes into my walk this girl says something to me. She’s cute and rather conservatively dressed - jeans, t-shirt, minimal jewelry. I figure there’s a 50% chance she’s a prostitute (I’m near an area where that is a popular thing), 25% that she’s trying to sell me something and 25% that she’s just some nice girl - people approach me at random all the time here, even women - it’s weird and not like the US. We start talking and she seems nice enough, good English skills. At some point she asks for my phone number. Odd and forward for a normal Filipino woman - I figure there’s a 90% chance she’s just a prostitute at this point, but get my phone out anyway to get her number because it seems like we’re still in the middle of having a conversation and maybe I’m wrong. She starts telling it to me, I punch in the numbers.. I don’t get them all right it seems so she takes the phone and starts entering them herself. She calls her phone from mine so that she’ll have my number and takes a few steps back… a few steps… too far.
I follow her. Her phone rings. Ok, she’s got my number. “Can I have my phone back?” She smiles and says, “Let me just ask you a question”. Ok fine. I don’t even remember what she asked me, but it turned into her saying random shit and me asking for my phone back while she slowly walks away. Suddenly, I’m not on brightly lit, fully populated Makati Avenue anymore. I’m part way down some shady-looking side street with a million dark corners and nobody else on it. I can see about 3-5 people in the distance on another street though, so I’m thinking I’m still ok. In retrospect, I should have just left at this point.
Now she demands money for the phone. I’m being robbed. 500 pesos. Fine. that’s what.. $12 USD? I hold it up. No, now it’s 4000 ($100). I don’t even have 4000 pesos on me and I tell her that. “Well go get it”. I tell her I don’t have a way to go get it (a lie, I’ve got my debit card on me). I tell her I’ll give her all the money I have there (1350 pesos) if she’ll just give me my phone. Nope, no deal, apparently. She says, “Oh, by the way, that’s my friend over there,” pointing at some rather tall, muscular guy who is now blocking the side of Makati Avenue that we came in on. Great.
But she’s not so big, scary, etc. And I can clearly see some security guard just down the other direction. It’s lit and there are a bunch of other people with him. I start yelling at them to help me. I yelled something like, “Hey! This girl is stealing my phone and trying to rob me, can you help me?”. I yell it a few more times, no response, but at least everyone is now looking my direction. Now I’m thinking, “Well I probably won’t get stabbed.. maybe I even have the upper hand here and I can get my phone back. Nobody’s going to hurt me with all these people watching, one of them an armed security guard.” I can clearly see tons of cabs going by on the street in the other direction that is not Makati Ave. too. I start walking that way and she starts yelling at me that she’s just going to leave with my phone. At this point, I’m ahead of her, walking toward the people, waving my arms and yelling still. She shows no sign of retreat, despite her words. I look back at her to see where she’s at and I see that her big burly man friend has caught up with her and they’re both right behind me.
She threatens me. She says, “You wanna go to the cops, huh? Ok, we’ll take you there. I’ll tell them you tried to pay for me and hit me”. I am undeterred. What a bullshit idea she’s got, but still, you never know… corruption here is so significant that she might get away with such a claim and I find myself in jail. Whatever, I’m almost to the area with the people.
She grabs my shirt and starts yelling more shit about going to the cops with me. I push her away and she grabs my wrist, still yelling. Her friend grabs my other wrist and they start trying to walk me forward, toward the populated and well-lit street, of all places. At this point I’m confused and feel extremely threatened. I lost my concentration long enough with her yelling at me that her friend somehow managed to get close enough to grab me. If he’s close enough to grab me, he’s close enough to stab me. I realize quickly that I’m not as prepared for this sort of situation as I thought I was.
I break free of both of their grips and turn toward them with my hands up in front of me to keep them distanced. I yell at them to, “Stop, stay back”. I’m ready for a fight and I have them both in my sight. I keep a watch around me though because I know there might be others involved in this. They keep walking toward me and by now we’re to the area with all the people.. 4 or 5 normal looking men. Cars going by us at every second now. I’m trying to talk to the men to get them to help me and they seem only mildly interested - they can’t all be in on it, can they? They make no advances toward me though and don’t appear to know my assailants.
I feel mostly safe at this point.. I’m on a well-lit street again, cars and people around me and now I can see more than just the 5 men. Doesn’t stop this girl. She walks right up to me, grabs at my hands again and tells me she’s going to scratch the hell out of my face if I don’t give her the money (that I don’t even have). I shove her away and tell her to back off, my hands still up so she doesn’t get too close. Her friend is behind me, but I manage to keep him in sight. I’m in the middle of the street now and cabs are honking and swerving around us (normal here, really. People and traffic have a strange harmony in the Philippines).
At this point, some guy, not the security guard, intervenes - he’s clearly not on their side. He says something in Tagalog to the girl and the guy (who is now holding my phone). They have a brief conversation and I say “All I want is my phone”. A few more words are exchanged at the big burly dude hands me my phone. Magical. I hold my arm up, a cab stops and I dive in and yell at the driver to just go as fast as he can.
I know that was kind of a long story, but it was a semi clever con done in the middle of a rather densely populated area, so I felt details were important.
In retrospect, I was way too concerned about the phone. Thinking that I could get it back, it stayed on my mind and I put my own safety at risk. I honestly was very lucky that they were only interested in the money (or so I still believe). I still don’t know what they were expecting me to do though.. I was willing to give them all my money that I had on me. If they didn’t want it, they could have just taken the phone - which was worth more. In the end, they wound up with neither.
This happened to me yesterday and honestly, I only talked to one of my friends about it, mostly because I was embarrassed about not just leaving the scene and staying safe. I broke the rules of things I used to teach. I’m lucky I didn’t get hurt or killed. Yeah, some of the stuff I did - escaping being grabbed, keeping distance, hands up and on guard, yelling for help, keeping everyone in view - probably kept me from getting injured, but I could have done a lot better by just never having wound up in that situation in the first place.
When I got back to my hotel after all that, I had stomach cramps for a few hours. I’m still a little shaky when I think about it.
There was a time where I used to teach martial arts. I showed someone a somewhat violent technique and she looked at me, disgusted and said, “What town are you from where you’d ever need to use that?” Apparently the name of that town, for me, is Makati City, Metro Manila.
English is by far the “universal” language here. No matter where you come from, it’s the language that everyone tries to use if you don’t share a first language. I am lucky for it to be my first language.
Because it is almost everyone’s second language, it becomes a different from what I’m used…
This happened to me when I was working at a Japanese restaurant for a few years and not going to school or anything at the same time. I always felt stupid when I went home and kept talking that way lol.
I hear The Beach referenced by more travelers I meet than any other film. I loved this movie the first time I saw it and rewatched it several times. It’s not rated well on IMDB and rarely do I enjoy movies that aren’t, but this one has always been an exception for me. Good to finally meet people who like it too =)
Others that I think people should check out:
- Before Sunrise - young traveler romance film set in Europe.
- Into the Wild - sell everything you own and trek across the country and into the wilderness. Oh, yeah, and the most badass soundtrack you’ll ever hear.
- Interstate 60 - one of the most underrated and undiscussed movies of all time. Watch it.
Honorable mention to Deliverance ;D
Mexican food is literally the one thing I think I will die from not being able to get while travelling. Seriously, it’s like, “I want to live in an Asian country! Oh, but Mexican food…….” ;_;
“There’s a plane leaving for anywhere you want right now, and in an hour, and in a day, and in a year. You can get out whenever you want, it’s comforting I think.”