The situation with the coronavirus the last couple of months has made this quite a difficult post.
Last year, I made a little challenge to average a country a month for the year. While keeping my day job. On allocated leave days. There was an additional criteria I kept in view – I had been going on a LOT of solo trips and wanted for a change to involve family and friends on adventures.
I spent 3-5 days for most of those trips and my most expensive trip was probably to Havana which was a trip I HAD to take since I was in Montreal for a business trip and it’s an ideal flight route. The usual faster route would have taken me into the USA as a transit point which I would expect a bigger hassle. Also, Singapore had gotten visa-free status recently.
Instead of planning properly on how to spend my long weekends on trips – which seems to be the standard advice – I found it much more useful to spend my efforts to be organized and maximize my time spent on arrival. From experience I’ve learnt that all the long weekends will account for naught if nothing is open and you’re arriving/leaving in the dead of the night AND are feeling tired.
On one of my first travels fresh out of school, my travel companion who was quite annoyed with me, muttered something about our holiday didn’t have to be a checklist. It was revelation because before that, I had blindly went with the notion that enjoying myself meant making the best of my time. My benchmark these days is that if I didn’t do something and it would make future me unhappy, it is probably something I would want to do. I hold this philosophy for living too.
Ultimately, I do feel that if you’re doing something for bragging rights, it’s meaningless and personally, I don’t have anything to prove.
I’d love to say that I meticulously planned my leave and trips but really I didn’t. What I did was to book trips which I felt was value for its cost and was over a time that I felt like doing it. The more spontaneous of my trips were to Yangon, Pengerang, Greece, Hanoi, and Japan – flights happened to be affordable for those places during dates I could travel on..
Those were trips I actually didn’t travel alone on. The most planning that was done were to Kazakhstan – where I joined a unicycle tour, to Montreal (on business), Xi’an for a cousin’s wedding and to Kaohsiung which I had wanted to visit with family to show them how awesome Asia outside of Japan can be.
One of the most common questions I do get asked is what my favorite destination is and it’s really difficult to say because you do feel differently about places with time. I think though that this is one of the things that was made most obvious with doing a 12-in-12.
In the moment, I think I really enjoyed Greece in general. I had been there before but visiting Delphi and staying in a little village where a sudden snowstorm raged are good memories. In retrospect though, I really liked Kaohsiung in Taiwan. I happened to be there during their annual lantern light-ups and it was amazing. I’ve been to Taiwan before but mostly stayed in Taipei which, apart from great food, isn’t the best you’re going to get from the country. I think it’s quite refreshing to be able to experience a different side to it and yet be in a country that’s using languages familiar enough to not be difficult to get around in.
I think it’s worthwhile to emphasize here that as much as I really like travelling solo, I think there are trips that are worth taking with company as well. The biggest thrills for me were in showing people around, to be that source of familiarity when navigating unfamiliar grounds and to play tour guide for places I’m somewhat familiar with.
Perhaps it’s a precursor to what the world is experiencing now but I’ve to say that there has never been any time in my life where I’ve gotten as frequently sick as I had in the last year. I think I was down with a severe cough and/or fever for almost a quarter of last year and it was the sort of cough that wouldn’t go away no matter how many doctors or how much medication I took.
Speaking now in retrospect, I do feel doctors should be more proactive in flagging patients for unknown conditions. When I was back from Brazil some years ago in the midst of the Zika virus outbreak, I came down with a horrid, chest-killer cough that lasted and lasted and that probably has some remnant effects on my lungs whenever I come down with a cough since. I’ve had this color-draining, pass-out fever/diarrhea drama from a Sumatra trip a long while back where I lost over 10% of my body weight in a fortnight. There’s also that time in Japan where I had sudden chills, a fever and a crazy back pain that was bad enough that I bought insurance on the spot.
I’m quite convinced this kind of stuff does plague frequent travelers and the current virus situation is perhaps a stern reminder that we should probably be more pushy towards our healthcare providers. Previously, I’d make a mention of my travel history and this would entirely be brushed aside and I’d laugh about it. I’m not sure if it would make a difference but I think I’d really want to push my doctors to make an official note in my records in future even if they don’t want to act on it.
This is me. This blog mostly talks about how to have grand adventures as an unrepentant Singaporean.