A Big Surprise In A Tiny Box

“When we look deeply into our fears, we see that, at base, every fear is a fear of not having control,” according to psychotherapist David Richo in his book The Five Things We Cannot Change: And the Happiness We Find by Embracing Them. We are naturally afraid of the unknown. “What if I can’t find a place to stay?” “What if I get stranded in the middle of nowhere?” “What if I don’t have fun?” These are all valid questions and doubts which is understandable why many travelers often overplan for their trip.

Life is full of surprises when you least expect it, like the birth of a child or a sibling, passing that exam you were so sure you were gonna flunk, or perhaps even meeting someone in the most unexpected of circumstances and making an instant connection nonetheless. Yet, we as humans always seemed to have gravitated to trying to control every facet of our lives. Many tourists and travelers find themselves poring over page after page of guides, books, and blogs, and making sure their itinerary has all the tourist spots optimized!


Moving To The City

AC used to be like that. He works at one of Metro Manila’s top hospitals as a clinical pharmacist. He used to teach pharmacy in his hometown of Ilocos, but after taking up his post-graduate course in Metro Manila, one of his classmates persuaded him into applying for a job at the hospital. “I didn’t know they would hire me immediately. And I enjoyed what I was doing so I didn’t go back to teach anymore”, says AC “It’s been 6 years now”.

Being a clinical pharmacist has its ups and downs just like any other profession, but it does carry with it a huge burden and responsibility at times. “Part of being a clinical pharmacist is we run when they call for a ‘code blue’ or ‘code white’ or when the patient is going into arrest. And we are the ones who bring the medicine”, says AC. “Of course the death of a patient happens some times. I know it’s out of your control, and then you see their family in the room. You don’t know if it was your fault, there’s a lot of factors, it’s inevitable. It’s quite heavy”.


Taking The Leap

As a traveler, AC had never tried traveling alone before we met him. It was always with a group of friends, workmates, or barkada. Which must’ve made the leap into not just traveling solo, but without knowing anything about where you’ll be going, where you’ll be staying, and what you’ll be doing even more terrifying!

The Book A Surprise process is simple and straightforward. After choosing the dates and budget you’re comfortable with and providing some information on your preferences, we come up with a plan and arrange everything. Once it’s all ready, we will hand deliver a box to your doorstep, containing your destination, reservations, a customized itinerary, and other special gifts from us and our Brand Partners, but you’re not supposed to open the box until before the start of your trip!


A Different Kind Of Trip Each Time

The Book A Surprise was AC’s third trip with Experience Philippines, whose flagship Road Trip is the Random Road Trip (RRT) where people book a trip for a particular date but they aren’t told where the trip is headed, only what to bring, where the meetup point is, and what time to be there! The first trip he joined was the Random OUTings, a Random Road Trip specifically made for the LGBTQ where their privacy is kept secure and we create an environment where they would feel safe and accepted. The second trip he joined was the S.M.A.R.R.T. (Super Mega Awesome Random Road Trip) which is like an RRT on steroids, lasts more than a week, and goes to further flung places in the Philippines.


Your Own Personal Random Road Trip

So how did AC come about booking a surprise for himself? “Actually, I didn’t know about this concept. When I was at the Experience Philippines Kickoff Party last January, I asked Gian for a recommendation on what to do on my birthday. And he said that he was working on Book A Surprise”. At the time, Book A Surprise wasn’t even launched yet. And a couple of weeks later, the box was personally hand-delivered to AC’s office, and it had inside a photo of the destination, the itinerary and reservations, a couple of trinkets, and a personal letter.

In this age of “DIY” where travel is increasingly commoditized, repetitive, and impersonal, the Book A Surprise opens up an opportunity for people who want to travel alone or with a small group of friends, where everything is still a surprise yet pre-arranged and tailored to your preference. Like your own personal Random Road Trip. “I was really surprised. I didn’t know a thing about Romblon. It wasn’t on my map! All I knew about Romblon was its marble. I didn’t even know it was just beside Boracay!”

“It was really my first time alone. Maganda yung place and mabait yung mga tao” (The place was beautiful, and the people were really nice!”). Aside from Carabao Island in Romblon, a sidetrip to Boracay was also included in AC’s surprise. But that’s not the end of the story. Remember that AC booked this surprise because it was his birthday? We pre-arranged a cake to be sent to him! Because if there is anything to add an icing on the cake (pun intended) of a surprise birthday trip, that would be an actual cake by the ocean!

In the end, AC advises anyone who might be interested to Book A Surprise “To not be afraid. To go outside your comfort zone. Think outside the box and don’t be afraid to try new things. It’s nice to try something different.”

Let life surprise you. But when it comes to travel, let US do that for you!

Photos courtesy of AC




About the author
Jeffrey Lui
Jeffrey is a half-Filipino, half-Chinese guy who doesn't speak Chinese but is fluent in Japanese and occasionally sports a Korean hairdo. Among his many passions are snapping pictures, climbing up rocks, swimming, motorbike touring, and watching an occasional musical just to balance things out. Check out his personal space at http://www.livingunderimagination.com