By: Megan Tan
For those who don’t know, I recently had the privilege of spending 7 months abroad. 5 months in South America and 2 months in Europe. But since no words can truly do my adventure justice, I feel it would be more useful if I share with you some valuable lessons learnt as a traveller.
And in true BuzzFeed-esque fashion, here are the 7 things I’ve learnt in the 7 months that I was away.
1) Pick your accommodation wisely
This is more applicable to budget travelers. With a tight spending budget, hostels seem to be our default choice of accommodation.
But not so fast!
Take a second to deliberate on the kind of person you are. Do you like small talk? Are you a light-sleeper? Are you willing to let go of certain privacies and personal space?
If you’ve checked any of these boxes, then like me, a hostel is not for you. If finances permit that is.
Something I found really hard to do was to carry out small talk. I found myself repeating my responses because the questions were always the same.
Where are you from?
How long are you travelling for?
Where have you been?
I’ve heard Singapore is like a crazy modern place and everyone is filthy rich, is this true?
Oh how I wish I had a spokesperson.
But don’t get me wrong. I do recognize that this is no one’s fault. These are pretty much the only questions that are relevant to ask when you’re at a hostel. But the problem is that is gets tiring and annoying. So unless you’re willing to entertain these questions or have printed out answers to these FAQ’s, I’d stay clear of hostels. A good alternative is an apartment. There are short stay apartment rentals that are relative cheap and are much more private and intimate.
So pick your accommodation wisely. It could make or break your travel experience.
2) Traveling on a budget is the best weight loss programme
Now I don’t mean this in an unhealthy way. In fact, I mean exactly the opposite. When you travel on a budget, you tend to control your food intake. For example, being on a budget automatically eliminated my snacking habit.
In addition, whether I was at an apartment, hostel or someone’s house, I made an extra effort to eat in. Why? Because groceries cost nothing compared to eating out which is not only more expensive but unhealthy. Plus, buying groceries gave me the opportunity to not only control my food intake but to eat healthier.
The result, I went from being 87kg when I left in January to 78kg on my last weigh in on August 8th.
Now I’m sure there was other factors involved as well but trust me, the less money you have, the more you watch what you eat.
3) You are someone’s cup of tea
This is perhaps my favourite learning experience. Dating was tough for me in Singapore. It always seemed impossible to find someone worth getting to know more without the ulterior motive of getting some action.
As they say, the heart wants what the heart wants. And so does the dick.
I guess you could say that I was rather jaded about relationships because I couldn’t find anyone compatible. And that was demoralizing because it does 2 things. One, it’ll hurt the other person’s feelings when you lead them on because you chose to settle for a great person whom you’re not interested in. And two, it’ll hurt your own self-esteem too because you start to think there is no one out there for you.
But I didn’t seem to have that problem overseas. Everyone seemed to be so unique and different which was really attractive. And guess what, being different made me attractive too. Now I’m not saying I was as irresistible as Ryan Gosling but let’s just say I can’t complain. It is just so much easier finding someone compatible when you are not bounded by a constraint. Apparently in my case, that was geography.
And it all worked out. I found someone I couldn’t be happier with! Someone I can’t help but fall in love with over and over again which makes me sound like I read too many Nicholas Sparks books, which for a man, is 1. Now I can’t say what will happen in the future. But finding someone worth fighting for is a hell of a great start!
But the point of it all is to not give up on yourself. If you feel like you can’t find someone or there is no one out there for you, you couldn’t be more wrong. You are always someone’s cup of tea. You’re just looking in the wrong place.
4) We are all hypocrites trying to do good
We are all hypocrites. Myself included. We think doing good involves changing others rather than changing ourselves. And the result, is not pretty.
So here are some of my favourite hypocritical statements I’ve heard from the past 7 months.
“ I only buy local produce. It saves on pollution.” – From an avid traveller who takes long haul flights every 3 to 6 months.
“F**k the oil companies! They are destroying the planet.” – Owner of what I can only assume is the most fuel inefficient car on earth.
“ I hate people who eat dolphins and sharks fin and this animal and that animal…” – Loves beef aka cows. Perhaps the most inhumanely treated animal since the invention of slaughterhouses.
And the list goes on.
My point? I guess we all have the habit of looking outward rather than inward. I do it all the time. And it’s something we (I) have to stop doing.
5) Learn to let go
Perhaps the best motto for a stress free life. Sometimes rather than getting worked up over something, turn around, say fuck it and move on.
When Ryanair says your bag is too big for the cabin and you don’t have money to pay for it to be checked-in, take your passport, wallet and Iphone and get on the plane. Anything else can and will be replaced.
When you get robbed at knife/gun point, give them everything. If you’re alive at the end of it, you’ll realize that’s all you ever wanted.
The sooner you let go, the sooner you realize life goes on.
6) Don’t plan so much
When it comes to traveling, planning can be our own demise. The more you plan, the more you see. However the more you see, the less you experience. Save the planning for your children’s college fund or for your work life. Because when it comes to traveling, spontaneity brings you the fondest memories. I’ve yet to hear an interesting or exciting travel story from someone who had a planned itinerary.
7) Traveling is self-discovery
Being away for sometime solidified my view on where I see myself within the next year or so. I can’t be sure for other nationalities but I think for a Singaporean, being away for so long will cement your view of Singapore. You will be more sure of whether you want to stay or leave.
Traveling also allows you to figure out what is important to you and the kind of person you want to be. The experiences you have, the friends you make and the boundaries you break will give you a sense of the perfect you that you are striving for.
If that is not a reason to travel, then I don’t know what is.