This may be surprising given I write a travel blog, but up until last month the furtherest I had ever travelled from New Zealand was to Australia. There’s a myriad of reasons – fear of flying, hating being away from my family but more than anything I just love exploring New Zealand. I’ve got so much on my list of places to explore in New Zealand that I’ve never really felt the need to explore much further.
So when the opportunity came up to travel to Singapore with work it’s fair to say that I didn’t jump at it. Run screaming may have been a more apt description. And then I gave myself a real talking to. Opportunities like this just simply don’t come up everyday and I would be crazy not to take this opportunity with both hands and grab every opportunity it offered me.
So I did.
Now while I was joining a contingent of some 50 people from around Asia Pacific once I got to Singapore I would be travelling there by myself. James and the girls were so massively supportive that I’d also decided to add on an extra 2 days exploring while I was there so that would be travelling solo too.
I’ve done a lot of wandering around New Zealand by myself so I wasn’t overly concerned about travelling by myself but I soon learned that travelling internationally by yourself has a whole new set of challenges.
So I wanted to take this experience and share with you all my tips on how to get the most out of a holiday by yourself….
Beat the motivation slump
It’s something you don’t notice when traveling with others but there will inevitably be points in your holiday where you lose motivation.
Everything suddenly becomes too hard. It’s too hot. It’s too far. It’s too hard to decide what to have for dinner.
When you are travelling with someone else that’s the time when they usually jolly you along until your equally inevitable second wind kicks in.
But travelling solo you don’t have that person by your side. I was lucky that I had James back at home and every time I called to say I didn’t know what to do he kicked me right back into gear and reminded me not to waste a second of this opportunity.
I couldn’t have James at the end of the phone the whole time (not only because of the time difference but also because that would have got pretty annoying awfully quickly on this part) so that brings me to my second tip…
Talk to yourself
Self talk helps hugely when you are travelling by yourself. It can be a simple reminder to get yourself out of the hotel for dinner or a big pep talk to convince you to head underground to the MRT and catch your first train.
Keep telling yourself that you can do it and you’ll be surprised at the things you thought were way too hard actually weren’t that bad at all.
I was convinced I would only catch taxis in Singapore because the MRT with over 3 million people travelling on it each day just looked way too daunting. But by my third day in Singapore I was down there and moving like a well practiced ant through the various levels. Did I get lost? Of course I did. Did it matter? No, not at all – in fact it was how I found one of my favourite places in Singapore.
Ask people to take photos of you
Selfies are great but there are moments when you really want to capture yourself in that moment. Like when the lights of Singapore are exploding behind you as you sit in a rooftop bar…
Or when you go to Madam Tussards and you really want to capture the whole flying through the trees with E.T….
I learnt pretty quickly to get over myself and ask someone to take a photo. Not only did they not mind but I also met some really interesting people that I stayed chatting to.
I even tried (badly) to use the time lapse on my photo to capture myself on Duxton Hill.
Eating by yourself at a hawker market is pretty easy as it’s all communal style eating anyway and no one really notices. But after a few too many spicy Singapore dishes I was really craving some pasta so I decided to go up to Duxton Hill to see what I could find.
I came across Alba 1836 – a fine dining Italian Restaurant that was serving a special truffle menu!! I love truffles and James hates them so for an excuse to eat alone it really couldn’t be better.
I sat down, had some amazing wine, amazing truffle dishes and let the repeated asks of “Will anyone else be joining you?” wash right over me. And added bonus, when they bought over the complimentary bread no one obviously told them that I was dining alone and I got doublet. Excellent!
I was really lucky to spend 2 days with colleagues from around Asia Pacific. I made friends from Singapore, Philippines and Vietnam. I had an amazing time chatting about where we were all from and went out to dinner on the first night and had a ball.
I also had a friend back in NZ, Holly, who’s Mum lived in Singapore and she said her Mum would love to catch up.
It was probably one of the nicest catch up’s I’ve had. Mostly because it bought a sense of normality to what was a really alien experience for me.
She took me through the markets at Tiong Bahru…
And then on to an amazing little cafe called Merci Marcel. And from there all around the quaint little suburb of Tiong Bahru.
After that we caught a taxi and she showed me around Blair Road. It’s an absolutely amazing street with brightly coloured 1920s Chinese shophouses. You can read more about that in my favourite things about Singapore.
There truly is nothing like being shown around by a local in a new place and making new friends on your travels.
Make a list, then ignore it
I hate lists. But when you are travelling alone, have a terrible memory and have limited time lists are good for making sure you tick everything off.
I ended up doing everything that was on my list. Just not in the order I put it on there and I added a fair few things along the way!
Take every opportunity
I was out walking in Singapore – on my way to see the Merlion statue – when I smelt the most beautiful fragrance coming out of a hotel on the waterfront.
The Fullerton Bay Hotel, with it’s fountains out the front and impressive glass doors didn’t scream “pop on in” but I knew if I didn’t go and explore I would regret it after.
So I walked in with a well they can only kick me out attitude and started taking some photos.
A few minutes later I thought that was exactly what they were going to do as a suited staff member came quietly over to me. But instead she invited me upstairs to see the view from the rooftop pool and bar and take some photos up there.
This was the exact moment I fell head over heals in love with Singapore.
She suggested I go across the road and check out the Fullerton Hotel which I did and had an amazing night drinking Singapore Slings, eating deep fried fish skins and watching the light show over Marina Bay Sands from a rooftop bar.
Get a memento
If you are like me you probably spent the whole time shopping for everyone else while you were away. But take a moment and get yourself a memento – something to remind you that you went adventuring by yourself and you nailed it!
For me it was a little Pandora charm of Merlion.
To remind me that after 20 hours of flying I am no longer scared of flying.
To remind me that I can navigate the MRT and even when I can’t it will all turn out okay.
To remind me that my family can cope without me sometimes.
To remind me that the world is huge and adventures are many.
To remind me to grab opportunities with both hands.
To remind me that there is still just no place like home.