I am Al Kadam, a 42-year old Filipino. In Arabic, my name literally means the foot; in Nepali, it is step or pace. Truly, my parents did give me the perfect name because I have always been on the move. There were over a dozen places I had lived in the Philippines. For the past twelve months, I have visited 56 places in 14 countries in Asia.
I took up Computer Engineering in college; now I do freelance web development. I also went to law school and passed the bar in 2008. I mainly practice my legal profession handling pro bono cases involving indigent clients.
On my 39th birthday in 2013, I made a wish list of 39 things to do before I would turn 40. In my list, I wanted to collect 39 fragrances, memorize 39 songs, try 39 different occupations, say and mean 39 “I LOVE YOUs” and 35 other items.
One of the items was to visit 39 destinations in and out of the Philippines. But 12 months after I got my passport, it hadn’t been used because I was always very busy.
I worked as an Attorney receiving a high salary in a government agency. Office hours started at 7:00 in the morning and we queued to log-out 12 hours after. Sometimes, we needed to stay at the office for an extended overtime, and whole year round we worked on Saturdays. I grossed over a million in a year and I lived prosperously even though 32 percent of my taxable income went straight to the BIR.
Collecting the perfumes was effortless and I was able to put up a shelf for my 39 pairs of branded shoes but I wasn’t going to accomplish any of my most desired activities. In spite of the things I accumulated, I wasn’t happy. I felt like a device set up to wake up at 5:00 AM, take a long ride to the office, have some nourishment, work, work, work some more, travel back home, have a little rest then repeat the routine the next day.
To celebrate my 40th birthday, I went out of town with my colleagues. Having enjoyed so much, I promised to detach myself from work more often. Four months later, I had the first stamp on my passport. Two friends and I went on a tour to Ho Chi Minh City. During holidays in January 2015, I went to Malaysia to climb South East Asia’s highest mountain. After that, traveling became my antidepressant therapy.
I had never in my life been as emotionally stable as when I am wandering in a foreign land. I find balance up in a mountain or riding a jeep on a bumpy road or when I am lost in the streets. But I couldn’t do it regularly because I was a civil servant who swore an oath to effectively discharge my duties and responsibilities. I had to deliver my output efficiently. And I needed a generous pay to sustain a comfortable living.
Indeed I wanted to take some trips to accomplish some of the things on my list but I lacked chances. My boss was becoming extra hesitant to grant me the authority to travel even if my intended date of absence fell on a weekend. I had so much workload. I had to discard my yearned breaks – until the environment became really hostile to my ethics that I was pushed to decide to leave my beloved organization after 15 years.
When I tendered my resignation, my peers called me crazy. I was due for a promotion and too old to get a better position in any other office. I had bills to pay and how would I secure my mortgages. I only told them five words: “I AM NOT HAPPY ANYMORE.” Only two people understood. They were the only friends who showed support for my very unpopular decision. They told me to follow what my heart desired. “No one is bereft of chances; under any circumstance, you must proceed. If the route is blocked, create your own opportunities along the way. Just focus on your dream and stay happy. You will succeed.”
Most people have a common definition of success. For them, it is a high paying job, flourishing business, profits, properties, safe finances, money, always money. I used to believe the same until I realized I was already a 40-year-old aging machine. Twenty years to retirement; I could not wait that long to actually let my life begin. After I processed my termination benefit, on my 41st birthday, I flew to Bali where I began my new journey as a full-time traveler.
Now I consider that adversity a blessing in disguise. I wanted to live a life but I was so scared to leave my comfort zone. I am so grateful the Ultimate Force broke the shell for me.