I never travelled alone, by alone I mean ALONE, going somewhere you never been, by yourself and knows nobody in the place. I have gotten on a plane a flew crossed the ocean to a new continent before by myself. But it has always be prearranged, whether its a friend of my parents or a family member who were there to pick me up and take care of me. Basically, I wasn’t alone while travelling.
So out of frustration and depleted energy from my job (which I love, but we’ll get into that later) I decided to take a week off since everything was quiet in the office and it seems perfect timing because I’ve hit the burnt out warning signs. I wanted to travel somewhere I never been to, often when I travel its within the country. Thailand is beautiful, and different parts of the country are drastically different. But that wouldn’t do it for me, I needed something more, a new language, new country, culture. I decided on Singapore.
Singapore have been popping up around my life (as if the universe was giving me a sign) so I decided it was going to be Singapore, one because its super safe and that is just going to keep my Mother sane from thinking I might get rapped and or murdered. Plus Singapore is a foodie paradise, the mix of cultures and food from different places. I was excited.
I grew up in Dubai, which is in my head the equivalent of the Singapore of the middle east. Having moved back to Bangkok for the pass 10 years I’ve missed the mixture of cultures, I’ve missed seeing people of different races just going about their normal routine. I figure Singapore would be like the Dubai of the South East Asia.
I booked my flight on KAYAK 5 minutes after I got the OK from my boss for a week off so that I wouldn’t change my mind and just stay lazy in bed for 9 days (not that there is anything wrong with that) and I started looking around for places to go. My main aim was to hit all the good food centre spots and the Garden by the Bay and just get lost in the city. I rewatch every food shows I can find on about Singapore, especially Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservation and The Layover episode. Although Mr. Bourdain have his contacts in Singapore, I feel like its a small enough of a city and I can definitely go find all of the places he went to. I reckon it was a good flooring for my travel plans.
So over the week before my plan, I looked up places to eat and booked myself into a hostel (with bunk beds!). I never stayed in hostel or hotel where I had to share the room with 13 other travellers. I was excited. Being an introvert person by nature, I hype myself up for the experience. I was going to talk to everybody who came up to me and although my goal was just to eat and relax in the green gardens I wasn’t going to shut out other people who may want to talk to me.
On this trip I knew I wouldn’t be online as much, I knew WIFI network were abundantly available around the city. I wanted to shut off, I didn’t want the constant calls, texting and emailing. I wanted to be in my own little world. I suppose I’ve caught the wanderlust bug, I wanted to be fascinated by the unfamiliar surroundings. I planned for Singapore for only 3 days because I thought it was going to be very expensive, in hind sight I wish I was there for a week at least. Even though everyone keep saying there isn’t much to do there, but like a new puppy everything was exciting for me.
What Singapore gave me was more than experiences, but new perspectives too. It could have been because I had no plans, the only plan I made was what I needed to eat at where and the Garden in the Bay. I took my time exploring the city, observing the diversity of people, and got lost in all the different neighbourhoods. I was impressed by how the people of Singapore carried themselves, the way they walk and they all seems to have a purpose in life.
I know it might sounds strange, but living in Thailand especially in Bangkok where there are large scale of people living in the city. Majority of people I see, on trains, in the city or at work place. They are just living for the day, doing whatever job that pays. They walk slowly, like when I was back in high school and didn’t want to go to class me and my friends would just be walking slowly, taking detours and just killing time. They walk with no purpose, they look tired with their face glue on to the little screens in their hands. Sometime I would sneak a peak at their LINE messaging and see that they send happy cute stickers but their facial expression is the opposite. I have been caught smiling and laughing out loud on the train if I was having a good fun, happy conversation with someone on my phone. It makes me feel sad to see so much fakeness around.
That’s how I see Bangkokians around the city. It may be the culture that everything is easy and an อะไรก็ได้ nature(arai-goh-dai in Thai means ‘whatever’). I have been dealing with this culture for years and it have taken a toll on my mental health because I am made for more. There are more in the world and in life than just mediocre attempt to do a job in a position, waiting for a paycheque at the end of the month. This is probably the first time I openly write (say) that “I am more”. The trip to Singapore switched on that light for me.
What I got from Singapore was this, I missed the cultures. I missed being around people of different races, different skin and cultural background. Growing up in Dubai I had friends from every continents of the world (except Antartica) I used to love going to my friends houses because it was like stepping into different countries all the time. They speak their native tongues with each other, customs are different. Food were different. It was amazing to have gotten exposed to that kind of environment. And I have worked in very international company since I graduate University till last year I joined my work place where I’m the only person who can communicate with my boss.
I went in with a passion for food, I wanted to make the business succeed, I wanted it to grow. I saw the future and it was beautiful. It was all about food and work and pushing myself. Until it became personal, I had restless nights constantly worried about work, about the staffs and all the dramas. Because I was the only person that could talk to my boss who is an expat, everything goes through me, like a filter and I kept all the intoxicating crap within me. I translate things with good intention. So if my boss wanted to tell someone off for doing a bad job it goes through me, all the emotions and the dissatisfaction and what comes out to the other side was all the points without the disappointment and all the feels. I kept it because I didn’t want to make that person to feel any worst, they already know what they did wrong. And when someone needs a day off, don’t turn up for work or whatever that was a problem goes through me and then to my boss where I receive negative response and I was the end of the line for that response. It was this for a year along with other less than satisfaction things that this culture really need to make some drastic changes if we want to become a civilised nation.
My job is a constant contact with other people, colleagues, suppliers, customers, phone calls, emails, Line, Whatsapp etc. It never stop and if I find that it does we were probably in trouble and need to do more to get busy. I’m the kind of person where I can be the quiet girl in the corner of the party or the life of the party. I do need time by myself, not to do anything for me but to recharge. The job is a constant need of my attention, even if someone is taking a day off its my responsibility to know and to feel the effect of the work load with one man power down. Its not even my responsibility but I made it my responsibility. Why? Because I love my job, I love what my company stands for and I love making a difference to the community we live in and if I don’t do it then who will?. But it is stressful and it is taking a toll on my physical and mental well being.
What Singapore gave me was the realisation of freedom. That I am capable of doing whatever it is I want. I had no plans, but I was totally fine with it. I actually enjoyed having no plans and just go with my gut instinct. I had no internet, all I had on me was a tiny MRT map and a tourist map. Most of the time I will just keep walking till I reach a new MRT station. It didn’t matter if I got off the wrong track, it was a freedom that I’ve been missing. I felt liberated and it shown on my face how happy I was. I looked so approachable and happy that I ended up helping tourists in the many stations I was at. I must have talked to more strangers and enjoyed it in that 3 days more than I’ve talked to suppliers, customers, strangers in a year.
I think this is why everyone needs to travel by themselves for once in their life. To find their own strengths and weaknesses. To appreciate how big and different the world really is. Its good to step out of your comfort zone and its even better if you be open to the world and accept what throws at you. For me its life changing, literally. I resigned from my job 3 days later after coming back. Life is too short to be miserable and even though I love my job, I knew I am making the right decision.