I am a travelling digital native and I share my journey virtually.
I was born into a family of academics based in the university town of Los Baňos, sixty-five kilometres south of Manila. My mother is with the faculty of development communication of the University of the Philippines while my father is a Professor of Information and Communication Studies of the UP Open University. Their disciplines revolved around ICT and I grew up in a digital environment with my mother and father’s digital toys; laptops, handheld devices, mobiles, PCs, digicams, audio and video CDs. I learned how to use the PC when I was 8, I started collecting CDs of my favourite artists when I was 9, owned my very first mobile phone when I was 12, learned Google at 13 and finally owned a laptop when I was 17. Alongside Barbie Dolls and Disney Channel, I was a budding internet-child with a heart for adventure.
I’d like to think I am somewhat different from other girls my age. It’s because I am a sucker for long walks even when I’m wearing high heels or platforms, I am a huge fan of long trips –I can withstand 10-hour bus rides without pit stops and yes, I do hate flying but travelling has become my life. I’ve been travelling all over the Philippines and South East Asia since I was six years old. Since my parents are international education consultants, assignments entailing international travel come in every summer. Unfortunately, I have three roadblocks ahead of me –my brothers. Whenever we come across a trip somewhere else, the unwritten rule is to take turns or to take two kids at maximum. My brothers have been to Pakistan, Australia, Dubai and the likes and I got Lao PDR to be my home away from home. For 15 months, I’ve been working as a Communication Officer for a consulting firm specializing in education, public health and trade industry projects in Laos. My superiors are young and dynamic businesspersons and lucky me, 2009 was the year they have decided to expand their horizons and build an online travel agency and just two weeks ago, consulted me on how to start their very own travel magazine. LaoBooking.Com, is a soon-to-be-launched online instant booking portal wherein all things about travelling Laos are right on your fingertips, all at discounted rates. Your advantage, if you plan to visit Laos and book with us, is we are a locally-based agency which makes every transaction, fast, efficient –quality-service guaranteed. On the other hand, our travel magazine, soon-to-be-named that is after the Digital Natives Workshop will be the local guide for tourists in Vientiane first, then after a few quarterly issues will be circulated over the main entry points in the country namely Luang Prabang, a UNESCO world heritage site and Pakse, a potential trade city. Incidentally, I am a photographer so I get to take charge about photographs and content development –which I am very capable of rendering.
Alongside my full-time job, I was also hired as a part-time employee of the FAO-UN’s project with the Ministry of Health on food security and better nutrition. I am tasked to develop their communication materials thus contributing to social marketing of food safety and hygiene and improved nutrition recipes and practices. My job also entails travelling to provinces and taking footage of their training and workshops.
My career in Lao PDR has taken me to places I never thought I could see, has given me the opportunity to explore other cultures and meet new people with different stories and viewpoints –it made me realize that this world doesn’t revolve around me and my woes and superficiality, it’s about connecting with the world in more ways than we can imagine. We all have been there –knowing that this world lacks understanding because of language barriers and cultural differences, races and beliefs. But as the use of the internet grew wider, it has also brought us closer and made our world, one. Although we have our social communities and blogs, we still have to strengthen one important aspect of communication, global understanding.
I just came across the term “digital natives” only recently. All I know is that I’m part of the information-sharing generation, which by the way, I never thought could contribute to global understanding. I put up The Cole Walkabouts under this premise; I share relevant information on places I have been capturing the essence and vitality of each place. Lao PDR hasn’t been known to a lot of people but through my blog, my friends and colleagues have actually intimated to me that they want to see the country themselves. In my own paparazzi way, I covered the pre-opening of the 2009 South East Asian Games, documented a traditional Lao wedding, posted little known facts while visiting Siem Reap, and uploaded photo layouts of events, places and people. Although, one may argue that my blog is not a travel-only site, my objective is to share and not to dictate –to relate not to alienate, to express not to impress.
I graduated a couple of years ago, BS in Development Communication, cum laude, from the University of the Philippines Los Banos. Perhaps the most appropriate communication model for digital natives that I learned in the University is the convergence model, which states that the purpose of communication is mutual understanding. The model submits that “Convergence is to come together to a more common focus or point of view where a variety of meanings are possible.” Today we have converged in Academia Sinica and hopefully this will lead to mutual understanding. A most appropriate cause for us digital natives is international understanding through virtual travel. Let us build an interrelated and interconnected virtual world yielding positive changes and mutual understanding.
Talking Back: Project Digital Natives With A Cause | Flash Talk: Cole Flor | August 17 2010 | Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan