Riza Rasco, one of the cofounders of Philippine Global Explorers, was featured in a June 8 article in National Geographic on the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on world travel.
You may recall her from a Lifestyle article published in September 2019 (https://lifestyle.inquirer.net/345074/the-league-of-extraordinary-travelers-incredibly-extraordinary).
Originally from Los Baños, Laguna, before migrating to the United States, Rasco is one of the most widely traveled Filipinos, having visited 161 countries to date. She helped organize Philippine Global Explorers to serve as a resource-sharing network for other Filipinos interested in adventure travel “off the beaten track.”
“I’ve always been passionate about traveling, but it was only in the last five years, after my mom died, that I intensified my traveling,” Rasco told Lifestyle last year.
“I realized that life is short, so I traveled more and started a blog called ‘Midlife Funk,’ because at the time I was kind of depressed and restless. I took a sabbatical and now I’m traveling full-time.”
The global pandemic has, however, put her journeying temporarily on hold.
In the National Geographic article, Rasco told writer Bruce Wallin that the pandemic would have far-reaching effects on the way people will travel in the near future.
“Extreme travelers are still going to want to visit as many places as possible, but the volume and capacity are going to go down,” she said. “The pace is going to be slower.”
She added that travelers should try to justify the increased carbon footprint they generate by doing something positive with their journeys.
Rasco started a social enterprise called Explore Africa in Togo, which encourages travel to Africa. It benefits local communities by channeling profits into education and women’s projects.
“My heart is in the Philippines, but my soul is in Africa,” she told Lifestyle.
She once went on a nine-month camping trip through 34 African countries.
“I just did it by land, visiting villages and all that. My experiences have been positive, there was not a single time I felt my life was in danger while I was there. I had pepper spray and a personal alarm, but never once did I think of using those. By and large, you’ll be surprised that, in general, people are good, all over the world. There are only a few bad ones, but the chances of you coming across one would be the same anywhere in the world, or if you had just stayed home.”
“Ethiopia is my top country. Civilization started there and it’s the seat of orthodox Christianity. I like Rwanda, Namibia, Cameroon, Tanzania, Botswana, South Africa and West Africa. Africa remains my favorite place.”
For now, Rasco and the other members of Philippine Global Explorers are biding their time, swapping travel stories on weekly Zoom conferences and making travel plans while they wait for the all-clear.