反正下一秒钟的我 开始 开始流浪
(一个人的行李 － 戴佩妮)
The date is 16 December 2013 and the clock at the top right corner of my Macbook reads 2:00pm. I am seated comfortably on my reclining chair at home, with my attention fixated on the season finale of Survivor: Blood vs Water. Out of the blue, I feel a sudden wave of apprehension. And this makes me very confused. Why have I got the jitters? Have I not been looking forward to this for the longest time? Shouldn’t I be feeling excitement instead?
This is because: In 3 hours time, I am headed to Changi Airport to board a flight to Auckland, beginning my 6 weeks solo journey through New Zealand and Australia. And I have been dreaming of this trip for so long. The seeds for this idea were first planted during Chinese New Year, 9 months earlier. After toiling long hours at my work desk for 33 continuous days, I finally managed to take a breather during the festive season. And with this abrupt halt from work, I had an epiphany and decided “enough is enough”! I will quit my job at the end of the year, and before finding my next job, I will travel and take a short sabbatical of 2 months.
The 9 months wait since Chinese New Year was long, drawn-out and exhausting. And now, the moment has finally arrived. Hence, having anticipated this trip for so long – why I am feeling nervous?! Furthermore, I have travelled solo a few times before, so this should be nothing new for myself? And with that thought, bingo! It dawned upon me that, prior to all my solo trips, I have always felt this same apprehension before! Memories of my past solo travel experiences started to flow through my mind…
Paris, Madrid, Barcelona: My virgin solo trip. The trinity of big famous cities. I travelled solo to these places by circumstance. All my exchange travel buddies had classes, while I was free for two weeks. Initially, I tried to find some other friends for company but in the end – I felt it was too much of a hassle and decided to venture alone. After all, by this time, I have travelled rather extensively around Europe and was comfortable with the region. So heck it! Solo it shall be!
Preceding the solo trip, I vastly enjoyed the trip with great (yes, italicised great!) company; we started from Berlin, traversed through Belgium and Luxembourg, before ending up at Amsterdam. Throughout the trip, I immersed within the culture and explored historic landmarks, drank mugs after mugs of Weißbier, (literally) stuffed my face full of chocolate, devoured packets of fries, rolled heartily down hills, took dozens of funny faces photographs, climbed into the nooks and crannies of an extensive cave system and lost myself amidst the serenity of green pastures and windmills. At the end of the trip, it was with a heavy heart that I bid farewell to my friends, and proceeded solo to Paris.
On the quiet Thalys train ride to Paris, I gazed out of the window and began to think. And reflect. I remember feeling really excited about the freedom and prospect in doing whatever I want to do. At the same time, a part of me still yearned for the awesome friends I said goodbye too.
Portugal: The grand finale of my exchange semester in Europe. Having already spent close to 6 months overseas, most of my friends have returned to their home countries. It was at London that I waved goodbye to my closest travel buddy, who have accompanied me on an incredibly fun and breathtaking journey all over Europe, interspersed with diverse and memorable travel experiences.
From London, I proceeded to Bristol, the city from which I will board my flight to Portugal. While exploring the Georgian and Victorian architecture in Bristol, I began to ponder: What does this final trip hold for me? Am I just checking off places to visit or are there more ceaseless wonders to behold? Will Portugal be the perfect swan song for the best experience of my life? And most bizarrely, I even thought, should I have maybe gone home two weeks earlier from London?
West Coast, USA: These days, graduation trips are growingly regarded as the holy grail for graduates. For myself, I spent the final 2 weeks (of a 6 weeks-long journey) exploring the balmy west coast of the United States alone. On board the Jetblue flight from Chicago to San Diego, and this is probably getting predictable, I started to converse with my inner self again.
Like many of my peers, I treated my graduation trip as my one last wilful indulgence before facing the harsh realities of working life ahead (thankfully, it didn’t really end up as my last wilful indulgence *grins*). I wished that my graduation trip could drag on indefinitely – but being the typical pragmatic Singaporean I am – I constrained the trip within 1.5 months. And that was at the expense of taking graduation photos and attending Convocation. So, I began to question myself on the flight. Is it all that important that I explore both the east and west coast of the USA? Do I want to be spending the time alone in a foreign land, while my friends are celebrating the end of our journey through the lengthy and stressful education system? And perhaps my deepest thoughts of all – am I subconsciously choosing to escape from the realities back home?
Cambodia: My first solo trip to a developing country. Various thoughts flooded my mind. Whether I was able to communicate in a place where English might be less common? Will travelling prove to be complicated in a less organised environment? What will the experience of walking alone in a poorer country be like? How susceptible will I be to petty crime? What are the differences between hostels in developing and developed countries, and are the hostels comfy?
Penang: It was the long National Day weekend. Peak season and budget airlines – bad combination! Not wanting to spend exorbitant prices for flights to more popular destinations in the region, I opted to abandon plans to travel with friends, and instead travel to Penang, seemingly a less favoured destination among Singaporeans. With transport infrastructure not as developed as efficient Singapore, I had to wait almost an hour for the airport bus to the city! While waiting in the particularly smoggy air (maybe just that night?), I was considering “Hmm. Should I have compromised and travelled elsewhere with friends instead?”
After recalling these apprehensions prior to all my solo trips, I begin to feel more at ease. And I thought to myself that despite all these apprehensions, all the solo adventures I had embarked on were always fabulously amazing and I have thoroughly enjoyed all of them! Admiring the sunset over the Eiffel Tower amongst throngs of couples on romantic escapades, silently revering in the wonders of Gaudi’s architecture, penning lyrics to songs while laying on pristine beaches in the Algarves, hoping to glimpse sightings of celebrities by camping outside the Grauman’s Egyptian Theater, bouncing to The Airborne Toxic Event’s electrifying live music amidst rock fans at Sin City, soaking in the natural beauty of Grand Canyon and Yosemite, savouring a glass of champagne on the rustic Napa Valley vineyards, chasing the sunrise at Angkor Wat on a bicycle in the wee hours of the morning and indulging at will on the mouth-watering local delicacies of Penang’s kopitiams.
Alas, aren’t these the reasons why I keep going back for more solo adventures? And I thought to myself, this will never cease and I will keep going back for more solo trips! At this thought, I sauntered through Singapore customs and proceeded to my airport gate with renewed vigour, jubilee and excitement.
Hence, for those who are considering going out on a limb and travelling solo, my advice is just to listen to your heart and go for it! Jitters and nerves will always be there, but these are definitely momentary :) Once you arrive at your destination, you’ll be enveloped with such excitement that all the apprehension just vanishes by itself in an instant. And trust me, you’ll be endlessly amazed by the experience!
(Do stay tuned for Part 2, where I will share more of my personal thoughts on the merits, as well as the hassles, of travelling alone)