This time last year, I booked my first solo trip abroad which was both scary and liberating. There’s a certain beauty in knowing that you can handle yourself in a foreign land where you know no one and the only person who’s going to help you is yourself. It’s like what they say, you only know how strong you are until being strong is your only option. And traveling alone is the best way to test that theory.
For my first trip, I wanted it to be a little on the safe side so I decided to go to Singapore and Malaysia. Majority of the people I talked to were able to speak in English so communication wasn’t much of a problem. Phew!
Anyway, instead of sharing a usual travel log, how about I share with you 8 things I learned during my first solo travel a.k.a soul-searching for the broken hearted, just kidding! Oh, and see the places I visited… although they have absolutely nothing to do with the things I learned. HAHA
(1) Coffee is ALWAYS a good idea.
Okay, so maybe I didn’t have to go abroad to know this but still. Aside from my genuine love for coffee, I have discovered another hobby: people-watching. Sometimes I just sit there, coffee at hand and just looking at random people thinking what they’re going through in life. I think that once we realize that everyone is fighting a battle we know nothing of, we become kinder, more understanding of what other people might be going through. Look up the word ‘sonder’. <3
(2) Work within your budget; it’s not limitless.
I’m obviously not rich, but I’m not poor either. I’d like to think I have enough to live on. I mean, really live; not just exist. Traveling alone forces you to work on a budget knowing that your parents aren’t there to shoulder any excess expense.
(3) You don’t need to plan EVERYTHING; getting lost is not always a bad thing.
I’m rarely spontaneous. I actually consider myself as a big creature of habit. When I fall into a routine, I follow it and when I make plans, I try to lay out every detail. Being in control gives me comfort but when plans don’t fall in place as I have originally planned, I easily get frustrated and disheartened.
I’m starting to believe that we never really get lost. I think its the universe’s way of leading our path to where it should be. We think we are getting lost because it isn’t the path we saw ourselves walk but eventually everything will make sense.
Same goes in getting lost in terms of directions. Maybe we get lost sometimes to come across something good, or maybe something that is not necessarily good but will teach us a lesson.. or maybe I just had too much time thinking at the coffee shop that I started giving meaning to every single thing. Haha. In any case, I think there’s beauty in not trying to control everything… in having complete and utter faith that what should be, will eventually be.
(4) The BEST way to know something is to ASK.
I remember standing in front of the bus map for quite some time trying to figure out which bus goes to which route. I have very poor sense of direction and the Chinese writings weren’t helping at all! I was hesitant to ask because of the language barrier so I just stood there. A few minutes later, an old lady tapped me on the shoulder asking where I was headed and if needed help with direction. She was extremely helpful – even went and talked to the bus driver, telling him which stop to drop me off.
You see, had I asked earlier, I would’ve saved time. I was so consumed by the fear of being humiliated for not knowing that it prevented me from asking from help. You see, you only truly fail when you don’t try.
(5) Kindness is not overrated.
I didn’t have a tap card for the buses in Singapore, bus rides cost SGD1.40, SGD1.60, SGD2.10. Basta laging may butal, you get my point. And they don’t give out change if you pay more so it’s important that you have just the right amount for your ride.
On my 4th day, I rode a bus and my coins were just enough for that ride. Mid-way through the bus ride, I misread Google Map and accidentally got down at the wrong stop. I could not ride another bus because I didn’t have coins anymore. No stores in sight so I tried to ask an old lady who was also waiting for a bus as well if she had change for my 5-dollar bill.
Long story short, she didn’t have enough change for my SGD5 bill but she had enough coins for next my bus ride which was SGD1.40 so she actually GAVE ME MONEY. I didn’t understand half of the conversation but she was just happy to help out. I was stunned and I wondered if this was in the Philippines, people might think modus ako.
Note to self: Trust in the goodness of others. Not everyone who helps you wants something from you.
(6) English is NEVER a basis for one’s intelligence
I was the only person bothered if my English was correct. When you talk to people, they will not stop mid-conversation and tell you, “ay mali subject-verb agreement mo”. No, as long as they understand what you’re trying to say, you’re good. I know I’m smart and I don’t need to prove it to everyone I meet. I’d rather be kind than correct.
(7) Being alone does not make you look sad and weak.
In the contrary, whenever I’m asked if I was traveling alone, people would give me an approving nod while telling me that I’m so brave for going by myself. It was scary at first but once you’re there, it’s really no big deal.
I wish people would react this way, too, when you tell them you’re not in a relationship instead of pitying you and looking down on you for not having a boyfriend. I mean, I am single by choice. It’s not like nobody thought I was pretty enough, or smart enough to date so please stop with the pity party.
Single girls (even at my age) don’t need to be pitied. In fact, I think it’s rather brave because we really are. We are confident enough to be alone, strong and self-reliant. There’s nothing to feel sorry about.
(8) People say a lot of things so watch what they do.
I took a bus to cross the border of Singapore to Malaysia. After passing the first immigration, I went down the elevator looking for the bus I rode going there. Everthing was happening so fast, people were running and I was dazed. In my defense, the buses all look similar to me. Then the bus driver (good thing I was able to recognize him somehow) signaled me to ride the bus and kept shouting at me in Chinese. I was totally embarrassed until I realized that he wanted me to be able to ride the bus first before the Malaysian crowd reaches the bus.
Had he not done that, I wouldn’t have a seat in the bus. I would be standing for hours, or worse, I will have to find a different ride to get to Malaysia. So in the end, I was actually glad he yelled at me. HAHA. So note to self; don’t take everything personally.
Anyway, if you need a play-by-play on how I crossed the boarder from Singapore to Malaysia or just curious about my Singapore itinerary, do let me know on the comment section below. Maybe I can find time to write about it on a different post.
And oh, I plan on traveling alone at least once every year to maybe push my limit, get to know myself better, and maybe gain a different perspective on things. I actually wen to Cambodia and Malaysia last month for my 2017 solo trip. Would you want to see it on a vlog rather than a lengthy blog post? Let me know!
How about you? Where is your dream destination for your solo travel? 🙂