Friday

Leaving Palau was a relief. The first few months were fun thanks to the thrill of the incredible diving. It really is unreal. The last month or so was a good time because we started cramming in all the touristy things we hadn’t done yet. We visited Peleliu and had an awesome and fun-filled couple of days with Sam. Fletch and I had a relaxing overnight trip to Carp Island Resort where we hiked and kayaked and napped in hammocks on the beach. We saw the breathtaking sight that is Palau from the air. Sam took us wake-boarding. But the months in the middle were filled little besides binge watching tv series that we had downloaded in the states. A year in Palau was too long a time with no work to keep busy with, no internet, nothing fresh to eat, no nightlife, no inexpensive flights out, and really nothing to do besides dive. Yes, leaving Palau after a whole year was a relief.

Fletch and I on Carp Island Resort.

On our last day we had our friends come over to the house and raid everything we had left that we hadn’t sold, a lot of half full bottles of liquor, spices, lotions, plants... We accumulated a surprising amount of things over the course of a year. It was difficult trying to squish everything worth keeping (clothes and dive gear mostly) into one suitcase to mail home and one backpack to carry with me as we travel the next few months. The house was still littered with random odds and ends as we ran out the door to the airport. Apologies to the couple who is moving in after us. Enjoy the halloween costumes.

We said our goodbyes at Sam’s Dive Tours. The lady who runs Kramer’s brought us t-shirts from the restaurant as a parting gift, which was incredibly sweet of her. Kramer’s really is the best food on Palau. If you ever find yourself in Palau, that is where you will want to eat. Their specials are always amazing, and if that doesn’t float your boat, the fish tacos with extra guacamole are always a hit.

Sam gave us some nice t-shirts too, much to my delight. I love travel t-shirts. They are really the only practical souvenirs to have when you live out of a suitcase. Anything else will either take up valuable space or eventually break. That is how I measure how badly I need/want something these days. Can I afford to take up that much space/weight in my backpack? The answer is almost always no.

And then it was time to head to the airport. We’d been in such a rush to get everything packed up that we had forgotten about dinner. So we checked our bags in and went to the little restaurant at the Palau airport. If Palau food is bad and airport food is almost always bad, I was afraid to know what Palau airport food would be like. They had a descent sized menu, but everything was meat. I finally found vegetable tempura hiding amongst all the pork and beef and Fletch and I sat down for one last unhealthy, stomach-turning meal. Of course I didn’t expect real tempura from an airport, but a little part of me must have hoped, because I was still disappointed when a mountain of deep fried vegetables arrived in front of me. I ate the sad, greasy excuse for vegetables while watching a little nine-year-old girl in pink with love handles and a gut spilling over her pants as she walked around the restaurant. Poor kid. All the kids in Palau are already overweight. It's heartbreaking. I ordered a glass of wine that tasted like cough syrup. Not the good kind either.

On the plane they served us dinner again. Go figure. I skipped the meal and ate the side salad which was the freshest food I’d had in months. After a hectic past few hours I was really looking forward to some quality veg time, the kind that I’ve gotten used to from flying halfway around the world. Only then I realized we were only going as far as the Philippines. One flight, two and a half hours long. I don’t remember the last time traveling was that simple. We browsed through the movie offerings and settled on The Intern with Anne Hathaway. I used to keep track of every movie that was out. Living on a series of rocks the past couple of years means that I no longer have any clue what is in theaters or on dvd. Or if they even still sell dvds for that matter… I know we can get the bootleg ones in Palau from a guy sitting in the theater over in the Philippines with his camera phone. Most of the time they’re bad enough to turn off halfway through. Sometimes you’re desperate enough to watch them.

Two and a half hours later we began our descent to the sight of city lights, a whole sea of them, twinkling yellow and white, as far as the eye could see. It was a sight to behold. I hadn’t seen city lights in a very long time. You have to remember that the population of Palau is 20,000. The main road is two and a half miles long and those are the only street lights you will find.

We got off the plane in Manila and collected our luggage, then found the booths selling phone SIM cards. 1000 pesos ($21) for unlimited data for 15 days. I don’t know what to do with all this unlimited, fast internet on demand! I am back in civilization! At first it was wonderful, until I realized how much everyone is glued to their phones every moment. Now I almost miss no internet. AMOST. But not quite. It’s nice to be able to look up whatever I want to on google, whenever I want.

I started texting my mom our itinerary for the next few days (from the shuttle! Something impossible just a few hours and one country ago.) and she excitedly told me that she was Googling all the places. I realized that I had no idea what any of these places we are going to looked like. My planning was based solely on emailing the businesses in the Lonely Planet Philippines book. I’ve seen shots of Palawan and that’s it. Here’s to one last great adventure planned mostly without the convenience of the internet. Traveling into the unknown will become a lost art.

It was around midnight when we made it out of the airport, well not out entirely, but onto the shuttle transporting people between different terminals. The Manila airport is massive and all split up. The original plan was to check bags early if the gates were open and head across the street to Resort Worlds where there was a movie theater and just watch movies all night until our early morning flight. We had so few hours in Manila that we hadn’t even bothered booking a hotel room. As we feared though, when the shuttle reached Terminal 4, the gates were all closed. Not wanting to haul all our luggage through the city with us (we're each carrying about half our body weight's worth), we unrolled the yoga mats and camped out in a corner of our gate for several hours until the flight to Cebu started boarding.